Old-Fashioned Beef Stew is a hearty, comforting dish that has been enjoyed by families for generations. This stovetop classic features tender chunks of beef, flavorful vegetables, and a rich, savory sauce that’s perfect for ladling over a bowl of steaming mashed potatoes or buttery egg noodles. Rich in history and taste, the Old-Fashioned Beef Stew has its roots in European cuisine, particularly in England and France. Dive in with me as we explore this recipe, its ingredient, and the fascinating history behind it.
Ingredients for Old-Fashioned Beef Stew
- 2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups beef broth
- 2 cups red wine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
Begin by patting the beef dry with paper towels and seasoning it generously with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, mix the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper, then toss the beef in the seasoned flour to coat.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. In batches, sear the beef until browned on all sides, then set aside on a plate.
Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the now-empty pot. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
Next, slowly add the beef broth and wine (if using) to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, then return the browned beef (and any accumulated juices) to the pot.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and let the stew cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. After this time, add the carrots and potatoes, then cover and continue cooking for an additional hour, or until the beef is fork-tender.
In the last few minutes of cooking, stir in the peas and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf, and serve the stew hot, garnished with chopped parsley if desired.
History and Curiosities of Old-Fashioned Beef Stew
The origin of Old-Fashioned Beef Stew can be traced back to European cuisine, particularly English and French cooking. The earliest stews were made from less expensive, tougher cuts of meat that required a long, slow cooking process to tenderize them. As the dish spread across countries, regional variations developed using local ingredients and flavors.
In French cuisine, the iconic dish Boeuf Bourguignon shares many similarities with Old-Fashioned Beef Stew, including the use of red wine and onions. Across the Atlantic, the dish made its way into American cuisine where it has remained a beloved comfort food for generations.
The stew’s versatility has contributed to its popularity throughout history, as it can be easily adapted to include a wide variety of vegetables and seasonings depending on what’s on hand. This flexibility, as well as the comforting, hearty nature of the stew, has helped Old-Fashioned Beef Stew become a staple meal in kitchens around the world.