Rich, savoury, filling, and perfect on a cold day, this Whole30 Beef Stew is healthy comfort food at its finest!
I am of the firm opinion that everyone should know how to prepare a great stew from scratch. I understand that there are many people who live extraordinarily busy, demanding, and challenging lives (I’m mostly looking at you, mothers and fathers) and spending 3 to 4 hours slaving away in the kitchen can seem like an insurmountable and unrealistic task.
Nevertheless, keep a few things in mind:
- Stews are very easy to make and it’s not like you’re going to be performing 7 or 8 tasks at once in the kitchen.
- Generally speaking, stews are (should!) be made in a single pot to maximize flavour development – so you’ve just saved yourself some clean up time!
- Stews are versatile and can lend themselves to just about any cut of meat.
- They’re best when made with cheaper cuts of meat, so you’ll end up saving money!
- You can throw any number of vegetables in there, which is always a benefit.
- They always taste better the next day and can be frozen for a rainy day, which means they are perfect for meal prep.
- They’re about as close to a real comfort food as you can get. Stews taste the way hugs feel!
- Stews can easily feed a crowd and it’s just as easy to double or triple recipes if you have a big enough cooking vessel.
The list goes on but I think you’re starting to get the point! If I was to latch onto one of the above pros, though, it would be the versatility aspect of stew.
Versatility is important in any recipe, but perhaps even more so in a healthy one. Take this Whole30 Beef Stew for example. Once you get the technique of braising down, you can start to play around with the ingredients, vegetables, herbs and spices. Substitute beef for lamb, venison or elk. Try adding some sweet potato instead of white potato. You can throw some zucchini and squash into the mix! The options are endless as long as you follow the basic braising technique and keep proportions in mind.
Braising refers to the technique of cooking meat and/or vegetables in both dry and wet environments for a long period of time. It works best with tougher and, by default, cheaper cuts of meat because the low-and-slow (low heat, long time) method allows for connective tissues to break down and become fork tender.
Braising typically follows the same template regardless of what you’re cooking:
- In an oven-safe cooking vessel, brown/sear the ingredient at a high temperature in some type of cooking fat with a high smoking point (avocado oil is an excellent healthy option).
- Transfer seared meat to a bowl/tray and add aromatics and vegetables to the pot (things like root vegetables, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, herbs, etc). Then cook those vegetables a bit so they start to soften and develop some flavour.
- Deglaze the pot with some type of liquid (chicken stock, beef stock, bone broth or water are all excellent, healthy options). Scrape any brown bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Return browned meat to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to an oven that is usually set at 350F. Cook until the meat is very tender (this can take anywhere from 1.5hrs to 4-6 hours, depending on the cut of meat).
- That’s it!
This is the same basic technique I use to make my Ancho Pork, Mexican Short Ribs, Taco Meat, etc. The difference is the type of meat, vegetables, and spices. I also sometimes cook the recipe on the stovetop or in a crockpot, depending on how busy I am or if I’m cooking other things as well and need oven space. In fact, braising is perfectly suited to the Instant Pot, which, unlike most slow cookers, has a built in sauté function that allows you to sear meats.
Now go forth and braise, my friends! Braise like you give a damn!
Whole30 Beef Stew
- 2 lbs stewing beef – cut into 1″ cubes such as chuck, shoulder, bottom round, or rump
- Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
- Avocado oil
- 2 medium onions – quartered
- 4 celery stalks – roughly chopped
- 3 carrots – roughly chopped on a bias
- 2 parsnips – roughly chopped
- 8- ounces button mushrooms – cut in half
- 7 cloves garlic – smashed and left whole
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary – finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 quart chicken or beef stock
- 8-10 baby white potatoes – quartered
- 2 bay leaves - fresh or dried
- fresh parsley leaves finely chopped – for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Pat the meat very dry with paper towel and liberally season both sides with salt.
- Add 1 tablespoon of avocado oil to a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot over high heat. Add the beef and brown in batches so as to not overcrowd the pot, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the browned beef to a bowl and set aside.
- If required, add 1 tablespoon of avocado oil to the pot. Add the onion, celery, carrot and parsnips. Season with a small pinch of salt and cook until slightly softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until slightly softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, paprika and smoked paprika and cook an additional 60 seconds.
- Return the browned beef to the pot along with the stock, potatoes and bay leaves. Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and season with black pepper to taste. Cover with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook until the meat is fork-tender, around 1.5 hours. If the meat is still tough after 1.5 hours, return the pot to the oven and cook an additional 30 minutes, then check again.
- Let cool 10 minutes before serving and garnishing with fresh parsley.