Thank you for visiting my 'ible! If you like this recipe, don't forget to star it for safe keeping. If you love it, consider voting for me in the Slow Cooker Challenge (link at bottom of page). Thank you, and happy cooking!
Is there anything better than a homemade batch of melt-in-your-mouth beef stew? Well, yes actually! Try spiking your stew with the variety of super-secret ingredients and tricks I’ll show you in this `ible, and you might just end up with hordes of people beating on your door demanding that you make this again. And again. And again. And…well, you get the point.
So why am I doing this? Firstly, I love food. I love eating food. I love discussing food. I love watching food porn. Secondly, I love teaching people how to cook for themselves. Thirdly, I entered the Slow Cooker Challenge because I feel like this indispensable kitchen tool has gotten a bad rap lately. A true slow cooker (not one of those crummy Instant Pot monstrosities) is a modern marvel with all the things it can do. My hope is that you will come to appreciate this wonderful tool in its own right and feed some hungry loved ones with this recipe.
Disclaimer: I have included affiliate links to Amazon. These are actual products I use in my kitchen and come humbly recommended.
Step 1: The Cast (Ingredients)
You can’t make tasty food without tasty ingredients! Here is your grocery list along with some handy tips and commentary. I prefer to source local or organic ingredients when possible, but this also turns out nicely when you can’t get your hands on those types of ingredients.
- 1/2 lb. (4 medium) carrots
- 1/2 sleeve celery
- 1 medium onion
- 2 lb. potatoes (specific type depends on how you plan to prepare it, see below)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1-1/2 lb. beef stew meat
- Kosher Salt and pepper
- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 3 c. beef broth (use chicken or vegetable stock for a milder flavor)
- 2 Tbsp. mustard
- 1 Tbsp. Coleman’s Mustard Powder (optional, but this will add an unctuous flavor you can’t get from American mustard alone)
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
- 1 Tbsp. A1 Sauce
- 1 Tsp. beef base (Better than Bouillon is my preferred, but you can use beef granules too)
- 1 Stick of butter
- 1/4 c. minced parsley
- 1/2 c. milk or cream
A Word on Potatoes
The potatoes you want to use depend on how you plan to prepare this dish. If you are serving the stew over smashed potatoes (how I’m showing it here), you want starchy potatoes such as russets or bakers. If you plan to put the potatoes in the stew directly, you will want waxy potatoes instead, such as red or gold Yukon.
Step 2: The Crew (Equipment)
Sure, you could do this all bare handed, but it would certainly get messy. Just like the ingredients, I've included links and commentary where relevant. A few pieces of kit that I forgot in the picture will be listed as well.
- 6 Quart Slow Cooker
- I'm a huge fan of this particular one. The latch-down lid makes it incredibly easy to transport to a gathering without spilling. The heavy duty crock will also take a beating. I regularly put the still-hot crock in my refrigerator (on top of a hot pad or towel!), with no cracking or other damage.
- Mixing Bowls
- You don't have to have a whole set, I just grabbed my whole stack for the picture.
- Cast Iron Skillet
- You can substitute a regular frying pan, but you won't get the amazing and flavorful sear without cast iron.
- Handle Mitt for Cast Iron Skillets
- Repeat after me: I will not burn myself. I will not burn myself. I will not burn myself...
- Don't mess around with the silicone ones. They will not stay as cool as the old fashioned heavy cloth ones like the own shown.
- Grandma was right! If you make a stew without using a wooden spoon, it will turn out horribly.
Step 3: Mise En Place the Vegetables
Mise en Place (meez ahn plass) is a French culinary term meaning that you prepare your ingredients and workspace before starting to cook. This is always a smart choice because it ensures you don't forget anything, and prevents overcooking something while you prep the next ingredient.
- Wash and dry the veg. Be sure to scrub! (Keep in mind that veg grows in soil that is "enhanced" with cow whatsit, and you really don't want to eat that).
- Peel the carrots (optional), and slice into 1/4" rounds.
- Top and tail celery (safe the tops!), and slice into 1/4" pieces.
- Top and quarter the onion lengthwise. Remove the skin layer. Chop into 1/2" to 3/4" chunks. Toss to separate the layers.
- Finely mince the garlic.
- Optional Step: If you are cooking the potatoes with the stew, skin and cut into 1" cubes. If you are smashing the potatoes, wait until later.
Step 4: Mise En Place the Meat
- Put your cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. You want the pan to be ripping hot (i.e. smoke rising from it) before adding the beef. This takes about 5 minutes.
