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This is the beef stew recipe I've been using for years! It tastes lots like my grandma's beef stew, which is amazing considering I never got her recipe. It's comfort food all the way. I've played with this recipe for years and I think I'm finally ready to share my beef stew with the world!

In this instructable I'm going to show you how I make my beef stew (electric pressure cookers are the best!) and also tell you how to make it in a slow cooker and on the stove. I've done it all those ways and it always turns out well. :D

This is a great make ahead dish for dinners and potlucks too - beef stew always tastes better the next day.

This beef stew recipe takes 1-8 hours to cook, depending on how you do it, and can easily feed 6-8 people. YAY LEFTOVERS!
 
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Step 1: Ingredients:

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  • 1-2 pounds beef stew meat
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 3-6 potatoes (3 if they're large, 6 if they're small)
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 - 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 8 cups of liquid (make sure to do at least 2 cups of beef stock!)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves (if you have them on hand, I didn't!)
  • flour for coating the beef
  • freshly ground black pepper
Important things to note:
  1. Soy sauce might seem out of place, but we're using it instead of adding salt! It adds a depth of flavor you can't achieve with salt alone and I prefer it much more than using worcestershire sauce.
  2. Beef stock is definitely needed for flavor. I normally buy low sodium or no salt added beef stock so I can control the salt content. I recommend using a minimum of two cups of beef stock in the liquids. 6-8 cups of beef stock will give the best flavor, but it's more expensive to do, which is why I normally avoid it. :)
  3. Don't spend too much money on the beef for this - we'll be cooking it so long it should get tender and have flavor no matter what. I just buy anything labeled "stew meat" and use that - it's normally under $5.
  4. Swap the veggies as necessary. You could leave the potatoes out and go for another root vegetable, add more carrots, lessen the amount of celery. Do whatever you like, as long as you still have some aromatics. (celery, onion, garlic)
  5. Red wine or a dark, stout beer are also welcome additions to beef stew - I'd say around 1/2 - 1 cup is a good amount to start with

Step 2: Cooking in a pressure cooker VS stovetop VS slow cooker

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The steps are essentially the same for each process, but there are some little differences. :D

In a pressure cooker:
Total time: 45 minutes
Everything can really go in at once - just hold off on the cornstarch until the stew is cooked. It will take 25 minutes at high pressure to be done - quick release the pressure at the end.

On the stovetop:
Total time: 3.5 hours
Make sure to use a big, big pot. You will want to simmer the beef, onion, celery, garlic, soy sauce, tomato paste by themselves for at least two hours. Don't add in the potatoes and carrots right away - they'll break down too much! Once the meat is nice and tender, feel free to add in the carrots and potatoes and simmer for another 30-45 minutes. Then you can adjust the seasonings and add cornstarch to thicken. 

In the slow cooker:
Total time: 8-9 hours
When you cook this in the crockpot, make sure to not skip the browning/sauteing steps. I've done it and the taste was very off. Brown the meat and put it in the crockpot, and then saute the onions, celery and garlic along with the thyme and tomato paste. Add those into the crockpot as well. You can add the potatoes and carrots right away if you need to. (Though I have to admit they have better texture when added halfway through or even later!) I've let beef stew simmer away all day while I've been at work and the carrots and potatoes were still okay! You'll want to cook it on low for at least 8 hours or until the meat is tender. Once it's ready, you can add the cornstarch, thicken and serve.

Step 3: Cut up the veggies!

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I like to cut the celery and onions more fine, and leave the carrots and potatoes in big chunks. Just keep in mind that the smaller you cut things, the more likely they are to cook so much they fall apart. :)

Oh, and if your celery has leaves - use them! They're yummy.

Step 4: Trim and flour the meat

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Chances are if you've bought cheap beef it'll look pretty rough. :)

I like to take a little time and trim off any silverskin I can see or any huge chunks of fat. I also try to cut all the pieces down the to same size - most often I'll cut the standard pieces in half.

Once that's done, coat the beef liberally with pepper and then throw a couple of handfuls of flour on it as well and mix it around until every piece is nice and coated.

We aren't using any salt at this part because we'll be adding soy sauce to the cooking liquid!

Step 5: Brown the beef/saute the veg

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If you're using a pressure cooker or doing this on the stove top, do this in the cooking vessel! If you're cooking in the slow cooker, you'll need to do this in a separate pan.

