You know the scene from the movie “Julie and Julia” where Julie makes “beef bourguignon?” Well, guess what? Beef bourguignon is just the fancy name for beef stew. 🙂 (Are you serious? She’s making beef stew?? My entire life is a LIE??????). haha. Don’t worry. Don’t look down on humble beef stew. This isn’t the nasty canned stuff. This is savory, incredible, melt-in-your-mouth lusciousness that will leave you clamoring for more. I don’t know who came up with this dish, originally . . . but I tell you what– on a cold, rainy day– the type that chills you to the bone and makes you feel like you are shivering all day, trying desperately to get warm– there is just nothing better than sitting down with a warm, comforting bowl of this stew. It warms you from the tip of your frostbitten nose, all the way down to your icicle toes. If you let this stew bubble merrily on the stove in your Dutch Oven, your entire house will smell incredible– you’ll swear you have a sweet little Grandma tucked away, somewhere– because it will smell like the magic of childhood.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Classic Beef Stew
1.5 pounds of beef stew meat (like chuck roast), cubed
SPOG (salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1 whole onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 small potatoes, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 small can petite diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup cornstarch + 2-3 tbsp. water, optional
Sprinkle cubed beef with SPOG (salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder) and dredge in flour. Discard remaining flour once all meat pieces have been breaded. Brown breaded meat pieces in a dutch oven in hot olive oil, just until browned. Set beef aside and place onions and minced garlic into the drippings left in the pan. When the onions have become fragrant and somewhat transparent, add in the cooking sherry to deglaze your pan. Add in your other vegetables and cook for 5-6 minutes, until vegetables have a slightly caramelized crust. Add in the meat and all other ingredients (EXCEPT frozen peas). Stir and cover. Simmer on low in a Dutch Oven or crock pot for 4-6 hours, until vegetables are tender and meat is fork tender. *Note: If you prefer thicker stew, you can add 1/4 cup cornstarch mixed with 2-3 tbsp. water, added all at once to mixture and stirred, at the end of cooking time, to thicken it. Add in frozen peas right before serving, so that they keep their color.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
The most important part of beef stew is . . . the BEEF! I would suggest beef chuck roast. This is a fairly inexpensive cut of beef, as far as meat prices go, and you want about 1.5 pounds of meat that is nicely marbled with fat. As the stew simmers, that fat will break down and make your meat absolutely mouth-wateringly tender and delicious.
Cut the beef into cubes roughly 1″ square and dust with whatever seasoning you like best. I use a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder (SPOG for short). Dust the beef chunks with this spice mixture and make sure they are nicely covered. Just an aside . . . when you use up a spice, it’s easy to save the container and make a mixture of SPOG inside. That way, when you need to season meat, you can just shake your homemade mixture onto whatever you’re cooking (well, unless you’re making strawberry shortcake
or something. SPOG on there wouldn’t be too good. Ick).
When your beef is seasoned, roll the pieces in flour until they are evenly coated.
Now, we are going to seal in that delicious beef flavor. I am using a cast iron Dutch Oven which I will use to brown the meat. Dutch Ovens are perfect because you can brown the meat and then deglaze the pan (more on this in a minute), which helps you to keep all those browned bits loaded with TONS of flavor for your soup. The beautiful Dutch Oven I have is here
— and every time I cook with this beautiful pan I just smile. It even makes doing the dishes fun. Well . . . almost. 😉
Start out by getting your oil very hot, but not smoking. You don’t need tons of oil– just a few tablespoons to coat the bottom. Without crowding the meat, place the floured pieces in the hot oil and let them sizzle away for a few minutes, until they are brown. After you sneak a peak and find that a piece is nicely brown, flip those suckers over and brown the other side.
Ever seen someone sun-tanning upside-down? That’s what we want– even browning. Oh– and no lines 😉
Mmmm . . . look at that. Yum. You don’t want to cook the meat all the way through– just brown it on both sides. When the first batch is done, move the meat to paper towels to drain and start on browning the next batch. It will take a little while to brown all the meat without crowding it, but that’s OK. Good things are worth waiting for– don’t rush it. Take your time. Inhale the smell of your roasting meat. Look at the beauty of your Dutch Oven. Listen to your kids giggle (or fight over legos. haha). Do whatever puts you in your happy place. Cooking is food for the soul as well as food for the body.
