Why is Oxtail So Expensive? And How to Find a Bargain

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Last updated on February 5, 2023


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Ever wonder why that oxtail cut at your local butcher shop is so out of your price range?

Wonder no longer. We have all the answers to why this specific part of the cow is so sought after, and how you can get your hands on some. 

Let's dive in.

What is Oxtail?


Oxtail is a bone-in, cross-cut section of the cow's tail. Oxtail has a small amount of very tough but flavorful meat attached to the bone.

Why Does Oxtail Cost So Much?

Oxtail meat is considered a delicacy.

There’s only one tail per cow, and so a limited amount is available. 

Combine this with the low yield of meat an oxtail provides, coupled with a high demand, and boom, you’ve got an expensive product.

Finding the Best Price on Oxtail

Some bulk stores like Costco or Sam’s Club might occasionally carry oxtail.

They’re likely to have a better price than a traditional retailer.

Calling ahead to see if your local store has any in stock is always a good idea and might save you from fruitless hunting.

You can also check with local butcher shops, and your grocery store butcher counter, to see if they ever run oxtail specials, or if they have oxtail that’s nearing its “sell-by” date that they might be marking down.

How to Prepare Oxtail


Traditionally, Osso Buco is made with veal shank. However, since many people are opposed to eating veal, Oxtail has become a well-known substitute for the dish.

Aside from its starring role in Osso Bucco, oxtail is a great protein choice for many dishes if you cook it properly.

A long and slow cooking method, such as braising, is your best bet for getting the most out of your oxtail.

How to Braise Oxtail


Step 1 

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Heat a dutch oven or cast iron pan to medium-high heat. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot.


Step 2 

Season your oxtail with salt and pepper, then brown it on all sides. Add some sliced aromatics, such as onion, garlic or leek to the pan and deglaze with a bit of wine or beer.

Add additional ingredients such as carrot, celery, sprigs of herbs, and spices at this stage.


Step 3 

Add enough broth or stock to nearly cover the ingredients, there should be a ½ inch or so of the oxtail poking out. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then shut off the heat.


Step 4 

Cover the dish with a lid or foil, and cook in the oven for 2-4 hours, depending on the size of the oxtail.

You may also turn your burner to the lowest setting and braise on the stove-top if you prefer. This will likely take less time, but you’ll need to keep an eye on the dish and make sure it retains enough liquid.


Step 5

The oxtail is done when the meat is very tender and is easily removed from the bone. Serve with the bone-in, so the marrow may be scraped out and enjoyed.


Alternative Cooking Methods

You can use the same process as above, but finish the oxtail in your slow cooker instead of the oven. It will be delicious!

You can also use the oxtail to make soup.

Simply start with cold water covering all your raw ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer. Plan to simmer the soup for at least 2-3 hours. 

Note: Beginning with cold water when making a soup with a bone will yield much better results than beginning with hot water.

The idea is to allow the bone to slowly increase in temperature, and in so doing, extract more flavor.

How to Make Osso Buco

Osso Buco is commonly made with a veal shank. For those who are opposed to eating veal, oxtail makes a great substitute.

Giada’s recipe is well-reviewed, and is a great starting point for making Osso Buco.

Getting the Most out of Your Oxtail

After you’ve cooked your oxtail once, hang onto the bone! Keep it in the freezer and use it one more time for making stock. 


To do this, simply add the oxtail to a pot or your slow cooker with equal parts carrot, celery, and onion. Add a bay leaf, fresh herb stalks, and some whole spices. Cover with cold water.


Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 3-4 hours, skimming off any fat that reaches the surface. Or simply let the mixture slow-cook for 6-10 hours. 


Strain out the solids and discard them. Cool the stock and store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to six months.

Best Substitutes for an Oxtail


If you can’t find oxtail or you simply don’t want to spend the money on it, there are some easy substitutions.

A beef shank will be one of your best options as it’s also a bone-in, cross-cut piece of beef. Beef shank will be cheaper and might even be easier to find. 

Check out this article for even more substitutions.

Why is it Called “Oxtail” if it’s from a Cow?

Great question - “Oxtail” is the culinary term for the tail of a cow.

Prior to the massive boom of the beef industry in the US, “oxtail” used to refer to an actual ox, or a steer.

While hunting and butchering wild Ox has faded in popularity, the term stuck around.


Oxtail is a bone-in, cross-cut section of a cow's tail containing a very small amount of tough but flavorful meat.

Oxtail is expensive due to the low yield, and because of this, it's considered a delicacy.

To get the most out of your oxtail, brown it, then slow-cook it. Braising is always a great idea.

Beef shank or similar cuts make a great substitution for oxtail.

Happy cooking!


About the author, Savannah

Savannah grew up in Kansas City, where she learned to cook brisket and ribs from her Mom and Grandmother. She's spent the last 10 years in the restaurant industry where she worked her way up from prep cook to Chef instructor. In 2017, Savannah and her partner sold everything that wouldn't fit in their suburban and traveled the US where she got a job cooking in each city they stayed in. Savannah has trained under more than 50 chefs and done everything from running a food truck to making chocolate. She currently runs her own cottage bakery and teaches cooking classes in Northern Colorado.