Want to master a classic beef stew at home? With these tips and a secret ingredient, create a great stew that’s hearty and full of flavour, with a rich sauce that clings to each tender piece of beef and vegetable.
The best cut of meat
For tender, juicy morsels of beef, choose chuck. Not only is it a win because it’s super affordable, but chuck has plenty of connective tissue and fat that will become meltingly tender in the long slow cook. This also enriches the sauce, making it thicker and more flavourful. You can also try short ribs or beef shanks, cut into chunks.
Reading: What to add to beef stew for flavor
Save the prime steaks for, well, steaks, because they’ll end up tough and dry.
Why you should brown meat before slow cooking
It may be tempting to just pop the raw meat right into the slow cooker, at the end of the day it’s all covered in sauce, right? Well, not quite. To get tasty brown gravy and lovely golden (rather than grey) beef, a good hard sear is important. Browning adds flavour and it makes for a better looking final dish.
Preheat the pan so it’s ripping hot, then cook the beef in batches. An overcrowded pan can lead to boiling instead of browning. Let the meat sit untouched for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then a minute or so on the others. It’s a good time to prep veggies and other ingredients to stop the temptation to move the meat while it’s browning!
Fond is flavour
The meat is now golden, but it’s not time for the slow cooker just yet. All the browned fat and bits in the bottom of the pan (AKA fond) is big, big flavour. Cooking the onions, garlic and other aromatics in the fond ensures that flavour makes it to the slow cooker.
How to avoid bitter stew
If you’re adding wine, it won’t get hot enough in the slow cooker to cook off the alcohol. This can leave your stew with an unpleasant taste. Tomato paste can also have a raw, sharp flavour that benefits from a quick pre-cook. Add the wine and tomato paste to the onions and other aromatics in a pan before slow cooking. Plus, this helps to really deglaze any fond that’s left.
The secret ingredient for richer beef stew
This ingredient is one that your mum and nan would probably use in their stews. It adds a bit of tang, sweetness and savoury spices that give an extra punch of flavour. That’s right, it’s fruit chutney! Rosella’s Fruit Chutney is thick and shiny, and balances out the flavours so that the rich and decadent sauce has you coming back for more, but it doesn’t overpower the dish.
Let the stew cook slowly
Don’t be tempted to rush the process, let the low heat do its thing. For the beef to get tender and the flavours to meld, it needs about 3 hours on the stove and at least 4 in a slow cooker. Your patience will be rewarded, and you can use that down time to make mashed potatoes and steam some green beans to serve.
Follow these tips and you’re sure to have a dinner worthy of seconds (and thirds!). If you need a recipe, check out the one below and get cooking.
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