Stew has been a classic comfort food for centuries, offering a rich and delicious meal that is perfect for cold or rainy days. The best type of beef for stew is the cut you like with just enough fat to add flavor and moisture. Beef chuck roast is ideal because it has enough fat to keep your stew from becoming too dry, but not so much that the meat becomes greasy or salty.
4 Secrets for the Best Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Tender beef, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes and carrots in a rich broth—this could be the best and easiest beef stew you’ve ever made.
When I was in culinary school, we learned a lot about how to develop flavors. These methods usually involved high-end ingredients, a lot of prep time, and sometimes following complicated procedures to get good results. Little did I know, a much easier path to culinary greatness was sitting in my pantry the whole time I was sweating in a restaurant kitchen. That would be my slow cooker.
The humble slow cooker can turn out some pretty mean food if you know a few tricks. Not to mention, it’s convenient, relatively inexpensive and very easy to use. (Dinner practically cooks itself!)
Take EatingWell‘s recipe for Slow-Cooker Beef Stew, for example. In culinary school I would have been meticulously trimming an expensive cut of meat, tournéing vegetables and bathing them all in veal stock.
But in this version, I’m simply searing chuck and my veggies, then throwing it all together with wine and broth in my slow cooker. The results are just as delicious.
Here are some tricks to getting restaurant-worthy results with your slow cooker.
Tip 1. Maximize Flavor On Your Stove First
Dumping ingredients into your slow cooker and walking away may be convenient, but it’s usually not the best way to get the most flavor out of your food. You need the caramelized bits you get from searing your meat and vegetables on the stovetop first.
Since you don’t need to worry about cooking things through (they’ll finish in your slow cooker) the process doesn’t take long. Just heat up a small amount of oil and give your meat and vegetables a sear before adding them to the slow cooker. Then “deglaze” the pan with liquid to get all the brown, caramelized bits from the sauté pan and pour the flavorful liquid into the slow cooker.
Tip 2. Pick the Right Meat
When it comes to your slow cooker, not all meat is created equal. To get richly flavored, melt-in-your-mouth-tender meat, you need to choose tougher cuts that can benefit from hours of cooking. Cuts like chuck, brisket and bottom round are all good choices-full of flavor and, another perk, relatively cheap, too. As your stew cooks, the collagen inside the meat breaks down, making it tender and delicious and creating a luscious sauce for the stew.
Tip 3. Pick the Right Vegetables
Just like meat, there are some vegetables that are born to go into the slow cooker-and some that are not. When you’re picking vegetables for your stew, think hearty. Root vegetables like potatoes, turnips and rutabaga are all good options; they can take the prolonged cooking and still hold their shape.
Mushrooms also hold up well. More tender vegetables like snow peas, spinach, and other leafy greens can certainly have their place in the slow cooker, but you may want to add them later on; they can disintegrate if they spend too much time cooking.
Tip 4. Cut Your Ingredients to Size
Bigger is better when it comes to the size of the vegetables that will be going into your slow cooker. For vegetables, holding their shape is important (think tender chunks of potato or carrots). A good rule of thumb for these root vegetables would be pieces no smaller than one inch.
By cutting them a little larger, they remain toothsome and avoid turning mushy when you cook them. For vegetables that contribute flavor more than texture (like onions and garlic), cutting them smaller is fine. Meat for beef stew should also be cut into one-inch pieces. Cut the pieces too large, and they may not come out as tender.
Choose chuck for the best beef stew
One of the best cuts of beef for making beef stew is chuck. Chuck comes from the well-exercised shoulder and upper foreleg of the steer, so it has lots of tough connective tissue and sinew, a quality that makes it unsuitable for dry-heat, short-cooking methods like grilling and sautéing. But slow, moist, gentle cooking (stewing or braising) transforms the toughness into delectable fork-tenderness and rich flavor.
