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How To Make Beef Stew

Slow-Cooked Family-Favorite Beef Stew
There are lots of ways to cook a tasty beef stew. Here’s how to do it right every time.

Introduction

Beef stew is the ultimate comfort food. Fall and winter call for warm and fragrant broth filled with root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, and accented with some of the best flavors: garlic, onion, and herbs like rosemary and thyme.

Making beef stew is certainly an undertaking, but a worthy one at that. To make the very best beef stew there are several important rules to consider.

Rules of Making Beef Stew

Rule #1: Pick good meat.

The best stew meat is tough meat. You want a cut that can withstand a long period of time on the heat so it breaks down into flaky, tender bites. In order to achieve this, select leaner cuts of meat with a bit of connective tissue, which will break down as it cooks.

You will often see pre-cut “stew meat” in the supermarket. While this can be a good option for convenience, it’s impossible to know which cuts of meat come in a package like that. To get the best flavor for a made-from-scratch stew, choose your own larger cut of meat. A cut from the shoulder, a rump roast or a pot roast are all good options for beef stew.

Rule #2: Sear that meat.

Searing the meat is perhaps the most important rule—it’s how the beef and stew get the depth of flavor we so often look for. Searing the beef and then deglazing the pan with broth or red wine is how you get all the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan incorporated into the stew after the beef has been seared.

Rule#3: Cook your beef stew low and slow over a long period of time.

In a slow cooker, 8-10 hours is a good rule of thumb. You want it to cook slowly so the beef has time to go from tough to tender so you can enjoy that perfect beef stew. Check the meat after 8 hours and if it hasn’t reached fork tender yet, let it simmer a little longer until it’s perfectly done. This amount of time also allows the starch in the vegetables in combination with the flour to create a thick gravy-like broth.

How to Make Slow-Cooked Family-Favorite Beef Stew

Any time you make beef stew from scratch, it’s a time consuming (yet rewarding!) endeavor. But when you want beef stew comfort and don't want to think about it, reach for this tried-and-true recipe that gets all the compliments and just so happens to be easy, too. It calls for just seven ingredients and 15 minutes of prep time so you can get back to doing other things and leave dinner to your slow cooker. Here’s how to make it!

Slow-Cooked Family-Favorite Beef Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lb beef stew meat or boneless chuck, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 lb small (2 1/2 to 3-inch) red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 ½ cups frozen pearl onions (from 16-oz package)
  • 1 bag (1 lb) ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots
  • 1 jar (12 oz) beef gravy
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

Instructions:

Step 1: On waxed paper, sprinkle beef with 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. In 10-inch skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add coated beef; cook and stir 4 to 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.

Brown beef in a 10-inch skillet

Step 2: In 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, layer potatoes, onions and carrots. Add browned beef; sprinkle with any remaining flour mixture. Top with gravy and tomatoes.

Pro Tip: Make it your own! This is where you can add in additional flavors, if desired. Try a few cloves of minced garlic, a bay leaf or two or a few sprigs of fresh thyme. (If using bay leaves or fresh thyme sprigs, remove them before serving.) Adding ingredients that boast an umami flavor will up the ante of this dish, too. Try a little Worcestershire sauce, a bit of tomato paste or both.

Layer, beef, carrots and onions in a slow cooker

Step 3: Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 to 10 hours.

Add tomatoes to the slow cooker

Step 4: Before serving, in small bowl, blend 3 remaining tablespoons flour with 1/4 cup cold water. Stir into stew. Increase heat setting to High; cover and cook 10 minutes longer or until thickened. Serve in bowls and garnish with a sprig of parsley, if desired.

Step 5: Depending on your family’s preferences, this you may want to add a little ground black pepper before serving. Enjoy your easy beef stew with a side of bread to sop up all those tasty slow-cooked flavors. We’re partial to crescents or French bread, of course!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is stew, exactly?
The basic definition of stew, according to the American Heritage Dictionary is “a dish cooked by stewing, especially a mixture of meat or fish and vegetables with stock.”

How is stew different from soup?
When vegetables are simmer slowly over a long period of time, they release their starches, resulting in a thick gravy-like sauce that so many of us associate with stew. The meat is coated in flour before searing, which also contributes to stew’s thickness. Broth-based soup recipes skip these extra steps, resulting in a thinner, lighter consistency.

Can I skip the step of browning the beef?
You certainly could, but why?! Much of the flavor of a “brown” beef stew comes from a good sear of the meat, and the tasty bits that form in the pan when the meat is cooking. Skipping the browning step will essentially result in a “white stew,” which is perfectly fine, but trust us, searing the beef is worth it! (See RULE #2).

How do you store beef stew leftovers?
If you have leftovers of your beef stew, be sure to refrigerate them within 2 hours of the end of the cooking time. To help the leftover stew cool more quickly, divide it into several smaller containers before refrigerating. The USDA recommends leftovers be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.

To reheat, thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator or in the microwave. You can also reheat the stew on the stovetop. Cook it until the meat’s internal temperature has reached 165°F.

What methods can you use to cook beef stew?
Our recipe calls for cooking in the slow cooker, but traditionally beef stew is cooked in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. Another method is to simmer it in a heat-proof pot in your oven. Each method employs slightly different cooking times and temperatures, so be sure to read your through your recipe once before you begin.

Where did stew originate?
Stews in many different styles are eaten all over the world and have been around since ancient times. It is most often associated with French cuisine.

Historically, depending on the style of the stew, everyone from peasants to royalty have enjoyed stew. The French boeuf bourguignon—a favorite beef dish of the late Julia Child—is a fancier version of beef stew, and is considered appropriate to serve for company.

Looking for more beef stew recipes? We’ve got you covered!



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