2.5 pounds of beef stew meat
February 3, 2018 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I impulsively bought 2.5 pounds of beef stew meat at the store today and now I have to figure out how to turn it into lunches. Difficulty: not great at cooking meat, just started eating beef again after a decade.

So I found 2.5 pounds of beef stew meat in the meat sale section at Fred Meyer because it's use-or-freeze-by date is in a couple days. I'd like to turn it into 4-5 days of lunches but am not sure what to do with it. I am not opposed to just making beef stew, but would also love other ideas (and recommendations for beef stew since I've never made it!) I just recently started eating beef after several years, and haven't cooked beef in... well, ever, actually. (I quit eating it back before I started regularly cooking for myself.)

My kitchen is well stocked - onions, garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, fish sauce, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. I also have a head of green cabbage, broccoli, two heads of cauliflower, carrots, a bag of frozen kale, and about half a pound of Brussels sprouts that could be used. Something that combines the beef and a vegetable (or more!) is great because then I wouldn't have to cook a vegetable for a side. I own a crockpot and an Instant Pot. Not crazy about spicy foods or pepper.

(I also recognize that 2.5 pounds is more than enough for 5 lunches, so I can freeze some of it prior to cooking or potentially freeze some of whatever I wind up making.)
posted by skycrashesdown to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by noloveforned at 1:38 PM on February 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Smitten Kitchen's Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew- it's a pretty simple recipe that works well with substitutions, omissions, and extra vegetables.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:58 PM on February 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

Gulash recipe :

Slice about 1 pound of onions.

On the stove, heat up some oil in a large recipient that also goes into the oven. Brown the onions and the meat diced into 2-inch cubes.

Add a heaping spoonful of paprika, a pint of beer and enough water to cover everything. Put into the oven, about 120-150C, for 2-3 hours.

It's cooked when the meat falls apart. Eat with noodles or earthy vegs.

(You can also cook it on the stove, but you need to stir it every so often.)
posted by snakeling at 1:58 PM on February 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Old style beef stew is quite delicious. I recently made it after many years and I googled several recipes before I made a mash-up pressure cooker version that suited me. We had steamed broccoli on the side.
I love goulash this recipe is close to what I do (that I learnt from my gran), but I don't use nearly that amount of paprika. I use maybe a good tablespoon. The vinegar works magic, though.
Also, if I were in your kitchen, I'd just brown some beef cubes, then add onion cut into thick slices and chunks of carrot. When the onions are transparent, add either a glass of wine or two tablespoons of vinegar, cook while scraping the pan till the strong smells of alcohol or vinegar have evaporated. Add water or chicken stock to cover, along with some thyme, bayleaf, black pepper and garlic. (You can also add a can of tomatoes at this point). Let simmer for an hour, or pressure cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the Brussels sprouts. If in a normal pot/pan, add the sprouts and season with salt and simmer till they are ready. In the pressure cooker, do a slow release and then add the sprouts and salt and simmer till they are ready. Make a raw cauliflower salad on the side.
posted by mumimor at 1:59 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I love stew. Beef stew is super easy to make. There's all kinds of extra stuff you can do to make it fancy, but none of that is necessary to have a great stew. Like, people will say that you need to brown the meat to "seal in the juices," but that's a myth, and not necessary at all. You don't even need to saute your vegetables if you're going to be cooking it long enough. Just throw everything in the crock pot and cook it for like 7 hours while you do other stuff.

When I make a basic beef stew, for every ~1 pound of stew meat, I'll add roughly
*1-2 chopped/quartered onions
*maybe 3-4 carrots in 1 inch-ish pieces (wash, but no need to peel)
*a bunch of potatoes, maybe 6 or 7 yellow potatoes - you can use Russet potatoes, too, but they'll fall apart more - you can wait to add them until partway through cooking OR you can just add them whenever, it's fine
*a little chopped celery if I have any, maybe a stalk or two
*water, or beef stock if I have some - just enough to cover everything (you can make a perfectly nice stew with just water - it'll be different, and you may need more salt, but I've done it plenty of times and it was great)
*maybe a tablespoon of salt
*a ton of black pepper, or less as desired

You can add other stuff to that, like
*a slice of bread with mustard on it (if you add that with some dark beer, you start to roughly approximate Belgian Vlaamse stoverij)
*herbs (a little rosemary would probably be nice, but I'm not much of an herb or spice guy, so I usually just keep it simple)
*spices (you can add some paprika for flavor without making it spicy - if you add Hungarian paprika, you'll be sort of making goulash, but I think a Hungarian person would be offended by my calling it that)
*a little vinegar
*thickener - when I make stew, the potatoes are enough to thicken it to my liking, but you can also add flour paste (very important not to just dump flour into hot stew, or you'll wind up with gross little gooey dumplings)

I'm sure there are green vegetables you can add, but I don't usually do that personally, so I'll leave that to someone with more experience.

The only thing you really need to keep in mind when making stew is that it's not great to boil the stew. It'll make the meat tough. The other thing is to take it off the heat and let it cool for about a half hour before you eat it. I've seen this in a few recipes, and I think it's because heat of the cooking will draw moisture out of the meat, and as it cools, it'll get more evenly distributed (like resting a steak, I think).

Anyway, I'm sure someone will come along with better ideas, but this is just to give you an idea of some stew basics, from someone who really likes making stew. You get a lot of leeway with stews. You get a lot of leftovers. Win-win!
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:06 PM on February 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

I love old style beef stew. Many recipes call for 2.5 pounds (though i tend to halve it). If you have a bunch of potatoes, onions, and carrots, some tomato paste, and spices, you're probably all set.

