Ale Braised Ox Cheek

Ale Braised Ox Cheek

As you may have deduced, when an animal is slaughtered every part of it is butchered. Though this may appear, on the surface, to be a somewhat obvious and worthless statement, it does highlight potentially important ramifications. Remember, every popular cut of meat (leg of lamb) has a less-loved or even unknown counterpart (ox cheek, lamb neck or breast) – the meat that isn’t used gets wasted or goes under appreciated. This is a travesty on so many levels, not least because less popular cuts are often the most delicious and economical.

There are downsides to moving one’s focus over to cheap cuts – cooking time is generally higher and most wouldn’t consider them to have favourable aesthetic qualities (though I quite disagree). However, I shall continue to champion them, since lesser known cuts and little indulged in animals are key to food biodiversity; an important step on the road to sustainability in the food industry. Please, start treating less popular cuts of meat with the respect they deserve – surely it’s a form of bullying not to do so?

Though it’s best not to give one company too much praise (they’re not paying me, honestly), I have to congratulate Source on their wonderful ox cheeks. My tongue, nose and eyes were revelling in the sensory delight even before the meat was prepared – the smell of a good cut of beef is difficult to rival. If you’ve never tried ox cheek before I implore you to do so – the depth of flavour is incredible and works so well with a nice brown ale.

Ale Braised Ox Cheek

When preparing your ox cheek, do remember to remove the majority of its fat. To do this, cut away what you can and then slice between fat and meat, removing them from one another in the process. You’ll need a sharp knife, but it’s a fairly straightforward process and shouldn’t put you off one bit.

If you’re interested in other cheap cuts of meat why not try these delicious recipes? Apricot Stuffed Lamb Breast; Welsh Cawl; Beef Curry; Lamb with black olives.

Ale Braised Ox Cheek {recipe}

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

• 500g ox cheek, in chunks with fat removed

• 1 small leek or onion, finely chopped

• 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

• 2 carrots, finely chopped

• 150g button mushrooms, quartered

• 1 clove of garlic, mashed

• 2 bay leaves

• 1 tbsp sage, thyme or rosemary

• 500ml brown ale, nothing fancy

• 100ml beef stock

• 30g butter

• 1 tbsp plain flour

• Olive oil

• Salt

• Pepper

Method:

1. Prepare the meat as per the instructions above. Begin gently frying the onion/leek, celery, carrot and garlic in olive oil using an oven-proof pan.

Ale Braised Ox Cheek

2. In a separate pan start to cook the mushrooms in a little olive oil. Once they have released most of their water tip in the beef, season and brown on all sides. Add this to the vegetables.

Ale Braised Ox Cheek

3. Pop in the bay leaves and herb of your choice, before adding the ale and stock. Make a basic roux by whisking the flour into melted butter, cook for a minute and then whisk into the main dish to thicken. Stick it in the oven at 150C for at least two hours, three is better, four is best. Serve with potato or bread and cabbage.

Ale Braised Ox Cheek

Cost: Ox cheek is currently around £6.50 per kilo, which makes this dish impressively frugal. Indeed, the entire confection, which will please one immensely, should set one back no more than around £5.80! Ox cheek heaven!

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96 comments on “Ale Braised Ox Cheek

  1. countrywoodsmoke
    January 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Have been looking forward to this recipe, I love Ox Cheek, perfect for this cold weather we are having, as you say it’s such an underused cut, that is perfect when cooked well, as you have here.
    Cracking photos too, it’s not easy to get a good picture of a predominantly brown meat dish, but you have some lovely shots here.
    Cheers
    Marcus

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Pocket cured ox cheek is the best! Hope you’re not experiencing too many snow-based issues where you are! Thanks – I wasn’t sure to begin with. I actually really love photographing brown food :D

      • countrywoodsmoke
        January 19, 2013 at 5:08 pm

        Is a great way to cure it…..
        Snow not too bad in Aberdeen, yet.
        Me too, I see it as a challenge, is all about the lighting and texture.
        Cheers
        Marcus

        • frugalfeeding
          January 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm

          Indeed! It is a challenge, but they make us better :D

  2. littleleopardbook
    January 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I love the sustainability aspect of this recipe. Waste not, want not, right? :-)

  3. cookinginsens
    January 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous first picture! Makes me hungry.

  4. Ang
    January 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Food for the soul. I could do with a bowl of this tonight.

