Cooking Confidence: How to Make Beef Stew
Transform your stew from so-so to whoa! Grab a chuck roast, stout beer, and a smidge of tomato paste, and get searing.
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Classic Beef Stew; recipe and photos by Ashley Strickland Freeman
Beef stew is the ultimate comfort food for me, and not only for the rich flavor and succulent texture. As a working mom, I love the convenience of an easy beef stew. Yup, convenience. It takes a few hours to cook stew, but hear me out. Most of that time the stew is simmering away while I do my thing. Stew is a hearty recipe that feeds a crowd. It’s a one-pot dinner (hello, easy cleanup). Best of all, I can make it ahead, and it’s even better the next day since the flavors have had a chance to meld. And it freezes beautifully.
For days that I know will be hectic, I’m so thankful for planning ahead. All I do is pull out my delicious homemade beef stew, reheat it, and maybe add bread or salad. Dinner is a no-brainer!
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Homemade beef stew Q&A
Start here if you’re wondering how to take this favorite comfort food dish to the next level.
1. How to make beef stew on the stovetop: equipment
Making stovetop beef stew is easy (it’s my preferred method). You’ll need a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or other large pot, and tongs for turning the beef as you sear it. A wooden spoon is essential for scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
2. Can you make beef stew in a slow cooker or Instant Pot?
Yes! You can definitely pull out your Crock Pot or Instant Pot to make beef stew; the total time for cooking will just vary from the stovetop method. Be sure to sear the meat first, because that brown crust is essential for rich flavor. If you’re using a slow cooker, brown the stew meat in a Dutch oven before adding it to the Crock Pot with the other ingredients. If you’re using an Instant Pot, start by browning the beef on the sear setting.
3. What meat is best for beef stew?
I like to use chuck roast (also known as pot roast). It has nice marbling, which translates to tender pieces of beef once it’s cooked. Although you can use a leaner cut of meat, the final result may not be as tender.
4. Do you cook the meat before making beef stew?
Definitely! Always brown the beef before simmering with the beef broth, veggies, and other ingredients. A nice browning will develop the rich flavor we look for in the best beef stew recipes.
5. How do you make beef stew meat that’s tender?
I use chuck roast — the fat in the meat breaks down and creates the most tender bite. But the biggest secret is patience. Allow plenty of time for the meat to simmer to tenderness until a fork slides right in.
6. What vegetables do you put in beef stew?
I definitely like to add carrots and potatoes. Feel free to change it up by adding a couple of stalks celery and several cloves garlic. You can also add thawed frozen peas shortly before serving. Or serve the stew over mashed potatoes instead of cooking potatoes in the stew.
7. What seasonings do you need for beef stew?
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper are key, of course. I also go with tomato paste, soy sauce, and a little fresh parsley to enhance the natural umami flavor. I’ve made beef stew with bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce, too.
As for the liquid, in addition to beef broth, I love the malty sweetness of a stout beer such as Guinness with the meat. But for my recipe you can swap in red wine if you prefer.
8. What to serve with beef stew?
The beauty of this easy beef stew recipe is that it’s a one-pot dinner. For a heartier meal, set out some French bread or cornbread and a simple side salad.
9. How long does beef stew last? How to store beef stew.
Beef stew keeps for 2 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
10. Can you freeze beef stew?
For sure! Seal the cooled stew in an airtight container and freeze up to 3 months.
How to make the best beef stew
Follow these easy steps to make the ultimate beef stew.
1. Prep the ingredients
Taking time before you cook to gather and prep the ingredients will help the process go smoothly.
Go ahead and chop a yellow onion, cut carrots and potatoes into chunks (1/2- to 1-inch pieces), and slice a boneless chuck roast into 1- to 2-inch cubes. While you’re at it, measure a couple tablespoons tomato paste, some soy sauce, beef broth (beef stock), cornstarch, and dark beer.
2. Brown the boneless chuck roast and veggies
Browning the meat and vegetables may not be my only trick for the best beef stew, but it’s key. All those browned bits that get stuck on the bottom of the Dutch oven equal flavor.
I get my Dutch oven nice and hot over medium-high heat and then hit it with a little vegetable oil. After seasoning the stew meat with salt and black pepper, I sear it in batches — crowding the meat could cause it to steam rather than brown. Then I remove the meat and add the yellow onion to the pan drippings. The natural sugars from the onion add another layer of flavor to the browned bits. Finally, I add the tomato paste to the pan and let that start to brown.
3. Don’t forget to deglaze the pan
After the beef, onion, and tomato paste have browned and left a delicious crust in the pan, I pour in dark beer (or red wine if you prefer) and beef broth and loosen the browned bits with a wooden spoon. The bits dissolve in the liquid and add an extra punch of flavor to season the stew as it simmers over low heat. This is a very important step you don’t want to skip.
4. Simmer until tender
Kick back and let the meat cook until it begins to be tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Then add the vegetables and simmer until a fork or knife doesn’t put up any resistance. Finally, for a smooth, rich mouthfeel, thicken the stew with a little cornstarch blended with water.
Get the recipe: Classic Beef Stew
Now that you’ve learned the basics for creating a traditional beef stew recipe, your one-pot dinner is a click away.
Be a meat maestro
We’ve got lots more meat-cooking tips and tricks for you in these next articles.