Classic beef bourguignon recipe with a bacon-infused red wine sauce. You sear the meat first to create a flavorful surface crust then it cooks in the oven with root vegetables and herbs until fork tender. It’s amazing!
Beef bourguignon is a French stew made famous by Julia Child. Her love for classic techniques and wine is exquisitely on display in this recipe. However, I just made a few simple substitutions to modernize the ingredients and methods, but don’t worry, the rich flavors are not lost.
The beef and bacon first cook on the stovetop to develop gorgeous colors and textures. The cooking is completed at a consistent temperature in the oven allowing the stew to braise for over an hour. This process completely changes the taste of the meat while developing a savory red wine sauce to pour generously on top.
The best meat to use
Boneless beef chuck which comes from the shoulder of the cow is recommended. This cut of meat tends to have a good amount of marbling and connective tissue that retains flavor as it simmers. Other options include rump roast, sirloin tip, top round, or bottom round.
A good rule of thumb for serving size is about 1 pound of beef trimmed of excess fat per two people. Make sure that the surface of the beef is dried of excess moisture before searing to prevent the meat from steaming and to ensure a well-browned crust.
Using the bacon in different ways
Add bacon to a large pot and cook until crispy, then remove the pieces with a slotted spoon to use for braising later. The rendered bacon fat is used to sear the beef and saute the vegetables. Compared to using a more neutral fat like olive oil, this step takes the flavor of the dish to another level. The characteristic smoky flavor of bacon nicely balances the acidity of the wine and richness of the beef.
Note: Julia Child’s original recipe calls for using a large chunk of bacon that’s then cut into lardons or ¼-inch thick sticks. For convenience, I use thick-sliced bacon cut into ½-inch thick strips.
Choose a full-bodied, dry, fruity, and young red wine from France, like Beaujolais (top pick), Burgundy Cotes du Rhone, or Bordeaux-St. Emilion. Nearly an entire 750-milliliter bottle is used in this recipe, leaving just a splash to enjoy as you prep.
Since wine is a flavoring agent in the dish, it should be something you would enjoy drinking, so a mid-range priced wine, below $20 works well. For Italian wine lovers, a Chianti or Pinot Noir are winners.
Wine makes the stew cook faster
When you combine wine with another watery liquid like beef stock, it lowers the boiling point. Science! Three cups of red wine and two cups of beef stock together reduce the boiling point from 212ºF (100ºC) to about 173ºF (78ºC). This makes the volatile compounds in the alcohol evaporate quicker.
Using this combination also means that more water vapor will be generated allowing for better heat transfer inside the covered pot, and thus faster cooking. This technique provides an advantage in moderate oven temperatures of 350ºF (177ºC), to keep the braise at a consistent simmer and ready in under 2 hours.
Thickening the red wine sauce
The sauce is thickened in two ways by using flour and by reduction. All-purpose flour adds an initial light thickening power before the long simmer. Cassava flour is a good 1:1 gluten-free substitute for adding body instead of wheat flour.
When the sauce is later separated from the meat and vegetables, it’s important to skim the fat that floats to the surface after braising. The sauce is then simmered down, to a more luscious, yet pourable consistency that clings to the meat.
Got a large dutch oven?
When making a stew or braise, try to use a heavy pot with thick walls and a tight-fitting lid like a dutch oven. I use a large Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot that can hold at least 6-quarts. This type of cookware material holds heat well and makes it easy to sear the beef at high temperatures. Then I place the pot in the oven to complete the braising process.
Can the beef stew be made on the stovetop?
Yes, the meat and vegetables can cook on the stovetop. Once you add the liquid, just cover and cook on medium-low to low heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Please note that the stovetop can create uneven pockets of heat, so check and stir every 20 to 30 minutes to distribute the energy, adjusting the heat as needed.
Can you overcook beef bourguignon?
Yes, there’s a balance of time and temperature to ensure that the meat doesn’t overcook and dry, yet the vegetables like carrots soften but don’t break down. For this recipe at least an hour, typically 1 ½ hours is needed for simmering the liquid.
Cooking coarse cuts of beef with an abundance of connective tissue like chuck thrive under low and slow cooking times, like stewing. This is because the longer the beef cooks between 160 to 180ºF (71 to 82ºC), the more collagen is converted to soft gelatin, which makes it much easier to chew.
Cook the mushrooms separately
Mushrooms soak up water and significantly shrink in size when cooking for a long time like in a stew. For the best contrast in texture, it’s better to stir them into the dish right before serving or serve them on the side.
I prefer to keep the mushrooms large by cutting them into quarters instead of slices. Then saute them in butter, olive oil, and just a sprinkle of salt. The dry heat adds a golden color while the milk solids in the butter brown and provides nutty notes.
Storing and freezing
This recipe can be made 2 days in advance if desired. Leftovers should be completely cooled first then placed in an airtight container and stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze individual containers for up to 1 month.
Reheat on the stove or in the microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes for small amounts. Add more water, beef broth, or stock to loosen the sauce if needed.
What to serve with this
Use two types of onions
Two types of onions are in this recipe, sliced yellow onions, and pearl onions. I like to add tiny pearls because they have a nice flavor and hold their shape after cooking. However, they can be a little tricky to peel. For a quick method, trim off the roots, blanch in hot water for 30 seconds, transfer to an ice bath, then squeeze them out of their papery skin.
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- 3 pounds boneless beef chuck, fat trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch thick slices
- 2 cups carrots, peeled, cut into ¾-inch thick slices
- 1 cup yellow onion, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
- 24 pearl onions, peeled
- ½ teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups beef stock
- 3 cups red wine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound white mushrooms, washed, dried and quartered
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Set the oven rack to the lower third position. Preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
- Thoroughly dry the surface of the beef with paper towels. Cut into 2-inch thick cubes, then season with salt and pepper, set aside. If needed, dry again before adding to the pan.
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon and saute until crisp, about 6 to 7 minutes. Use a spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the fat in the pan.
- Heat bacon grease over medium-high heat. Once the fat is hot, add beef to the pan in a single layer, work in two batches. Sear the beef on each side until browned, about 1 to 2 minutes per side, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to the plate with the bacon. Repeat with remaining beef.
- Turn heat down to medium and add the carrots, sliced onions, and pearl onions to the pan. Saute until the onions are lightly browned and tender, 10 minutes.
- Add the thyme and bay leaf, saute for 30 seconds. Add the garlic, saute for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and saute for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the beef stock. Add in the wine, this will help the flour thicken the sauce.
- Add in the browned beef and bacon, bring the liquid to a simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and carefully transfer the pot to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter, once hot and bubbling add the mushrooms. Saute until tender and lightly browned, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt, cook for 2 minutes.
- When the beef is done cooking, transfer the meat and vegetables to a medium bowl. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer over medium heat. As the fat rises to the surface, use a spoon to skim off the excess fat. Reduce the sauce until it can lightly coat the back of a spoon, about 2 to 2 ½ cups, the sauce will thicken more as it cools. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Return the meat, vegetables, and mushrooms to the pan, stir to warm. Garnish with chopped parsley.
- Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles.
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