  5. Mary K. Doyle
    January 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Yum! I haven’t had ox tails in ages and this recipe using cheeks is similar.

  6. Karista
    January 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Mmmm… I’d love a bowl of that today. :)

  7. Food and Forage Hebrides
    January 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    A great recipe to try for my favourite cut of beef. Thanks, Tracey

  8. narf77
    January 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Most of the “unknown” bits of a butchered animal end up as “mince” pure and simple (along with a not inconsiderable amount of the fat). We can’t get ox cheek here in Australia or pigs heads or even trotters! For some reason we Aussies love our meat anonymous ;). I remember mum hauling home pigs heads to make brawn and as children we would stare in horrified fascination at the eye staring at us! Mum expected us to eat THAT! ;). Ox tail was another amazing thing…it looks so suspicious and inoccuous but tasted of pure slow cooked heaven. I don’t think I can even attempt to veganise this Mr Frugal but for all of you that can actually source this unctuous ingredient, take Mr Frugal’s advice and cook it long and slow and you will arrive at the doorstep of pure heaven!

    • ladyredspecs
      January 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      You CAN get ox cheek here in Oz, at farmers markets and butchers who cut there own carcasses.

      • narf77
        January 19, 2013 at 12:57 am

        Not here in Northern Tas you can’t, unless you have mates who kill :(

      • frugalfeeding
        January 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm

        Spread the word :D

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Indeed – I do love mince, but it’s not a great way to appreciate a truly good cut! That’s a shame, but it sounds like you can from some places :D. I’ll probably do an ox tail soup soon.

      • narf77
        January 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm

        We never had soup but mum made the most unctuous stew out of oxtail and got very VERY excited whenever she did. Fluffy mashed potatoes with mashed carrot and parsnip and green vege and it was a meal for the Gods…

        • frugalfeeding
          January 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm

          Yummy – I’ll have to give something like that a go in any case.

  9. Iain
    January 18, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Delicious, that’s my kind of food. Your photographs make hungry.

  10. thefoodandwinehedonist
    January 18, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I posted similar last year with veal cheeks braised in ale! I absolutely luv off cuts. The problem is that there’s only one place to get them in town and someone keeps beating me to them. Beautiful recipe. I may have to wake up early tomorrow to get some cheeks.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      That sounds lovely. I wouldn’t describe them as off-buts, but I agree!

  11. Lorna
    January 18, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    This looks amazing, and a big hurrah for offal recipes! I have a feeling I can get hold of ox cheek in the market in Cardiff, so I’ll be heading off in search of meaty goodness very soon.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      OH you’ll get hold of it no problem in Cardiff!

      • Lorna
        January 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm

        That had better not be a Bristolian looking down on us adopted Welsh types! ;-)

        • frugalfeeding
          January 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm

          Ah, but you see… I am Welsh!

          • Lorna
            January 20, 2013 at 9:06 pm

            In that case, all is forgiven!

          • frugalfeeding
            January 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

            Thank the lord!

  12. Maria Dernikos
    January 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Lovely recipe, lovely picture. I had forgotten all about ox cheeks.

  13. Sibella at bakingwithsibella.com
    January 18, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Wonderful, looks perfect for the cold winter days!

  14. Our Growing Paynes
    January 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    That would warm me right up! It’s freezing here. I look forward to the day I live near a proper butcher where I can take advantage of this sort of thing. I should ask local farms about these cuts though. See what they have on offer.

  15. Shira
    January 18, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Wow! If I wasn’t such a vegetarian I would want to eat this right up! I do support the using up of all the animal parts though, that is something I can get behind!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Haha – I understand, Shira! Still, I’m glad you agree :)

  16. Conor Bofin
    January 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Great post Nick. I am 100% with you on the less popular cuts (as you can see from the blog). Low and slow with the more fiberos cuts yields incredible depth of flavour. My issue is that as they become ‘fashionable’ the price rockets. Damn fashion!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Thank you, Conor! It’s true that it would be a shame if the price rocketed – but, overall, I think it would be better.

  17. Trish
    January 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Americans really turn their noses up at unusual parts of the animal, disappointingly. Especially here in the midwest, which is probably the most conventional part of the US. I scored 10 pounds of grass fed liver from a friend whose dad raises and butchers his own cows. No one wanted it! Beef liver pate, YAY! wish I’d known about beef cheeks. But they already think I’m strange for my love of liver.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      That’s a shame, Trish! I’ll be getting some liver soon, hopefully! Get some cheeks if you can.

