Do you hate cooking, or are you too tired to squeeze food prep into an overscheduled, stressful life? I find that when I live on takeout and fast food, I feel yucky (and spend far too much money). Crock pots (or other brands of slow cookers) are the best way to sneak some home cooking into your routine without causing stress.
Beef stew is one of the easiest first meals to make with a crock pot. It’s so easy that even my friends who hate to cook use this recipe and like it. 🙂
First, you’ll have to go shopping (or have the right food and materials at home). You’ll need:
- Crock pot. Any size is fine, but you should make enough stew to fill at least half of the crock pot. Otherwise, your food will overcook and burn. I prefer using a 1.5 quart size (3-4 servings, depending on your appetite). If you’re buying a crock pot for the first time, buy the cheapest one with a manual knob. No sense paying for fancy extras that you might not need.
- Cutting board, sharp knife, and stirring spoon. (Yes, Ana’s recipes all require a wooden spoon. One for business and one for pleasure.)
- Beef for stew. In the meat section of your local grocery store, you can find pre-cut stew meat. I use about 3/4 pound of beef for my 1.5 liter crock pot. You can add more or less, depending how much meat you like.
- Beef gravy in a jar. I like Heinz HomeStyle Gravy and use one small jar (12 oz). It’s easier than cooking powdered gravy, and it costs almost the same.
- Beef broth. I like Progresso beef broth that comes in a pourable square container.
Note: If you prefer to simplify and don’t like having leftover broth, use two small jars of gravy and omit the broth.
- Carrot. You can use baby carrots for less work, or you can peel and chop full-length carrots. Up to you. 🙂
- Onion. One small onion (from the kind sold in a multipack or sack) or half of a regular onion (sold individually). Peel and slice.
- Celery. You can buy celery hearts to reduce prep work, or you can buy a celery snack pack. You won’t need much. Wash and cut into small pieces.
- Tomato. You can use a small can of tomatoes from the canned vegetable aisle, or you can wash, remove the green top part, and cut the tomato into chunks.
- Mushroom. Choose your favorite mushroom (dried, fresh, or canned) or omit if you don’t like mushrooms.
- Parsnip. Wash, peel, and slice just like the carrot, unless you don’t like parsnip.
That’s it! The hardest part will be finding the ingredients. Ready?
First, pour a little beef broth into the bottom of the crock pot. That’s to put moisture on the bottom so the meat won’t burn. If your crock pot has a high/low setting, turn it on high. If not, just turn it on.
Next, rinse the stew meat in cold water (you can skip this step if you prefer the blood in your stew) and put into the crock pot. (There’s no need to dredge the meat in flour and saute in a pan, especially if you prefer tender meat the way I do.)
Add your baby carrots/carrots, tomato chunks, mushrooms, parsnips, celery, and onion. Don’t fill the crock pot! The stew will need extra room to bubble once it’s hot enough, and you don’t want the stew to boil over.
Pour the jar of beef gravy on top of the vegetables.
Add more beef broth until the meat and vegetables are fully submerged in liquid.
Cover the stew with the crock pot lid.
That’s it! My 1.5 liter crock pot takes about four hours to cook stew. (If you have a bigger crock pot and more stew, it will take longer.) You can eat the stew all by itself or with bread/pasta/rice.
- Buy meat, veggies, and gravy/broth
- Dump into your crock pot
- Take out a delicious meal 4-8 hours later!
See? Not that hard. 😀
P.S. You can add potatoes to the stew if you wish. I personally don’t like potatoes, so that’s why I omitted them. The fun part about stew is that you can customize it to your tastes. 🙂