How to make stews with tender, juicy pieces of meat
There’s nothing better than a hearty, comforting stew.
It’s a super affordable way to feed hungry mouths.
And really tasty meal.
But it can go wrong if you choose the beef cut for your stew.
Think, tough and chewy mouthfuls. Not good.
So, the key to cooking a good stew, is cooking low and slow.
This will turn any tough, cheap cut into melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
But how do you know what is the best beef cut to use in stews?
Choosing the best beef cut for stews
You need to get the right cut of beef, to do the right job.
And in this case, it’s all about the collagen.
Tough cuts come from hard-working muscles.
And these have less fat but have collagen-rich connective tissue.
Collagen is tough when raw.
But when you cook it nice and slow and in liquid.
It breaks down and melts into the meat as gelatin.
Giving you that moist and tender piece of meat.
And a deep, unctuous sauce.
Of course, to make this magic happen, you need time.
But, you don’t need to be hands-on (another big bonus).
So, for this to work, your tough cuts need very low temperatures for hours (to get all the good stuff to break down.
But it’s so worth it.
If you use more tender, expensive beef for stewing, the longer it cooks, the tougher it will become!
What is the best beef cut to use in stews?
The most common beef used for stew is chuck.
Beef chuck comes from the front of the animal.
Made up from parts of the neck, shoulder blade and upper arm.
You’ll have no problem finding chuck at a butchers.
But often they’ll just call it ‘diced beef’ or ‘beef stew meat’… something vague.
So, make sure you ask if it’s actual chuck because we need that tough collagen in the meat.
Beef shin comes from the animal shank.
So is a well worked muscle making tough and sinewy.
Perfect for braising slowly in the oven or slow cooker.
A new love of mine.
It’s sometimes harder to get but usually you can order I advance.
Not as much meat but made up for by the extra gelatin-rich broth that’s beefy and mind-blowing.
Check out a fantastic oxtail and gnocchi recipe, here.
Short ribs bone-in or Jacobs Ladder
It’s the cut between the brisket and flank of beef.
And has natural fat and marbling perfect for braising on the bone and slow cooking.
You’ll get a lovely deep, beefy flavoured stew.
Check out one of my favourite slow-cooked short-rib recipe, succulent Asian-style short ribs
Brisket is cut from the breast and is an economical and full of flavour.
It has a layer of fat and marbling all through the meat, perfect for slow-cooking.
Giving added a richness to the flavour of your stew.
Check out this awesome Bloody Mary slow-cooked brisket.
Tips on cooking your beef stew
So, you now know what the best beef is to use in stews.
Now, it’s time to cook it.
Here are a few simple tips.
- Sear the meat first – you’ll probably need to do it in batches…
- Don’t overcrowd the meat, this will stop it from simmering in its own juices.
- Searing over high heat gives the meat a deeper, richer flavour due to the Maillard reaction.
- Use the same pan without cleaning it – sweat off onions or any spices you’re adding.
- De-glaze your pan. Use a splash of wine, beer, stock, water with a wooden spoon to scrape off the bottom… this is flavour.
- Add mirepoix – more flavour!
- Simmer the stew on a low heat for two to three hours.
- Lid on vs. lid off?
- ‘On’ means the juices are trapped inside so keeps things moist.
- ‘Off’ is a good technique towards the last hour if your stew is looking too watery.
- (*you can always add cornstarch or flour to thicken a stew sauce. And if you add potatoes, the natural starch will thicken the sauce)
- Give it a taste-test at the two-hour mark and if the meat isn’t tender enough just extend the cooking time until the meat is falling apart.
- Adding veggies – a good way to bulk up a stew. Add them towards the end so they don’t get too soft.
What’s your favourite beef cut to stew? Leave a comment..