How To Make Stew In Slow Cooker? Check This Out!

Stews are among the easiest of all slow cooker recipes. Slow cookers are great for cooking stew because they allow the meat, vegetables and broth to simmer gently, so there is very little evaporation.

The simmering process breaks down the connective tissue in the meat, making it tender and easy to digest, and gives the stew a rich, complex flavor.

Making stew in slow cooker is quite easy and convenient way to make delicious stew. The slow cooker sets and forget method of cooking allows you to leave the house and come back to a ready meal. 

Stew is a really easy meal to make in a slow cooker. You don’t have to worry about anything burning or overcooking. Just throw your ingredients in the slow cooker and go about your day. That’s one of the best things about slow cooker meals—you can do other things while they are cooking and not worry that food will get overcooked.

Slow cooker meals are so popular right now with good reason. We have less time with school and holidays and the weather is so cold we all want food that is hearty and comforting.

It will cook all day while you’re gone and when you get home you have the most amazing smell going through your kitchen. 

Traditional beef stew is basically tender beef simmered in beef broth with potatoes, fresh herbs and a variety of veggies like carrots, celery & onion. We’re jazzing this beef stew recipe up with dry red wine and Worcestershire sauce for extra delicious flavor.

What is stewing?

On a cold, damp day, few things are more pleasing than a rich and steaming bowl of stew. But, what exactly is “stew”? Stew is not only the name of a dish, but it is also its cooking method.

Stewing is the process of cooking ingredients slowly in a flavorful simmering liquid in a closed container which obviously requires a leak-proof vessel for cooking. Cooking by boiling has occurred for literally tens of thousands of years. In fact, primitive tribes are thought to have used conch or turtle shells to boil water.

The development of pottery some 10,000 years ago was the impetus for the development of several dishes named for the container used to prepare them including (but not limited to) tagines, casseroles, and stews.

In a stew, the meat is generally cut into smaller pieces rather than left whole and in a braise, the liquid might only come halfway up the sides of the meat whereas the meat is immersed in cooking liquid when stewed.

The general method of preparing a stew is to sear meat on all sides in a little oil in a Dutch oven (or whatever pan you’ll be stewing in) until deep brown and then setting the meat aside.

In the same pan, chopped mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) or trinity (onions, celery and green pepper) are cooked until golden brown. Dried herbs and spices are added at this point. The pan is deglazed with liquid (stock, water, wine, beer, etc.)

The meat is added back to the pan and liquid is added to cover the meat, and bring it to a simmer. Frequently, a starchy ingredient is added to thicken the stew before serving.
Examples of these include potatoes, beans, corn, and rice, or in the case of gumbo and burgoo, fresh cut okra.

What are the types of stewing?

Types of stews exist all over the world which are referred to by a variety of names: French Cassoulet, Italian Cioppino, Beef Bourguignon, Pot au Feu, Kentucky’s burgoo, Louisiana’s gumbo, and even Chili con Carne. While stewing is easily confused with braising, there are a few distinctions between the two.

In a stew, the meat is generally cut into smaller pieces rather than left whole and in a braise, the liquid might only come halfway up the sides of the meat whereas the meat is immersed in cooking liquid when stewed.

What ingredients you will need in making a slow cooker beef stew?

This easy slow cooker beef stew recipe is filled with savory flavors, hearty potatoes and veggies to make it filling and delicious. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Beef chuck: you’ll need about 3 pounds of beef chuck, which will end up about 2 1/2 pounds once you trim the excess fat off.
  • Beef broth: you can use beef broth or beef bone broth in this recipe.
  • Dry red wine: my recommendations are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. If you don’t to use red wine, you can feel free to use more beef broth.
  • Tomato paste: you’ll use some tomato paste to help thicken the broth and to give it a nice tang of sweetness.
  • Worcestershire: the wonderful addition of worcestershire gives this beef stew recipe an incredible savory umami flavor.
  • Balsamic vinegar: helps to give the beef stew a little tang and sweetness.
  • Fresh herbs: both garlic and thyme are used!
  • Vegetables: onions, carrots, potatoes and peas are forever my favorite.
  • Flour: this helps to thicken the stew once it’s done. You can use regular, whole wheat or gluten free all purpose flour.

What are the steps in making a slow cooker beef stew?

Making this slow cooker beef stew is easier than you think!

  1. Prepare your beef. First, you’ll need to trim the beef of excess fat. After that you’ll saute the beef in a skillet until seared (you don’t need to cook it all the way); browning the meat just helps to create additional flavor so please don’t skip it.
  2. Add the liquids. Pour your beef broth, dry red wine, tomato paste, worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, thyme and salt and pepper into the bowl of your slow cooker. Stir together with the beef until combined.
  3. Veg it up. Next stir in the garlic, onion, carrots and potatoes. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. The longer it cooks, the better and more tender the stew will be.
  4. Thicken it. Once the stew is done, you’ll add in the flour and the peas and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes until the stew thickens up. If it’s too thick for your liking, just add a splash of beef broth!
  5. Enjoy! Serve with cornbread, crackers or biscuits. Enjoy a big bowl of deliciousness.

What are some tips in making a slow cooker beef stew?

  • Sear your beef beforehand. 
    This is important! Browning the beef in a skillet beforehand will bring out even more flavor.
  • Cook it on low. 
    While many slow cooker recipes can be made on high for 3-4 hours, I highly recommend cooking this beef stew on low for the full 7-8 hours. This will ensure that the beef gets nice and tender.
  • Thicken your stew properly. 
    When it’s time to add your flour to thicken the beef stew, remove 1 cup of beef broth from the slow cooker and add it to a bowl. You’ll then whisk in ¼ cup flour until there aren’t any lumps, add back to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Be sure you don’t add flour straight to the slow cooker as it will become lumpy.

