It’s finally fall which means that the savory dishes like beef stew are definitely making their way back to the menu. Vegetable beef stew is a slow food. Best cooked low and slow, but not too slow or you wind up with overcooked meat. The perfect timing is generally around two and a half hours. The trick to delicious, flavorful stew is to sear a cheaper cut of meat, cook it for a while and then add the vegetables.
Beef stew is probably one of my favorite autumn and winter meals. I’d make it in the summer, but it’s just one of those meals that’s perfect on a cool autumn day to warm you up. The smell wafting through the house as it slowly simmers on the stove.
You see, the trick to really, and I mean really good stew is to be patient. This is not a dish you can rush. And that’s my favorite kind of food. The kind that you have to put time and patience into. I don’t know why, but knowing that it didn’t get thrown together in 10 minutes and slapped in a bowl just makes it taste better.
If you’re the kind that doesn’t like soupy, flavorless vegetable beef stew… this recipe is for you. It’s full of flavor and a hearty, flavorful, thickened broth.
Stew seems like a simple enough food to prepare, and it is. But, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’ve perfected over the years that I want to share with you. So, here’s just a few.
Tips to Make the Perfect Beef Stew
Use Chuck and Other Less Expensive Cuts of Beef
Believe it or not, since stew takes a long while of simmer time, less expensive cuts of beef, such as chuck, cook up better than the leaner, more expensive cuts of beef like sirloin. While you can utilize those cuts, the long simmer time usually results in a tough meat instead of the tender meat we typically enjoy.
Don’t Cube the Meat Before Searing
I know… even a half a cow usually results in a package or two of stew meat. And they can be useful (assuming you know what part of the steer the meat was actually cut from… talk to your butcher if you don’t butcher them yourself). But, stew meat is often cut too small and it doesn’t sear quite right. Your best bet is to cut a chuck roast into steaks (. Sure, it isn’t seared on all sides, but it carmelizes better and it has enough browned bits that it works quite well. It also browns more evenly.
After you’ve browned the beef, you’ll want to cut it into inch or so cubes before placing it in the pot.
Sear Your Meat
You can’t skip this step. It adds so much flavor to your beef. Don’t think you can just cube up some beef and throw it in a pot and make stew. You’ll want to sear it until it has a beautiful, dark crust, then repeat for the other side.
You’ll want to make sure you have the oil in the pan heated up pretty well and sear it fairly quickly, creating that beautiful brown crust, then turn it over and quickly do the other side. If you use stew meat… it generally won’t sear quickly enough and it steams (not exactly what you’re after) and won’t give you that beautiful browned crust, and you’ll want it because….
Deglaze the Pan With Red Wine
Yep… booze makes everything better, sorry. You’ll want to take your pieces of meat and place them on a plate to rest and work on deglazing your pan. If you’ve never deglazed a pan before, it’s pretty simple.
You should have some beautiful, browned bits of meat all over your pan. Now, just take about a cup of wine while the pan is still on the heat and begin scraping the stuck on bits off and allow them to melt into the wine. Allow the mixture to reduce about 3/4 while continuing to scrape the bits with your wooden spoon or metal spatula. You’ll want this and the juices that came off the meat to go into your stew pot. Trust me on this… that’s where all the flavor is.
Note: you can absolutely use a cheap wine to cook with, you don’t have to use a bottle you would actually drink. Just make sure the flavor isn’t off-putting and it will do just fine and the alcohol simmers off anyway, this is solely for flavor.
Wait to Add Your Veggies
You’ll want to hold off on adding your vegetables until you’re about half way before cook time is over. And tender veggies like peas? Wait until just before it’s finished to toss them in just long enough to warm them.
If you add your vegetables too early, they end up mushy… mushy veggies and tender meat isn’t exactly what we are going for here.
Use the Right Potatoes
I’ve often used russets… and they’ll work, in a pinch. But for fantastic stew use a less starchy potato like red potatoes, new potatoes or yukon golds. They cook up better and have a lot less starch which means they are less likely to add to the gritty stuff that often happens in stew making.
Use Homemade Bone Beef Broth or Opt for Chicken Stock
Yes… I said it. Put chicken stock in beef stew. Unless you have made your own homemade bone beef broth, it won’t have the flavor we’re looking for. Instead use either homemade chicken stock or some organic chicken stock. It will add the richness we are looking for in flavor. Try it out… I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it comes out beautiful, brown and beefy tasting… you won’t even know it has chicken stock in it (and neither will anyone else).