  18. shewolfindakitchen
    January 19, 2013 at 12:45 am

    looks amazing!

  19. Jura
    January 19, 2013 at 2:40 am

    I love ox cheek and had an amazing slow cooked water buffalo cheek musamman curry in Luang Prabang a couple months ago but have yet to source it in Hanoi. It is much easier to find every part of the pig than the cow. What also is the difference between Ox and cow as I fear most of the cow meat in Hanoi is from fairly weedy little cows which I assume have less meat on their cheeks….

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      That sounds lovely! Ox, in the case of meat, is a bullock over the age of 4! (I believe)

  20. Michelle
    January 19, 2013 at 3:05 am

    I think the cheaper cuts are often the best–especially the cheeks. And this looks wonderful, Nick. Definitely worth all the carrying around in your pocket!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Indeed they are! Haha – yes! Besides, I quite like the feeling :D

  21. aumcchildren
    January 19, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Lamb neck is a favorite of our family, so are the hip bones after you remove the legs and tenderloins. This recipe looks great! I was able to fill my freezer this year with all those cuts others didn’t want. Tongue is awesome too..

    • frugalfeeding
      January 20, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      I’ve never had the hip… I’ve never even seen it! I want to give tongue a chance (I think I’ve had it before), but my girlfriend won’t go near it.

      • aumcchildren
        January 21, 2013 at 12:52 am

        Well your a tad far to mail you a nice hip section lol. I don’t eat sheep tongue but I eat beef tongue. You need to buy it and pressure cook it..then peel it and slice it up..all while she isnt home lol.

        • frugalfeeding
          January 21, 2013 at 10:34 am

          I don’t know about that… Haha – I don’t pressure cook I’m afraid. Isn’t it brined first?

  22. Sacha
    January 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Oh, my, this looks absolutely luscious. Keep fighting the good fight and using up those forgotten bits; they are as delicious as you say.

  23. Locaholic
    January 20, 2013 at 12:02 am

    I have much respect for “whole animal” eating/cooking and I’d like to get more adventurous in the cuts of meat I work with. We received a pressure cooker for Christmas, so that should help! This recipe looks delicious, I love the idea of braising with beer.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 20, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      Great! Beer is amazing to braise with. I have no experience with using a pressure cooker and I doubt I ever will, but good luck to you!

  24. Juls
    January 20, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Ox cheek is wonderful, and I’m always grateful for a new recipe! Also glad to hear it was till intact and happy after being traipsed all over Bristol in your pocket!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Definitely! Haha – yes, it was fine. I think it quite enjoyed the ride.

  25. Chica Andaluza
    January 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    A beautiful dish with a fantastic cut of meat. Have eaten pig cheeks recently but will have to have a word with the butcher so that I can make this!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks! Yes, get some! I’ll have to get some pig cheeks!

  26. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen
    January 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    This is the sort of dish I love cooking here on our cold winter days.. and how could I resist a recipe with ale in it?!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Exactly – Ale works so well in dishes like this.

  27. canalcook
    January 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Ox cheek was pretty trendy in London last year and so was actually kind of hard to find. Lovely cut though. Now if someone could just explain to me how cod cheeks are so surprisingly large I will be completely up to date on face meat.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Ah, well that’s good! So it should be. I have no idea… I’ll get some and research it.

  28. musingmar
    January 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    This sounds delicious. I agree, it makes good sense to use more than just the popular cuts of meat. I’ve never tried any kind of cheek and think I will. But offal – I have a harder time with the concept of that.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Thanks! Exactly! You should give cheek a chance – I’m not entirely comfortable with offal, but I shall try to become so. I tried tripe recently and disliked it greatly…

      • musingmar
        January 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm

        I’m happy to take your word about the tripe!

        • frugalfeeding
          January 21, 2013 at 10:43 am

          Please do, I wasn’t impressed. The texture is dreadful. It’s frugal though!

          • musingmar
            January 23, 2013 at 11:12 pm

            If something is cheap but not good enough to eat, then it’s more frugal not to make it in the first place! There’s a new category of frugal feeding for you – awful dishes to avoid spending one’s money on.

          • frugalfeeding
            January 27, 2013 at 8:59 pm

            Quite right! Haha.