My main recommendation is that it takes a long time to cook, so I'd recommend making the full pot and then freezing the cooked stew, assuming you have the freezer space.
posted by salvia at 2:11 PM on February 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd use it to make Japanese Curry. As a side benefit, I think that leftover curry tastes better than when it's first cooked.
posted by Aleyn at 2:15 PM on February 3, 2018

This Instant Pot Beef Stew is pretty amazing. I’ve been cooking beef stew for decades and this was definitely among the tastiest!
posted by The Toad at 2:21 PM on February 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Do you have mirin & ginger? I'm very fond of Japanese beef stew with sweet potato (or regular potato, or squash), which is pretty different from the potato-onion-bay leaf version. You could probably throw some of the other vegetables in at the end... here's a Mark Bittman version (NYT), or google "nikujaga."
posted by miles per flower at 2:44 PM on February 3, 2018

I've made a beef stroganoff with it before -- my basic recipe has mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, and egg noodles. I've also made beef and barley soup (beef, barley, onion, carrots, corn, tomato, peas, onion, and garlic). Both are slow-cooker (and inexperienced cook) friendly because the steps are essentially just brown the beef and combine with everything else, but I don't follow a specific recipe for either... Maybe not for this round, ingredient-wise, but for next time?
posted by sm1tten at 2:52 PM on February 3, 2018

Mushroom Miso beef stew is my latest invention. Regular beef stew (onions garlic carrots celery potato) but I add a bunch of miso and soy sauce (no other salt) fresh mushrooms AND dried shiitake mushrooms, double the garlic, and I use veg oil and a splash of sesame oil instead of olive oil.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:13 PM on February 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Easy Crockpot Tuscan Beef Stew

1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
1 can Campbell's Condensed Beef Broth
½ cup red wine (or water)
2 pounds beef for stew, cut into 1” pieces
1 can diced Italian-style tomatoes
3 large carrots, cut into 1” pieces
1 tsp. Italian seasoning (some combination of basil, marjoram, oregano, parsley,
rosemary, sage, and/or thyme), crushed
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 cans white kidney (cannellini) beans, drained

Put all in crock pot; cook on low 8-10 hours. You can add the beans halfway through if you prefer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:51 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

General note: Browning isn't to "seal in juices," it's to generate the Maillard reaction that adds an additional layer of flavour. Most of the time its worth it, but I'm lazy sometimes. If the stew is salty enough, and I'm using a slow cooker, I use less liquid (so some of the beef is exposed to air) and stir well once an hour to expose submerged meat to air. Basically in situ air browning.

It's generally preferable to cook close-to-use-by-date meat first, then freeze portions of the finished product than it is to freeze the raw meat then defrost-and-cook at a later date - especially for something like stews that defrosts and reheats well.

For steaks/etc., freezing raw is preferable - to defrost, take it out of the freezer and place on plate then into refrigerator to defrost overnight and over-the-next day.

If you want to use the stewing beef as a stroganoff, julienne (cut into smaller bits/strips - against the grain) before cooking.

My "easy" stroganoff recipe is very similar to sm1tten's. In a slow cooker/pressure cooker, stewing beef is fine but for a skillet recipe I prefer a more tender cut of beef. ("Real" stroganoff involves making a roux instead of using canned cream of mushroom soup.)
posted by porpoise at 4:29 PM on February 3, 2018

General note: Browning isn't to "seal in juices," it's to generate the Maillard reaction that adds an additional layer of flavour.

Yeah, good point! I forgot to mention that - I usually do brown the meat as much as possible, but it's a huge hassle. I always work in batches and try to get each side of all the pieces. I have heard it's best to avoid crowding the pan, because you want lots of heat on the surface of the meat, but a crowded pan will lead to things cooking through the middle and starting to get tough. I don't know how much it matters if it's going to be simmering for hours anyway, but that's as much as I know, anyway. I've totally skipped the browning step without any major problems.

Also, I don't know why I said 7 hours cooking time, because I think every time I've ever made stew, the meat has been done in about 4-5 hours. It's safe to eat way before that, but after 4-5 hours it's pretty tender and delicious. I check if beef stew is done by seeing if I can cut a piece of meat in half with a soup spoon. If I can cut it pretty easily, it's done. I don't know if that's how other people check it, or if that's even how you're supposed to check at all, but it has never let me down. I also like to give the vegetables and potatoes a little perfunctory piercing with a fork, but usually if the meat is done, everything else will be too (especially if you threw everything in at the same time).

Also, I peel the potatoes, because there's nothing I hate more than little bits of potato skin floating around in there (actually, it's probably not even that bad - like I said, stews are very forgiving as long as you give them enough time).

(Sorry to keep writing comments, I just really like stew and I never get to talk about it. Because how often does it come up in conversation?)
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:05 PM on February 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Pressure cooker, water, two to four tablespoons of olive or canola oil (I just pour in an amount), one or two teaspoons of sweet basil (again, I just sprinkle it on top). Cook according to pressure cooker directions. Fall off the bone goodness.
Small portions can be frozen in its broth in screw-lid containers for later. This is good with the following:

As is, with a little salt.
Red sauces (BBQ, Italian, Mexican, chili, pizza or spaghetti sauces), plus some sauteed onion and bell pepper.
Mushroom sauces with sauteed mushrooms.
Brown gravy and meat-based sauces with stew vegetables like potatoes, carrots, corn, green beans.

Also good with pastas, rice, pinto beans.
posted by TrishaU at 12:13 AM on February 4, 2018

I read somewhere that the maillard reaction happens in the pressure cooker without previous browning because of the high temperature (maybe?) Anyway, in my experience it is truly fine to just throw everything in the pot and pressure cook it.
posted by mumimor at 6:18 AM on February 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

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