The best cut of beef for beef stew should have a few things going for it. It should have rich flavor and tender, juicy meat, as well as an affordable price tag. When choosing a cut of beef for beef stew, you don’t want to skimp on quality in favor of cost. The most expensive cut is not always your best option, since usually there are cheaper cuts that are just as good and still affordable.
The Best Cuts of Meat to Create an Amazing Beef Stew
When the outdoor air has that chilly bite to it and the sky looks like snow might begin falling at any moment, there’s nothing better than the enticing aroma of a slow simmering pot of beef stew. But before you grab your soup pot from the back of your cabinet, consider what type of beef you’ll be using for tonight’s dinner.
What’s the best cut of beef to use for stew?
It may seem obvious, right? If you guessed stew meat, well…that’s not it. This cut is named “stew meat” because it has traditionally been a popular choice for soup. You’ll find this meat is constructed of tough connective tissue that needs to be simmered for a long period of time to break down. There’s no definition of exactly what part of the cow this cut comes from and could be odds and ends of various other cuts.
The challenge with stew meat is that it lacks consistency: some chunks may leaner while others contain more fat, making it more challenging to cook correctly to get that “melt in your mouth” texture. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t use it—stew meat can be less expensive and some people prefer it because it does hold up well after hours of cooking. But you might want to give one of these other options a try:
- Chuck roast. Chuck roast originates from the strong shoulder muscles of the cow. Well-worked muscles contain high amounts of collagen-rich tissue. Cooked low and slow, collagen melts into the meat and releases gelatin which means you get great texture and rich flavor.
- This cut originates from the breast underneath the first five ribs of the cow and can be more affordable than other selections. It’s also a hefty, tough cut of meat full of collagen and connective tissue that becomes delicious after hours of simmering. There are two types of brisket: the “first cut” which is a leaner section and the “second cut” or “deckle” which contains more fat. The second cut results in a much tastier stew.
- Bone-in short ribs. Cooking meat on the bone gives you the added benefit of better flavor. During the hours on the stove, the bone marrow infuses the meat and broth resulting in a stew with rich depth of flavor.
Beef Stew Recipe
- 2 pounds of TBS chuck roast cut into cubes
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 onion, chopped
- 8 cups beef broth
- 4-6 large carrots, cut into 1-inch sections
- 1 pound yellow potatoes, diced in 1-2 inch cubes
- 3 cups celery, chopped
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp paprika
- Coat the cubed meat with a mixture of flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Melt butter and olive oil in the soup pot and brown the beef (about 5 to 7 minutes per side).
- When the beef is almost completely browned, add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste.
- Add a cup or two of beef broth to deglaze the pot.
- Add remaining beef broth and bring to a simmer.
- Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Once the soup begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 hours until the meat and vegetables are tender.
THE BEST MEAT FOR BEEF STEW
You won’t find a heartier and more homey meal than a well-prepared pot of beef stew. The rich, thick broth with tender pieces of beef and potatoes is a perfect weeknight and meal prep option during the colder months, and it’s what I whip up in my dutch oven more than anything else.
There are two great advantages of making stew: you can add just about any veggies you want to it, and the payoff is huge for the relatively little work you have to put in.
But, simplicity is not without constraints! Making some good decisions upfront with your stew will make sure it’s “melt-in-your-mouth” delicious instead of “dried-and-tough” try-again.
So, with that in mind, we’re going to cover:
- What beef stew is
- The best cuts of meat for beef stew
- Best practices for choosing beef stew meat
- Pro tips on cooking beef stew
- Our favorite beef stew recipes
WHAT IS BEEF STEW?
Beef stew is a combination of beef and vegetables stewed in its own gravy for hours and typically served with bread.
Stew is often cooked in big batches and tends to use a combination of potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions, although any other veggies are fair game. It’s also popular to flour and sear the beef before stewing and use red wine to deglaze the pot.
With beef stew, almost anything goes. As long as you make a rich, thick broth and have beef, you’re set. And because beef stew is such a good foundation to build upon, you’ll see all sorts of worldly variations, including everything from curry beef stew to Korean beef stew.
THE BEST CUTS OF MEAT FOR BEEF STEW
When it comes to beef stew meat, the tougher and more collagen, the better. This may seem counterintuitive, but when you cook a tender piece of meat like ribeye or tenderloin for an extended period of time, the lack of fat makes the result dry and tough.