Heat a little bit of oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Then drop in the floured beef and cook until it's lightly browned and doesn't smell of raw flour anymore. This should take only a few minutes - it'll just depend on how crowded your pot is. :)

Once it's done, add the celery, onions and garlic and mix well. Cook these, stirring often, until the onions begin to get slightly translucent.

Step 6: Add the tomato paste/thyme

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Once the veggies are getting soft, add in your tomato paste and thyme. Mix this around and let it cook until the thyme gets fragrant.

Step 7: Add the potatoes and carrots!

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Add them in and stir them around so everything is nicely coated with the seasonings. :)

Remember that if you're cooking on the stovetop or in slow cooker, it could be better to wait to add them in later.

Step 8: Add the stock, water and soy sauce and cook!

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Add your liquids along with 1/4 cup soy sauce. Mix well and then cover!

In a pressure cooker you'll do 25 minutes at high pressure and then quick release the pressure.
On the stove you'll want to simmer it over low heat for at least two hours - make sure to stir every now and then!
In the slow cooker, set it to low and leave it for eight hours.

Step 9: Adjusting seasonings and adding soy sauce

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Once you're done cooking, taste for seasonings. At this point you can add a little more soy sauce or tomato paste, a bit more thyme or some black pepper. I normally add a little of everything - just keep going until it tastes fantastic. :)

Also, if you notice your beef stew has lots of fat floating on top, feel free to skim it off with a spoon. I normally don't do this, but if you're having guests over or need to take photos of your food, go for it. :D

Step 10: Thicken it!

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Put two tablespoons of cornstarch in a small bowl or cup. Add about 1/4 cup of hot stock from the stew into the cornstarch and mix well with a fork or whisk. You don't want any clumps!

Once the cornstarch has dissolved, pour the mixture into the stew.

Turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes until nice and thick! And if it's still not thick enough - add more cornstarch. Just make sure to let it bubble for a few minutes every time you add cornstarch so you know how thick it is. :)

Step 11: If you want peas, add them now!

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Turn off the heat and add in your frozen peas. You don't want to overcook them so they get mushy. :)

They only need a couple minutes in the warm stew to cook.

Step 12: Enjoy!

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Best served with crusty bread and butter. Good with parmesan cheese and hot sauce!

And it's even better the next day. :D
Mmmm, now I'm hungry, this is very simlar to my standard recipe, although I use Mushroom Ketchup rather than Soy sauce.
Rather than getting sticky flour all over my chopping board I tend to put the meat in a freezer bag and add the flour, pepper and seasoning, tie the bag and shake well to coat the meat evenly. Leaves my chopping board free to chop all the veggies.
One thing I always need to have in my stews are proper steamed dumplings. Either plain ones made with Self-raising flour, suet and water. Or spiced up with cumin, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, curry spices or lemon zest depending if I'm adding a spiced flavour to the meat stew.
jessyratfink (author)  Nemesis2010772 years ago
I never seem to have freezer bags around - I admit that washing the cutting board is quite an adventure. :D

The dumplings sound amazing! Love the idea of spicing them like that. I think I might add dumplings next time - I love them in chicken soup, but I've never done them with this recipe!
I'll see if I can put an instructable up of Beef Stew with Dumplings, maybe spiced up a little.
My dad used to like his dumplings like bullets, whereas I prefer light fluffy ones.
Different countries seem to have different ideas on dumplings, oriental dumplings are very different, even the dumpings from Poland are very different to our UK version.
Here we go Jessy, this is how I make my dumplings for stew. It's currently freezing here so a good excuse to get busy in the kitchen.
http://www.instructables.com/id/English-Dumplings-for-Stew/
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nadialtbr2 years ago
Lovely recipe! your tips are really god as well. Thank you for posting.
looks good, I'll have to try this some time.
tamearls2 years ago
Looks delicious, and the photos are beautiful!!
zurichko2 years ago
There is something about the shot of beautifully cute veg that makes my heart flutter. I love cutting up vegetables, it is so relaxing for me. I'll have to try this recipe!
billbillt2 years ago
Great!!..
t8pboy2 years ago
Awesome winter comfort food! Good job Jesse!
iain_o2 years ago
Try adding some pearl barley and lentils too if you want to give the stew a more 'stodgey' texture. I also like to include button mushrooms, really small ones, they suck up the juice and taste awesome. Then add some fruit crumble (apples or pears or blackberries or all of the above) and custard for desert and you are heading towards cold winter comfort food heaven.
randofo2 years ago
That's a nice main image. I don't like beef stew at all, but that main image makes it look good.
poofrabbit2 years ago
I can almost smells this!! Well done!