Ribs, sirloin and tenderloin are prized beef cuts, while round, flank and oxtail are the more affordable cuts. The price and characteristics of the meat often influence how they are prepared and served.
For instance, the small amount of fat and high muscle density in round and flank make these unsuitable for grilling, which would result in a rubbery texture — they would taste better in soups and goulash.
On the other hand, the already juicy, rich and tender premium cuts would be put to waste if they were to be served in a soup. Therefore, these cuts are often served as premium steaks and beef tartare in high-class restaurants.
The surprising versatility of oxtail
The oxtail may be as cheap as lean cuts, but it is packed with flavor from the skin and fat, with gelatin from the bones and cartilage.
Owing to its unique characteristics and relatively low market price, it is extremely versatile. It can also be served as a premium steak – if you can prepare it well. Oxtail as a delicacy may not be common in Western countries, but in Asia, it is often braised, stir-fried, boiled and broiled — with all the efforts put in to extract every last drop of goodness.
You can find premium Asian oxtail in a multitude of dishes such as Oxtail Shio Ramen, Indonesian Buntut Bakar, Chinese oxtail fried rice, and Vietnamese beef stew.
A common mistake
Oxtails contain a lot of collagen that can turn tough and rubbery when dry. The best way to process this is to first boil it in order to hydrate the connective tissues. Place the cut in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Then add some lemon juice, which will help to tenderize the connective tissues.
To grill, set the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes (and slightly under on the timer for BBQ grills), and then broil or pan-sear to brown the surface (skip this step if using a BBQ grill). The result is juicy, well-done oxtail that retains most of its flavor.
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