Cold weather means stew weather, and there truly isn’t a dish that’s much more comforting than beef stew. When cubes of beef, sweet carrots, and potatoes cook slowly together in a savoury sauce, the resulting stew just makes you want to grab a hunk of crusty bread and dig in.
While there’s no denying that a pot of stew bubbling away for a few hours on the stovetop makes for an amazing-smelling kitchen, slow cookers instead makes for a beef stew that can go from pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator to sitting down at the dinner table in just about an hour. Here’s how to do it.
Don’t Stew with Stew Beef
Braising turns tough cuts of beef into tender, succulent bites, but you want to skip the pre-cut stew beef when you’re at the grocery store or butcher. Oftentimes, stew beef is cut into irregularly shaped pieces and can have a lot of tough gristle that will never get tender. Picking up a piece of boneless beef chuck instead means that you can easily trim off all the unwanted parts first, then make sure the pieces are cut into uniform 1 1/2-inch pieces that will cook evenly and quickly in the pressure cooker.
Searing the beef cubes first creates all those tasty browned bits that make the finished sauce that much more delicious, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time searing the cubes all over. Searing just one side saves you time, so be patient with the process, sear in two batches, and let one side of the beef get nice and dark.
Stick with Large Veggies
Because this beef stew is made in the Instant Pot and we want everything to cook in the same amount of time, the carrots and potatoes should be cut into large pieces so that they don’t overcook and fall apart. Go with chunks that are the same size as the beef cubes, with the exception of the onion and garlic, which can be cut smaller since we want those to cook down as much as possible.
Making Beef Stew Gravy
We all know that one of the best parts of beef stew is the rich brown gravy. Since this stew is cooked in a sealed environment (and therefore the moisture gets locked in), you only need half a cup of broth and some Worcestershire sauce to get things going. Cook the stew for 25 minutes (yes, it’s that quick!) under high pressure and the veggies and meat will let out more liquid as they cook.
Once everything’s done cooking, add a slurry made with cornflour and water and simmer with the Sauté function for a few minutes to thicken the sauce into a gravy. Using cornflour keeps this beef stew gluten-free, and I find it’s easier to thicken the sauce at the end rather than start by searing beef that’s been tossed in flour (which usually requires more oil, and there’s also a risk of the flour burning during searing).
Serving Beef Stew
A big handful of frozen peas stirred into the beef stew at the end adds a note of sweetness and a bright pop of colour to the otherwise deep, savoury flavours. For some freshness, garnish with chopped parsley if you’d like, but don’t forget to have some crusty bread or some creamy mash to go with it.