Cold-weather’s comfiest comfort food just got a lot more comfortable. Dutch oven-braised Beef Stew with Red Wine is a filling and flavorful one-pot wonder. Loaded with seared chunks of meat, potatoes, veggies, and (of course) red, red wine, it’ll leave you with leftovers for days. Just mind your time – this low-and-slow beef stew recipe has simple steps, but no real shortcuts.
There are a million cozy metaphors for comfort food. If pancakes are a hug, and hot cocoa is a warm fire, and mac and cheese is an over-sized sweater, then beef stew is a slanket. It’s an all-encompassing, full body experience, and easily my favorite cold weather comfort food.
There are a few ways to make comfort foods even more comfortable, whether that’s in the experience of eating them (classic beef stew next to crackling fire, anyone?) or the experience of adding to them (post roast with red wine is extra rich).
Red wine beef stew is a bit of both. While you can certainly make a good beef soup or stew in a crockpot, I find that the experience of making beef stew in a dutch oven is exactly what I need to make a lazy Sunday afternoon feel anything but boring. And unlike my classic dutch oven version, this recipe has special additions like bacon, pearl onions, and lots of red wine that lend something extra special to the finished dish.
Like any good beef stew recipe, this recipe is a Commitment with a capital ‘C.’ It’s not hard, but it’s hands-on. Having plenty of time and patience is just as important as having plenty of beef and red wine. Trust me – it’s worth the work and the wait!
The Secret to Very, Very Good Beef Stew
Sear the meat, then deglaze the pot. That’s it – that’s the secret.
And when I say “sear the beef” I mean saute it until a deep, crackling golden brown crust forms. That crust will create a rich, complex flavor in the stew that cannot be infused any other way. This process is called the maillard reaction, and it’s one half of the most important step in creating the most delicious beef stew possible.
The second step is deglazing. After the meat has been properly seared, the bottom of the pot will be covered with little bits of beefy goodness. Deglazing means adding a splash of liquid and then using a spatula to scrape up those browned bits and absorb them into the liquid. Those little bits go a long way as they get worked into the base of the stew, creating depth and flavor in the gravy.
How to Make Beef Stew with Red Wine
This classic recipe for Red Wine Beef Stew is a cross between beef bourguignon and traditional beef stew, with little bits pulled from each to create an easy yet incredibly flavorful stew recipe with hearty vegetables and tender, melt-in-your-mouth shreds of beef. This recipe takes time, and there are few short cuts – but the steps are easy, and you effort will be richly rewarded!
- Trim the root ends from the pearl onions.
- Blanch the onions in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and plunge into an ice bath.
- Peel the onions (they’ll pop right out of the skins pretty easily) and set aside.
- Divide a chuck roast into 2″ chunks, then sear the beef in batches until richly caramelized on at least 2 sides. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside on a plate or in a bowl.
- Add diced bacon to the pot and cook until the fat renders and the edges start to crisp. Add the pearl onions and cook until they start to brown in spots. Then add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Deglazing time! Pour in the balsamic vinegar, then gently scrape the bottom of the pot with a wood spoon to loosen any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Keep stirring and gently scraping until the pot is “clean” and the vinegar has been absorbed by the onions and bacon.
- Return beef to the pot, then the wine plus additional broth to barely cover the beef (I used 1 bottle of wine plus 2 cups of broth). Add a bay leaf and fresh thyme and give everything a good stir.
- Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a simmer. One simmering, cover the pot, turn off the burner, and place the dutch oven into a 350°F oven. Cook for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, remove the pot from the oven and place back onto the stove. Whisk cornstarch and 1 cup of beef, and pour that slurry into the stew. Then add the potatoes, carrots, and celery. Stir well, and once again bring the liquid to a simmer before covering and placing back in into the oven. Cook 1-1.5 hours longer, or until the beef easily shreds using the tines of a fork.
- Lastly, remove the lid from the dutch oven and increase oven temperature to 450°F . Cook 15 minutes more to thicken the gravy.
- Ladle into stew bowls and garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Serve right away, and enjoy!
Where Can I Find Pearl Onions?
Pearl onions are typically sold pre-packed and can be found in the produce aisle of your grocery store; I often find them near the bulk garlic and shallots.
If you can’t find fresh pearl onions, use frozen. Place the frozen onions into a mesh strainer and defrosting under cool running water. Pat very dry, then proceed with the recipe.
- Baby potatoes, like yukon gold or red potatoes, work best in beef stew. They’ll hold their shape better than russet potatoes, with the bonus that they don’t need to be peeled!
- Sear thoroughly! Sear each piece of beef on at least 2 sides until a good crust with deep color forms.
- Always bring the liquid to a simmer before placing in the oven – this keeps the temperature consistent throughout the cooking process, resulting in a more tender, evenly cooked stew.
