Perfect for chilly days, beef stew is a classic meal that can be made in just one pot with minimal cleanup. It’s a great go-to and can even be customized by adding your favorite ingredients. However, before you get started making your beef stew, there are a few things to take into account.
Start with the Right Cut of Meat
First, it’s important to shop for the right cut of meat. Chuck roast works well because it’s a tougher cut, but it breaks down over the long cooking time and becomes extraordinarily tender. Pricier lean cuts like sirloin, on the other hand, become tough and chewy from the long cook time. When you’re shopping for ingredients, be sure to pick out a cut that can stand up to the long cooking time, and save the nicer cuts for another occasion.
Techniques for Making the Best Beef Stew
Beef stew is surprisingly easy to make, but to get the greatest depth of flavor from the meat, you’ll want to stick to these techniques:
- Searing the meat is essential to building flavor in stew. Use a hot pan and make sure each side of every beef cube has contact time with the bottom of the pan to develop a nice, dark crust. To avoid crowding the pan, you may need to do this in batches.
- After searing the meat, deglaze the bottom of the pan with red wine or vinegar to help you scrape up any browned bits. This adds so much flavor to the dish.
- And finally, cooking your stew low and slow is the key to building flavor and developing a tender, melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Be patient — it’s worth the wait.
Tips & Tricks
Get creative in the kitchen with these ideas for personalizing your beef stew:
- The rich flavors of beef stew may make it seem decadent, but it’s actually a very nutritious meal. While the beef packs a protein punch, carrots, peas and other veggies add a range of vitamins and minerals. You can “beef up” the nutrient content even more and put your own spin on the recipe by adding your favorite ingredients. Red peppers, turnips, kale or sweet potatoes all work well in beef stew!
- Control the thickness of your broth by adding or omitting (if the recipe calls for it) flour or cornstarch. An easy way to do this is by coating the meat with a dusting of flour before searing (tossing together in a plastic bag works well). The flour serves double duty by helping the meat form a crust, and any extra flour gets absorbed into the broth during later cooking. Or, to thicken toward the end of cooking, just add a small amount of flour or cornstarch slurry.
What to Avoid When Making Beef Stew
Steer clear of these common mistakes and you’ll be on your way to five-star stew:
- Save the filet for another day. As mentioned earlier, using lean meat will result in a tough and chewy consistency due to the dish’s long cooking time, so be sure to use a cut with some marbling. Trimming excess fat is fine, but be sure to leave some for added flavor.
- When cooking stew on the stovetop, be mindful of when to add each ingredient. Avoid adding vegetables at the same time as the meat, since they take much less time to cook. Hearty, starchy vegetables like carrots or potatoes should be added after the meat has started to break down. Peas should go in right at the end, just until warmed through.
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