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  • Nancy Boudreau

The Secret Ingredient You Need for the Best Beef Stew You’ve Ever Had.

The winter months call for rich soups and stews, and this recipe is one to put in permanent rotation – Classic Beef Stew

Fork tender beef and vegetables in a thick, savory sauce. What could be better?

What’s this you say? You’re not a beef stew fan. You’ve tried making it before and it turned out bland and not worth the time it took to prepare.

I hear you. I’ve been there.

The stew has been cooking on the stove for hours and the smell is intoxicating. I can’t wait to ladle a big steaming bowl of goodness. I sink my spoon into the stew and scoop up the perfect ratio of sauce, meat, and veggies. I blow on it to cool it off a bit as I anticipate the delicious, savory taste of this long-awaited meal. I take the first bite and the taste is . . . meh. Boring. The sauce is thin and bland, and the meat is tough and flavorless.

So frustrating when that happens!

So what ingredient is missing from your beef stew recipe?

Don’t feel bad. This has happened to the best of us. But I’m here to let you in on a secret. It’s the secret ingredient that’s been missing for the best beef stew you’ve ever had.

Are you ready?

It’s patience.

Yup, patience.

There are two major mistakes cooks make when making beef stew, and they both involve a lack of patience.

Mistake #1 – Not browning the meat enough

The first mistake is not browning the meat enough to caramelize the natural sugars. This is where a ton of flavor comes from and it’s a process that cannot be rushed.

To get perfectly browned, caramelized meat, first pat the meat dry with paper towels before seasoning.

Brown the meat in 2 or 3 small batches. Do not crowd the pan or else the meat will steam instead of brown.

After you drop the meat in the pan, leave it alone. Let it brown on one side for a few minutes and then use tongs to flip the meat, browning it on all sides.

This whole process could take 15 - 20 minutes or more, but don’t try to rush this step! The caramelized meat and the fond, which is a fancy word for the brown bits you scrape up from the bottom of the pan, are pure gold and what makes this dish so flavorful.

Mistake #2 – Not simmering the beef stew long enough

The second big mistake is not letting the beef stew cook long enough

I know . . . It smells SO good, it has to be ready by now, right? But alas, it’s not, and the result is tough meat and a bland sauce.

Depending on how large the recipe is and how big the chunks of meat are, it takes at least 2 hours of simmering to get fork-tender meat.

To test if it’s ready, take a piece of meat out of the pot and try to “cut” it with the edge of your fork. If it comes apart easily, it’s ready. If not, let it simmer a little while longer.

Take your time

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add about half of the meat to the pan or as much as you can without overcrowding it. Sauté the beef until browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a dish and set it aside. Repeat with the remaining beef, adding additional oil if needed.

Try this recipe during the weekend or when you have extra time so that you can relax and enjoy the process.

OK – Let’s get cooking!

Recipe for the Best Classic Beef Stew You’ve Ever Had

While most beef stew recipes call for just salt and pepper to season the meat, this dried herb mixture adds so much more flavor and color to the stew.

Beef Seasoning

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Beef Stew

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin), plus additional as needed

  • 2 pounds of well-marbled beef chuck, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1 cup onion, diced

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped

  • 3 or 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup of red wine, (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Merlot – anything you would like to drink). If you don’t want to use wine, replace it with beef broth and a splash of balsamic vinegar

  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 pound baby yellow or red potatoes, halved or quartered or 2 large baking potatoes cut into bite-size pieces

  • ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley

  • ¼ cup water

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch


  • Combine the beef seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.

  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 4 teaspoons of the seasoning mix over the beef and mix until all the meat is coated. Reserve the remaining 2 teaspoons of seasoning mix for use later.

  • Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add about half of the meat to the pan or as much as you can without overcrowding it. Sauté the beef until browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a dish and set aside Repeat with the remaining beef, adding additional oil if needed.

  • Lower heat to medium, add additional oil to the pan if needed, and cook the onion, carrots, and celery, stirring occasionally, until softened and the onions start to brown.

  • Add the garlic, stirring to cook until fragrant, about 30 – 60 seconds, being careful not to burn it

  • Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined with veggies

  • Add the red wine and increase the heat under the pot to bring the mixture to a boil. While it’s coming up to a boil, scrape up the brown bits.

  • Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, remaining beef seasoning, and the bay leaf.

  • Add the browned beef and its juices back to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is fork-tender.

  • Add the potatoes and raise the heat under the pot to bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender.

  • Stir in the parsley.

  • Combine the water and cornstarch in a small measuring cup and stir into the beef stew. Continue cooking, uncovered, until thickened.

  • Discard the bay leaf before serving.

Serve with warm, crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a big warm hug in a bowl.

The leftovers (if there are any) taste even better. Make extra and freeze it, you’ll be glad you did.

We're expecting another snowstorm this weekend, so you can be sure this will be on the menu.

Try it and let me know what you think.

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