I’ve made countless stews during my ten years on a carnivore diet, and I find meat stew a comforting, hearty, and economical dish.
Still, you have to know what meat to buy and how to cook it for a delicious final result.
Today, I’ll explain everything you should know about stew meat, including what dishes you can make with it apart from the stew.
- Stew meat is meat cooked in a liquid for a long time, so it’s tender.
- Different meat cuts can be used for making a stew.
- Stew meat can be used in other dishes apart from a stew.
What Is Stew Meat?
Stew meat is cubed, diced, or meat that’s cut into chunks and used to make stew dishes. Different cuts of beef can be used as stew meat, such as chuck, sirloin, or brisket .
Stew meat should be cooked in a liquid on low heat for a long period of time. Simmering the meat makes the meat tender and full of flavor.
Best stew meats are lean and full of collagen-rich connective tissue, with some marbling for extra flavor. Lean meat comes from animals such as cows, deer, pigs, or elk.
The meat comes from parts of the animal with muscles, such as legs. When the meat cooks for a long time, the proteins break down into gelatin, and the meat becomes tender.
You can use beef stew meat for other dishes apart from stew, which makes it very economical.
The Importance of Collagen
Many people think tender beef is always better. For example, tender cuts of meat, such as beef tenderloin, shouldn’t be used for a beef stew. These cuts are already soft, and cooking them for a long time will result in chewy and dry meat.
Instead, you want meat that’s full of collagen. Collagen-rich beef comes from the parts of the animal full of muscles. The muscles have less fat but more connective tissue, which means more collagen.
Raw collagen is extremely tough, but when cooked for a long time on low heat, it melts into gelatin, which results in a tender piece of meat. Plus, gelatin also seeps into the sauce, which gives it a deep flavor.
For most collagen, choose meat from the cow’s shoulder. The shoulder supports the cow’s weight, so these are very tough cuts.
Types of Beef for Stew Meat
Here are the best meats for an easy beef stew recipe.
Chuck comes from the cow’s forequarter and includes the shoulder, neck, and upper arms. The best chuck for beef stew comes from around the shoulder.
Chuck gets its name because it’s a popular choice for making chuck roast. It’s an affordable cut, has good flavor, and is rich in connective tissue and fat. It releases a lot of gelatin during slow cooking, which makes it the top choice for stew meat.
Chuck’s main downside is that it consists of different muscles, so you get irregular pieces — a mix of lean, fatty, tender, and tough.
“Beef stew is one of those recipes that’s used all over the world. It’s a classic in French, British, and American cooking. What makes it so good is that it brings you back home, it’s hearty, and fills you up.”
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2. Bone-in Short Rib
Short ribs come from the cow’s underside, called the plate. It’s sold with the bone in, thus the name. This cut has a rich flavor with plenty of fat and toughness.
It’s more expensive than the chuck, especially because part of the weight you’re paying for comes from the bone.
Bone-in short ribs pay off because they give the beef stew rich beef flavor with even grain.
Oxtail is one of the best cuts you can get for beef stew. It’s a very tough cut of meat that comes from the cow’s tail.
Oxtail meat is very rich in fat and gelatin, which makes it delicious. Each cross-section of the tail has a bone filled with marrow. As the meat cooks, the fat from the marrow seeps out and gives the meat flavoring.
The downside of oxtail is that the bones are heavy and require a lot of work. You have to take them out of the sauce near the end of the cooking, remove the meat from the bone, discard it, and return it to the pot.
Oxtail also takes more time to cook — three to four hours, compared to the two hours that most other cuts need.
Finally, oxtail is expensive because there’s limited availability (each cow has only one oxtail).
Sirloin comes from the back of the cow. In terms of toughness and fat, it falls somewhere between beef chuck and round.
Sirloin beef for stew gives a strong beefy flavor with some chewiness when cooked properly.
Sirloin is more expensive than chuck, so it’s not often used for beef stew.
Round comes from the cow's rear legs. Round roast is a very tough cut with low fat.
You can choose between the top or bottom round, but the bottom round is better for slow cooking.
Next to the chuck, this is the most affordable stew meat.
Brisket comes from cow's breast or chest. You can choose between a whole brisket, flat, or point when making a stew. The point has more tough tissue and fat and is generally better beef stew meat than flat cut, which is less fatty.
Brisket is another affordable beef stew meat. Depending on the butcher, it’s even more affordable than the chuck.
Finally, brisket has the most pronounced beefy flavor because of its fat content.
Best Stew Meat Dishes
The best stew meat dishes are:
- Beef stroganoff stew — Start by browning stew meat and simmer in beef stock with onions and carrots. Add sour cream and cream cheese at the end, and serve over egg noodles.
- Beef bourguignon — Also called beef burgundy, it’s cooked in a red wine broth with bacon, carrots, and onions. You can serve it with mashed potatoes or green beans.
- Beef chili — Beef chili can be made with ground beef, but you can also use stew meat. Simmer the beef cuts with spices and beans, and you’ll have tender cuts after several hours.
- Irish stew — Stew the meat in a beef broth with vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, and black pepper.
- Beef enchiladas — Start with a stew recipe and cook meat with tangy vinegar. Once the gelatin breaks down and makes the meat moist, shred it into enchiladas and finish in the oven.
- Slow cooker pepper steak — Use stew meat instead of flank steak, so the meat cooks in the slow cooker. This gives it a chance to be in the liquid for longer, which results in cuts of beef with more flavor.
What Is Meant by Stew Meat?
Stew meat is meant to describe meat that’s cubed or diced and cooked in a stew dish.
Why Is It Called Stew Meat?
It’s called stew meat because it’s used in a cooking method where small cuts of beef are simmered in liquid until they become tender.
What Is the Most Tender Beef for Stew?
The most tender beef for stew is chuck meat. It’s touch and has a very high-fat content, which results in the best beef stew.
What Can I Use in Place of Stew Meat?
You can use lean game cuts in place of stew meat. For example, venison and bison are good replacements for beef.
Which Meat Should You Use for Stew?
Stew is one of the most delicious and economical foods you can make. But you need to choose the best meat for a good stew. Tender doesn’t mean better in this case. Go for tough cuts with fat, such as chuck, round, or brisket.
Also, not all butchers are the same, so it’s always best to get the meat from trustworthy sellers. ButcherBox has been my go-to meat delivery service for the past year because it sells sustainably raised meat that’s antibiotic and hormone-free.
Choose between different beef cuts for a flavorful stew, or experiment with more exotic cuts.