- Prep your cutting station. Wet a hand towel, and wring it out. Place this towel under your cutting board to stop it from sliding around. A stable cutting board is less likely to cause parts of your fingers to end up in the stew!
- Cut the stew beef into 1-1/2" to 2" cubes. Place into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the flour, salt, and pepper to the beef. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of flour, but I prefer to eyeball it by adding a couple tablespoons at a time. The goal is to get the beef evenly coated, but not have a ton of left over flour at the bottom of the bowl.
Step 5: Prepare the Braising Sauce Base
In a small bowl, mix the following ingredients together. Set aside, near the stove.
- Coleman’s Mustard Powder
- Tomato paste
- Soy sauce
- Brown sugar
- A1 Sauce
- Beef base (Better than Bouillon is my preferred, but you can use beef granules too)
Step 6: Cook the Beef!
Let's get the meat stuff into the hot stuff!
- Add the olive oil to your preheated skillet. Give the oil a few moments to get hot (oil will start to glisten), but don't let it start smoking. Smoking oil means it is burnt, and will ruin the flavor of your beef.
- Depending on the size of your skillet, add all the beef at once, or in batches. You don't want the beef to be so packed into the skillet that it steams.
- I took one for the team to show you want this looks like in the pictures above. This should have been done in two batches, notice how the cooked beef in the second picture only has one really nicely browned side.
- Once beef is done, add it to the crock pot in an even layer.
Step 7: Make the Braising Sauce
- Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium or medium-low.
- If the skillet is dry, add a little more olive oil. Add garlic and stir continuously for 30 seconds until soft and fragrant. Do not burn the garlic! You do not want any browning to happen here.
- Pour in about a cup of your broth or stock. Take a moment to deglaze the fond from the bottom of the skillet.
- Fond is the browned and stuck on bits in the skillet. These powerful particles are practically packed with the perfume and flavor of your protein. Don't waste them!
- Once the skillet is deglazed, add the braising sauce base. Mix well, and bring to a gentle simmer. Pour over the beef in the crock pot. Pour remaining broth over the beef as well.
- Add dried rosemary, bay leaves, and reserved celery tops to the top of the beef. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, and the vegetables are soft. Note that it will cook slower if you put the potatoes in the crock pot too.
- Hi: 3–5 hours
- Lo: 5–7 hours
Step 8: Make the Gravy Slurry
Once the stew is done cooking, mix a couple spoons of the liquid from the stew with a few tablespoons of flour. Mix this well into a slurry, and add back to the crock. Mix everything in the crock together, cover, and give the slurry about 20–30 minutes to thicken the liquid up.
Step 9: Make the Smashed Potatoes!
- I prefer my smashed potatoes "rustic style" meaning the skin is left on. To keep the skin from bunching up, I like to take a knife, and cut shallow slashes over the surface of the skin before chopping.
- Cut the potatoes into 1-1/2" cubes.
- Place into a stock pot, and cover with water.
- If you bought your broth in a 1 quart container, you can use the left over cup of broth here to add some flavor.
- Add a few hefty pinches of Kosher salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Remove the lid once boiling, and bring the heat down to medium-high to prevent boiling over.
- Cook the potatoes to your prefer degree of doneness.
- Again, I like "rustic style" so I undercook mine just a tad so they stay lumpy.
- Once cooked, drain the cooking liquid from the pot. Cut the butter into several pats, and toss on top of the potatoes. Add the milk or cream Put the lid back on, and allow heat to soften/melt the butter for a minute.
- Add parsley to the pot, and mash to your desired consistency.
Step 10: Get in My Belly!
Service is super easy with this one.
- Put a scoop of smashed potatoes in a bowl. Make a small well in the center.
- Put a ladle of stew in the well. Add more gravy if desired.
- Eat and enjoy!
Step 11: Additional Thoughts and Commentary
- Be sure to leave your beef sit on the counter for at least 30–45 minutes to warm up. Cold beef does not brown well, and may not cook evenly in the slow cooker.
- No peeking! Every time you remove the lid from a slow cooker, it adds 30 minutes to the cooking time. Yes, it really does lose that much heat!
Alternatives on Preparation
Serve it Pennsylvania Dutch style: Remove potatoes from recipe. Add 16 ounces of cooked egg noodles after mixing in gravy slurry.
Serve it German style: Add sliced cabbage between vegetables and beef before cooking, or top with sauerkraut when serving
Serve is Summer-friendly: Substitute beef broth for chicken or vegetable broth for a lighter feel.
Serve it later: Use pressure canning to store the stew for a long time.
Second Prize in the
Slow Cooker Challenge