Basics of a Stew

Stew has just four stages and four groups of ingredients.

Stage 1: Browning the Meat


Just meat. Best with a bone that has marrow that gives it flavor.


Whatever is your meat, with or without bones, you need to brown it. Add some high temperature oil like safflower oil or duck fat, and then sear the meat. It’s important that the meat be:
  • dry
  • not frozen
  • not be crowding in the pot (if you have a lot of stew meat, use another pan so you can do batches simultaneously)
Browning takes about 3 min each side, and if you’re lazy, you only need to brown two sides. Put the meat in a metallic bowl.

Stage 2: Spices


Onions, ginger, garlic, celery, leek, whole cinnamon, tumeric, whole cardamom, whatever you feel like that will dictate the smell of the stew in addition to the meat.


If there is too much fat in the pot, remove some. If there isn’t enough, add more oil/fat. Now we are working with medium heat so things don’t burn too quickly. Add the spices. Toss it around until you think the aroma has come out. 

Stage 3: Stewing in Liquid


Stock, red wine, white wine, masala wine, or just plain water. Or a combination.


Return the meat and any juice into the aromatic pot. Stir. Add enough liquid to almost cover the meat (if you are slow cooking you are unlikely to lose all the liquid in two hours, so don’t exaggerate on the liquid). Bring the whole thing to a boil, then leave it simmered either on the stovetop or on the bottom rack of a pre-heated oven at 300F (bottom level does not mean the bottom of the pot is touching the oven bottom!).
This section takes 1.5 to 2 hours. Longer the better.
When you’re done, you should try to skim off as much of the fat float above as you can or have patience for (sometimes it’s easier to do this by bringing the liquid to a boil so the fat is concentrated in one place).

Stage 4: Veggies and Pulses


Any roots, just make sure each piece isn’t smaller than your stew meat (if you’re not using cubes of stew meat, imagine you are; that’s the minimum size of the pieces). It can also be squash or sweet potatoes. Unless it’s a carrot, peel everything. Don’t put more than four cups.
And one cup of any pulses, such as lentils.


Bring the stew back to a boil. Add the lentils or the pulses of your choice first, stir, then add the roots, stir, and wait for the liquids to boil through out (not just the sides). Lower to a simmer or return to the oven (lowest rack). Do this for 30 min.
When it’s all done, turn off the fire or the oven, and set the stew on a cooling surface. Add salt and pepper. Cover and let it cool.

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