Rustic Beef Stew Recipe
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This quick and hearty beef stew strikes the perfect balance between sticking to your ribs and warming your belly on a cold autumn or winter night, and keeping you full without weighing you down. The broth naturally thickens up with a little cooking time but no extra thickeners are added, putting a lighter twist on this classic dish.
I love me a good stew. As soon as colder weather rolls around, I turn to warm, stick-to-your-ribs meals that are full of flavour and nutrition to feed my family and offer comfort during the dark, cold nights of fall and winter.
When it comes to stew, you can be pretty creative with the ingredients you add. You can use beef (like in this dish), lamb, chicken or fish. Add vegetables: onions, potatoes and carrots are usually staples, but peas, green beans, celery, turnips, tomatoes, garlic and greens like spinach and kale can easily add flavour and nutrition to stews. Season with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice.
This particular dish combines some of the classics: beef, onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, rosemary, thyme, a bay leaf and salt & pepper to taste. Peas or green beans would be a great addition as well if you have them on hand.
Quick & Easy Homemade Beef Stew
Start with 2 lbs. of stewing beef, cut into small, bite-sized chunks. You can either purchase stew meat already cut up (although I usually cut the pieces even smaller), or get your hands on a chuck roast and cut it up into bite-sized cubes.
Next prepare your vegetables. Cut one onion into eight wedges and set aside. You want to keep this dish rustic, so avoid dicing onions too small. Cutting veggies into larger chunks is the way to go.
Likewise, take one good sized head of garlic and separate and peel the cloves. You should end up with about six to eight whole cloves of garlic in the end. Put these aside. Keep the garlic cloves whole!
Peel five or six medium to large sized carrots (or wash and scrub thoroughly if you choose not to peel), and slice into thick rounds. I slice mine into roughly 1/2-inch thick rounds. You want them to be bite-sized but not too thin. The broth in this dish is on the lighter side but the ingredients themselves should still be thick and hearty.
*Pro tip: Keep the onion, garlic and carrot peels and throw them in a bag in the freezer. Add scraps and peels to your stockpot when making bone broth for extra flavour and nutrition.
Scrub your potatoes really well and dice them into bite-sized pieces roughly the same size as your meat. You can peel them if you like, but I find leaving the skins on adds to that rustic feel.
Now it’s time to start cooking.
Options for Cooking Stew
You could cook this stew in a slow cooker or an instant pot (so I hear), but I prefer the traditional method of cooking on the stovetop (or on top of your wood stove) in a large cast iron dutch oven.
Personally I use an enamelled cast iron dutch oven similar to this one from Lodge, but you could also use a more traditional straight up cast iron dutch oven like this one. I like the enamelled one because it cleans up nicely, although all cast iron is easy to clean if it is well seasoned and you follow a few simple rules.
In addition, the beauty of cast iron is that it can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, on your wood stove or even over an open flame if cooking outside, so if you’re off-grid or thinking of going off-grid, cast iron is incredibly versatile and ensures you can always cook up a meal whether you have electricity or not!
Technically you can cook a stew in a stainless steel pot if that’s all you have. No one says you can’t! But cast iron also heats evenly and therefore helps to cook your stew evenly and helps to prevent burning.
Step-by-Step Beef Stew Recipe
First, brown your meat. Melt a knob of butter (or a couple tablespoons of olive oil) in your pot on high heat. Then toss cubed meat in your pot and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Brown meat on all sides (a couple minutes per side on high heat should suffice). Don’t worry too much about getting every single cube of meat turned and cooked on all sides. If you miss a side it will all cook through in your stew anyway.
Next, add all of your other ingredients: onions, whole garlic cloves, potatoes and carrots. Cover with 4 cups of water and give it a stir to combine the ingredients.
Then add your herbs. I always throw in bay leaf to all my soup and stews, so if you have one on hand, go ahead and toss it in. Then take a couple large sprigs of fresh rosemary and remove the needles. Toss them right into the pot. Do the same thing with the thyme.
Sprinkle in another pinch or two of salt and stir everything together once more.
Once the water starts bubbling, turn the heat down to medium low and put the lid on. Simmer for about an hour, adjusting the temperature from medium low to low as needed and stirring every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Always put the lid back when finished stirring).
As for adjusting the temperature, you want you stew to be at a low simmer while cooking, so check it every once in a while and adjust temperature as needed. If it looks like its too hot and bubbling too much, turn it right down to low. If it’s not simmering at all maybe turn it up just slightly.
After about an hour, taste your stew to quality check it. The meat should be tender and easy to chew. The carrots and potatoes should also be tender and the broth should be rich and flavourful. Use your discretion. If you think it needs a few more minutes, give it a few more. You really can’t cook a stew too long, aside from the fact that your veggies might get a little too soft. And if you think it needs a little extra salt or herbs, go ahead and throw them in. Everybody’s tastes are a little different so adjust according to what you like best.
When the meat is tender and your beef stew is ready, serve hot in soup bowls with a side of biscuits or crunchy bread. This Easy No-Knead Homemade Bread makes a great accompaniment to this stew. Cut it into thick slices and slather them with butter and you have a quintessential hearty, cold-weather meal ready to go!
This is also a great meal to have extra of in the fridge over the busy holiday season as it makes a quick and filling meal that tastes just as good reheated as it does fresh-made. Or make extra to put in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal! Just remember to defrost first (or get an Instapot to cook it right from its frozen state… Okay, do I need one of these???)
Sure, you could spend all day making a fancy stew with a long list of ingredients, but after you try this quick and hearty beef stew, you’ll be reminded that simplicity is often the best ingredient.
- 2 lbs. stewing beef (cubed)
- 5-6 medium carrots, peeled or washed well and sliced thick
- 4-5 medium potatoes, washed and cubed
- 2 or 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme
- One Bay leaf
- One medium head of garlic, peeled and broken into cloves
- One medium to large onion, cut into wedges
- ¼ cup of butter (or olive oil if you're avoiding dairy)
- 4 cups of beef broth (or water)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Melt butter or heat oil in a large dutch oven or stockpot over high heat. Add beef, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently until meat is browned on all sides.
- Add onions, garlic cloves, carrots and potatoes and stir well to combine. Cover with water and stir well to combine.
- Add herbs (remove needles and leaves from rosemary and thyme), bay leaf and a little more salt and cracked pepper for flavour. Stir to combine once more.
- Bring liquid to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Allow stew to simmer for about an hour, checking every 15 to 20 minutes or so to stir and adjust temperature if needed.
- Serve hot with biscuits or a piece of crusty bread.
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