Slow-Cooked Beef Stew Redux


This blog loves stews; There’s something very satisfying about rendering tough chunks of beef chuck into soft tender morsels of taste and there’s nothing like a pot of stew slowly bubbling away on the stove and perfuming your flat while you catch up on some inner-eyelid study on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I’ve done this many times but I’ve never gotten the taste I wanted mainly because a) my fire control is not up to standard and b) all the recipes I’ve used are off-the-mark.

So this time, I set my mind in neutral and let my hands and memories of all the good stews I’ve had before be my guide.

The result was some good eating.

One of the most critical factors in making stew, I found out, is fire control: too hot and your beef remains tough while stew dries up without any integrated taste; too weak and everything gets overcooked (your vegetables turn to mush) and tasteless because of the too-long cooking period. The correct heat to use is about 1-2 big bubbles every 6-9 seconds or so.

Oh yes, this blog is all about scientific accuracy and engineering precision.

To achieve that, this blog had to seal off his kitchen from the slightest breeze to the point of declaring his kitchen a no-fart zone. Alright… when it comes to cooking, this blog is a student of the school of “measure with string, mark with chalk and cut with axe”.

Mind you, the results often turn out better than following a recipe strictly.

And since I wasn’t following a recipe, I basically threw in whatever I thought would taste good in a stew. This time I went for sweet earthy flavors like mushrooms and onions with tomatoes for contrast. And because I had some left over from a dinner, one of my finest Australian Shiraz, the Buller Calliope.

I left out the corn flour because while it thickens the stew, it also removes or dulls some of the flavors. Oh yes, I also used a secret flavoring.


Good bacon, the secret to adding that undefinable, back-of-the-throat depth to flavor. You can’t really taste it other than a savory saltiness, but I find that it integrates all the flavors together.

Stir occasionally at a rate of 2.43213 newtons per ohm and when the beef chunks fall apart easily when pushed against the wall of your cast-iron pot with a spoon, it’s done.

Serve with a crusty bread and believe me, any leftover stew will taste even better the next day as the flavors intensify overnight.


Posted on 7th May 2008 in Food and Drink, Meat, Western


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