So when you go to shop for the Beef Stew with Red Wine and Carrots recipe, you know you want chuck. But the chuck is a big part of the steer—it accounts for more than 25% of the animal—and it consists of several different muscles, each with its own characteristics affecting texture and cooking times.
Look for these labels
At the market, you’ll have a choice of cuts from the chuck, and some are better for stews than others. To avoid confusion, head to the store with this list. Cuts labeled with any of these terms will give you a stew with more uniform texture and great flavor:
- Top blade
- Flat iron
- 7-bone roast (named after the 7-shaped blade bone)
- Chuck short ribs (purchase extra since they’re fattier and need heavy trimming).
The Best Ever Beef Stew Recipe (video)
When it comes to flavor, this classic beef stew isn’t messing around! This is seriously the best beef stew recipe ever! It’s made with chunks of slow-braised beef, baby potatoes, mushrooms, carrots and peas. This hearty and warming chunky stew is so aromatic and flavorful, you’ll be coming back to this dinner recipe again and again!
Ingredients for Making Stew
Here are some of the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe!
- Beef Tri-Tip: this cut of beef will become super tender when cooked for a few hours. You can also use beef roast.
- Red wine: the red wine will add lots of great flavor to this recipe. You can make this recipe without the red wine, just substitute with more beef broth. I recommend using a dry red wine, such as cabernet or zinfandel.
- Potatoes: I love to use baby potatoes but regular potatoes will work great, too!
- Mushrooms: these are optional but I love to have them in my beef stew.
- Beef Broth: I recommend using a bone beef broth, which is so hearty!
- Worcestershire Sauce: this sauce is savory and adds lots of great flavor.
- Tomato sauce
- Garlic, onions, celery, carrots
How to Make the Best Beef Stew
The secret to making the best stew is time! The longer the stew gets to simmer away, the better it’s going to taste! Because it requires a few hours of cooking time, this dinner recipe is perfect for making on the weekend.
- Start by choosing the right meat: I recommend using large, 1 1/2-inch chunks of beef tri-tip, beef roast or even beef short ribs. Preheat a large pan and sear the meat all over, giving it nice color. This step is going to add lots of flavor so don’t rush the process!
- I love a good, chunky soup and this one is made with halved baby potatoes, carrots, sliced mushrooms and even peas! The baby potatoes are sweet and tender, making them perfect for this recipe. For the sweet peas, either fresh or frozen will work well.
- And for the mushrooms, I recommend going with baby bella mushrooms – they’re firm in texture and delicious! After browning the mushrooms, I add a few tablespoons of flour, which will help thicken the stew as it cooks.
- The beef and vegetables then combined with red wine, beef broth, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce. If you don’t use wine for cooking, you can replace it with more beef broth but I highly recommend adding it. The wine will add lots of flavor that you just can’t get otherwise.
- I also season the beef stew with smoked paprika and Italian herbs. Once the stew comes up to a boil, reduce the heat and it cook away for at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours – the longer it simmers, the softer and more tender the beef will be.
Italian Herbs Seasoning
I like to add my own Italian herb blend to this soup recipe and it’s super easy to make: I combine 1/2 teaspoon EACH of the following dried herbs: basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. If you enjoy fennel seed, add about 4 to 5 seeds. This is a great herb blend for the stew and can also be used for other recipes!
Serving Beef Stew
There are so many great ways to enjoy this hearty and chunky stew! I love to enjoy it with a side of toasted baguette. You can also enjoy it with biscuits, or even over a bed of rice!
Common Recipe Questions
Can I make this stew without the red wine?
Yes, you can make this beef stew without the wine. Keep in mind, the alcohol will cook out very quickly, so this stew is safe for kids, too! You can replace the wine with more beef broth.
How can I make this stew thicker?
For a thicker stew, you can do either one of two things. You can double the amount of flour, or you can reduce the amount of beef broth.
Can I omit the mushrooms?
Yes, this stew will be delicious without the mushrooms, too!