For people who care about their food

Stewing Steak

There’s a lot you can do with cubes of stewing steak – goulash soup, beef & Guinness pie, brown Windsor soup, curries, meat pasties, chilli con carne… you name it! I like to buy a kilo at a time and do two or three different dishes with it – that way we get some ready meals for the freezer as well as the night’s dinner.

BUT be warned – if you don’t prepare your meat properly it’s very easy to end up with tough, leathery, stringy, tasteless grey lumps.

Beef cubes being browned in very hot oil in a cast iron casseroleFirst, you should seal the meat by frying it in very hot oil. This process browns the meat – giving it great flavour as well as colour! – and it starts to make its own tasty gravy too. After you’ve sealed it, you can proceed to make your stew or pie filling. If you chuck it all in, meat and liquid together at once, it’ll boil and you’ll get those grey, tasteless, and stringy lumps of meat I was talking about. And it’s not even as if the flavour goes into the liquid instead – that’ll just taste watery, like an over-diluted beef stock cube.

Browned beef cubes simmering in their own gravyAnyway, once the steak cubes have been browned off (just like the ones in this picture on the left) you can add the liquid and other ingredients and then slow-cook the whole thing. Either you can simmer it for a couple of hours on a low heat, or if you’re in a rush you can stick it in a pressure cooker. The quality of the beef round where we live isn’t so great, so I’d generally pressure-cook a kilo for about 40 minutes.

That’s just the basic technique. Some recipes call for the meat to be browned together with other flavourings. So for instance Jamie Oliver calls for Marmite and Worcestershire sauce to be added while the meat’s browning when making his brown Windsor soup recipe. Or if you were making a curry you’d probably want to cook off the spices in the pot first, then add the meat to brown in the spices – yum!

Cooking is an art not a science so, as long as you follow some basic techniques correctly to avoid spoiling the food, you can have fun experimenting with your own ideas according to your own taste.

3 Responses to “Stewing Steak”

  1. Ben Major

    I would disagree with your last statement; cooking is as much a science as it is an art. That is not to say you must understand the science to cook great food, but it sure helps!

  2. Not Delia

    Good comment, thanks. There are as many opinions about food as there are cooks. I guess Heston Blumenthal would agree with you about the science of food. I’ve had a fair bit of training both formal and informal but never had any interest in the science of food because I like to do my own thing rather than follow anyone else’s “rules”. Perhaps that’s a mistake and I should have a closer look at the science of cooking.

    BTW, Jamie Oliver would also disagree with my article above, but on a different matter. In page 180 of Ministry of Food he states, “In stew recipes you’re often told to brown the meat first. But I’ve done loads of tests and found the meat just as delicious and tender without browning it first, so I’ve removed this usual stage from these recipes.”

  3. Keith Lanosa

    Fascinating! We started purchasing whole cows from the local farm last year, and it’s working out really well for us. We found a great website with lots of great dishes like this meat recipes to keep us going.

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