Are you struggling on which cut of beef for stew you should use? It can be difficult making the right choice when it comes to cooking. Never fear, because I’m here to tell you! You’ve entered the realm of stew, but where should you start? What cut of beef do you need for stew? The two that stick out the most are chuck roast and blade steaks.
This Is The Right Kind of Beef to Buy for Stew
Be sure to grab the right one!
Visualize a warm bowl of beef stew—thick steaming gravy with hearty pieces of potato and small diced cubes of celery and carrot surrounding chunks of well-browned beef. Just one spoonful makes us salivate, and as with anything in the kitchen, the magic of this hearty favorite starts with the ingredients. Fall is the prime time to buy onions, carrots, and potatoes. But the crowning glory of beef stew is the flavor and texture of the meat, browned and slightly crisp on the outside but fall-apart-in-your-mouth tender on the inside.
Not all cuts of beef are the same. Meat is muscle, and muscles differ in taste and texture depending on how the animal used it. As a general rule, the muscles most used by an animal are tougher and darker than the muscles used less. However, these tougher pieces of meat have far more flavor than the other cuts, and they require a longer cook time at a lower temperature to unlock all of the flavor and make the meat tender. For a cow, these flavorful and well-used muscles are the ones that move the legs and neck, while the muscles rarely used are naturally fattier (ribs, sirloin, etc)
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Since beef stew cooks slowly, if you use tender fatty cuts of beef, the fat will quickly render out and the long stewing of the meat will make the pieces chewy. You need cuts of meat from the muscles the cow uses the most to achieve the right texture in a stew—the constant low heat will break down the collagen in the beef, create a rich flavorful broth, and make the meat fork tender.
When you go to the store to pick up meat for a beef stew, look for a round roast, chuck roast, chuck shoulder, or top chuck. Cube any of these cuts of meat into 1-inch pieces and brown them evenly on the outside in a well-oiled skillet before cooking them in your stew. This ensures a flavorful and crisp crust on every piece of meat.
What’s the Best Stew Meat?
Stop wasting money on packaged “stew meat.” Discover the best cuts of meat to make stew, and learn how to cut it up yourself.
Buying a package of pre-cut “stew meat” may sound like a time-saver, but you’re not really doing yourself a favor, and you’re probably spending more than you should. Find out why, and learn how easy it is to cut up meat for stews and chili yourself. You’ll save money, and get a much better dinner, too.
What is Stew Meat?
The typical package of stew meat contains random scraps of different cuts of meat in all shapes and sizes left over after the supermarket butcher breaks down larger pieces of meat.
What’s the Problem with Pre-packaged Stew Meat?
Different cuts of meat require different cooking methods to bring out their best. And if you don’t know exactly what kind of meat is in that hodge-podge package of “stew meat,” then you can’t predict how it will all behave when you simmer it low and slow in a stew or chili. Will it cook down into fork-tender morsels, or will it go all tough and stringy? No one wants to play that kind of guessing game with their dinner.
What’s the Solution?
First of all, learn what meat makes the very best stews, whether you use a slow cooker, stovetop, or oven. (Bonus: it’s usually cheaper per pound than packaged “stew meat.”) Then, learn how to cut it up, or cube it, to make your own stew meat.
How to Cut up Meat for Stew
Basically, you’re cutting up a piece of meat such as beef chuck into pieces that are the same size on each side. Meat that’s properly cut into cubes cooks evenly (and looks good on your plate). Use this same method to cut pork shoulder or lamb shoulder into cubes for stew.
How to Cut a Roast into Cubes in 3 Easy Steps
1. Place the roast on a large cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife, trim off hard fat. Then cut across the roast into 1-inch slices, as if you’re slicing a loaf of bread.
2. Cut each slice into 1-inch strips.
3. Cut across the strips at 1-inch intervals to make cubes. Your finished cubes will measure 1 inch on each side.
Seriously, it’s that easy. To make larger cubes, start with wider slices, cut those into wider strips, and cut across the strips into wider cubes. Just keep each cut the same width, and you’ll get pretty close to perfect cubes every time. Yes, you’ll always end up with odd little bits, but the vast majority of your meat will be cubed like a pro did it.
