How To Cook the Best Beef Stew Despite Your Fears

A Bowl of the Best Beef Stew

Hearty, delicious, and fragrant, this fool-proof best beef stew recipe is a winner in our book.
Hearty, delicious, and fragrant, this fool-proof best beef stew recipe is a winner in our book. | Source

Overcoming the Fear of Cooking Beef - Are You Beef-challenged?

As some of you know, I am beef-challenged. Somehow in my growing-up years, and even later, I never learned to cook beef. Instead, I relied on others–restaurants and friends–to cook beef for me. A couple of years ago I attacked this deficiency and finally mastered a method of cooking roast beef to perfection every time. I am happy to say that I've now mastered the method for creating an equally delicious and fool-proof beef stew.

In the process of creating this beef stew recipe, I had two wonderful teachers, both of whom I've known since I was a child: my aunt Ronnie and my friend Trish. Although their methods and ingredients differ, each cooks an outstanding beef stew. What I did was to take what I liked best from each and add my own touch, focusing on nailing down a cooking method that would guarantee succulent, tender beef, firm but tender potatoes, and a light but satisfying gravy.

If you are beef-challenged as I am, you will appreciate this fool-proof recipe for making the best fragrant and hearty beef stew.

Features of this Beef Stew You Will Enjoy

  • Easy to make, although you will have to put some time aside to prepare ingredients and tend to the beef stew as it cooks
  • No added salt or sugar
  • No artificial or processed ingredients
  • Plenty of earthy, rich flavor with a touch of sweetness
  • No extra steps needed to thicken the gravy
  • Can be frozen and then defrosted and heated in the microwave

Parsnips

The parsnips, tarragon, and carrots add a natural, earthy sweetness to the beef stew. When you cut the parsnips into small pieces and add them early on in the cooking, they will break down to add texture to the gravy.
The parsnips, tarragon, and carrots add a natural, earthy sweetness to the beef stew. When you cut the parsnips into small pieces and add them early on in the cooking, they will break down to add texture to the gravy. | Source

Mushrooms

The longer you cook the mushrooms in the stew, the better. Slow-cooked mushrooms release a great deal of savory, fragrant liquid into the stew gravy.
The longer you cook the mushrooms in the stew, the better. Slow-cooked mushrooms release a great deal of savory, fragrant liquid into the stew gravy. | Source

Carrots

Carrots also add sweetness, but they are best added later in the cooking to keep them from turning to mush.
Carrots also add sweetness, but they are best added later in the cooking to keep them from turning to mush. | Source

Equipment

Plastic bag

Sharp knife

Cutting board

Large Dutch oven (5 or 6 quart size)

Large cookie sheet or oven-proof tray with a rim (not the flat type of cookie sheet that has no edges)

Tea kettle full of water, simmering on the stove

Ingredients

2 Pounds stewing beef cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes

3/4 Cup all-purpose flour

2 Cups sweet white onion, coarsely chopped or cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

2 Cups parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

2-1/2 Cups mushrooms, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

2 Cups carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds

4 Cups small to medium red potatoes with skins, quartered

3/4 Teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 Teaspoon dried basil

3/4 Teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 Teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

2 Teaspoons fresh garlic, finely minced

You can prepare all of the ingredients before you start to make the stew, or, since there are blocks of "down time" where the stew beef browns in the oven and where the vegetables are added to the stew in stages with simmering time in between, you can prep the ingredients then.

Start with the Beef Cubes

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Put the flour in the plastic bag and add the beef cubes. Seal the bag and then shake to coat each cube evenly with flour. Let the coated beef sit in the plastic bag until the oven is hot.
  • When the oven is hot, arrange the floured beef cubes on the cookie sheet and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the sheet from the oven, turn the pieces of beef, and return the sheet to the oven for another 20 minutes.

Sautée the Onions

  • While the meat is browning in the oven, add the olive oil and butter to the Dutch oven on the stovetop. Turn the heat to medium-low.
  • When the oil and butter are hot, add the onion pieces. Stir frequently until the onions turn a bit golden and show some browning on their edges, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and cover.

