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Tender Beef Stew in a Slow Cooker

The other day, I received a great question from an old skating friend. I feel it’s a question and answer worth sharing.

“I like making beef stew for my family in the slow cooker (Crock-Pot). However, I find that even when I buy Angus stewing beef, it doesn’t turn out tender. I have tried low heat, adding the meat for the last hour — nothing seems to work. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.”

Making tender beef stew in a slow cooker comes down to 3 things: cut of beef, timing, and temperature.

  • A well-marbled cut of beef is best. If the meat is too lean, it won’t end up tender and moist. Look for a cut of beef from the chuck: blade, boneless bottom blade, and cross rib, are great choices. If you’re unsure, just ask your butcher; I’ve never met a butcher who doesn’t love to give meat advice (right Johnny!).
  • Cut your own stewing beef cubes. Trim the surface fat off the meat and then cut it into cubes. The smaller the cubes are cut (½- to 1-inch pieces), the faster the stew will cook. Larger stewing cubes (1½- to 2-inch pieces) will take longer to cook, and therefore will give the stew a more developed flavour. Try to avoid precut stewing beef, as the cubes are not consistent in size, and won’t cook evenly.
  • The beef is done when it can be cut with a fork – fork tender! For beef to become tender in a slow cooker, it will need a minimum of 8 to 10 hours onlow. If your cubes of beef are small, start checking meat doneness at the 6-hour mark; no sooner, or you’ll loose the heat in the slow cooker.

Beef Cuts