Cook It Slow
Good food takes time. I know I already told you, but it bears repeating. Take your time with this stuff. Cook it slow… but not so slow that you wind up with overcooked stew. About an hour of just cooking the meat down and another hour to hour and a half with your root veggies and throw peas in (if that’s your flavor) and a jar of tomatoes at the very end of the cook time.
Tools I Used to Make Vegetable Beef Stew
- 6 Quart Stock Pot – Every homestead kitchen needs one (or two) of these in their kitchen supplies. They’re easy to clean up and can go straight from stove to oven without any problems. Our stock pot that we have now is not enameled (it’s simply a well-seasoned cast iron pot). But, it is on my wish list.
- Cast Iron Skillet – to sear the beef and sautee the veggies. I love cooking with cast iron. It cleans easily (once you learn how to season it and care for it) and it doesn’t leave flakes of chemical-laden junk in my food. It also easily transfers from stove top to oven. Very versatile….
- Cutting Board – A good cutting board or 5 is essential for any home cook. I need to replace a few of mine. I love wood cutting boards as opposed to plastic. I just don’t like plastic… they just need a good cleaning when you’re done.
- Butcher knife – Another best friend in the homestead kitchen. You need a versatile, sharp knife that will easily cut through the meats that you put in front of it. This is one of my favorite tools.
The trick to delicious, flavorful beef stew with tender meat and vegetables is to cook it low and slow and not use too much flour to thicken it. Instead, this stew is thickened with unflavored gelatin so that it winds up thick and smooth instead of gritty.
- 4 Cups Homemade Beef Bone Broth (or chicken stock if bone beef broth isn't available)
- 4 Packets of Unflavored Gelatin
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3-4 Pounds Beef Chuck Roast (cut into steaks of about a pound each)
- 1 Pound Carrots (peeled and coined)
- 4 Stalks Celery (chopped)
- 1 Large Yellow Onion (chopped)
- 3 Medium Cloves Garlic
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 1 Pound Red or Yukon Gold Potatoes (cubed)
- Sea Salt to taste
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
- 1 Pint Diced Tomatoes
- 1/2 Cup Frozen Corn (can substitute fresh if you have it)
- 1/2 Cup Frozen Peas (optional)
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 Sprigs Thyme
1. Combine stock and gelatin with a whisk until it's nice and uniform. Set it aside.
2. In a large dutch oven add oil and heat over medium-high heat until it's shimmering. Liberally season your beef with salt and pepper and sear it one steak at a time until it's browned well. Repeat on both sides until all steaks are seared. Place beef on a large plate and set aside.
3. Sautee your celery, onions, garlic, and carrots in the same dutch oven you just finished searing your beef in. Lower the heat as necessary to prevent scorching. Sautee until everything is well browned, season with some salt and pepper and place it in a bowl and set to the side.
4. Add one cup of red wine to your pan to deglaze it. Scrape the browned bits out of the pan with a wooden spoon or metal spatula. Allow the mixture to reduce about 3/4ths (about 3 minutes). Add the broth/gelatin mixture and allow it to come to a simmer.
5. Cut seared steaks into 1 1/2" cubes. Place in a bowl and toss them with flour to coat. Add beef, any of the juices that accumulated on the plate, your thyme and bay leaves to the dutch oven with the wine and broth mixture in it. Place a lid on top and cook it, over low heat until beef has started to become tender about 90 minutes.
6. Remove the lid, discard your thyme and bay leaves. Add your potatoes and the carrot and vegetable mixture to the dutch oven. Replace lid, partially venting and cook over low heat until beef and vegetables have become tender and broth has begun to thicken about 45 minutes to an hour.
7. Once broth has thickened a bit and other vegetables are tender, add peas, corn, and a jar of diced tomatoes. Allow it to simmer 10-15 minutes more while tender veggies heat up and broth reaches the desired consistency.
8. Serve immediately with crusty bread or allow it to cool over night and reheat the next day in the dutch oven. Will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1023 Total Fat: 61g Saturated Fat: 24g Trans Fat: 2g Unsaturated Fat: 31g Cholesterol: 287mg Sodium: 512mg Carbohydrates: 27g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 6g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 92g