Collagen are the tough protein strands found more often in the most-used (and therefore muscular) parts of the steer. As you stew tough cuts of meat, all of that collagen dissolves and seeps throughout the cuts and into the stewing liquid itself. That means all of that delicious meaty flavor and gelatinous texture from the collagen permeates the stew.
It’s the same reason we choose briskets for smoking and BBQ — it takes time to make these cuts tender, but the result is incredible.
When going for collagen-rich cuts, this is the shortlist:
- Chuck roasts
- Round/rump roasts (excluding eye of round)
- Short ribs
There are other collagen-rich cuts of meat, but these are the best bang for your buck with beef stew.
The most popular and economical cut by far are the chuck roasts. These come from the chuck primal, which is located in and around the shoulder of the steer. Because the steer uses these muscles constantly during its life, they are full of that delicious collagen, and their relatively cheap price makes them a standout choice.
Coming from the rump, or round primal, round roasts are another good choice for beef stew. Stay away from the eye of round, since it doesn’t have the same amount of collagen as other round cuts because it comes from the center (eye) of the rump, but the bottom and top of round roasts are both good options.
Brisket is famous for its flavor and thick, strandy texture. There are two main cuts of the brisket: the point and the flat. The flat has less fat and doesn’t break down as well, so go for the point cut (popular for its classic pot roast strandy texture). Keep in mind that you’ll get a different texture with the point brisket. It will be thinner strips instead of chunks.
Short ribs are more expensive than chuck and come from the plate primal, which is on the underside of the cow. You’re paying for bone weight here and have to pick out the bones at the end of the stew, but the result is an incredibly meaty flavor. If you aren’t in a hurry and are having what I like to call a “slow food” day, then go for this.
Similar to short ribs, you get a lot of bone weight here, but the flavor of oxtail is unmatched. You’ll have to pick out the bones and spend a little more time preparing, but it is an amazing taste that’s worth the effort.
BEST PRACTICES FOR CHOOSING BEEF STEW MEAT
Here’s how to make sure the stew meat you’re getting is as good as it gets.
Don’t skimp on quality.
The first rule for getting the best cut of beef for beef stew is to start with the best beef.
This won’t always be an option if you’re trying to save money, but by choosing the right beef provider, you can dramatically raise the quality of your meal.
The best beef producers use 100% grass-fed beef, avoid hormones or antibiotics, and don’t use pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers.
We were founded in 2000 in Monticello, Missouri (pop. 98) by visionary farmers, who saw that big-business cattle-raising practices were taking a toll on our animals and our health.
By returning to rotational grazing practices that are good for the planet and good for our cattle, we introduced a new generation to the unmatched taste, tenderness, and healthiness of 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef.
If you want to see what all that quality and care tastes like, get some of our amazing stew meat shipped to your door right now.
Don’t trust “store-prepared” stew meat.
Stew meat at supermarkets is usually a combination of trimmings and cuts, and that means they could have different cooking times, textures, and flavors. That’s not always the case with specialty producers, but with lower-quality meats, you may run into some trouble.
Stew meat is convenient, but if you want to have the best possible meal, it’s better to choose your own cuts so you have absolute control and consistency.
Combine similar cuts.
Just like chili, cooking stews with a combination of meats is a cool way to get a varied texture. The trick is to pick cuts that have similar stewing times and cut them up in similar sizes as best you can.
HOW TO COOK BEEF STEW LIKE A PRO
Here are some tricks of the trade from our team of pro beef eaters.
Flour and sear before you stew.
Searing your beef before you stew is the secret to rich flavor. Searing initiates the maillard reaction, which is when sugars in the meat caramelize and brown. Here’s how to get the perfect sear on your beef:
- Pat your cuts dry.
- Cut them into cubes.
- Toss them in flour and salt.
- Drop into the pan without overcrowding.
- Brown on as many sides as possible.
Stagger vegetables based on cooking time.
Adding in carrots at the beginning of a 3-hour stew will leave them practically dissolved in the gravy. For potatoes and carrots, aim for about half your total cooking time. For most other veggies, go for about 45 minutes out. The timing depends on the size of your slices and the types of veggies you’re using, so it may take some time to get just right!
Don’t overcook your stew.
Overcooking means mushy veggies and drier meat. Most cuts only need 2-3 hours to get perfectly tender, so keep a close eye on it after a few hours.
Taste as you go.
As your beef and veggies stew, they will pick up more and more of the flavor that the broth has, so taste your broth along the way to see if it needs more salt, pepper, wine, or vinegar!
Use your own beef stock.
