My easiest ever beef stew! This Easy Peasy Beef Stew takes just 15 minutes prep time and only uses 1 pan, but produces fabulous results every time. Plus, get lots of ideas for adapting this basic beef stew recipe to make it even more delicious!
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Pure comfort food
Beef stew is one of those wonderfully comforting dishes that feels like the culinary equivalent of a great big hug! The smell of a delicious beef stew wafting through the house is one of life’s great joys. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic and homely about having a beef stew gently bubbling away in your oven all afternoon. And even better when it’s as easy to make as this one! Just 15 minutes prep time is all it takes, then into the oven for its long slow cook… which makes the beef wonderfully tender and the flavours rich and mellow.
Super Simple Beef Stew
Everyone needs a really easy peasy beef stew in their repertoire, and this is mine!
All you need to do is gently soften diced onions, then add mushrooms and fry over a high heat until browned. Next, add the garlic, followed by the beef, then a simple gravy made from a stock cube and cornflour (AKA cornstarch in the USA), plus herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then put a lid on the pan and place it straight into your preheated oven and slow cook for 2½ hours.
To brown the beef or not?
There is a huge debate over whether or not you need to brown the beef for a slow cooked beef stew. To find out whether this step is strictly necessary, I have done multiple tests both ways and lots of research!
One theory is that the beef needs to be browned to ‘seal in the juices’ before it goes into the stew… but that is actually a myth. Browning the meat before putting it in a stew actually makes the beef LESS juicy.
The other reason people brown beef before putting it in a stew is to give the stew more flavour. But honestly, after several experiments I have come to the conclusion that it really makes very little difference to the flavour and texture of the beef in a slow cooked stew. (Though it obviously makes a BIG difference with something fast-cooked, like a steak!)
And just in case you think something might be wrong with my tastebuds… I used to be a wine buyer – tasting wine on a daily basis. My tastebuds even have qualifications! As a result of all that training and practice, I have hypersensitive tastebuds that can taste really subtle variations… if I can’t taste the difference, there really is no difference!
And I am in great company, Jamie Oliver did the same experiment and came to the same conclusion. In Jamie’s Dinners*, above his recipe for Jool’s Favourite Beef Stew, he writes that, as a result of his experiments, “I’ve stopped browning the meat for most of my stews these days.”
This is great news as it means your beef stew takes even less time to prepare!
To brown the mushrooms or not?
One thing that DOES make a big difference, however, is browning the mushrooms. This improves both the flavour and the texture of the mushrooms, which is why I fry the mushrooms properly before adding the rest of the ingredients. Don’t be tempted to skip this step!
Make it your own!
I have pared this recipe back to the absolute essentials to make it super easy and quick to prepare. But if you have more time on your hands, there are lots of things you can do to jazz it up.
My two favourite additions are bacon and wine. Either or both add a lot of extra flavour to this stew.
I recommend adding the bacon in at the same time as the mushrooms as, like the mushrooms, bacon really benefits from being browned over a high heat. (Yes, I’ve done that experiment too!) For best results, I recommend using bacon lardons – which are chunkier that diced regular bacon. 200g / 7oz is a good quantity for this amount of stew.
I recommend adding the wine in just before the gravy, bringing the stew to the boil and then adding in the gravy. Use 250ml / 1cup red wine and reduce the amount of gravy by the same amount.
If you want, you can also add other vegetables (carrots, parsnips, swede and potatoes all work well). I recommend you cut your veg into bitesize pieces and add them into the stew about an hour before the end of cooking to ensure they don’t go too mushy.
What to serve with beef stew?
I recommend serving this beef stew with mashed potatoes and a selection of your favourite veggies. But it also works very well with baked potatoes, or if you want to keep things super simple, just serve with some crusty French bread!
What to drink with beef stew?
Beef stew is very wine friendly, and it works well with lots of different wines.
Good options include Côtes-du-Rhône (or other Syrah / Grenache based wines), Bordeaux reds, Rioja and similar Spanish reds, Duoro reds, Argeninian Malbec or US Zinfandel.
However, I definitely do not recommend pairing beef stew with white or rosé wines!
What to do with leftover beef stew?
If you end up with leftovers, this beef stew keeps very well in the fridge and is very easy to reheat. Simply place the cooked and cooled stew in an airtight container in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 3 days.
To reheat, tip into a saucepan with a splash of cold water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes or until the stew is piping hot all the way through.
You can also reheat this in the microwave, if you prefer.
Can you freeze beef stew?
The dish can absolutely be frozen! In fact, it’s a really great option for filling the freezer. (Top tip – make double and freeze half!)
Place the cooked and cooled stew in an airtight container in the freezer, where it will keep for up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat as above.
If you like this recipe…
…you might also like:
Easy Peasy Beef Stew
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion finely diced
- 250 g chestnut mushrooms quartered (See Note 1)
- 2 cloves garlic crushed or grated
- 800 g diced beef (usually sold as ‘diced beef’ or ‘stewing beef’ in supermarkets)
- 1 beef stock cube (I use Kallo Organic Beef Stock Cubes)
- 2 tablespoons cornflour (AKA cornstarch in the USA)
- 900 ml boiling water
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste (See Note 2)
- Preheat your oven to 160C / 140C fan / gas mark 3 / 325F.
- Place the olive oil and diced onions in a flameproof, ovenproof saucepan (See Note 3.) Gently fry the onions for 5 minutes, with the lid on, until softened but not brown. Stir occasionally.
- Turn up the heat to high and add the chopped mushrooms. Fry the mushrooms for 4 minutes, stirring regularly. (See Note 4.)
- Turn the heat right down and add the garlic. Fry for 1 more minute, stirring occasionally, then add the beef. (See Note 4.)
- Meanwhile, mix together in a jug the crumbled stock cube, 2 tablespoons cornflour and a little cold water to make a paste, then add the 900ml boiling water and to make a simple gravy.
- Add the beef gravy, thyme, bay, salt and pepper to the pan, stir and then turn up the heat. Bring to the boil, then put a lid on the pan and place it straight into your preheated oven. (See Note 3.)
- Cook the beef stew in the oven for 2.5 hours, checking occasionally to make sure the stew is not getting too dry. (If it is, add a little more boiling water and return to the oven.)
- Serve the stew with mashed potatoes and all your favourite vegetables!
- I recommend cutting the mushrooms into roughly equal sized chunks – depending on the size of your mushrooms this may mean halving, quartering or cutting into eighths.
- Because there is already salt in the stock cube, I only add black pepper here.
- I use a Le Creuset-style cast iron casserole dish*, (AKA dutch oven) which can go on the hob and in the oven. If you don’t have a pan that can go on the hob and in the oven, simply start this stew in a regular saucepan and then tip it into an ovenproof dish to go into the oven.
- After much experimentation I have come to the conclusion that it does not make a difference whether or not you brown the beef before such a long slow cook (so I don’t do it!) but it makes a big difference to the mushrooms (which is why I fry the mushrooms properly before adding the rest of the ingredients!)
- Suitable for freezing.
- Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
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