As I revealed in a recent post, I think I have the “original” crockpot from the 1970s. In fact, it is being described as “vintage” on ebay!
Regardless, I have been using a crockpot / slow cooker for years! So much so, I often don’t use recipes for some of the standbys like Beef Stew. I just buy the beef and whatever root vegetables I feel like and throw them in the pot and turn it on.
But when my daughter was home from university for Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, she asked “So what’s the recipe for this?”
It was then I realized perhaps I should write out the basics and share a few tips I have accumulated over the many years of slow-cooking.
My Tips for Slow Cooker Beef Stew
To Brown or Not to Brown?
Many slow-cooker recipes for a BEEF dish tell you to brown the meat but I have found it is not necessary.
Let’s face it, once meat has been simmered in a crockpot for 6-8 hours, do you really notice if it was browned or not… Not in my family.
Precook the vegetables?
Many recipes also say to precook the onions until soft and add in the root vegetables, etc. This too, I have found unnecessary for a stew.
It is all about layering.
I put the onions and root veggies on the bottom and the meat on top. The juices and liquids go to the bottom and the onions and veggies come out perfectly cooled!
Broth or other Liquids?
For my simple, throw it together beef stew, I try to add very minimal liquid. For the stew pictured above, I added a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, STRAINED. Adding too much liquid makes the gravy thin and then you feel as though you need to thicken it. I like my beef stew hearty and robust. In my opinion. adding more than 4-8 oz. to a pot makes the gravy runny and dilutes the flavors.
What about you?
Do you use recipes or just throw it together?
I would love to hear your tips and success stories with slow-cooker dishes.
- 3 lbs Stewing Beef cut in 1.5" cubes
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 4 cups of root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac cut in 1 inch chunks
- 1 tsp each thyme, oregano, basil, salt, pepper
- 1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with most of the liquid drained.
- Wash the meat and dry in a paper towel.
- Prepare all the vegetables.
- Place the onions on the bottom, followed by the chopped root vegetables and garlic
- Place the meat on top
- Sprinkle the herbs and salt and pepper over the meat.
- Pour the tomatoes over the top.
- Cover the slow cooker and turn on to the low setting.
- Cook 6-8 hours until done.
- For the stew pictured, I used 3 large carrots and 3 large parsnips. I did not have any potatoes.
- This method also works with Pork and Lamb stews.