Hearty Beef Stew




Introduction: Hearty Beef Stew

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

We had a recipe for beef stew, but it was rather ordinary. I thought I could improve on it. I have made it for a number of people and all of them like it very much. 

Step 1: First Ingredients

Prepare and place into a 2.5 quart crock pot the following ingredients--
  • 2 pounds of stew meat (beef) cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 pound of beef stick summer sausage sliced and quartered
  • 2 medium onions cut into eighths
  • 4 medium carrots in thick slices
  • 2 stalks of celery sliced diagonally
  • 1 can of kernel corn (10 to 12 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup of quick-cooking tapioca
  • 3 or 4 medium potatoes quartered and sliced

I added part of each of these in a continuous rotation so they are already mixed as I place them into the crock pot. Press these down into the crock pot to make room for the lid, if necessary. Normally I peel the potatoes, but decided to leave the skin on this time. The skins are supposed to contain good nutrients.

Remember that this is stew, and you can use whatever you have. Add something extra that is not in the recipe, if you like. If you do not have some ingredient or find it difficult to get, do not worry. Stew ingredients can be flexible.

Step 2: Spices, Etc.

Mix these together in a bowl so they blend well. Then add them to the crock pot.
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt (maximum--less if you are restricting sodium in your diet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of bourbon whiskey
  • 10 to 12 ounces of tomato sauce
If there is space in the crock pot, extra potatoes may be added. If you wish, you may also add water to make more liquid, but some additional liquid will appear during cooking, too.

Step 3: Start the Cooking

I needed an hour to prepare everything before I was ready to start the stew cooking. This stew also needs 7 hours to cook. Plan ahead. 

Place the lid on the pot. Set the crock pot to "high" and let it cook.

Step 4: Stir During Cooking

About every hour lift the lid and stir the ingredients in the pot. The photo was taken about 30 minutes after cooking began. Some of the ingredients still feel cool to the touch.

Step 5: After 5 Hours

This is a photo of the stew after 5 hours of cooking on high. Bubbles are appearing and bursting open around the edge of the crock pot. No extra liquid has been added. The liquid in the pot is about the consistency of gravy. The stew could probably be eaten now, but the potatoes are still a little harder than I like. The stew meat is pretty well cooked already. More cooking will make everything softer and easier to chew. In the past I have usually cut the heat setting back from "high" to "low" after 3 hours and let the stew cook for an additional 4 hours. But, if you start this when you go to bed or when you leave for work in the morning; there is no harm in letting it cook all day on "high." I do like to stir the stew while it cooks, but that is probably not critical, either. 

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

After 7 hours of cooking on "high" the meat was tender like a roast that falls off of the bone and the potatoes were soft enough to cut easily with a spoon.

When the stew cooled enough not to burn my mouth, I ate it with whole wheat bread. Rye bread is preferred for a great taste combination. Milk makes a good beverage with it. I am having a can of diet cola. The stew was very, very tasty; and it has vegetables in it, too.

A great follow-up is a dessert of hot fudge pudding cake. Rather than describe how to make that, I will simply link to someone else's Instructable on it. That Instructable uses the same recipe I have.

This is a great meal for a cold winter night. I am making it to feed myself while my wife is out of town for a few days. I will refrigerate it, and then heat an individual portion for various mealtimes.



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    23 Discussions

    Mmmmmmm, I love a chunky home made beef stew! I think I will make one for the kids and I for supper later this week :-)

    1 reply

    Never heard of putting tapioca in a stew before; what is its purpose... as a thickener of the sauce? Does it affect flavor much? Is there a specific type of tapioca you use?

    9 replies

    The tapioca was part of the original recipe, not one of my alterations. I suspect it serves as a thickener. I did not notice any taste from it. There are a number of more powerful and quite different flavors so that the tapioca would not be noticed. We had Kraft Minute Tapioca in the cupboard and that is what I used. Thank you for your comment.

    I would agree about the thicker part. In fact, I have some powdered tapioca I got from an international grocery for my sister. She likes to use it to thicken pie filling made from scratch. This saves her the effort of grinding the tapioca pearls down into powder herself.

    I would assume you use less if you had powder to achieve the same mouth-feel. Some experimentation is in order, I think.

