How To Cook the Best Beef Stew Despite Your Fears
A Bowl of the Best Beef Stew
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
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
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
A Good Dutch Oven Is a Must
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.
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.