Saving beef bones and making your own stock is the secret weapon behind so many restaurants’ beef stew recipes. It adds that extra bit of depth that packaged broth lacks. Grab some beef bones or save some from your next roast to take your stew to the outer limits.
THE BEST BEEF STEW RECIPES
Now for the tasty part. Here are five amazing beef stew recipes to get motivated.
1. Amazeballs Beef Stew
With a name like that, how can you resist trying this beef stew recipe? The clever part of this “amazeballs” recipe is the addition of coconut milk. It won’t overpower the flavor of the stew, and it gives it this amazing sweetness and velvety texture.
2. Most Incredible Beef Stew
If you want classic beef stew, and we mean that in the best way possible, then go with this recipe from BellyFull. By using traditional veggies, worcestershire, bouillon, and beef broth, you end up with the exact flavor you’re imagining in your head when you think of beef stew.
3. Curried Beef Stew
If you’re looking to add a bit of Indian complexity to your stew, check this curried beef stew recipe out. It uses macadamia nuts, fish sauce (sparingly!), and curry powder to take your beef stew and push it into curry land. Grab some fresh naan and cook up some basmati rice for the best results.
4. Best Ever Beef Stew
Just like chili, everyone seems to think their beef stew recipe is the best, but this recipe from Damn Delicious may be right. We’re always a fan of a good wine deglaze, and this recipe calls for that along with using cremini mushrooms to give some vegetable hardiness as well. You’ll love this one!
5. All American Beef Stew
Serious Eats is usually right about most things cooking, and this beef stew recipe is no exception. If you enjoy nerding out about cooking, then this is the recipe for you. It goes into scientific detail about each aspect of the stew and adds clever umami-boosts and ingredients to import some of that extra stew oomph you’re looking for.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Over half the battle is won by the decisions you make before you step into the kitchen. If you buy from a beef provider who follows the most natural and healthiest raising practices and choose a cut based on the best practices mentioned above, then you’ll be well on your way. And if you can’t decide, go for a chuck roast!
Choose the right cut
The best stew is the kind that melts in your mouth, and the good news is: you will not find this result by using an expensive cut of meat. Long slow cooks like this require cuts of meat that have fat and muscle, so choose stewing beef only. It’s called stewing beef for a reason.
Take the time to sear
A little bit of effort at the beginning of your stew-making will reap the rewards. Always sear your meat before you add the liquid and vegetables. A caramelised sear is essential to the flavour profile of a good stew, adding a rich undertone that you just won’t get by throwing in the meat in its raw state.
You are not making soup
You want the stew to be slightly thickened, but not gloopy. This is best achieved by incorporating some ingredients that will thicken the stew gently as it cooks: starchy vegetables like potatoes, a coating of flour on your meat before you sear it.
Consider your vegetables
A stew is not a bin. The vegetables you add to your stew will complement and improve the nature of your stew. A good choice is always equal quantities of carrots, onion and celery. Most French savoury recipes begin with this combination of veg, cut very small – they call it a mirepoix. You do not need to be regimented in your choice though. I sometimes add whole pearl onions, or an entire bulb of garlic, halved as well as turnip when it’s in season or small baby potatoes.
Choose woody, hard-wearing herbs for your stew. Thyme, bay and rosemary are all good choices, but use what you like best.
There are myriad options for how you form the sauce part of your stew. A good stock is essential; if your butcher stocks fresh beef (assuming you do not have your own) stock, then that is always the best option, an organic cube is the next best thing. Guinness or wine is always welcome, as is an ale if you have it. A tablespoon of tomato purée will add depth of flavour, and a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly stirred in at the end will make your sauce super shiny.
Ballymaloe beef stew
A good gutsy stew that can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly
Preparation Time 10 mins
Cooking Time 3 hours 0 mins
Total Time 3 hours 10 mins
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank
- 4 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices
- 2 parsnips cut in ¾ dice
- 285g (10 ozs) sliced onions
- 1 heaped tablespoon flour
- 150ml (5fl oz) red wine (or use all beef stock)
- 150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock
- 250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomato -pureed and sieved
- 175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm cubes.
- Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions carrots and parsnips on a gentle heat with a lid on for 10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking. Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, reduce the heat, stir in flour, cook for 1 minutes, mix the wine, stock and tomato puree together and add gradually to the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Cover and cook gently. Cook gently for 2 ½ – 3 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking. Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.
Note: If you wish, you can cver the surface of the stew with 8 – 10 whole peeled potatoes laid on top and cooked for about an hour before the end of the cooking. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cover with a lid