How to Make a Stew

Food, Hometown Cooking
on November 21, 2011

There's nothing better than the aroma of a savory, juicy, tummy-taming stew. Stews can be simple or complex, and can range from meaty to meatless. Discover how to make a stew and open the door to a whole new world of delicious possibilities.

Stew defined. A stew is any combination of ingredients braised in a liquid on a low temperature for a comparatively long period of time. Some stews can be made in minutes, however, while others take hours. Stews do not need to contain any specific ingredients. In fact, stews date back to ancient times when people needed to cook what was on hand, often a tough bit of meat, in a simple yet tasty fashion.

Stew possibilities. If you're thinking beef stew, you're on the right track, but why stop there? Chicken stew, veal stew, pork stew or bean stew all can come together in a confluence of flavor and satisfaction. There are no limits to what can be added to a stew. Whatever you have on hand, whatever's on sale or whatever tickled your fancy at the grocery store can be melded together in the slow, low, moist heat of the stew pot.

Stew method. The basic cooking method for a stew is deceivingly simple. Start with a heavy-bottomed saucepan, large pot or Dutch oven. Heat the pot to a medium-high temperature (nothing specific) and add a fat—oils, bacon fat, butter, what have you. Saute cubed meat with a bit of flavoring. Aromatics such as onion and garlic are a perfect partner to almost any stew. Once browned, the liquid can be added to the pot. Experiment with water, broths, tomato juice, wine or beer. Add veggies or beans once the liquid is simmering nicely and cook until veggies, meat or beans are fork tender. Season your stew to taste. Salt and pepper are a must, but you can add herbs such as thyme, a bay leaf or zesty flavorings like a dash of hot, Worcestershire or soy sauce. If you like, thicken the gravy with a bit of flour and water combined and stirred into your creation. Stew can be served with noodles, rice, bread or all by itself as a hearty stand-alone.

Stew types. If you're looking for a little guidance as a first time stew chef, or just need a bit of inspiration, there are many wonderful recipes and methods you can follow. None other than the famous Martha Stewart has accepted stewing and even offers guidance and resources on her website. Need more stew ideas? Visit American Profile's vast treasure trove of recipes from the tangy, all-veggie Rasta Lentil Stew to the super quick and fulfilling Quick Beef Stew—and get inspired to create a sumptuous and simple stew to suit any mood or palate.