Old-Fashioned Beef Stew Recipe

Beef stews of a sort exist in many cultures and cuisines around the world, from the Guinness-spiked stews of Ireland to ropa vieja, Cuba's national dish. Since recipe developer Molly Madigan Pisula of Vanilla Bean Cuisine has been living in France for the past few years, she adds a few local touches borrowed from beef bourguignon to an otherwise wholly American version of the classic.

In France, she notes, "many recipes start with bacon." And since, she says, the smoky pork fat "adds a layer of flavor that I love," she set out to create "a traditional American type beef stew, but add that little tweak of a bit of bacon for flavor!"

It's no surprise, given her surroundings, that Pisula also adds some red wine for depth and flavor.

"I'd recommend a medium-bodied red wine, like a merlot or a pinot noir," she says. "You don't need to splurge on an expensive bottle, but buy something that you'd want to drink (since you won't use all of the bottle for the stew anyway!)"

Gather the ingredients

It's not surprising that this beef stew starts with beef — beef chuck, to be precise. This piece hailing from the beef shoulder is a classic for beef stew for good reason.

"Beef chuck is a great cut for stew because it requires a long cook time to become tender," explains Pisula. "And, because of the fat and connective tissue within it, it won't dry out if it's cooked for a long time (instead, that melts and turns the beef tender and delicious!). Finally, it's a very inexpensive cut of meat, so this recipe is easy on your pocketbook."

To flavor the beef while it braises, you'll need garlic, onion, bay leaves, and thyme. In place of the lardons used in her adopted France, Pisula calls for thick-cut bacon, which you'll cut into matchsticks. For the liquid in this recipe, you'll use equal parts red wine and beef stock. Potatoes and carrots add even more heft and substance to the stew. Some olive oil to cook the base and flour to thicken, plus the omnipresent salt and pepper, and you're in good shape!

Prepare the ingredients

Before you even start cooking, you'll want to prepare all of your mise en place ... which is just a fancy French word for ensuring that your ingredients are sliced, diced, or otherwise prepped and ready to go into the pot.

Start by cutting the beef chuck into 2-inch cubes, and then dice the onion and finely chop the garlic. Peel the carrots and potatoes, cutting the carrots into bite-sized chunks and the potatoes into slightly larger pieces, so they won't fall apart in the stew.

Finally, cut the bacon lardons by stacking the thick-cut bacon slices one on top of the other and cutting them into ½-inch matchsticks.

Coat the beef cubes in flour

Next, season the flour with salt and pepper, and evenly toss the beef chunks in this blend.

Flour will add some texture and thickness to this stew, and instead of adding it to the pot raw, tradition calls for using it to coat the beef cubes. Not only will this ensure that the flour goes into the pot without any lumps, giving you a smooth finished stew, but it also allows you to toast the flour while you sear the beef, lending a lovely nutty aroma to the base. 

Sauté the bacon, onion, and garlic

Now that all of the ingredients are prepped for this beef stew, it's time to cook!

To begin, heat a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté until browned and crispy, about 7 minutes. Use a spider or slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towel so that it remains crisp, leaving the rest of the fat behind — it's the perfect base for sautéing the aromatics.

Now, add the onion to the fat and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Next, add the garlic and cook just 1 minute more — garlic has a tendency to burn, so don't overdo it!

Remove the aromatics from the pan and set aside while you turn your attention to the beef.

Cook the beef

To cook the beef, we'll need a touch more fat, so add 2 of the tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. When it's nice and hot, add half of the beef in an even layer, and brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). Make sure the beef doesn't burn at this stage — you've already built up such lovely layers of flavor, and it would be a pity to see them charred to the bottom of your pot now! Reduce the heat if needed, and cook the beef until nicely browned. Then set this batch aside and do the same with the remaining olive oil and remaining beef.

Cook the beef stew

Over the course of cooking the bacon, aromatics, and beef, a lovely layer of fond will have developed on the bottom of the pan. It's richly flavored, and we definitely want to take advantage of it!

To do so, remove the beef from the pot and add a few ounces of the red wine to the pot. Then, use a wooden spoon (not metal!) to carefully scrape up what's stuck to the bottom and dissolve it into the liquid.

Once you've completed this step, referred to in cheffy circles as "bringing up the fond," you can add everyone back to the party: the onion, garlic, beef, and bacon. Finish with the remaining wine and beef stock, stirring to ensure the beef is almost fully covered with liquid. Add the bay and thyme, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partway, and simmer 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the carrots and potatoes

Once the stew has been cooking for 90 minutes and the beef is tender, it's time to add the carrots and potatoes. Give the stew a stir, then simmer for 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally and adding more beef stock or water if needed to achieve the consistency you like.

When the veggies are cooked, remove the bay leaf and thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh thyme just before serving!

Beef stew tends to be one of those dishes that only tends to get better with time, and according to Pisula, this recipe is no exception.

"This beef stew is definitely even better on the second day, but I wouldn't specifically plan to make it a day ahead," she says. "It's fantastic the first day as well."

Old-Fashioned Beef Stew Recipe
5 from 18 ratings
Nothing is more satisfying than a bowl of hearty, old-fashioned beef stew. Complete with meat, carrots, and potatoes, this stew is the ultimate comfort food.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
2.5
hours
Servings
4
servings
beef stew in bowl with bread
Total time: 2.75 hours
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds beef chuck
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 large carrots (10 ounces)
  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes (12 ounces)
  • 6 ounces thick-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, plus thyme leaves to garnish
Directions
  1. Cut the beef chuck into 2-inch cubes.
  2. Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic.
  3. Peel and cut the carrots into bite-size chunks.
  4. Peel the potatoes and cut into slightly larger chunks, about 1 inch thick.
  5. Stack the bacon slices on top of each other, and cut into ½-inch-wide slices.
  6. Put the flour in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Add the beef cubes to the bowl, and toss until covered in flour.
  7. Heat a Dutch oven or large stockpot over medium heat, and add the bacon slices. Sauté until browned and crispy, about 7 minutes, then remove the bacon from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
  8. Sauté the onion in the remaining bacon fat until softened, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then remove the onion and garlic from the pan.
  10. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add half of the beef cubes, and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat if bottom of pan starts to burn.
  11. Remove the beef, and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the second half of the beef cubes and brown.
  12. Remove the beef, and pour in a few ounces of the red wine. Deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a plastic spatula or wooden spoon as the wine bubbles, about 2 minutes.
  13. Put the onion, garlic, beef, and bacon back into the pan. Add the rest of the red wine and the beef stock. The beef should be almost entirely covered by liquid. Stir in the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
  14. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium and cover partway with a lid. Simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.
  15. Add the carrots and potatoes, and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If too much liquid has evaporated by the time the beef, carrots, and potatoes are tender, add more beef stock or water.
  16. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs before serving. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 783
Total Fat 36.9 g
Saturated Fat 11.5 g
Trans Fat 0.6 g
Cholesterol 170.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 33.1 g
Dietary Fiber 5.7 g
Total Sugars 6.9 g
Sodium 1,686.3 mg
Protein 60.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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