Why You Should Stop Adding Thickeners To Beef Stew

Sometimes even the coziness of a slow simmering soup just doesn't cut it, and you need to break out the big guns — a stew. Stews are like the bigger, bulkier cousin of soup and they're most remarkable for their ability to instantly warm you up on a frigid evening.

Delishably reports that stews were basically the original one-pot meal. For as long as humanity was able to boil liquids, people likely started adding meats, vegetables, and grains into the mix to cook them. From there it became a staple meal in almost every culture and at every social level. Stews were known to sustain Viking raiders, kings, and cowboys throughout history.

What differentiates a stew from a soup though? Pillsbury says that the main difference lies in their liquid. For soups, the liquid is just as important as any of the ingredients, and there is usually more than enough for them to float around freely. Stews, on the other hand, use much less liquid and are typically cooked down until they've thickened up, so is it necessary to mix in additional thickeners?

Stew doesn't need to be gravy-like

When people think of a hearty stew, they probably think of it as thick and having minimal liquid, so many people think that they need to add thickening agents to achieve the proper consistency. People often add starches like flour, similar to how slurries are added to gravy to thicken them after they've finished cooking, but Spruce Eats argues that this is an unnecessary step.

The food site explains that the best way to get the proper stew consistency is to ensure that your liquid-to-solid ratio is better balanced to fit stew proportions. The focus of stew is on the chunks of ingredients, so don't let them get lost in the sauce, and simply add less liquid. You can also add potatoes whose natural starches will break down and lend thickness to the stew on their own. 

Most importantly, don't bother dusting your meat with flour before searing it. This will only lessen the browning effect of the sear in favor of a thick base and is mostly unnecessary. So, instead of treating stew like gravy, simply add less liquid and you will have a satisfying, warm bowl of comfort.