Best Beef Stew Recipe (Recipe Reviews)

Best Beef Stew Recipe (Recipe Reviews)

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On a cold, blustery night, my ideal meal is a hearty beef stew. I like mine brimming with tender cuts of beef, loaded with carrots and potatoes that are tender but not mushy, with a broth that’s flavorful, rich, and slightly thick, but not at all mushy. Even though it has potatoes in it, I still often enjoy beef stew over a bed of mashed potatoes (try it—it’s to die for).

Whenever I make beef stew, I just wing it, which means my results are inconsistent, to say the least. I was eager to discover the best beef stew recipe – one that could become my family’s standard. They were keen for me to find this ideal recipe as well because it would mean we would enjoy beef goulash more often. So I searched online and found four popular, highly rated recipes to pit against each other. I am happy to say that I have found a clear favourite.

Meet our 4 beef stew contenders

For this showdown, I stuck to fairly classic American-style beef stew recipes — meaning no French beef bourguignon, Hungarian goulash, Irish Guinness stew, or anything like that. Instead, I focused on stews that featured beef cuts with onions, carrots, potatoes, maybe some wine, broth, and maybe some green peas. I’ve selected recipes that offer their own unique twists to this classic recipe.

Once upon a time there was beef stew with carrots and potatoes At first glance, the recipe seemed very simple. It features chunks of boneless beef, carrots, and baby potatoes, and includes a generous amount of red wine along with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

The ultimate beef stew from Ina Garten The recipe calls for short beef short ribs rather than the usual beef chow, and includes pancetta and fennel along with a generous drizzle of cognac or brandy.

Delish’s best beef stew ever seemed like a much quicker process than any of the other recipes. It’s the only stew that avoids the oven and is made entirely on the stovetop, meaning it’s ready in under two hours.

Serious Eats All American Beef Stew looked like a more complicated process, but I was curious if the extra effort would pay off. It contains a handful of highly umami-forming ingredients like anchovies, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

How I tested the beef goulash recipes

I made the stews three nights in a row (two stews last night) and saved the leftovers so my family and I could all taste them side by side at the end. Not surprisingly, any leftovers kept well and might even taste better a day or two later. My ratings are based on overall taste, ease of preparation, and texture.

1. The Lightest Stew: Delish’s best ever beef stew

I was thrilled at the prospect of a comforting beef stew in under two hours. Delish’s recipe achieves this by keeping all cooking on the stove (the other recipes place the Dutch oven in the oven to simmer slowly). The ingredients and method all seemed pretty standard: in short, sear the meat, saute some flavor, add liquid, and simmer. Of all the recipes, this one used the least amount of meat and proportionately the most liquid. The end result reflected this difference. Overall, the stew just felt thin, more like a soup than a stew. The flavor was rich, the beef tender, but the broth just lacked body.

2. The Project: Serious Eats All-American Beef Stew

I always enjoy the deep dives at Serious Eats – all the food science and taste principles that go into making a truly delicious recipe. This one pot recipe is packed with that kind of information, and it makes the recipe itself feel more like a fun project. You start by mixing together some umami-building ingredients like tomato paste, anchovies, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Then you cut the roast beef into steaks, sear them and dice them before combining the meat with the vegetables and the remaining ingredients. It’s by no means a difficult recipe, but it’s a bit of a process. However, the results are totally worth it. The meat is juicy and tender and full of concentrated meat quality. The stew is the embodiment of umami wealth. The broth is full-bodied and complex. The recipe is just a little bit more process than I’m willing to put in for a go-to recipe—especially knowing that some other recipes yield equally delicious results with less effort.

3. The straight-up standout: Once upon a time there was beef stew with carrots and potatoes

There’s nothing earth-shattering about the ingredients or method in this recipe, and that’s a big part of what makes it great. You start by searing a diced chuck roast well, then sauté some onions and garlic with some balsamic vinegar. For the liquid, use equal parts (2 cups each) dry red wine, beef broth, and water. You simmer the meat in the oven for a couple of hours, then add carrots and potatoes to cook for another hour. The results are great. The meat is buttery, the veggies are tender with not too much indulgence, and the wine and balsamic add up to a rich broth with a bit of cheekiness that keeps it from being a note.

4. The beef stew of my dreams: Ina Garten’s ultimate beef stew

Getting to the point here: Short boneless beef ribs make a superior beef stew. After a long simmer, they turn into moist, incredibly tender, extremely powerful bites. Think of your favorite braised short ribs recipe and then imagine it in beef stew form (yes, it’s that good). Add to that some chewy chunks of browned pancetta, flavor complexity of cognac and fennel, and a bit of acidity from diced tomatoes, and you end up with a thick, hearty stew with a flavor that will haunt you until you make it again and again again.

Do you have a favorite beef stew recipe? Let us know in the comments!

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