Perfectly Sautéed Onions

We cut the onion in one-half inch wedges from the root end to the stem end, just as Aunt Ronnie does! The onions are ready when they've turned a light gold and are browned here and there.
We cut the onion in one-half inch wedges from the root end to the stem end, just as Aunt Ronnie does! The onions are ready when they've turned a light gold and are browned here and there. | Source

Assemble the Beef Stew

  • When the beef cubes are done, transfer them to the Dutch oven containing the onions. Add just enough hot water from the tea kettle to cover the meat. Bring the contents to a boil, put the lid on the pot, and turn down the heat to its lowest possible setting. Simmer, covered, for one hour.
  • After the hour is up, add the mushrooms, parsnips, thyme, basil, tarragon, black pepper, and minced garlic. Add hot water from the tea kettle only if needed so that the ingredients are just covered. Bring the beef stew to a boil, cover, and simmer on the lowest possible heat for 30 minutes.
  • After the 30 minutes are up, add the potatoes and carrots. Add just enough hot water from the kettle to cover the ingredients. Bring the beef stew to a boil, then cover. This time, leave the lid slightly ajar. Lower the heat to just high enough to keep a gentle simmer going for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir occasionally.
  • When the beef stew is done, cover the pot tightly and let it sit until ready to ladle out and enjoy.

 

Serving Suggestions

Start your best beef stew dinner with a simple green salad dressed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Serve chunks of homemade artisan-style bread, perfect for dipping in the savory, fragrant beef stew gravy.

As with many dishes that have been slow-cooked, this best beef stew is even better the second day.

Future Engagements with Beef

I am a long way from confidently grilling prime cuts of beef to be perfectly done for company. Until I reach that point, I’m still passing the tongs to the nearest guy while I sit back and enjoy a glass of Scotch.

Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.

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Comments 38 comments

Rhonda Waits profile image

Rhonda Waits 5 years ago from The Emerald Coast

Great recipe. I will have to try it.


CollB 5 years ago

Nice recipe, I'm going to try this and as there'll be no added sugar - good to know!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Rhonda, thanks for reading and leaving the good words!

CollB, carrots and parsnips are so sweet, plus tarragon adds a bit of a sweet sensation as well. Please let us know how it turns out for you!


eatlikenoone profile image

eatlikenoone 5 years ago from Saline, MI

I never thought about using parsnips in my beef stew, I will have to give that a try sometime.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

I'm so glad you left a comment, eatlikenoone, because now I've found your blog, Eat Like No One Else, and bookmarked it. Looking forward to sharing thoughts and ideas about food.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 5 years ago from India

I am not only beef-challenged, I am all-red-meat-challenged! I only trust myself with quick cooking chicken and fish!

Your stew looks like something my family would enjoy but would I take all that trouble....hmmm. :D


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Thanks for the great recipe. Your pictures are beautiful too. Now I'm really hungry!! Love the -- pass the tongs to another and enjoy the glass of Scotch.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Aw, FP, you can do it for your family! There's a bit of down time there while things roast and simmer...those would be good times to curl up on the couch with a good book and a treat. :)

Sally, thanks for the good words. And I'm really not kidding about passing the tongs! lol


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

They sound so great. Thank you for sharing.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You are welcome, H,h!


viking305 profile image

viking305 5 years ago from Ireland

A very nice recipe, I like the idea of the parsnips. I will give your method of cooking a beef stew a try soon.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

viking, thanks for reading and commenting. I get the feeling you like a good beef stew...you will not be disappointed with the addition of the parsnips...so earthy, so sweet.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Now I'm just starving! I love beef stew and make it quite often. I've even used a steak before and cut that up and it was so yummy - then no need to brown. I just seared it a bit in the fry pan and then added to the crockpot or soup pot. Gotta go.....make some beef stew!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Audrey, a woman to mine own heart. Take what's there and make magic!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

Guess what I just made last night. Beef stew! Too bad I didn't read this hub before I cooked it. I'm bookmarking this for my next stew. Thanks so much for sharing. :)


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 5 years ago

Hello dear friend,

Simplicity at its finest. This sounds very easy to put together. When I come for a visit, I hope this is the dinner menu, along with your wonderful homemade bread. Since I'm a salt junkie, I'll bring salted butter for my bread :) So, while you enjoy your glass of scotch, I'll opt for a nice red wine. Looking forward to my next visit!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Om Paramapoonya, you are so welcome. I hope you enjoy this beef stew recipe as much as your own. Thank you for the good words!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Trish, this beef stew will be on the menu next you visit, but so will yours. We are going to have a cook-off! Then we'll freeze everything the two of us don't eat, and you will go home with plenty of instant meals. Scotch for me, and a good red wine for us. :) About the bread, we're going to have the homemade artisan-style bread that I linked to above. We'll freeze some of that, too, if we can, but I have a feeling we'll inhale it all!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

Now that we have a new Kitchenaid, we can again bake our own bread (tendonitis and arthritis had taken a toll on our kneading ability, and good bread requires plenty of kneading) - looking forward to combining our bread with your stew - dinner fit for the gods!


