If there’s one family-friendly, hearty, and convenient recipe I would recommend you try, it would be this easy beef stew recipe. The dish was inspired by an episode on Michael Pollan’s Cooked Documentary Series on Netflix, where he and Samin Nosrat made a scrumptious-looking stew to showcase how the element of fire (and time) can transform simple ingredients into a gobsmacking tasty and nourishing meal. It’s practically culinary alchemy!
Here’s why this easy beef stew recipe recipe will quickly earn your love:
With rising meat prices, this dish cleverly maximizes the serving potential of your meat, reminiscent of how a meatloaf optimizes ground beef. This stew brims with affordable vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery, assuring a hearty and satisfying meal.
Instead of expensive cuts, the recipe uses beef chuck, a budget-friendly option from the cow’s front section. Despite its initial toughness, slow and gentle cooking tenderizes the chuck, breaking down its tough connective tissues. This results in delectably tender meat that easily pulls apart and deeply enriches the stew’s flavor profile. Occasionally, I opt for a tri-tip cut, which has less fatty content (10-15% vs. 20% for chuck roast).
This dish, my savior during pregnancy fatigue, requires only 30-40 minutes of active preparation time and yields up to 10 meals. Simply sear the meat and vegetables and let it cook in the oven for hours. With its superb low-maintenance, easy refrigeration and freezing, and minimal supervision, this stew embodies the “set and forget” meal.
Whether it’s swapping my regular chuck roast for a lamb leg for Easter, adding more meat to create a modified ragu with pasta, or skipping a key vegetable when my pantry runs out, this dish remains forgiving. As long as you nail the basics, this recipe offers immense flexibility with ingredients, making it truly beginner-friendly.
Equal parts forgiving and delicious, this stew adapts to your needs and whims. I call this my easy beef stew recipe but I’ve replaced my usual chuck roast with lamb for an Easter twist, added extra meat for a hearty ragu, and even skipped a key vegetable when my pantry was bare. This recipe’s flexibility rests on adhering to fundamental steps, making it a versatile and beginner-friendly dish.
Fundamentals of a great stew
So what exactly are fundamentals of a great stew? In my humble opinion, they are quite simple and are the following:
- Sear the meat for more flavor. While you’re already picking a very flavorful cut of meat, searing the meat before cooking it imparts more flavor through the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that occurs when food is heated, usually above 285°F (140°C). It results in the browning of the food’s surface and the production of hundreds of flavor compounds, giving the food a rich, savory taste and aroma.
- Low and slow. Cooking the stew low and tenderizes the meat and breaks down its collagen. As the meat slowly breaks down, the flavors will infuse the vegetables with a delectable meaty taste.
- Season appropriately. Since the stew isn’t tasted during its long cooking process, it’s essential to refine its seasoning at the end. While initial seasoning, such as salting the meat, lays a helpful foundation when assembling your stew, avoid over-salting it before it undergoes the hours-long cooking process. Instead, once the stew has finished cooking, adjust the seasoning based on your personal preference. This method gives you control over the final flavor profile, allowing you to add just the right amount of salt or other seasonings to suit your palate perfectly.
- Do not skip key ingredients (besides the meat). Onions: When onions are cooked, especially slowly and over low heat, they release their sugars and caramelize, creating a sweet, savory, and complex flavor profile that forms the foundation of the stew. This enhances the overall taste and gives the stew its hearty, comforting qualities. Tomatoes have some acidity which helps to round out the flavors and prevent the stew from becoming too heavy or one-note. Tomatoes also contain pectin, a natural thickener, that can help give the stew a rich, full-bodied texture.
- 1.5 lbs of chuck roast, tri-tip or any roast meat seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 large white onions, diced
- 2 cups of carrots, chopped to 1 inch long
- 2 cups celery, chopped to 1 inch long
- 1 can of tomatoes (highly recommend San Marzano)
- 1 can chickpeas or beans of choice, rinsed (optional)
- 2-3 Bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic
- Salt to taste
- 2-3 tbs olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat a large Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat, or any pot that can be heated well in the oven. I use this one from Amazon, which works well for baking bread too.
- Add 2-3 large tablespoons of oil. Then place the roast meat to sear for 3-5 minutes or until brown. There is no need to cut the meat first. When one side is brown, flip the meat and sear the other side too. Once brown on both sides, remove the meat and place it on a separate plate.
- In the same pot, add diced onions and stir for 3-5 minutes until brown.
- Add your chosen vegetables one at a time (celery, carrots, then canned chickpeas) and stir for another 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper every time.
- Add bay leaves and garlic to the pot.
- Finally, add back your seared meat on top of the seared vegetables. Pour in your canned tomatoes along with 1 cup of water. I like to add the water into the tomato can after it has been poured out to capture whatever residual remaining.
- Cover the pot and place it into the heated oven and set a timer for 4 hours.
- After 4 hours, remove the pot from the oven and pull apart the meat, mixing it well with the vegetables. Taste and season with salt according to your taste.
- Enjoy your tasty stew as is, top with cilantro or add a squeeze of lemon!