How to Make a Classic Braised Beef Stew
UrbnSpice Tips and Techniques Series
I sooooo enjoy a Classic Beef Stew, and my absolute favourite recipe is adapted from the very first Canadian Living Cookbook (circa 1977). It is called Old Fashioned Beef Stew with Vegetables. I like to use root vegetables, which are a perfect accompaniment, and a number of additional herbs. In this post, I will discuss the braising method of cooking a tougher cut of meat and share a recipe for Classic Braised Beef Stew.
Ask any chef what their favourite cooking method is and a large majority, myself included, will say braising as it produces a rich and flavourful product that is hard to beat. It is a cooking method that I use often in the UrbnSpice kitchen. Braising is commonly utilized in preparing meat, but there are numerous other ingredients that can be braised as well. You can learn all about braising in this post.
“Braising is one of the most amazingly delicious and yet simple methods of cooking
an otherwise tough cut of meat.”
The UrbnSpice Chef
What is braising? It uses a combination of cooking techniques; for example, cubes of beef are first seared to brown and then slowly cooked in a liquid at a low temperature. Beef stew, Osso Buco, pot roasts, chicken thighs, pork belly, beef ribs, lamb shanks and pulled pork are a few examples of braised meats and Vichy Carrots and Honey Glazed Rutabaga are some examples of braised vegetable dishes.
Try cooking a tough piece of meat using the braising method and I can guarantee that you too will become a fan as well. I will guide you through a step-by-step process on how to braise cubes of beef, how to deglaze a pan properly and then create and reduce a braising liquid to perfection.
Classic Braised Beef Stew
CHEF TALK: Braising is a technique that is easy to do and one that you can use in many ways in your kitchen. Try this recipe to start with – you will be amazed by the rich flavour that braising provides. Use a good dry red wine to deglaze the pan, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Pour yourself a glass while you are caramelizing the beef cubes. Enjoy the process!
I generally cook the vegetables separately by steaming them and then adding them to the finished stew. I like the pure look of the colourful vegetables adorning the top of the rich stew. If you wish, you can cook the vegetables in the stew by placing them into the cooking pot in the last 40 minutes to one hour before the end of the cooking process. They will be delicious either way.
For the Stew:
- 4 slices bacon, sliced into lardons
- 2 1/2 lbs. (1.125 kg) lean boneless chuck stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) butter
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) onion, diced 1/4 inch (the equivalent of one medium onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup (50 ml) all-purpose flour or Gluten Free Flour Blend
- 1 cup (250 ml) red wine
- 3 cups (750 ml) beef stock
- 1 – 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried marjoram
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried rosemary
For the Vegetables:
- 8 small potatoes or 2 large potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
- 8 – 10 pearl onions, peeled and left whole
- 4 large carrots or 6 – 8 small carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 3 small white turnip, peeled and cut into wedges and trimmed
- 2 medium parsnips, cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 2 stalks celery, sliced into 1-inch slices
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- Crispy cooked Bacon lardons (reserved from above)
For the Stew:
- In a large Dutch Oven, place the bacon lardons and cook over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove from the pot and drain the bacon fat. You will start to brown the meat in this same pot – no need to clean first as the bacon flavour is essential. Add the oil and half of the butter. CHEF TIP: Adding a small amount of water to the pot with the bacon lardons will render the fat from the bacon more quickly, and as it evaporates, it will start the crisping process of the bacon lardons.
- Prepare the Beef: Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel. Season the beef with salt and pepper. CHEF TIP: Drying the meat before seasoning is important because it will allow the caramelization of the meat to occur more effectively. The meat will steam if they are placed too close together or if there is too much moisture left on the meat.
- Brown the cubes of beef in a single layer in batches, ensuring that the beef is browned well on all sides. CHEF TIP: This part of the braising process is very important, so take the time the beef requires in order to caramelize. As the meat is browned, set it aside in a bowl or plate while you brown the rest of the meat.
- Melt a bit more butter in the saucepan and sauté the onion until tender and golden. Add the minced garlic. Cook for a further 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Stir in the flour and continue cooking over medium heat until the flour is cooked out – about 3 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Use a heatproof spatula to scrape up all the browned bits (the culinary term is ‘the fond’) on the bottom of the pan.
- Return the meat to the pan and add the beef stock, bay leaf and herbs.
- Cook the stew using any of the following methods: Simmer, on top of the stove until the beef is tender (about one and one-half hours); or in the oven at 320°F for 2 – 1/2 to 3 hours or in the slow cooker on Low Setting for 8 hours or 5 hours on High.
- Once the beef is tender, remove the cooked beef to a platter and keep the meat warm. Remove the bay leaves and sprigs of herbs, if you have utilized.
- Reduction: There might be quite a bit of braising liquid left in the cooking container (Dutch Oven, crockpot, etc), depending on which method you used for cooking. The remaining braising liquid can be reduced to thicken and concentrate flavours. Check seasonings and adjust to taste, if necessary (see Tweaking in Learning Tips). CHEF TIP: In the restaurant environment, this braising liquid is strained so that the remaining sauce is velvety smooth.
- To Serve: Combine the meat with the braising liquid and gently coat the meat. Distribute the cooked vegetables around and on top of the stew.
- Garnish with parsley and crisp bacon lardons and enjoy!
For the Vegetables:
- Peel the vegetables and prepare as indicated above.
- Steam the vegetables until tender. Steam the smaller dice vegetables separately. Distribute them around the stew and stir through, if desired.
CHEF TALK Discussion: The photograph shown was for a catering event. For added flavour and presentation, I tossed the steamed potatoes in paprika and lightly sautéed them for colour. The turned turnip was kept very plain for presentation – it is a beautiful brilliant white vegetable when steamed. The remaining vegetables are tossed in Beurre Monte (emulsified melted salted butter). That is all that is required for these beautiful vegetables.
CHEF TECHNIQUE TIP: Beurre Monte is a simple butter sauce made by placing a few tablespoons of water in a frying pan to boil. Turn off the heat. Whisk in small chunks of butter in, one at a time, until the butter starts to emulsify (thicken). You can start adding a few more pieces of butter at a time until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Keep the butter sauce warm at a very low heat or it will separate. Toss the vegetables in the sauce and serve with a sprinkle of salt and a grind of freshly ground pepper.
Happy Braising, Everyone!
Here is your visual step-by-step braising technique:
You Might Also Enjoy practising the Braising Method with these Urb’n’Spice Recipes:
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