It's fall. It's chilly. Maybe you have friends or family coming over later. Beef stew is on the menu. It's tempting to spring for some steak to make your stew extra-special, isn't it? But, friends, save your pennies because slow-cooked stews are where cheaper cuts really shine.
It's totally counter-intuitive. You know you want tender bites of beef in your soup, so it seems natural to gravitate toward the tender cuts of meat. In fact, beautiful, well-marbled steak cuts quickly turn tough and chewy in a stew because their fat melts away into the soup.
What you want is the tough, lean cuts. These don't have as much fat, but they do have something called collagen. Connective tissue. This breaks down over long cooking, rendering the meat fork tender and oh-so-tasty. In fact, if you're making a stew and the meat still seems chewy, just let it simmer for a little longer. Keep checking it every 15 minutes or so, and eventually it will hit that magic point where it goes from tough to tender.
You want large cuts of meat from either the front shoulder or the rear end. These are the specific cuts to look for. Any of them can be used in beef stew or substituted for what your recipe calls for:
• Chuck, Chuck Shoulder, Chuck Roast, Chuck-Eye Roast, Top Chuck
• Bottom Round Roast, Bottom Eye Roast, Rump Roast, Eye Round Roast, Top Round, Round Tip Roast
• English Roast, Pot Roast, Stew Meat
I think I got them all! If you want to change things up, you can also buy the same cuts in lamb, goat, or venison.
What's your secret to a great beef stew?
• Recipe Template: How to Make Beef Stew
Related: Love Me Tender: 15 Braises from The Kitchn
(Image: Emma Christensen)