FlyingPanther profile image

FlyingPanther 5 years ago from here today gone tomorrow!!

Sally, I could picture both of us in the kitchen making that wonderful dish.Great work again!!


Jennifer Burss profile image

Jennifer Burss 5 years ago from Michigan

This sounds great. I like that the meat can be done in the oven. I am a wheelchair user and can have trouble seeing over the stove top. The more steps that can be done in the oven the better.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

RedElf, KitchenAid makes the best home and commercial appliances on the market for kneading bread. I'm so glad you now have one. Mine's a boring white, from nearly 30 years ago...did you get turquoise, or black? :) You know, they've got a size so big, you can sit in the bowl.

I'd like to suggest that you check out Dolores Monet's no-knead bread recipe which she published recently (the link is above, under serving suggestions). It won't put your KitchenAid to work, and it's a joy to make--without kneading. Just tonight, my daughter used this fabulous artisan bread to sop up the last of my beef stew. She gives the bread a total thumb's up.

Happy cooking!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

FlyingPanther, thanks so much, always, for your good words. Just think, we have so much food to make when we next see each other!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Jennifer, this stew can be done in the oven or in a crock pot, as opposed to cooking the affair on the stove top.

One of the key processes is browning the beef with flour...done in the oven. Another is caramelizing or sauteeing the onions. I have never tried this, but I imagine that onions could be browned in the oven. That would be an experiment for you, and I'd love to hear the result.

After all that, it's a matter of timing...mushrooms and parsnips first, potatoes and carrots later, while the beef has been cooking for a long time on a very low heat.

Looking forward to hearing how you make this beef stew.


annemaeve profile image

annemaeve 5 years ago from Philly Burbs

I give this recipe, this Hub, and this stew three big thumbs up!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, annemaeve. We'll make some more before the winter's out. Where'd you get that third thumb? :) ~Mom


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I'm lots of things, but beef challenged isn't one of them; but I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy that flavour! Thanks :-D


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Very cool, Todd. Glad you liked this recipe. Meanwhile, you get the tongs; I get the Scotch. :) Please!


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

The parsnips in this stew are a tasty addition. Great flavors! I made it yesterday and it was delicious!

I think it will even be better today, because I find the flavor in stews deepen upon sitting. Only suggestion: (for the stew beef I used...I needed more than an hour cooking stovetop...and that was because I did not cut it into smaller chunks...used the size "as is" from the grocer)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Scribenet, thanks so much for telling us about your experience with this beef stew recipe. I think the parsnips make all the difference, not only for the sweetness they add but also for how they thicken the gravy. And thanks for sharing your experience with the size of the beef pieces. That 1-1/2 inch cube size seems to work well; anything larger can definitely lead to a longer cooking time.


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I have added a link to this recipe on my vinagrette Hub as a menu suggestion...and the flavor is great the next day! A very practical and tasty dish for a cold winter's day!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for the link, Scribenet!


Tightwad Gourmand profile image

Tightwad Gourmand 5 years ago from San Diego, CA USA

Excellent recipe. I never thought of browning the stew meat in the oven before--great idea! I am a big fan of oven-roasting vegetables already, and I can tell you that oven-roasting the onions would be a great variation to try, as the caramelized onions add a lovely flavor boost. Personally, I would go ahead and add small amounts of salt--I'm talking a pinch or two here and there, to the flour and to the onions as they cook; unless one is on a super-strict low-sodium diet, such small amounts of salt in a whole pot of stew will not cause trouble and do help the flavors to develop. (It's the massive amounts of salt added to pre-packaged and fast foods that mess my bod up a lot more. :) )


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

TG, thanks for your interesting and robust comment. Now you've got me thinking about other ways to brown the meat and onions, and I'm thinking grilling. That will be a nice challenge when the grill comes out for the summer. Salt is definitely a personal preference. We choose to cook without it, especially when cooking with salted meats and prepared sauces and stocks, and instead look for herb and spice combinations to bring out the full flavor of foods. I assure you, though, I do shake a bit of salt on fried eggs, french fries, and boiled potatoes!


saif113sb profile image

saif113sb 5 years ago

very very nice and great information. thanks


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

You are welcome!


InTuneWithCooking profile image

InTuneWithCooking 4 years ago from Australia

Yum! I love a good stew in the cooler months.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

I do too, InTune. There's nothing like it to warm hearts and make the kitchen smell so darned good.

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