    The Kraft tapioca product I mentioned consists of granules no more than 1/16 of an inch in diameter. I do not cook a lot, but am more accustomed to hearing about corn starch as a thickener. It is probably a good thing to have a thickener so the liquids are like gravy when finished, and not so thin they run all over. I would usually eat this stew on a dinner plate. This time I decided to eat it in a soup bowl with a spoon. It could go either way, depending on your preferences.

    OK, never mind what I said about using less of the powder. I didn't understand that the tapioca pearls cook down to nothing in the slow cooker.

    I made the recipe with some substitutions for what I had on hand:

    Meatballs instead of beef
    omit potatoes (unfortunately this is the wrong type of carb for me)
    Add more celery and carrots
    use1/2 cup of frozen succotash instead of the canned corn (quite a bit less corn in the mix)
    No summer sausage (next time for sure)
    4oz of sherry instead of the bourbon

    I had both the tapioca pearls and powder on hand and tried the pearls. They had dissolved within two hours.  The stew turned out really well. Google says that tapioca is a better thicker to use when freezing, and since I'm all about "plan-overs" (deliberately planning on making extra, and freezing the leftovers) this should work out well.

    Thank you for trying it and for the report back. You made enough changes to what I did that it really is your own.

    You are too kind. I go by the "Ann Hodgman's rule" of giving recipe credit. To claim a recipe as your own, you need to make three major changes. You can't just add an extra half a teaspoon of salt and call that a change, you need to add an extra half cup!

    So under that rule, I could:

    Swap the stew beef for ground rabbit meatballs (rabbit, the other other white meat!)
    Add a totally new vegetable, like rutabaga.
    And then change the whiskey to sherry and call it a totally new recipe.

    Also, I have a recipe for beef satays that uses whiskey to tenderize. I would suggest if the beef you use isn't totally tender after all of that slow cooking, then you could marinate the beef overnight in the whiskey first, and then add everything to the crockpot when you start to cook.

    The first batch never made it to the freezer, because I ate it all for lunch and dinner (doing roofing work makes you pretty hungry), so I'm trying again. The only appropriate spirit in the house is my favorite rye, and I'm not  willing to try that so today I used a bottle of stout. I also switched up to hamburger patties (easier to pre-brown) and threw in a small handful of frozen shoestring french-fries. 

    Burger and Fries Stew anyone?

    I like the three ingredient rule. I also have a great respect for roofers. To me it seems roofers are working in unfavorable weather conditions most days of the year.

    just some roofing on my own house. If I was a roofer every month of the year I would not have to worry about carbs!

    I do usually add a teaspoon or two of cornstarch (pre-dissolved in an equal amount of cold water) to a stew when I start it... never tried (or heard of anyone else using) tapioca instead. Will have to give it a go!

    I believe the bourbon helps to tenderize the meat. It is sometimes good to take the meat and let it sit in that or wine the night before. Some people add the onions fresh or lightly browned. I have never used tapioca for a thickener other than adding it to a Hawaiian salad. Stew is always great and I like your combination. (Making note card for my box) Thanks for sharing.

    1 reply

    Yesterday someone mentioned the bourbon as a possible tenderizing agent. The original recipe mentioned that the meat may be marinated before cooking. I did trim some very hard fat from the stew meat, also some tough sinew. After 7 hours of slow cooking, it was very tender; so I do not know why marinating would be necessary. Again, thank you for looking.

    I had the thought that adding sausage makes this stew a little like Hungarian goulash. What fascinates me is that a rather bland recipe for beef stew became something much more exciting by adding only a couple of ingredients. Are you the aforementioned creative cook? ;-) Thank you for commenting and for copying the recipe.

    Phil B posting cooking recipes! The universe is changing...

    Anyway, being yours, maybe I must try it.

    2 replies

    If you do try it, do not worry about the bourbon whiskey. The alcohol boils away during the cooking. I do not know if you have something like summer sausage in Argentina or not. It is often sliced and served on crackers. It has a taste of black pepper and garlic. This stew is much more interesting than ordinary beef stew. I made it for a group of church ladies once. They liked it very much. Thanks, Osvaldo.

    Thanks, Phil. I don't know that summer sausages. There are "chorizo colorado" (red sausage) with [paprika - cayenne] but surely they are different. Also "salamines" (salami), maybe they are more similar.

    Anyway, my cooking skills go a bit over fried eggs...