Beef stew is one of the easiest things to make, in my opinion, and a comfort food favorite in our house. I couldn’t even tell you the number of times I came home in the cold (remember I’m from Alaska) and step into the house to the scent of beef stew simmering in the crock pot. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods, and since my family loves it as much as I do, there are never any complaints about a big pot of it.
I have a 7 quart crock pot, and I use every bit of space in that sucker when I make soups and stews. We are one of those weird families that actually like leftovers. I also like freezing extras for quick dinners when I don’t have time to think ahead to prepare a dinner.
So, this recipe will probably be too large for most. The ingredients are not set in stone. In fact, I usually put more types of veggies in than I did today, but today was “clean out the fridge” day, and I realized I didn’t have any mushrooms, which almost always goes in my stew. I also didn’t have any peppers (usually sweet bell). So this is the very basic of basics when it comes to beef stew. Just about any veggie that won’t disintegrate with cooking can be thrown in.
- Potatoes (or Rutabagas for less carbs)
- Tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes. 28 oz can (I use 2 in my big crock pot)
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Black Pepper
- Beef bullion or Lipton Onion Soup Mix
- Cooking Oil (I use vegetable or olive depending on my mood)
I like to use about 2 lbs of meat for my big pot. I like ½ of it to be a fattier cut, because it makes the stew extra tasty. Today I’m using a chuck steak. Then the other ½ is a leaner cut – bottom round.
Start by cutting the meat into bite-size pieces. I like them about ½” cubes because I like smaller chunks of meat. My mom always made bigger bites of meat. It’s all up to your personal preference.
Put about ½ cup flour – today I used my CarbQuick because I’m out of flour – in a big Ziploc bag. To the flour I add a lot of onion and garlic powder and some black pepper. The flour is what is going to give you a nice thick sauce for your stew, so you can skip this step if you want a more soup-like and slightly healthier stew. But I still suggest seasoning and browning the meat with or without the flour. It gives a very nice flavor.
Heat the oil in a fry pan. I use about ¼ cup for the 2 lbs of meat. Less meat, less oil.
Put your meat in the bag and shake it up, coating the meat lightly with the flour.
When your oil is hot, gently set pieces of the meat in the pan – okay, I’m lazy, I tend to just upend the bag and dump it all in. Brown it for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then.
While that’s browning is when I usually cut up my veggies. Today it’s pretty simple. I make them into bite-size pieces, a little larger than the meat pieces. Nothing fancy, just cut. I have a Vidalia cutter thing, but I just did it by hand this time.
Now I set up the crock pot. When everything’s ready, put the meat on the bottom, then all the veggies piled on top of it. Then I sprinkle very liberally with the onion and garlic powder. I also sprinkle on the bullion or Lipton soup mix. This isn’t always necessary, especially if you have more fatty meat than not, because the fatty meat has more flavor. I like a very beefy beef stew, so I almost always add some. Don’t forget the pepper.
On top of everything I dump the can (or cans) of tomato stuff. Today I used one can of diced, and one can of sauce. Rinse out the cans and dump the tomato water in. I usually add enough water to bring the liquid level up around the top of the veggies. Stick a wooden spoon down around the edges so the liquid gets down to the bottom.
I try to go no-salt for health sake. The bullion usually has enough salt to flavor the pot. You can always add some if you want, or add it at the end after all the flavors have cooked through so it’s not overdone.
Then I put the lid on the pot, turn it on high, and “tuck it in” by laying 2 dish towels over the top. It keeps the heat in better. A trick my mom always did when I was young, and it does help the crock pot cook faster. I only do this if I’m home. If I’m using the crock pot because I’ll be gone all day, then I don’t do that… I am not sure if it’s 100% safe to have cloth touching the hot pot, and I’m too chicken to leave it that way if I’m not home.
The stew is done when the meat is tender. It takes about 6 hours or so. If you’re putting it on while at work, I suggest on low that will take about 10 hours. If I’m home, I stir it every couple of hours. It’s not necessary, but I do it anyway.
This recipe can also be done in a pot in the oven. When I’ve been short on time, I’ve made this in a 6 qt cassarole dish, and my mom used to use a 5 or 6 quart dutch oven once in a while. I cook it at 350 degrees for about 2 hours. Make sure meat and veggies are tender, and it’s done.
If you want it fancy, put it in your bowl and throw on some diced green onion or sprigs or parsley. And because it reminds me of my grandma, I like a dollop of sour cream (fat free) in it.