Have you ever made a bland beef stew? Me too…
Beef stew seems like an easy enough dish to “get right”, but it took me years (and plenty of so-so stews) to figure out how to make a truly flavorful and tender beef stew that my whole family loves! Here’s what I have learned:
12 Tips for Great Beef Stew:
- I like to cut my own beef cubes from a chuck roast, it gives me control over the size of the pieces and allows me to trim exactly what I want.
- Start with a little bacon – it adds flavor to the dish and is a great fat to brown the beef in.
- I don’t flour my beef cubes, I like to thicken at the end. I feel you get better browning (flavor) without that layer of flour on the beef cubes.
- Secret Ingredient! Soy Sauce – a little soy sauce adds that umami: savory, beefy rich flavor
- Red Wine – Red wine plus some low-sodium beef stock are my liquids of choice. They really add tons of flavor.
- I don’t care for potatoes in my stew, I much prefer serving with creamy rich mashed potatoes or soft polenta.
- Double Onions: Chopped onions almost melt into the stew and the pearl onions become soft little pearls of flavor.
- Braise in the Oven: Cooking in the oven gives you even heat that penetrates the pan from all sides. I like to use a nice heavy cast iron dutch oven with a oven safe lid. The pieces of beef above the liquid level get the most beautiful brown carmelization from the slow oven roasting.
- Peas? Sometimes I add them to the stew right at the end, sometimes I serve them on the side. I usually make a large batch of stew and freeze half. I don’t feel as though the peas look as nice once they’re frozen and reheated.
- Thicken: I like to thicken my stew at the end of the cooking process. I make a paste of soft butter and flour and add it until it’s as thick as I want. Turns out this is called beurre manié in French and means “kneaded butter.” The flour particles get coated with butter helping them to not clump together, giving you a nice smooth sauce.
- Can I make this is my slow cooker or pressure cooker? I have done both, but feel you get the best flavor from the slow oven roasting. You don’t really get all that caramelized goodness in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
- Make ahead! This is a great dish to make ahead. You can make up to 3 days in advance and reheat. It also freezes beautifully. I usually freeze half and can make 2 meals for our family of 4 from one batch of stew.