I’ve been fine tuning my beef stew for at least a year. Beef stew is by nature pretty basic and simple, but I’ve combined a few tweaks that hopefully are worth sharing here.
I make it in a crock pot but there’s no reason it can’t be done in an “insta-pot”, a pressure cooker, or even on a slow-simmer burner on a stove top. I cook this 5 hours or more in the crock pot, to extract all the goodness from the slice of shank bone.
Because this is a stew, the quantities aren’t critical.
Beef shank center cut, about .75 to 1.25 lb. These are cut across the shank bone, about 1.5" thick, with a circle of muscle and fat surrounding the cross section of bone. My entire reason for including the shank is to get all the flavor and nutritional goodness from the bone. I select from what’s on the shelf for the largest bone available.
Stew beef, about 1 to 1.5 lb. I’ve used chuck and beef round, they both worked well.
Some cooking oil; I use avocado oil but take your pick.
1 small or medium onion, diced
Optional 4-8 oz. mushrooms, diced.
1/2 to 1 lb radishes. Trim the ends off, unless you prefer eating them. I prefer larger radishes for this because the centers will still have some body after some cooking, rather than the entire radish going soft.
Seasonings I use: Salt, any form of garlic - add to stew early, optional thyme, paprika, sage.
Suggested side dishes: broccoli or cauliflower.
I make this in a crock pot / slow cooker. I warm the meat in a saucepan with water before adding to the slow cooker - because the crock pot heats its contents very slowly; I don’t want to wait 2 hours just to bring the stew up to simmering temperature. This certainly can be made by any other suitable method, altering the times as needed.
Start the crock pot heating on high, to get it going while you prepare the meat.
Salt the shank slice on both sides. Cut it into stew size bits, leaving the bone separate, to be cooked along with the meat.
Salt the package of stew beef. Cut up the larger pieces if you’d rather have them being bite size.
Put the meat plus bone in a saucepan with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water (10-15 mm) and bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Turn the pieces so they change color all around. The aim is to get it all pretty warm or hot, so the slow cooker doesn’t have to work much to bring it all to a simmer. I usually keep a lid on the saucepan to keep the water from evaporating away.
Add the well warmed beef + bone + water to the crock pot.
The meat will release water into the pot while cooking.
If the water level is only 1/4 inch or so after adding the meat to the pot, consider adding a bit more HOT water. But remember the meat will release some water.
Add the garlic and and any other seasonings, and close the lid.
I use granulated garlic, but fresh crushed or any other form is fine.
Dice the onions and saute them in the oil.
Dice the mushrooms and add them after the onions start turning translucent.
Add some salt to the onion-mushroom mix, and saute them a bit more.
Add it - along with the saute oil - to the crock pot, and close the lid.
Once the crock pot is simmering, I turn mine down to "low’, which maintains the simmer.
30-60 minutes before serving, I add the radishes to the slow cooker. That means you have 3-4 hours or maybe more, after you put the meat + onions + mushrooms in the slow cooker, before you add the radishes.
Trim the ends off the radishes and bring them to a simmer in a saucepan with a bit of water. You’ll be adding the water to the stew, to preserve the flavor and nutrition. I use just enough water to get some steam going in the saucepan; I don’t want to dump a lot of water into the stew. Add the well warmed radishes to the stew. I usually boil the remaining water a bit to reduce it, before adding it to the stew.
Close the lid and let it simmer.
After 20 minutes, check the radishes periodically with a fork. Repeat checking till they are to your liking. I like them best when a fork goes in part way and meets some resistance. At that point, the radishes aren’t bitter any more, but they still have some body when you bite into them.
I like to give it five hours or more of simmering - that’s enough to extract the nutrition and flavor from the bone. At that point, the meat is well cooked, nicely softened.