There is something so simple and enjoyable about a big pot of home cooked beef stew. When the weather changes, we crave some big flavour, tons of nutrition, filling and EASY comfort food. It’s also quite nice that such a great meal only requires one cutting board, one knife, and one pot! Here are some of our tips to make sure your beef stew is something the whole family will enjoy!
What is a beef stew?
In its most basic form, beef stew is a savoury one-pot dish, which consists of three main elements: beef and vegetables, cooked slowly in a liquid.
What is so great about beef stew?
- It’s made in one pot
- Full of nutrition
- Can be made-ahead and refrigerated (some say it gets better this way!)
- Versatile enough to take on any add-ins you have in your fridge
- Easy on the wallet
- Hearty and warming on a cold winter’s night
- Comforting and nostalgia-inducing
- Can be kept casual for ladling into bowls and served with crusty bread or dressed up with the addition of a splash of red wine, chopped fresh herbs and served over rice pilaf for when some friends drop by.
- Is the perfect dish to be made in your slow cooker
Picking the right cut of beef for best stew
- Outside round beef
- Oven roast
- Cross rib
- Blade or,
- Any other cut that has the words pot roast, simmering or stew, such as lean boneless stewing beef.
Buying a large piece of meat and cutting your own cubes ensures all will be cut to the same size and will cook in the same amount of time. For convenience though, picking up a kilo or so of beef stewing cubes works as well. Another great choice is to use beef simmering short ribs.
Why brown your meat?
Browning is the key to creating rich colour to your sauce and for unlocking the meat’s savoury flavours. A chemical reaction caused by the browning process, known as the Maillard reaction, causes the naturally occurring sugars and amino acids in meat to combine and react when heat is introduced.
What you need to know here is that when you are ready to brown your meat, start with a preheated pan or pot and don’t overcrowd it (which is why most recipes will indicate to brown in batches), and once the meat is browning, don’t move it. When a crust has formed, the meat will “release,” or let go of the cooking surface. If you try to turn or move it before it’s ready, the meat will tear.
While optional, lightly coating beef cubes with flour before searing will increase the amount of browning on the meat, and also helps to thicken and add body to your sauce.
What vegetables are best?
Aromatic vegetables such as carrots celery and onion are ideal for stews. Potatoes are a welcome addition, not only for adding rib-sticking sustenance, but also for providing additional thickening qualities to your stew.
A few other vegetables to try and include:
- Turnips or Rutabaga
- Whole cloves of Garlic
- Sweet Peppers
Just be sure to keep all vegetables in good-size chunks so they can withstand the extended simmering time. Alternatively, add the vegetables after the meat has been simmering for a while.
Secrets for a great beef stew sauce
The main liquid used in beef stew is often beef stock or broth, while vegetable stock or chicken stock would also be good choices for helping to build a great sauce.
Canned tomatoes or tomato juice are often included, and the addition of tomato paste will provide additional body and a bit of thickness to your sauce. Other liquid options include beer, cider, or red or white wine.
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Until next time,