Recipe: Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon
Boeuf bourguignon is so much more than just another beef stew. This classic French dish, made so popular by a certain Ms. Julia Child, is the kind of stew that moves you from one level of home cooking to the next. The aroma alone — the deeply savory scent of onions, slow-cooked beef, and red wine — is enough to make your eyes roll skyward and your knees go weak. Make boeuf bourguignon once and you’ll wonder why anyone ever bothers making anything else.
Boeuf bourguignon is all about building flavor; layer upon layer upon layer of delicious flavor. Start with bacon — render all the bacon fat, then use the grease to sear the cubes of beef and cook the vegetables. Searing the beef and using a portion of the wine to deglaze the pan adds two more layers to the dish. After an afternoon of simmering (a method which is its own kind of flavor booster), the bacon bits and tender mushrooms get stirred into the stew for the grand finale.
The end result of all this careful attention is a stew of surpassing richness and complexity — a stew to impress a date, celebrate a winter birthday, or even serve up for Christmas. Choose your friends wisely when preparing them boeuf bourguignon, because you will likely find them at your door again next week with begging bowls in hand.
You can prepare boeuf bourguignon in the slow cooker or in a Dutch oven, both with excellent results. Either way, be prepared for a bit of prep work. This is not the kind of dish where the ingredients can be dumped together in a pot, but rather one that takes some time at the stove before you can “set it and forget it.”
Making Boeuf Bourguignon in Your Vessel of Choice
When I make this in the slow cooker, I often prepare the meat and veggies the night before and then put everything in the slow cooker the next morning so they can simmer all day. When I prepare it in the Dutch oven, I start early so I can be sure it will be ready by dinner — or better yet, I make it the day ahead. The stew reheats well and is one of those dishes that tastes even better the second or third day.
What about the pearl onions?
Classically, boeuf bourguignon is finished with pearl onions as well as mushrooms. I think there’s quite enough going on with this dish without either going to the trouble of preparing pearl onions myself, or falling back on frozen onions, so I skip them. This said, if you are a stickler for tradition or just love pearl onions, add a pound of them along with the mushrooms at the end of cooking.
- 8 ounces
thick-cut bacon (5 to 6 slices), diced
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
beef chuck roast, round roast, or other similar cut, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons
kosher salt, plus more for the meat
Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups
red wine, divided
medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
medium carrots, diced
medium celery stalks, diced
- 2 cloves
- 1 tablespoon
- 3 to 4
fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 cup
low-sodium chicken or beef broth, plus more as needed
- 1 pound
white button mushrooms, sliced
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Cooked pasta, potatoes, or crusty baguette
Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is golden-brown and crisp. Meanwhile, pat the beef cubes dry with paper towels and season them all over with salt and pepper. When the bacon is ready, transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat until the bacon fat is shimmering. Add a single layer of beef and sear until browned on a few sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a 4-quart or larger slow cooker or a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the wine to the skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Pour the wine over the seared meat.
Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon grease to the pan. Repeat with another batch of beef, then deglaze with another 1/4 cup of wine, and continue until all the beef is seared.
When all the meat is seared, add 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the slow cooker or bowl with the meat.
Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Heat 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease over medium heat (if no more bacon grease remains, substitute with vegetable oil). Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they have release all their liquid, the liquid has evaporated, and the mushrooms are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a clean bowl and set aside — keep the mushrooms separate from the meat and onion mixture for now.
Method #1: Slow-Cooker Stir the beef cubes, sautéed vegetables, 1 teaspoon of the salt, thyme, and bay leaf together in the slow cooker. Pour the broth and any remaining wine over the beef and vegetables — the liquid should come about 3/4 of the way to the surface of the ingredients. Cover and cook on the LOW setting until the beef is fork tender, 6 to 8 hours.
Method #2: Oven Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 300°F. Stir the beef cubes, sautéed vegetables, 1 teaspoon of the salt, thyme, and bay leaf together in a Dutch oven or other ovenproof 6-quart pot with a lid. Pour the broth and any remaining wine over the beef and vegetables — the liquid should come about 3/4 of the way to the surface of the ingredients — the liquid should not quite cover the beef and vegetables; the ingredients should still be poking from the surface of the liquid. Add additional broth as needed.
Cover and place in the oven for 2 hours. After this, check the meat every 15 minutes. The dish is done when the beef is fork tender.
Both methods: Once the beef is ready is cooked, stir in the reserved bacon and mushrooms. Continue to cook in the slow cooker on HIGH, or simmer in the Dutch oven over medium heat until the mushrooms are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve in bowls over noodles or with crusty bread on the side. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
Choosing the wine: I love pinot noir for this dish, but wines from Burgundy or Côtes du Rhône are also excellent. When in doubt, choose a wine that you also like to drink and you can't go wrong.
Chicken vs. beef broth: You might think beef broth would be a natural choice for this recipe, but I often find store-bought beef broth to be too tinny tasting. Unless you make your own beef stock, I recommend using chicken broth in this recipe.
Make ahead: The meat and vegetables can seared and sautéed up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.