Recipe Review

Ina Garten Uses a Key Ingredient to Make the Ultimate Beef Stew

published Jan 5, 2023
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Ina Garten beef stew recipe in a bowl
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling; Anne Eastman; headshot: Getty Images

With a five-star rating (common for Ina Garten’s recipes), this beef stew recipe holds lots of promise. And it offers a different perspective, to boot — pancetta, boneless short ribs, Cognac, and fennel are not typical beef stew ingredients, so how would this recipe pan out? The recipe also includes canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Would it taste too tomato-y? And no herbs? Would the flavor be well-rounded without herbs? I knew I needed to give it a try to find out.

How to Make Ina Garten’s Ultimate Beef Stew

This recipe is pretty straightforward. You’ll begin by browning pancetta in oil in a Dutch oven, then removing that from the pan and reserving it for later. In the drippings, you’ll then brown seasoned chunks of boneless beef short ribs. Those get removed from the pan, and then you’ll deglaze the pan with Cognac and a little wine, making sure to scrape up all the meaty browned bits. Chopped onions and fennel bulb then go into the pot to sauté until tender, and then garlic cooks briefly with them. A can of diced tomatoes, some tomato paste, more wine, broth, seasonings, and the browned beef go into the pot and are brought up to a simmer. You’ll cover the pot, place it in a 300°F oven, and cook for 1 1/4 hours. After that, you’ll stir in carrots and potatoes, cover, and bake for another hour. Just before serving, you’ll stir in the pancetta and green peas.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling; Anne Eastman

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Ultimate Beef Stew

With absolutely no thickener or thickening technique (no flour, no reducing), this stew was still hearty and thick. The beef — holy moly, the beef! Boneless short ribs are nothing short of a revelation. They are amazing in stew — soft as butter, rich, and supremely beefy. There were a lot of peas (10 ounces of them), but they did not overpower the stew. My concerns about the stew tasting too tomato-y were quelled at my first bite. And despite not containing any herbs, the stew still had a full, complex, balanced flavor (perhaps thanks to the inclusion of fennel). Plus, the chewy, meaty pancetta bits were heavenly.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling; Anne Eastman

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Ultimate Beef Stew, a Few Tips

  1. Add some herbs, if you want. Even though the stew tastes great as is, it would no doubt taste even better with a thyme sprig or two, plus a couple of bay leaves, simmered into the broth.
  2. Use low-sodium or unsalted beef broth. Ina recommends specific amounts of salt for seasoning the meat and the broth, and those amounts seem spot-on. When you add pancetta to the mix, you get even more salty flavor. For that reason, you should opt for low-sodium or unsalted broth, as full-on versions sometimes taste quite salty on their own. You can always add a little more salt at the end if the stew needs it.
  3. Brown in three batches if needed. In my Dutch oven, browning half of the meat (1 1/2 pounds) per batch (as the recipe instructs) ended up overcrowding the pan a bit. Next time, I will brown 1 pound per batch so the meat sears better.

Overall rating: 9.5/10