A Guide to Stew Meat: 6 Cuts of Beef for Stew Meat
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Meat that is cubed or cut into chunks for stewed dishes is often referred to as stew meat. The best cuts of stew meat are lean with a bit of fat marbling.
What Is Stew Meat?
Stew meat is a phrase used to describe meat that is cubed, diced, or cut into chunks that is then cooked in stew dishes. Stew meats can come in a variety of different beef cuts, such as round, chuck, or sirloin cuts.
Stew meat is cooked into a stew by adding it to a liquid broth to simmer for a long period of time on low heat. Stewing meat with a long cooking time makes the stew meat soft, fork-tender, and flavorful.
Tough vs. Tender Beef
The best cuts of stew meat are lean with a high concentration of collagen-rich connective tissues—such as chuck or shoulder cuts—that also have some fat marbling for flavor. Lean cuts of meat come from parts of the animal that have lots of muscle, like the legs. During the long cook time used to make stews, proteins in the connective tissues break down into a gelatin that keeps the meat moist and tender.
Tender cuts of meat, like ribeye or beef tenderloin, are better for grilling or braising on a stovetop on medium-high heat for short periods of time. Because they are already soft, cooking tender cuts for long periods of time will dry out the meat and make it too chewy.
6 Cuts of Beef for Stew Meat
The best beef stew meat recipes will use stew meat from tough cuts of meat with high-fat content for a rich flavor. There are many cuts of beef you can choose from for your beef for stew ranging from cheap to more expensive:
- 1. Round: Round cuts of beef are taken from the rear legs of the cow and are generally very tough with relatively low fat content. You will often have the choice between a top round or bottom round cut. While both are great for stews, bottom cuts are tougher and better for slow cooking. Round roasts are a very popular choice for stew meat for their low cost.
- 2. Chuck: Chuck meat is taken from the shoulder and is one of the most popular choices for stew meat due to its high toughness and medium fat content. Beef chucks are usually large cuts of meat and are only a little more expensive than a round roast. They’re often called chuck roasts since they are popular for making chuck pot roasts.
- 3. Sirloin: Sirloin cuts are taken from the back of the cow. The sirloin cut falls somewhere in between a chuck and round roast in terms of toughness and fat content, and they will often be somewhat more expensive.
- 4. Brisket: Brisket cuts are taken from the breast or chest of the cow and are typically inexpensive. You can use a whole brisket for a stew, or you can choose between flat and point cuts. The point cut will have a better ratio of tough tissues and fat content and will be better for stewing than the less fatty flat cut.
- 5. Bone-in short rib: Short ribs are from the underbelly of the cow and are usually sold with the bone in. They have a rich flavor with a good balance of toughness and fat, though they are often expensive.
- 6. Oxtail: Oxtail cuts are a very tough cut of meat taken from the tail of the cow. They have a very high fat content and the gelatin from the bone makes them delicious, but they are often expensive due to their low availability.
4 Common Stew Meat Dishes
Most beef stew recipes begin by coating stew meat with all-purpose flour, then giving it a short sear (also called a braise) in a pan with olive oil to brown the outer edges of the meat. The stew meat is then added to a broth and simmered on low heat in a dutch oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker for a long period of time. There are many variations on stew dishes you can make at home:
- 1. Beef stroganoff stew: This Russian dish cooks stew meat in a rich beef stock broth with mustard, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, and mushrooms and is often served with egg noodles.
- 2. Beef bourguignon: Also called beef burgundy, this dish cooks stew meat in a red wine broth with veggies like carrots and onions. Beef bourguignon is often served with green beans or mashed potatoes.
- 3. Chili: A spicy stew often made with chili peppers, tomatoes, and kidney beans. While it’s common to make chili with ground beef, using stew meat gives chili a full and flavorful taste.
- 4. Irish stew: A traditional Irish dish that can be made with beef or lamb. The meat is then stewed in a beef broth with potatoes, onions, parsnips, black pepper, and carrots.