How to Cook Stew Meat: A Comprehensive Guide

Stew meat is one of the most versatile cuts of beef. It’s a flavorful, affordable and tender cut that can be used in a variety of recipes. But cooking stew meat can be challenging for some people. However, with a little bit of preparation and patience, anyone can cook a delicious and hearty stew. In this article, we’ll guide you step by step on how to cook stew meat while sharing tips and tricks to help you along the way.

What is Stew Meat?

Stew meat is a cut of beef that comes from tougher parts of the cow, like the chuck or the round. Unlike other cuts of beef, like tenderloin, stew meat has a lot of connective tissues and collagen which need to be broken down slowly through braising or stewing. If cooked properly, stew meat can be tender, juicy, and flavorful.

Preparing the Meat for Cooking

Before starting to cook the meat, it’s essential to prepare it properly. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Trim the fat – While fat adds to the flavor, too much of it can be overwhelming. Before cooking stew meat, trim off any excess fat on the meat.

2. Cut the meat into even pieces – The pieces of stew meat should be uniform in size. This allows the meat to cook evenly and ensures that all the pieces are tender and juicy.

3. Season the meat – Sprinkle salt and pepper over the meat. This helps to bring out the flavor of the beef.

4. Optional: coat in flour – To thicken the gravy in the stew, you can coat the meat in flour before browning it.

Browning the Meat

Browning the meat is a crucial step in cooking stew meat. It helps to develop flavor and create a rich, deep color. Here’s how to brown the meat:

1. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

2. Once the oil is hot, add the meat in small batches. Make sure not to overcrowd the pot. Brown the meat on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per batch.

3. Once the meat is browned, transfer it to a plate and set aside.

Building the Stew

Now it’s time to build the stew. Here’s how to do it:

1. Sauté the aromatic vegetables – Add chopped onion, carrots, and celery to the same pot where you browned the meat. Sauté the veggies over medium heat until the onions turn translucent.

2. Add the meat back in – Once the veggies are cooked, add the meat back to the pot.

3. Pour in the liquid – Add enough beef broth, chicken broth or water to cover the meat.

4. Add seasonings – Add bay leaves, thyme, and/or rosemary. Avoid adding salt until the end to avoid an overly salty stew.

5. Bring to a simmer – Increase the heat to high and bring the stew to a simmer.

6. Lower the heat – Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid.

Cooking the Stew

Cooking the stew correctly is important to ensure that your meat cooks to perfection. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Allow the stew to simmer for at least two hours – The key to cooking stew meat is low and slow. Simmer the stew, stirring occasionally, for at least two hours or till the meat is fork-tender and the flavors are blended.

2. Add the vegetables – Add potatoes, sweet potatoes, pearl onions, or any other veggies of your choice. Simmer for an additional 30 to 45 minutes till the vegetables are cooked and the meat is tender.

3. Make adjustments – If your stew is too thin, you can thicken it using a flour-water slurry. On the other hand, if it’s too thick, add a splash of broth or water to reach your desired consistency.

Serving the Stew

Once your stew is cooked, you’re almost ready to eat. Here are a few tips for serving:

1. Remove any bay leaves or herb stems before serving.

2. Serve with bread – A warm loaf of bread or freshly baked biscuits are perfect for soaking up the gravy in stew.

3. Garnish – Add a sprinkle of chopped parsley or cilantro for an extra pop of color and flavor.


1. Can I cook stew meat in a slow cooker?

Yes, slow cooking is one of the best methods for cooking stew meat. To cook stew meat in a slow cooker, follow the same steps of browning the meat and building the stew before transferring it to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

2. Why is my stew meat tough?

Stew meat becomes tough if it’s undercooked or not cooked low and slow. Make sure to cook the meat at a low temperature for an extended period to break down the connective tissues and tenderize the meat.

3. What can I add to my stew to enhance the flavor?

You can add wine, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or tomato paste to enhance the flavor. It’s important not to add too much salt at the beginning to avoid an overly salty stew.


Cooking stew meat can be intimidating, but with the right techniques and a bit of patience, you’ll be able to make a delicious stew every time. When properly cooked, stew meat is tender and juicy and makes for a comforting and hearty meal perfect for cooler weather. Follow the steps we’ve outlined above and you’ll have a delicious stew that’s sure to impress.