These Are the Best Cuts of Beef for Stew, According to a Butcher

published Jan 28, 2023
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There are just some things that you can’t sacrifice when it comes to making a really good beef stew: taste, ease, and, of course, a tender texture. When it comes to making a great beef stew, it starts with choosing the best cut of meat. I’ve consulted with a professional butcher to get their take on the best cuts of beef for the ultimate pot of beef stew.

Yoko Koide is the general manager at Marlow & Daughters, a Brooklyn-based, whole-animal butcher shop that partners with local farms throughout New York state and the Northeast to provide meat and produce. Here, Koide weighs in on the best cuts of beef to use for beef stew, which cuts to avoid, and how to get the most out of your purchase.

What Are the Best Cuts of Beef for Stew?

While there are many different cuts of beef that work for making beef stew, the best cuts are definitely beef shank and neck. These cuts of beef have the most connective tissue running through them. “We want that in stewing cuts,” Koide explains. “After cooking down, the connective tissue dissolves into gelatin/collagen and that translates to moistness when eating.”

Another important thing to know about cuts like beef shank or neck is that they take a longer time to cook than others, but this means that the payoff is greater in the end. In other words, the cuts of beef that take the longest to prepare are often the most tender and best-suited to beef stew.

Although you should try using beef shank or neck for the most tender beef stew, those are not your only options, Koide explains. “Chuck and brisket are great stewing cuts, too,” says Koide. “[Especially] if you want a more conventional meaty experience.”

When it comes to making super-rich meats and stews, there are some cooking myths that we’ve been conditioned to believe, such as the idea that a fattier cut will always be the best choice for stew. “I think there’s a misconception that as long as something is fatty, it has flavor and will stew well,” says Koide. “While fat definitely helps, it’s possible to overdo it. Furthermore, no amount of fat will help a cut that isn’t meant for stewing.”

Another misconception about beef is that the most expensive cuts will always be the best for making meals like beef stew. “The most expensive cuts are usually not well-suited to stewing,” explains Koide. “Tenderloin, ribeye, strip, and similar cuts have come to be priced higher because they are pretty straightforward to cook as steaks.” These cuts of beef are tender but better suited to searing for a short amount of time.

What Cuts of Beef Should You Avoid for Making Stew?

In terms of cuts to avoid when making dishes like beef stew, Koide notes that leg cuts, such as top round or bottom round, are not ideal for stewing. “I feel they take on a kind of mealy consistency when cooked for a long time,” explains Koide. “Even the most well-marbled round will still get dry if overcooked.”

How to Make Stew Meat Tender

The short answer to this question is to simply be patient, Koide notes. The most tender and juicy beef stews always take at least a few hours to cook. Start with a cut with lots of connective tissue, such as beef shank, neck, or chuck, and be sure to cook the meat on a light simmer for at least a couple of hours. Alternatively, you can get a similar effect by cooking your beef on low in a slow cooker.