Mother Nature can be schizophrenic in the spring and early summer. Sunny and warm one day, drizzly and damp the next. What’s a cook to do? Go for a classic, hearty dish that warms the should as tummy as well. Filled with chunks of top sirloin, carrots, tomatoes and herbs, this beef and vegetable stew is a favorite with my family and beef-eating clients.
Note – This recipe is updated from my original post in April of 2012 to today. As I read the post again, it’s still gray and raining outside and it’s June! In California we call it June Gloom. Still a good time for a hearty flavor-filled stew. See my new notes on beef broth and updates to the recipe.
Beef and Vegetable Stew: Save Time With a Pressure Cooker (or not)
Done in a pressure cooker, this beef and vegetable stew takes about 30 minutes instead of hours, getting dinner on the table fast. You can also make it 2-3 days ahead and refrigerate it or freeze it. Leftovers are good for lunch or to freeze for a future quick meal.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can make this the traditional way with just a few small edits to the directions. Don’t cook the carrots separately. Add the carrots and tomatoes to the pot, cover and simmer on low heat until the beef is done and the vegetables are tender. It will just take longer.
Beef stew recipes often use what is called stew meat; a cubed mix of tougher cuts sold at many meat counters. My choice for stew is the more tender top sirloin. I buy about a 2 pound piece and trim away any fat or tendon so that after trimming I have the full 1 1/2 pounds to cook with.
Beef Broth – What to Buy and What to Avoid
I used to make this beef and vegetable stew with Better Than Bullion. That was until I became a hawk at reading labels and understanding ingredients. All of the “broth base” type of products have very unhealthy ingredients, caramel coloring, high sodium, preservatives and a lot of stuff you don’t want to eat. If you have any of these products, throw them out. Use real beef broth.
Today there are good beef broth and beef bone broth options available. You may have to hunt for them and read a lot of labels, but find a good one and stock up. Some are shelf stable and other good quality ready-made options are in the freezer section. That means they are easy to keep on hand.
Read, read, read the labels. You may just stand there and shake your head as I have done many times. It’s awful what many companies put in their beef broth or beef stock. Super high sodium levels, sugar, molasses (more sugar), evaporated cane juice (sugar), honey (sugar), beef “flavor” (who knows what that really is), potato flour (in broth?).
Most of the boxed stuff is pretty bad. And yes, higher quality bone broths do cost more, but they taste better and are better for you.
A product I have relied on for years is Stock Options. Find it in the freezer section of better markets. One new to the market product that looks good is Kettle & Fire Bone Broth (low sodium) available for a good price on ThriveMarket.com
Why no sodium. First, because that is how you make real homemade broth. Never with salt, so that you control the amount of sodium that goes into your final dish. It’s especially important if you plan to reduce the broth by half for bigger flavor, as reducing a broth with high sodium really increases the sodium in the final dish.
And as you read labels, make sure the ingredients all sound real. If the label says “all natural” don’t believe it. That means nothing.
About Pressure Cookers
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it’s a worthwhile addition to your kitchen. When not being used as a pressure cooker, it works like any other pot. When you feel the need for speed, the lid can be locked on and the time it takes to cook soups, stews, rice, beans and many other dishes is greatly reduced. In a time-starved cooking schedule, a pressure cooker can be your best friend.
Prep Work and Cooking
Trim your meat into large chunks, about 1 ¼’. Trim off any extra fat. Brown the meat and set aside. Cook onion, celery and garlic until soft. Add red wine and reduce. Add herbs, spices, broth and browned beef. Lock the lid on and bring to high pressure. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow the pressure to drop naturally. This will take just a few minutes. For the carrots, I find when they are cooked with the meat they get too soft and almost fall apart. Cook them in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes while the stew is cooking. Drain and add the carrots after the stew is done. For the tomatoes, they disintegrate in the pressure cooker, so I add them with the carrots at the end. They retain more of their shape and warm quickly when being added to the piping hot stew.
Serve in a bowl by itself (paleo) or over whole wheat pasta or brown rice noodles for gluten free. Finish with a little fresh parsley for a nice shot of green color and fresh flavor.
Equipment note – I use Fagor pressure cookers. You will need at least a 6 quart model. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3 days or can be frozen.
- Fagor 6 quart pressure cooker
- Fagor 8 quart pressure cooker
- Fagor 3-in-1 6-Quart Multi-Cooker for pressure cooking, slow cooking and rice cooking
- Laura writes a terrific blog filled with recipes and tips for pressure cooking, Hip Pressure Cooking.
- More pressure cooker recipes from A Food Centric Life: Perfect Cheesecake and French Market Vegetable Beef Soup
- A good tool to have for shopping – Chemical Cuisine mobile app for iPhone and Android available at CSPI