A beef stew is not just a recipe, it’s also a technique. The slow, simmering process yields otherwise tougher cuts of meat into tender, succulent bites. The kitchen becomes filled with the mouth-watering aromas of meat, wine, herbs, and vegetables.
We’ll start with a simple beef stew recipe, knowing that this technique can be altered to suit different tastes. For example, sometimes I prefer a dry white wine over red, or maybe coconut milk and crushed tomatoes. These flavors all work well with beef.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 55 Minutes
Step 1: Brown the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. We’re going to take a slightly different approach for this basic beef stew recipe to cut out the step of browning the stew meat in batches. While the oven is heating, prepare all your ingredients. Arrange the vegetables on a medium sized tray and mix with oil. Don’t add any salt at this point. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes until the vegetables start to color nicely.
Step 2: Brown the meat. Pat dry the chunks of stew meat with paper towels so that any excess water or liquid is removed, as it can prevent browning. Remove the tray from the oven and turn your oven on broil. While the broiler is firing up, evenly disperse the chunks of stew meat on top of the vegetables. Put the tray underneath the broiler for an additional 10 minutes until the meat takes on a nice golden brown exterior.
Step 3: Bring the liquid to a simmer. While the meat is browning in the oven, put your wine, stock and tomato paste in a large pot that will provide enough room for everything to cook. Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker crock pot, but you may want to bring the liquid to a boil first on the stove top because the slow cooker may take up to an hour to get hot enough.
Step 4: Assemble the stew. Remove the tray of meat and vegetables from the oven and set the temperature to 325 degrees on the oven. Alternatively, you can simmer the stew on the stove top, but I prefer the oven for a more even cooking heat. Make sure you are using an oven-proof cooking pot or pan. Carefully add the meat and vegetables and any juices to the pot of liquid. Add the garlic, thyme, spices and salt. Bring everything to a simmer once again and place into the 325-degree oven. Leave the pot uncovered to keep an eye on the stew.
Step 5: Simmer the stew. We need about 1 1/2 hours to get the stew meat to a fork tender state. Ideally, the stew is gently simmering inside the oven, not too vigorously. If it’s not simmering at all, you can raise the temperature to 350 degrees. After about 1 1/2 hours, remove the pot from the oven and test for doneness. The chunks of meat should be easily pierced with a fork without holding onto the fork too quickly. This is what we mean by fork tender.
*Extra Steps: This next part is something a restaurant might do, but I find it to be worth the effort. If you don’t have the time or inclination, you may taste the stew for seasoning and serve as is, topped with some fresh chopped parsley. If you’re willing to go the extra steps, follow along and make it special!
Step 6: Separate the liquid and solids. You can do this by using a slotted spoon or carefully pouring the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl (after letting it cool for at least a few minutes). Return the liquid to the cooking pot and bring to a vigorous simmer, practically a boil. We’re going to reduce the liquid by up to half, concentrating the flavor and giving it a thicker consistency.
Step 7: While the broth is reducing, separate all the chunks of meat from the cooked vegetables. Discard the vegetables and have the meat ready to add back to the pot once the liquid has reduced between ⅓ to ½. We’re doing this because the vegetables were used to flavor the broth rather than to be served with the meat. They’ve given their essence to the stew and have become overly mushy. If you would like to have vegetables in your stew, you can add fresh chopped vegetables to the liquid as it reduces. They can simmer in the liquid for about 15-20 minutes until just the right texture.
Step 8: Once the liquid is reduced, taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt? If so, add a healthy pinch and taste again. It’s never an exact science and you should always plan on tasting for seasoning before serving. Remove the stew from the heat and add the chunks of meat back to the liquid. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and chopped parsley to the stew and stir as it gently melts into the mixture. Butter makes everything better!
Step 9: Serve and enjoy! Ladle chunks of beef and broth into each serving bowl. Garnish with a few leaves of parsley.