What kind of meat is best for beef stew?

For beef stew, there is no better cut of meat than chuck! Buy a thick chuck pot roast and cut it into chunks for the best tender flavor.

Chuck roast is a tougher cut of meat than sirloin or rib roast which really benefits from pressure cooking or slow cooking making the best beef stew! Pressure cooking or slow cooking breaks down tough fibers so the beef pieces become melt in your mouth tender.

Stew Meat is also a good option for the busy and budget-conscious cook. As beef stew meat tends to be a mixture of bits and pieces some bits can have a different texture when stewing.

What are the best cuts of meat for stew?

The following are some of the best cuts of beef for stewing, yielding meat that’s juicy and tender even after long cooking:

Chuck

When I talk about the chuck here, though, I’m talking specifically about the meat from around the shoulder and not the arm or neck portions. It’s a relatively cheap cut, with good flavor and lots of connective tissue and fat, making it a very appealing choice for stews.

The downside is that chuck is made up of many different muscles, so you’re more likely to get irregular pieces—some leaner, some fattier, some tenderer, some tougher. Overall, it averages out in a good way.

Bone-in short rib

Short ribs come from a primal cut on the underside of the cow called the plate, not, as one might expect, from the rib primal. They are, in essence, the ribs right down where they get close to the belly.

They tend to be more expensive than chuck, and you have to consider that some of what you’re paying for is bone weight, but what they offer is a deep beefy flavor with a beautiful, even grain throughout.

Bohemian (Bottom Sirloin Flap)

This cut is a little harder to find unless you go to a good butcher. It comes from the sirloin, the part of the cow right in front of its hind legs. According to one butchery book I have, it used to be left attached to T-bone steaks (it made the steaks look like they had long, thin tails), but these days it’s sold separately.

A lot of sources recommend high, dry heat for the cut, like grilling, and indeed it’s delicious that way—meaty and buttery. But it turns out to work well as a stew meat, too. If I had to describe the taste and texture, it’s almost like the love child of a hanger steak and a short rib, tender enough but still with some chew.

Oxtail

Oxtails are, to my taste, one of the most delicious cuts to come from a cow—if not the most delicious. (It’s a toss-up between them and tongue for me; I can’t pick a favorite.) They pack more gelatin and fat than any other cut I can think of, and their flavor…oh boy, their flavor!

Each cross section of the tail has a bone in the center that’s filled with marrow. As they cook, rendered fat from the marrow seeps out, basting the meat and flavoring everything in amazing ways.

The downside, though, is that those bones make up a good deal of their weight, and they add quite a bit of labor, too: If you want a stew made from oxtails, be prepared to fish them all out of the sauce at the end, flake the meat off, and discard the bones before returning it to the pot.

The fact that you have to pull the meat from the bones also means you’re not likely to get nice little cubes of beef in the final stew; morsels and shreds are mostly what you’ll end up with.

Fatty brisket (“point” or “second cut”)

Brisket comes from the breast of a cow and is most often smoked for barbecue and cured to make pastrami. It’s divided into two parts: the leaner flat (or “first cut”) and fattier point (“second cut” or “deckle”).

The lean flat is far easier to find than the point, which is a shame because the point is far juicier and moister, thanks to all that fat in it. For stews, I’d steer clear of the flat, since it’ll end up tough and dry, which means that hard-to-find point is what you’d need.

One of the best things about brisket is how cheap it is—it cost less than the chuck. After a couple of hours in the stew pot, it was moist and had a pronounced beef tallow flavor, much more so than the other cuts due to its ample fat. The muscle fibers themselves are thick verging on ropy, which I didn’t love in a stew context.

Cross-cut shanks

This cut is best known for its use in osso buco, though it traditionally comes from veal in that dish. It’s a cross section of the cow’s legs, which is why you get that single big bone in the center.

Beef shanks aren’t usually cheap, and on top of that, you have to account for the fact that a good third of each piece is bone weight (though, as a bonus, you get to eat the marrow after!).


Some of the muscles in the shank have more visible threads of connective tissue than others; those lacking them can come out a little on the dry side after long cooking, though overall the meat is pleasantly moist.

Those thicker strands of connective tissue, though, require longer cooking than average—mine took about three hours of simmering to soften up.

What are few tips on stewing in a slow cooker?

  • Make sure you cut your items to the same size to ensure even cooking. If you are cooking small pieces of meat as well as vegetables, make sure they will all cook at the same time, which may mean the vegetables are cut to a larger size than the meat.
  • Searing the meat and vegetables and deglazing the pan are recommended as it will provide more flavor. 
  • Use a heavy gauge stockpot or cast iron pan with a tight cover.
  • Cooking temperatures are very low with stewing, usually keeping the liquid at a simmer (about 180-200°F).
  • The best test for doneness is using a fork to pull the meat or vegetables apart, if it comes apart easily with little resistance, it’s done.
  • Use at least one acidic liquid when stewing. Tomatoes, vinegar or wine help break down connective tissue and tenderize tougher meats.
  • Season your liquid with salt at the end only. The liquid will reduce and can lead to a very high concentration of salt at the end.

Make sure you use a tight-fitting lid and keep it on while stewing to prevent moisture and heat loss, which can impact cooking time.

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