The best beef stock comes from oxtails. That’s my opinion anyway. And the rest are obviously wrong, so there you have it. This is the ultimate ultimate beef stock recipe, but by all means, use this recipe for fowl and pork too!
The reason oxtails make such a terrific stock is that it has plenty of collagen that gets broken down into gelatine during the simmering, and produces the silkiest texture and deepest, beefiest flavor of them all. And you get a free meal out of them afterwards. And at least in Norway it’s as “relatively cheap” as things get in this country.
Besides, damn you to hell if you put marrow bones in your stock – it’s the foie gras of the North! Nobody in their right mind would waste good foie gras in a stock, and since you’re reading this blog, I must assume you have at least something going for ya.
So save that bone marrow for a proper gourmet meal instead, like Norwegian beef soup and flour dumplings, Canadian poutine with oxtails and smoked bone marrow… or just smoked bone marrow with pickles and herbs.
Making a fantastic, beyond restaurant quality stock is not rocket surgery, in fact it is not difficult at all, but there are a few tricks to it:
- Don’t be in a rush – deep flavors simply take time to develop.
- Brown your meat AND vegetables well.
- Ideally use a pressure cooker. It’ll speed things up, AND taste better.
You’ll need a big pot for this recipe. 5-10 liters is good. Scale down the recipe by half if you don’t have one as big. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simmer your stock ever so gently in a regular pot for 3 hours.
- 1 kg oxtail faggots
- 4 large carrots, diced
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 bulb of garlic, halved across
- 5 bay leaves
- A large handful fresh thyme
You can go two ways here: either roast everything in a large stock pot, or in your oven. While oven roasting is almost set it and forget it, pan roasting is quicker, but more hands on and labor intensive.
The key to either method is to allow time and temperature to work its magic on the meat and veg, browning them deeply – but not burn or char them. This deep browning is the Maillard reactions at work. This is what creates amazing stock.
My favorite, lowest effort method is as follows:
- Oven roast the meat at 230C
- Turn the roasting tray 180 degrees after 20 minutes for even roasting
- Pressure cook vegetable stock for 30 mins while the meat is roasting
- Strain the vegetable stock and tip back into pressure cooker
- Pressure cook the meat for 1 hour
- The use of a timer means you don’t have to babysit things
Start by patting dry and searing off your meat in a bit of oil on medium-high in 2-3 batches so as to not overcrowd your pan – you want to sear, not boil that meat. Go for a very deep brown sear on all sides, but without burning the meat. Set aside.
Lower the heat a bit, but not quite medium, toss in the vegetables with a bit of oil and stir once in a while to ensure you get a nice, even browning on all sides. The sugars in the vegetables will burn quickly if the heat is too high – if this is starting to happen, turn the heat down a bit and continue turning the veg until nicely and evenly browned.
Preheat your oven to 230C. Convection if you have it. Pat dry your meat, rub with some oil and put in a roasting tray. Take care not to overcrowd the roasting tray. Roast until the meat starts taking on a medium brown colour, then turn the meat, and roast again until it’s medium brown.
Rub the veg all over with a big of oil and toss into the roasting tray with the meat. Continue roasting until the vegetables take on a nice brown colour too. Toss the veg once or twice to ensure even browning.
Add the veg and meat to your stock pot along with 3 liters of tap water along with the herbs. If you used a different pan for browning the meat, add some water to that pan and deglaze to get all those extra brown tasty bits and pour it into the stock pot.
If using a pressure cooker, bring to full pressure, lower the heat, and cook for 1 hour. If using a regular pot, simmer very gently for 3 hours. In either case, turn off the heat after the given time, and let everything cool down before removing the lid. The reason you don’t want to remove the lid is to keep the oxtails nice and juicy.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, open the lid, pour off the liquid into a bowl or some sort of container. Fish out the meat, quickly rinse off the mushy veg, pick off the meat into a container. Discard the fat, bones and veg.
The meat, however, is extremely flavorful, and is amazing to use in everything from a beef stew or soup, a goulash, or steak & ale pie to our gourmet poutine. So fuckin save it.
By now, you should be left with a rich, full-bodied beef stock packed with umami and flavor. But it will be cloudy.
To make it easy to remove the fat, you can let the pot sit someplace cool until the fat solidifies, and you can just lift it out. Or you can toss in a handful ice cubes and have the fat solidify instantly for easy removal.
There will also be an awful lot of rendered fat floating on top. You can get rid of the fat by either skimming it (labor intensive), or put it in the fridge, your basement, or someplace cool so the fat hardens, and all you do is remove a disc of fat (takes time to cool and harden).
There’s a lot of flavor in this fat, so you can opt to save it for later – perhaps for frying, add to some mashed potatoes, or mix with some butter or oil to use on toast?
Removing the fat is especially important if you plan to make a gravy or emulsion. If you plan to ice filter it, just leave it – the ice filtering process will do it for you.
There are several ways to go, depending on what you’re gonna use it for, and thus how clear you need it.
- Rustic stew or gravy: drain through a fine sieve.
- Rustic soup: drain through a fine sieve with 4 layers of wet muslin cloth.
- Clear soup: drain through a fine sieve with 4 layers of wet muslin cloth, then egg raft it.
- Crystal clear soup: drain through fine sieve, then ice filter it.
Read more about clarifying stocks in this article.
Use wine, cider or a low hop/low IBU beer as liquid instead of water.
Add dashi and/or soy sauce and Wooooschhtcxztershire sauce to boost umani