  29. Meredith
    January 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I love a cut of meat like this– it requires technique and can be so impressive with the right ingredients, like the ale here. In Texas, ranch hands would grill up the least tender cut of beef– the “skirt” cut– and use a lime marinade to tenderize it. Cuts like cheek, brain, tripe, etc. were given to them, while the premium cuts went to market. This dish is now known as fajitas, and they are mouth watering. The cheek meat is popular in tacos in south Texas called barbacoa (not the same as barbeque) which is traditionally a whole cows head wrapped in leaves and smoked in the ground, but now is made in a slow cooker with just the cheek meat. It is fatty, but very flavorful and rich, usually eaten in corn tortillas with hot salsa. I would love a hot plate of this ox cheek stew right now!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

      Very interesting – love comments like this, definitely learnt something :D

  30. cookingwithcorinna
    January 20, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I’m a big fan of ox cheek, and an ever bigger fan of pork cheeks. I think it’s such a travesty that they’re not more readily available, they make the most delicious stews and ragu.

  31. tee14by14
    January 20, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Oh yum… this looks so good.

  32. petit4chocolatier
    January 21, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Looks so hearty and delicious !!

  33. Granny
    January 22, 2013 at 12:51 am

    That looks absolutely delicious. My mother made tongue of beef stew (or something or other) when I was a child and I turned my nose at it. She was a great cook. I bet I would have loved it if she had not told me which part was used in the dish. ha! ha!

    • frugalfeeding
      January 22, 2013 at 9:47 am

      Thanks, Granny! Probably, I don’t mind tongue, but my girlfriend won’t touch it.

  34. scarletrosita
    January 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I love the idea that you are actively trying to cook cheaply. I totally agree that the cheaper cuts very often do have the best flavours and they just need a little understanding about how to get the best from them. I will eat anything if it has been cooked with care and attention, it is only my taste that gets in he way. I do not like brains nor heart but most cuts of meat are made more beautiful when cooked in tomatoes and basil on the back of the stove for an hour or two … that’s what my Mumma said and so far she has been proved right on most things :)

    • frugalfeeding
      January 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm

      We do very well :D. Glad you agree – i’m not a brains man…

  35. Sophia
    January 24, 2013 at 8:19 am

    This looks so similar to the Belgian Carbonnade de Boeuf I used to eat when I still lived in Belgium – perfect way to warm up on a cold winter day. Love that you used ox cheek – my mum started cooking more wit ox cheek and the texture is fantastic, the meat is so soft and gelatinous resulting in fantastic gravy studded with tender chunks of meat. Yum. A pity though that most butchers no longer stock these rarer cuts of meat (although there seems to be a bit of a comeback and at least our butcher at home will stock ox cheeks when we order them).

    • frugalfeeding
      January 27, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      Oh it is! Ox cheek is amazing! I’ve found a great butcher that does everything :D

  36. baconbiscuit212
    January 25, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Wonderful photos! Taking pictures of braised beef is tough to do and you captured this beautifully. I bet it made the house smell mouthwateringly good for days.

    • frugalfeeding
      January 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Cheers, Daisy! I found it a little tricky, but I’m semi pleased.

  37. girlinafoodfrenzy
    January 29, 2013 at 9:03 am

    One of my favourite cuts. In Sydney, the cheek has become ridiculously fashionable, ie expensive! Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to enjoy looking at these tasty pics though!

  38. jencartier
    February 1, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Um, yum. And I love your point about under-appreciated cuts of meat, it’s so true.

  39. oiyoufood
    June 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Amazing!

  40. david
    October 12, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I am a retired butcher,and years ago ox cheek was sold mainly for dog meat! because it was so cheap.I try anything,and the first time i cooked ox cheek i was so suprised how tender and tasty it was.i even encouraged customers to try it for theirselves,and many were well pleased ! try also,pork shanks,pig feet,ox heart,lamb hearts,sweetbreads,breast of lamb,pig cheek,tripe,neck of lamb.all cheep and tasty….enjoy !!!

    • frugalfeeding
      November 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Really?! A travesty… bloody lucky dogs! Scrag and lamb breast are also favourites of mine – seriously good.

  41. Claire Sambolino
    November 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I’m trying this today after finally finding ix cheek in my local butcher here in Italy. It seems that it’s not so commonly used here either!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 4, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Perfect! I’m glad you found some and decided to try this recipe. I hope you’ve found my other ox cheek recipes too.

  42. Claire Sambolino
    November 30, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Ox cheek even!

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