What is Beef Stew? A Guide to the Classic Comfort Food

Beef stew is a savory, hearty dish made by braising beef and vegetables in a flavorful broth. It’s a classic comfort food perfect for cold weather and fun to customize with your favorite ingredients. If you’re new to making beef stew, read on for a complete overview of this satisfying one-pot meal.

How Beef Stew is Made

While recipes can vary, traditional beef stew starts with these basic steps:

  • Choose the right cut of beef – Tough, collagen-rich cuts like chuck, brisket, or round work best. They get tender during long, slow cooking.

  • Cut beef into chunks – Cut the raw beef into 1-2 inch pieces which will cook evenly and soak up flavors.

  • Sear the beef – Brown the meat in batches in a skillet to add depth of flavor before stewing.

  • Sauté aromatics – Cook onions, garlic, carrots, and celery to add flavor to the base.

  • Deglaze with broth or wine – Pour in liquid to loosen up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

  • Simmer on low heat – Let the stew cook gently for 1-3 hours until beef is very tender.

  • Add potatoes and vegetables – Carrots, potatoes, peas, etc. are added toward the end so they don’t get mushy.

  • Thicken the broth – Flour or cornstarch helps create a rich, thick stew broth.

  • Adjust seasonings – Add herbs, salt, and pepper until you achieve the perfect flavor.

The result is a hearty stew where every component complements the others.

Traditional Ingredients in Beef Stew Recipes

While chefs put their own spin on stew, these tend to be standard ingredients:

  • Beef – Usually chuck, brisket, bottom round, or stew meat

  • Onions – Provide a flavor backbone along with garlic

  • Carrots – Add a touch of sweetness

  • Celery – Enhances the savory flavor

  • Potatoes – Thicken the broth and make it hearty

  • Peas or corn – Brighten up the stew (fresh or frozen)

  • Red wine, broth, or tomatoes – Build an intense, complex flavor

  • Herbs and spices – Customize with thyme, rosemary, parsley, paprika, etc.

  • Flour or cornstarch – Thicken and bind the stew

Feel free to experiment by switching up vegetables, adding beans or mushrooms, using beef broth instead of wine, and more.

Tips for Making the Best Beef Stew

Follow these tips for maximum beef stew deliciousness:

  • Choose well-marbled cuts of beef for tenderness – Chuck, brisket, and round are good choices.

  • Cut beef into 1-2 inch pieces to enable even cooking.

  • Sear beef in batches over high heat until browned to boost flavor.

  • Sauté the aromatics like onions, garlic, and carrots before adding liquid.

  • Deglaze the pan with a small amount of wine or broth to loosen up flavorful browned bits.

  • Simmer gently on low heat for 1-3 hours until beef is fall-apart tender.

  • Skim fat and thicken with flour or cornstarch once beef is tender.

  • Add potatoes toward the end so they don’t get overcooked.

  • Adjust seasonings – Add herbs, salt, and pepper until the flavors sing.

Different Types of Beef Stew Recipes

While traditional beef stew simmers away on the stovetop or in the oven, cooks around the world have devised their own twists. Here are some popular versions:

  • Classic French-style – Using wine and herbs like thyme for depth of flavor.

  • Hearty American – With potatoes, carrots, peas, and corn. May use ketchup or tomato sauce.

  • Irish Guinness stew – Features bold Guinness stout and root vegetables.

  • Hungarian goulash – Paprika gives it a distinctive spice and color.

  • Portuguese caldeirada – Includes fish and shellfish alongside beef.

  • Dutch brown stew – Made with beer, mustard, and juniper berries.

  • Cincinnati chili – A meaty tomato-based stew served over spaghetti.

  • Locro – An Andean stew with beef, squash, pumpkin, and corn.

  • Caribbean stew beef – Spiced with allspice, thyme, scallions, and hot pepper.

Tips for Serving Beef Stew

Once your stew is cooked, here are some tasty ways to serve it:

  • Crusty bread – Great for soaking up the rich juices.

  • Buttered noodles – The starch complements the hearty stew.

  • Mashed or roasted potatoes – More potatoes mean more comfort.

  • Rice pilaf – Fluffy rice soaks up the delicious sauce.

  • Biscuits or rolls – Perfect for mopping up every last bit.

  • Salad greens – Cut the richness with fresh greens.

  • Polenta – Fried or soft polenta adds nice texture.

Beef stew truly satisfies. Experiment with add-ins and serving suggestions until you create your signature stew.

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What meat is beef stew?

Stew meat is made from cuts of beef with lots of tough connective tissue, namely chuck and/or round. When you simmer it in a liquid, the connective tissue breaks down and becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender. That’s why it’s traditionally braised in stock and turned into beef stew.

Why is it called beef stew?

The name “Stew” originates from a method of cooking where small pieces of meat are simmered in water or other liquid until its tender.

What is the meaning of stewing beef?

meat from cattle that is usually cut into small pieces and cooked slowly in liquid.

What gives beef stew the best flavor?

Add spices such as turmeric, coriander and cumin at the early stage of cooking, when you are frying onions and garlic, to enhance the taste of the beef stew. Fresh herbs like coriander and bay leaves also contribute a distinct flavour without making the dish too spicy for the younger members of the family.

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