While your meat is browning, go ahead and dice up your vegetables. Might as well save some time and look busy.
Isn’t that pretty? Don’t you just feel like “Becky-Home-Ecky” with your delicious, glistening meat and colorful, chopped vegetables? You make me so proud. Take a picture of your achievements and post them on facebook. You deserve to do that.
When all your meat is finished browning, dump your chopped onion and minced garlic into the hot pan, along with the rest of the oil and the browned bits from your meat. Stir. YUMMMMM does that smell good. Turn down the heat slightly and let the onion mixture cook for several minutes, until they are fragrant and just starting to become translucent. At this point, add in your cooking sherry. The sherry adds a richness and warmth to the dish that is hard to describe. It’s that feeling of coming inside, after a long day shoveling show, when someone places a warm cup of hot cocoa into your hand. It’s warm and cozy and almost a touch smoky. And don’t worry– all the alcohol will cook out, and only flavor will be left behind. Use the bubbling liquid to scrape up the brown parts from the bottom of the pan. Next, go ahead and add your vegetables and cook them for a few minutes, until they have a little bit of a browned, caramelized crust. You don’t want to cook them tender– just kind of saute them a bit. *Note: on “busy Mom days,” I skip this step and just throw the browned meat and everything else into the slow cooker. You won’t quite have the richness of flavor, but it will still be very good, and sometimes just getting dinner on the table is an accomplishment, so you have my permission to take a shortcut here, if you need to. You’re welcome. 😉
Finally, add in the rest of your ingredients and the meat that you have sitting there, patiently waiting . . . EXCEPT for the frozen peas. The peas will become sickly and mushy if we put them in at this point, so just wait on those. Stir everything together and cover the pot. Simmer on low for 4-5 hours (a crock pot on low works, also) until the veggies are tender and the meat is soft and fork tender. MMMMMmm. I like to stir every hour or so if I’m using a Dutch Oven, but for the most part just let it do its thing and don’t bother it. Did I mention that during this time your entire house will smell incredible? Yep. Soak up ALLLL those compliments. They don’t have to know that your Dutch Oven did all the work. 😉 haha.
You can tell your stew is ready to eat by piercing a vegetable and a piece of the meat. Both should be unbelievably tender and fall apart when you put a fork into them (“If you liked it, you shoulda’ put a fork in it . . .”). If the ingredients aren’t tender, then let the stew simmer another half hour or so and try again. Usually my stew is plenty thick, at this point, but if you want your stew thicker than what you have, go ahead and add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir for several minutes until the stew has thickened. *Note: the cornstarch trick should not be used in the crock pot– just use it if you’re cooking with the Dutch Oven.
The very last thing that I do when the stew is ready is add my frozen peas. If you add these peas at the beginning of the cooking process, they will turn into shriveled, colorless blobs of hate that turn your delicious stew into a nasty, gross mess. Bleck. BUT . . . add these beauties, frozen, after the stew is done and you’ve turned the stove off . . . and they become a gorgeous, blushing bride, ready to charm everyone and anyone who comes near. Don’t go the way of the old maid. Think honeymoon.
Another neat thing about adding the frozen peas after the heat is off . . . the stew is hot. Like, molten, it-will-melt-your-face-off hot. Adding these frozen peas does something really neat– it kind of warms up the peas and cools off the stew just enough that everything becomes the perfect temperature to eat right away. It’s magic. That’s what love does to you.
Serve up a nice, crusty loaf of bread with steaming bowls of this stew. Listen to the crackle of the bread. See the happy faces of your kids as they . . . wait for it . . . ask for more vegetables (did the earth just stop rotating?). Inhale the smell of the meat and the tomatoes and the spices. Ahhhhhh.
Mmmm. Fabulous, isn’t it?
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you 🙂
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