Tucking into a hearty bowl of tender beef stew is like dinnertime nirvana. Within the rich, beefy broth are creamy chunks of potato and carrots and perfectly tender pieces of beef that fall apart in your mouth. The ingredients are humble, but the resulting stew is completely luxurious. It just might be the single best cold-weather supper ever.
If you've long considered beef stew a Sunday-only dinner affair, then allow me to introduce you to the beef stew you can start on a weekday morning and come home to in the evening.
For Better Beef Stew, Braise in the Slow Cooker
Beef stew, like its cousin pot roast, gets its meaty tenderness from braising — that is, a long, slow simmer in liquid. Beef stew is most often made in a Dutch oven on the stove or in the oven, where the stew cooks for hours until the meat is tender. The stove or oven is on in either case, and so you're tied to the kitchen while it cooks. With slow cooker beef stew, you can use a longer, lower cooking temperature and leave the beef to tenderize while you work (or go sledding!).
For Your Information
- This beef stew cooks for 8 hours on low in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. The meat should be pull-apart tender, but not falling apart in the crock; 10 hours is about the max cook time.
- You can use stew meat for beef stew (obviously), but we prefer bottom round beef roast. You'll need 2 1/2 pounds.
Keys Steps for Slow Cooker Beef Stew
- Brown the beef: If you've ever wondered if you really need to brown your meat before it goes in the slow cooker — because who hasn't wanted to skip dirtying a pan? — let me assure you that this step adds a ton of flavor that would otherwise be missed in the slow cooker. Browning the beef with a little flour will help thicken the beef stew as it cooks too.
- Layer the beef and vegetables: Put the browned beef in the slow cooker first and follow with the carrots and then potatoes. Layering the beef and the vegetables prevents the vegetables from overcooking and keeps the beef close to the braising liquid and heat of the slow cooker.
- Use beef broth, red wine, and tomato paste: These three ingredients are for building robust flavor. The red wine is used to deglaze the pan after searing the beef. Cooking it allows the flavor to further concentrate, while some of the alcohol burns off. The beef broth backs up the beef flavor, while the tomato paste lends acidity to an otherwise rich stew.
Serving Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Here's the beautiful thing about slow cooker beef stew: Once you've got everything in the slow cooker, your work is pretty much done. Let the slow cooker do its thing on low for eight hours and then test the beef — it should be pull-apart tender. You can give it a taste and add more salt or pepper if desired, but the very last step is simply serving this gorgeous, beef stew in deep bowls with warm bread for tucking into this cozy comfort.
How To Make Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker
Serves 6 to 8
What You Need
2 1/2 pounds
bottom round beef roast
olive oil, divided
small onions, diced
dry red wine
large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds
small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
low-sodium beef broth
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty bread, for serving (optional)
4- to 6-quart slow cooker
Measuring cups and spoons
Chef's knife and cutting board
Preheat the slow cooker. Set a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker to LOW to start warming up while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Cube, season, and flour the beef. Trim off any large pieces of fat from the roast and cut into 2-inch pieces. Place in a large bowl and season with the salt. Sprinkle with the flour and toss to combine.
Brown the beef. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 1/2 of the beef and sear until browned on a few sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the browned beef to the slow cooker and repeat with the remaining oil and beef.
Sauté the onions. Add the onions to the skillet and sauté until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
Deglaze the onion pan with the red wine. Add the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula to get up all the good, browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the red wine mixture over the beef.
Layer the vegetables in the slow cooker. Add the carrots in a single layer over the beef, followed by the potatoes. Tuck the bay leaves and thyme into the slow cooker with the potatoes.
Add the beef broth and tomato paste and cook on low for 8 hours. Whisk the broth and tomato paste in a small bowl or measuring cup. Pour over the potatoes. Cover and cook on the LOW setting until the beef and vegetables are very tender, about 8 hours.
Serve. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve the stew with plenty of the beefy broth and bread for dipping.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.