Go for the chuck
The most common beef used for stew is chuck steak, also known as gravy beef or braising steak. Beef chuck comes from the forequarter of the animal consisting of parts of the neck, shoulder blade and upper arm.
If you drool at the thought of a hearty stew this Fall, then you’re in the right place to discover which beef stew meat is best for tender and juicy results! (Hint: Don’t buy pre-cut “stewing beef.”)
Next time you’re shopping for stew beef, look at your options and see what cuts of meat will work best for your recipe. For example, chuck is a lean and tender cut of beef that works well in stew. However, if you would prefer a thicker and more flavorful stew, short ribs or oxtail may be better choices for you.
To make a delicious stew, choose good-quality ingredients. Always buy grass-fed beef whenever possible, as it is higher in omega-3s and antioxidants than traditional feedlot beef. Grass-fed cattle are also healthier for the environment because they do not use antibiotics and other chemicals used to treat livestock on commercial farms.
As well as learning how to select the best meat for stew, read on to find out how to cook stew meat too.
Chuck is one of the leaner types of beef, making it perfect for stews because it melts into delicious pieces as it cooks.
A chuck roast has a large amount of connective tissue, which allows it to retain its moisture during the cooking process. This makes it easier for the slow cooker to maintain a low, steady temperature and avoid burning the meat. Also, while the cooking process may take longer than some other cuts of meat, the end result is often more tender and more flavorful than other cuts of beef.
If you’re a fan of pasta, mushrooms, and other Italian ingredients, consider using a chuck roast in your next beef stew recipe. The robust flavor of the chuck combined with the seasonings typical of an Italian dish creates a wonderful meal.
Short rib is one of the best stew meats for rich and hearty stews because of its robust flavor and large surface area that absorbs the sauce during the long cooking time. These short ribs also contain a great deal of connective tissue, which breaks down in the slow cooker to produce a very soft and succulent meat.
Cook the short ribs for 8 hours on low in a slow cooker. Remove the ribs from the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve. Add additional broth to thin out the sauce if necessary. Return the short ribs to the sauce and heat through before serving.
The beauty of a stew is that you can cook the meat slowly over a long period of time to create a really moist and tender piece of meat. In addition to being great for dinner, this slow-cooker beef stew also makes a tasty lunch to take to work the next day. Wondering what to do with stew meat? Then try this recipe for the perfect winter comfort food:
Why Collagen-Rich Beef Is Good in a Stew
At this point, youre likely wondering what this has to do with stew. And, once again, the answer is collagen. See, collagen is tough as heck when raw—youll have as much luck chewing through it as my free-falling friend did completely tearing my ligament—but cook it long enough and itll transform into meltingly soft gelatin, giving the meat a moist and tender texture. That gelatin will also seep into the surrounding stew liquids, increasing their viscosity and giving them rich body. But simmer a low-collagen, tender-when-raw cut like tenderloin for three hours, and itll turn horribly tough and dry.
To give you a visual, I simmered lean, collagen-poor beef eye round for two hours. As you can see in the photo below, the cut has relatively little marbling—intramuscular fat and connective tissue (i.e., collagen)—when raw. Once fully cooked, its pretty much a stews worst nightmare, nothing but tight little bundles of parched muscle fiber.
Whats interesting about all of this is that regardless of how much collagen a piece of beef has, itll lose roughly the same amount of moisture when cooked. I weighed two equal, 630-gram portions of beef, one chuck (lots of collagen and connective tissue) and the other eye round (not much at all), then simmered them for two hours and re-weighed. The chuck lost 254 grams of its weight, while the eye round lost 275 grams, a measly 21-gram difference. That means both cuts dry out approximately the same amount, but the chuck, with the help of its gelatin, seems to be moister when you eat it.
The key, then, is to seek tough cuts of beef with plenty of collagen and fat for stews…which still leaves us with quite a lot of cow to choose from. To find out how each of the six most common tough cuts performs, I browned each, then simmered them all in water until tender, which was about two hours in most cases.
Beef Stewing Cut Closer Look: Chuck
The chuck is a primal cut from the forequarter of the cow and includes the shoulder, neck, and upper arm muscles. When I talk about the chuck here, though, Im talking specifically about the meat from around the shoulder and not the arm or neck portions. Its a relatively cheap cut, with good flavor and lots of connective tissue and fat, making it a very appealing choice for stews. The downside is that chuck is made up of many different muscles, so youre more likely to get irregular pieces—some leaner, some fattier, some tenderer, some tougher. Overall, it averages out in a good way.
Verdict: This is your workhorse stew cut. Its readily available and affordable, and it performs admirably.
Beef Stewing Cut Closer Look: Bone-In Short Rib
Short ribs come from a primal cut on the underside of the cow called the plate, not, as one might expect, from the rib primal. They are, in essence, the ribs right down where they get close to the belly. They tend to be more expensive than chuck, and you have to consider that some of what youre paying for is bone weight, but what they offer is a deep beefy flavor with a beautiful, even grain throughout.
Verdict: If you want consistency in both texture and flavor, short ribs are where its at, but they come with a high price tag.
Go for the chuck The most common beef used for stew is chuck steak, also known as gravy beef or braising steak. Beef chuck comes from the forequarter of the animal consisting of parts of the neck, shoulder blade and upper arm.
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