The Best Beef Stew

Beef Stew 1

When we were kids, my dad fancied himself a pretty good beef stew maker. I did not agree – he used big chunks of flank steak, which I suspect weren’t cooked quite long enough to break down in its tomato-ey sauce, because while it was certainly lean and healthy, it had the texture of chewy meat rope. (Sorry Dad – it’s not you, it’s me. And the meat rope.)

Fortunately, he’s so fantastic that it’s easy to overlook his stew.

Beef stew Collage

But it’s funny how childhood food preferences stick with you – I keep thinking I don’t like beef stew, but really I do. (So long as the meat is cooked long enough.) Any tough cut of beef (or bison) makes a good stew – even those chunks of “stewing beef”; the trick is to simmer it first, giving the connective tissues time to melt and the gravy a chance to develop, before adding the potatoes and carrots, which you don’t want to break down to the point where chewing is unnecessary. These days, I make beef stew in the big red Le Creuset braiser I bought for myself, browning the meat first on the stovetop to create all those deep browned crusty bits that add so much flavour. (One day I made boeuf bourguignon for fifty, and browned so much beef that our kitchen was like a steamy meat sauna.)

Beef Stew 6

Once I have that foundation of browned bits, I add the onion and celery to the pan to loosen them (and create even more), then some beef stock, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar (because: yum) and red wine and let the whole thing simmer for a good couple hours, until it looks something like this:

Beef Stew 4

Then the potatoes (small, with their skins) and carrots (ditto), and even parsnips, if you’re into alternative root vegetables, get into the pool. Toss a handful of frozen peas in too, if you like.

Beef Stew 3

They get the chance to cook in the dark, sticky gravy, leaving everything awesome and not at all watery; enough to stand up to these neverending cold-snowy-icy days.

Beef Stew 2

Or for nights when you want to invite your dad over for dinner.

The Best Beef Stew


February 6, 2014

  • Makes: Serves 6-8.


3-4 lb beef chuck or stewing beef, cut into 2-inch pieces

salt and pepper

canola oil, for cooking

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped (optional)

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 cups beef or chicken stock

1/2 bottle red wine (about 2 cups)

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

2 lb. small, thin-skinned potatoes, halved

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1-2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)

1/2 cup peas (optional)


1Preheat oven to 300°F. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2Place a heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat, add a generous drizzle of oil and cook the meat in batches, without crowding the pan, browning it well on all sides. Remove from the pot and add the onion and celery, if using. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft and starting to loosen the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the vinegar and cook for another minute.

3Add the stock and red wine, cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Add the potatoes, carrots and parsnips, stir to coat everything well and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. (If you're adding peas, stir them in for the last 5 minutes.) Serve hot.


About Julie

23 comments on “The Best Beef Stew

  1. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    February 6, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    This. Looks. Fabulous. Love the story about your Pa too. 🙂

  2. Jules @ WolfItDown
    February 7, 2014 at 2:35 am

    Mmmm, it’s increduible what an extra hour in the pan can do to chewy bits of beef, like you say! I remember making a Jamaican Pepperpot and the meat melted in our mouths.
    The ingredients in this are all so simple, but that’s what makes it brilliant, and I love that you added peas, some people tend to leave them out!

    I hope you have a great weekend Julie! x

  3. jake
    February 7, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Looks delicious! A total winter prairie supper. Stew is a necessity in this weather.

    A batch of old school ‘baking powder biscuits’ from the recipe on the back of the old Blue Ribbon baking powder tin were always the side with beef stew. Hot with butter, dipped in the gravy!!! They doubled as dessert too with a jar of homemade strawberry or saskatoon berry jam and a cup of tea.

    I think Sunday dinner is planned.


  4. ajdoula
    February 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Oh Julie – this post made my mouth water! Beef stew on the menu this weekend for sure!

  5. northern mama
    February 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    no red wine here — beef stock instead?

  6. Julie
    February 7, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks guys! Jake – your description of warm biscuits with butter made my stomach rumble. YUM. And yes northern mama – just use more stock!

  7. Laurie from Richmond
    February 7, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Yum yum – and just right for these freezing days

  8. Theresa
    February 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Is that W? Wow, time flies…. 🙂

  9. Cath in Ottawa
    February 10, 2014 at 4:57 am

    I made this last night for my own dad and mum and it was a huge hit with everyone ages 5-75! Thanks for such a great recipe.

  10. Anonymous
    February 13, 2014 at 10:04 am

    When do you return the meat to the pot? Looks yummy.

  11. Robin
    February 22, 2014 at 11:23 am

    This looks amazing! And my boyfriend just asked me this morning to make stew for dinner tomorrow night…honestly! Just one question – what potatoes do you use?

  12. Katie
    February 22, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious but the vegetables were not cooked at all after the given time. We ended up eating them half done because our kids were starving. I put the pot back in the oven and they are done now that our kids are in bed 🙂

  13. Laurel
    February 23, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Making this today! House smells amazing! Perfect for a gold medal day!

  14. AJ
    May 20, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    The ingredients meld together into something more than delicious! I would suggest coating the beef in flour prior to browning as I ended up thickening the sauce which I found a little thin at the end of the cooking time. Also the veggies need an hour or more, at least in my oven. Overall a great recipe.

  15. Melissa
    September 16, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Hi there, Just wondering if you put it in the oven to simmer or can it simmer on the stove top instead and still get the same results?

    Thank you.

    • Julie
      September 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Absolutely! Covered in the oven or on the stovetop works! just keep it low so it doesn’t burn!

  16. Kristin
    November 5, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Oh my gosh! I’m usually not a recipe follower but I decided to give this a try. Amazing and perfect for a chilly night. Hats off to you for such a fantastic recipe. Thank you!

    • Julie
      November 7, 2016 at 9:59 am

      So glad you liked it! and thanks for reminding me – I need to make this again! 🙂

  17. Therese
    November 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Making this one this weekend. How many servings will it provide? Thank you! 🙂

  18. Louise Duncan
    November 18, 2019 at 12:39 am

    Have made this evening and switched to a slow cooker instead of in the oven. It turned out tough and I had to microwave it as the potatoes were still crunchy when I plated up. It’s going back into the slow cooker for a few more hours to tenderise alot more. Taste wise it was average I’m sorry to say.

    • Julie
      November 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      Sorry to hear it! the meat would definitely be tough if there wasn’t enough time to cook the potatoes… when slow cooked, meat gets tough first, and then ultra tender.

  19. Anonymous
    December 8, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    I made this yesterday for dinner and it was delicious. My wife who rarely eats seconds went back for a huge 2nd helping!

    I followed the advice of some other commenters and coated the meat in flour before browning, and cooked it for a bit over 90 minutes after adding the veggies. I used soup made from powdered meatless chicken flavored soup mix because I didn’t have beef or chicken stock. I used turnip instead of parsnip because we like turnips.

    Two corrections to your recipe: you say to brown the meat and set it aside, but you never say to put the meat back into the pot. Also, you never instruct on when to add the fresh thyme.

    Anyway, we loved this recipe so much we will definitely make it again!

  20. Gill
    February 18, 2020 at 3:30 am

    Sounds delish, want to make it today however, a couple of people have asked about when to return the meat, which is what I want to know too. Any answers please ? thank you

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