- Cook in stages – meat first, then the hearty vegetables. This will ensure the meat simmers into fall-apart tender shreds and the vegetables are cooked through, but still bite tender. No one likes mushy vegetables.
How to Thicken Beef Stew
Beef stew with red wine calls for a cornstarch slurry to thicken the liquid.
Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with cold or room temperature beef broth (not water, for extra beefy goodness). Dumping cornstarch directly into the hot stew will cause it to clump and you’ll get grainy pockets. Whisking with cold liquid creates a smooth texture that blends beautifully into your stew base.
What Cut of Meat is the Best Choice for Beef Stew?
Chuck roast is my go-to for beef stew. It’s an affordable cut of meat, collagen rich, and well-marbled, so it’s got lots of flavor. Trim any large obvious fat deposits and gristle, but keep the rest – the fat supplies flavor and adds body to the gravy.
While you can opt for another cut, do NOT use “stew meat” from the grocery store. The pre-cut pieces aren’t large enough to sear properly and you definitely won’t get those chunky shreds. Plus, bulk “stew meat” is often from a variety of cuts and lacks the marbled fat that adds so much flavor and richness to the stew.
For everything you need to know about selecting the best cut for beef stew, this article from Serious Eats is an excellent resource.
What’s the Best Red Wine for Beef Stew?
Always opt for DRY reds, avoid anything sweet. You also don’t want a delicate wine, like Pinot Noir. Hearty reds like cabernet, zinfandel, and shiraz work really well in this beef stew recipe. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but you shouldn’t wince when you take a swig from the bottle. Ask a clerk at your favorite wine store if you don’t know where to start!
Why is My Stew Too Thick?
Make sure your dutch oven has a tight seal. Any cracks or chips around the lid or edge of the pot will prevent the pot from properly sealing and will cause too much liquid to evaporate. You can create a good seal by placing parchment paper or aluminum foil over the pot, then placing the lid on top.
Storing and Reheating
Beef stew keeps in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days, and is even better the next day.
This recipe can also be frozen. Prepare the stew as directed, then portion into airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight then reheat in a pot over medium heat until warmed through.
Did you make this red wine beef stew? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
Red Wine Beef Stew RecipePrint Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
- 10 oz fresh pearl onions, or equivalent amount frozen, defrosted, and patted dry (see Note 1)
- 3 lb chuck roast, cut into 2" pieces
- 1-2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1-2 tsp ground pepper, divided
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped to ½″
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 bottle dry red wine, cabernet, zinfandel, shiraz, etc.
- 2-4 c beef broth, divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 bundle fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 12 oz baby potatoes, quartered
- 3 stalks celery, sliced into 1" pieces
- 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias into 1-2" chunks
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Fill a medium pot with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil (do not salt). While the water is coming to a boil, trim the root ends from the pearl onions.
- Add the trimmed onions to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain in a colander, and plunge into an ice bath. Allow to sit in the ice bath for a few minutes, then drain. Peel the onions by gently squeezing until they pop out of the tough outer skin.
- Divide the beef into 2” cubes, then pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat a 6-quart dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the beef and arrange in a single layer, with a bit of space between each piece. Sear undisturbed until a dark, golden brown crust forms, 4-5 minutes. Turn the pieces and sear on at least one more side. Remove using tongs, set aside onto a plate, a repeat with the remaining chuck roast pieces.
- Add the bacon to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the edges start to brown, about 5 minutes. Push the bacon to the outer edges of the pot and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and starting to brown in spots, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute with the onions, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Pour in the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pot; cook, stirring up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until the vinegar stops bubbling and is mostly evaporated, and the bottom of the pot is clean, 2-3 minutes.
- Return the seared beef to the dutch oven. Pour in the wine plus enough broth to barely cover the beef (I used 2 cups of broth for about 6 cups of liquid total), then give the contents a good stir. Add the bay leaf, fresh thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot, turn off the burner and transfer to the oven. Braise for 2 hours. (See notes 2 and 3)
- Remove the pot from the oven and place onto the stove. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the cornstarch and one cup of beef broth to create a slurry. Pour the slurry into the stew, then add the chopped potatoes, carrots, and celery. Give the stew a good stir, and again heat over high until the liquid comes to a simmer. Cover, and return the stew to the oven to continue braising. Cook an additional 1-1.5 hours, or until the beef is falling apart and the vegetables are tender. Test for doneness around the 1 hour mark.
- Once the stew is ready, increase the oven temperature to 450°F and remove the lid. Cook 15 minutes more at the higher temperature to caramelize the top of the stew and thicken the gravy.
- Remove the dutch oven from the stove. Fish out the bay leaf and thyme sprig using tongs. Ladle into stew bowls and garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired. Serve immediately. This stew keeps in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days, and is even better the next day.