Get ready for a classic beef stew recipe with chunks of tender meat and hearty vegetables simmering in a flavorful red wine sauce. It’s the ultimate one-pot meal packed with protein and vegetables.
Table of Contents
- The dutch oven sautés and braises
- Selecting the right cut of meat
- Searing first to add surface flavor
- Sautéing the aromatics
- Using hearty vegetables
- Wine selection
- The secret ingredients
- Thickening the sauce liquid
- Braising in the oven
- Can this stew be made entirely on the stovetop?
- What to serve this with
- Classic Beef Stew Recipe
Beef stew is comfort food in a bowl. Everything you need for a complete meal slowly simmers in a Dutch oven. This pot is extremely versatile, as I use it to sear the beef first to add flavor on the surface, then I place it in the oven to finish the braising process. To make the recipe involves just a little upfront preparation, but then you have an hour to let the equipment do the work.
The gentle and prolonged cooking time ensures that the chunks of meat and vegetables become extremely fork-tender. Over time, the flavorful red wine liquid concentrates into a creamy, thickened sauce that infuses and coats every ingredient. You can serve this meal with mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta for a satisfying feast.
The dutch oven sautés and braises
A dutch oven is an extremely versatile pot to execute multiple cooking methods. The heavy cast iron construction, with thick walls, does a great job retaining heat. It beautifully browns the beef stew meat and sautees the vegetables. Then the whole pot goes in the oven to complete the braising process.
The oven provides a very consistent heated environment, gently simmering the ingredients for just over an hour. The hands-off cooking is similar to using a slow cooker. One thing to check is that the knob of the lid is heat-rated above 350-degrees, so it doesn’t melt. If not, then finish cooking the stew on the stovetop.
Selecting the right cut of meat
Beef stew is extremely popular because it takes tough, inexpensive cuts of meat and turns them into tender pieces. I recommend using boneless beef chuck, which comes from the cow’s shoulder section, or beef chuck roll. This selection contains a good amount of marbling and connective tissue to create flavorful pieces.
Avoid buying precut pieces labeled as stew meat from the store. They tend to be too lean, resulting in a dry texture. I also like to control the size of the pieces, cutting them into about 1 ½-inch cubes. Make sure to trim off excess fat and tough silver skin.
Searing first to add surface flavor
To create a flavorful golden-brown crust on the beef, dry the surface well with paper towels. This ensures that the meat sears instead of steams when it hits the hot pan. The goal here is to brown the sides, not cook them all the way through.
With chuck cuts, dry heat from pan-searing won’t thoroughly tenderize the meat. The moist cooking environment and stewing liquid will turn tough collagen in the muscle fibers into rich gelatin.
Sautéing the aromatics
A classic mix of carrots, onions, and celery saute to add aromatics and natural sweetness from the vegetables in the dish. As the moisture evaporates and these ingredients lightly brown, they begin to caramelize. The garlic and fresh thyme cook in the fat so that their fat-soluble flavors infuse into the stew before adding the liquid.
Using hearty vegetables
To make this a complete meal, I add big chunks of carrots and potatoes. I cut them into pieces large enough to withstand the long cooking time and not to fall apart. I find that waxy types of potatoes, which are lower in starch and higher in sugar like white, red, and yellow, keep their shape when stewing, and they absorb lots of flavors. I prefer the buttery and smooth taste of Yukons golds.
Use a dry red wine like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chianti, pinot noir, or a French Beaujolais. You want it to be fruity with tannins but not overly sweet. Make sure it’s one you’d like to drink because its flavors will infuse into the stew. Plus, you’ll have leftovers to enjoy with the meal.
The secret ingredients
To make the beef stew flavor pop, add tomato paste and soy sauce to deepen the savory notes. They contain natural glutamates that increase the umami taste of the beef for dimension. I also use balsamic vinegar for acidity to balance and enhance the salty and subtly sweet flavors in the dish.
Thickening the sauce liquid
Add flour at the beginning of cooking to saute out its raw taste. Adding in beef stock helps hydrate the starches, and as it begins to boil, the starches swell and thicken. The starches in flour are robust and can keep their consistency in prolonged heating, making it an ideal candidate for stewing.
Over time as steam builds up in the pot, you’ll notice it gradually exiting the sides of the lid. This helps to reduce the volume and to concentrate the liquid. If needed, at the very end of cooking, simmer the stew on the stovetop for a few minutes to adjust the consistency.
Braising in the oven
The most consistent and low key way to cook a stew is in a covered pot placed inside the oven. The hot air evenly circulates in the closed environment, gradually transferring the heat by conduction from the pot to the food. I use a moderate 350-degrees to keep the braising liquid at a low simmer.
The meat cooks to well-done to make it tender. The connective tissue and fat need to reach 210ºF (99ºC) for at least an hour. This time allows the collagen to transform into gelatin and render the fat from the protein. The meal is ready when the beef and vegetables can be easily cut with a fork.
Can this stew be made entirely on the stovetop?
Yes! However, the burners on the stove give direct heat to the bottom of the pot, making it prone to hot spots. Therefore, make sure to check and stir every 20 minutes and adjust the heat as needed. The cook time may be slightly longer with the lid’s constant lifting, releasing steam that helps to soften the food. Cook on a gentle simmer, low to medium-low heat.
What to serve this with
Benefits adding wine to the dish
The alcohol in wine lowers the boiling point of a liquid, like beef stock. Instead of the boiling point of water being 212ºF (100ºC), the wine reduces that to below 200-degrees. This causes the wine to evaporate quicker and generates more water vapor in the pot for quicker heat transfer and cooking of the stew. It’s like pressure cooking.
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Classic Beef Stew
- 2 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck, or beef chuck roll
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed for seasoning
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed for seasoning
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups carrots, peeled, cut into ¾-inch thick slices
- 1 cup celery, ½-inch thick slices
- 1 cup red onion, 1-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups beef stock
- 1 cup red wine, dry
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Thoroughly dry the surface of the beef with paper towels. Trim off any excess fat or silverskin. Cut into 1 ½-inch thick cubes, then season with salt and pepper.
- Set the oven rack to the lower third position. Heat to 350ºF (177ºC). Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, once hot add the beef in a single layer, work in two batches. Sear the beef on each side until browned, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining beef.
- Turn heat down to medium and add the carrots, celery, and onions. Saute until the onions are lightly browned and tender, 5 minutes.
- Add the thyme and bay leaf, saute for 30 seconds. Add the garlic, saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the balsamic vinegar. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the beef stock, scraping down the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and soy sauce, stir to combine.
- Add the browned beef and potatoes. Bring the liquid to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, turn off the heat. Cover and carefully transfer the pot to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender and vegetables are easily pierced with a fork, about 75 to 90 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with more salt and pepper as desired. For a thicker sauce, stir and cook over medium-high heat, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Serve the stew garnished with chopped parsley.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute tamari or coconut aminos for soy sauce. Omit the flour and use a cornstarch slurry. Once the stew is done cooking in the oven, transfer it to the stovetop. Combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and ¼ cup water. Bring liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, slowly add the slurry, stir until the liquid thickens, 60 to 90 seconds.
- Make it Whole-30: Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce. Substitute arrowroot flour (starch/powder) Bob’s Red Mill recommended.
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