The Ultimate Guide to Boiling Beef Perfectly

Boiling beef may seem like a simple cooking technique, but there are some important steps to follow for tender, flavorful results every time. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to properly boil various cuts of beef.

Choosing the Right Cut of Beef

The first key step is selecting the right cut of beef for boiling. The optimal cuts are those that have a good amount of connective tissue and fat marbling, which will break down during the moist cooking method of boiling and keep the meat tender. Here are some of the best cuts to use:

  • Chuck roast – This shoulder cut has a great beefy flavor and will become fall-apart tender when boiled due to its high collagen content.

  • Brisket – Brisket is another collagen-rich cut that does well with moist heat. Look for a first cut brisket which will be the most tender.

  • Short ribs – Meaty short ribs are perfect for boiling, allowing the fat and connective tissue to melt into the cooking liquid. Go for English-style short ribs with the bone in for maximum flavor.

  • Oxtail – Oxtail has some of the highest amounts of collagen of any beef cut, making it ideal for boiling until ultra tender.

  • Shank – Shanks, both front and back leg, have a great amount of connective tissue. They make a flavorful boiled beef.

  • Cheeks – Beef cheeks are an underutilized cut that becomes succulent and fall-apart tender with boiling.

Seasoning the Beef

Seasoning is another important element for flavorful boiled beef. At a minimum, be sure to generously salt the beef before cooking. For more flavor, you can also add any of these seasoning options:

  • Fresh or dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley or bay leaves
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Aromatic vegetables like onions, garlic, carrots or celery
  • Spices like coriander, fennel, cloves or allspice berries

Maintaining Proper Cooking Temperature

To extract the most flavor and tenderness when boiling beef, it’s crucial to simmer at the right temperature range. Bring the seasoned beef and water to a gentle simmer between 185°F and 205°F. Maintaining this low cooking temperature will allow the collagen and fat to break down slowly over time.

Cook Times for Common Cuts

Boiling times can vary greatly depending on the specific cut of beef. Here are approximate cook times for boiling some popular cuts until fork tender:

  • Chuck roast: 2-3 hours
  • Brisket: 3-4 hours
  • Short ribs: 2-3 hours
  • Oxtail: 3-4 hours
  • Shank: 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours
  • Cheeks: 2-3 hours

The exact time will depend on the size and thickness of the cut, as well as the age of the animal. Older, grass-fed beef will generally take longer than young, grain-fed beef. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness and boil until it reaches 200°F-205°F internally.

Monitoring Water Level

It’s important to keep the beef fully submerged in liquid while boiling. Check the water level periodically and top up with boiling water as needed to keep the meat covered. The water level will reduce over the long cooking time.

Allowing the liquid to dip too low can cause the meat to dry out on top or scorch the pan. Aim to maintain the initial water level.

Skimming Fat and Foam

As the beef cooks, fat, foam and impurities will rise to the surface of the cooking liquid. These should be skimmed off periodically with a ladle or spoon to keep the broth clear. Skim a few times throughout cooking, especially during the first hour.

Adding Vegetables

For a complete boiled dinner, you can add vegetables like carrots, potatoes, turnips or cabbage to the pot in the last 30-60 minutes. This timing ensures the vegetables cook through without becoming overdone or mushy.

Cut vegetables into similar sized pieces so they will cook at the same rate. Nestle them into the simmering liquid around the meat.

Checking for Doneness

The ideal doneness for boiled beef is when it is completely tender but not falling apart. Use a fork or skewer to test the meat in a few spots – it should have a buttery soft and tender texture when done.

If using a meat thermometer, aim for an internal temperature of at least 200°F-205°F. The collagen will have melted by this point, leaving the meat succulent.

Removing Done Pieces

With a large cut like a brisket or chuck roast, the meat near the edges may become tender before the center is done. When testing reveals some pieces are ready before others, simply transfer those to a plate.

Cover to keep warm and allow the remainder to finish cooking. This prevents the tender sections from becoming overdone.

Separating the Meat and Broth

Once the beef is fully cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a serving platter. The leftover cooking broth is full of great beefy flavor from the meat.

Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer to remove any vegetable solids, herbs or fat. Use the strained broth as the base for soups, gravy or stew.

Serving Suggestions

Fork tender boiled beef can be served on its own with mustards, horseradish or other condiments. Or use it in a variety of ways:

  • Slice or shred for sandwiches
  • Dice or shred for tacos, nachos, empanadas or tamales
  • Chop or slice to make hash with potatoes and onions
  • Pair with roasted or mashed potatoes and vegetables
  • Make beef pies, hand pies or pot pies
  • Use in soups like beef barley, vegetable beef or minestrone

The tender meat also makes an easy filler for dumplings, pierogies, ravioli or cannelloni.


Properly stored, boiled beef will keep for 3-4 days refrigerated and 6 months in the freezer. Let the cooked beef cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

For the broth, let cool and skim fat before refrigerating. Freeze broth in batches for up to 6 months.

With these tips, you can become an expert on boiling beef for the tenderest, most flavorful results. Follow the guidelines on cut, seasonings, temperature, cook times and more for fork-tender boiled beef every time.

How to boil meat perfectly (TENDER MEAT and RICH STOCK)


How long should you boil beef for?

To achieve tender beef stew meat, it is recommended to boil it for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. This will allow the collagen in the meat to break down, resulting in a more tender and succulent texture. What are some recommended spices or seasonings to add to the boiling water?

Can you boil beef to make it tender?

Boiling meat already helps make tough cuts more tender. These cuts of beef often have elastin and collagen marbled within, making it sinewy and chewy. Cooking it with moist heat — such as by boiling or simmering — helps to slowly break down this connective tissue without drying out the meat altogether.

How long does it take to boil ground beef?

How long does it take to cook ground beef? Once the water has come to a boil, cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer. It should only take about 15 minutes for the beef to fully cook through. The meat will turn brown when it’s done, so keep an eye on it.

Is boiling beef the same as stew meat?

Editor: Christi, yes, boiling beef is basically beef for stew. The word “boiling” is deceptive, though, since meat really shouldn’t be boiled. (It will get tough.) After browning the meat and adding liquids, bring to a light simmer then reduce the heat so that it is just bubbling every now and then.

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