Sunday Best Beef Stew has tender cubes of beef in a rich gravy with onions, potatoes, carrots, and celery. It's the perfect comfort food for cold dreary days.
After a few simple steps of searing the beef and making the gravy, this old-fashioned beef stew recipe is stew is simmered low and slow on the stovetop. That long, slow simmer makes this classic dish savory and rich.
I like to serve it with biscuits or dinner rolls. But you can also serve it with plain saltine crackers crumbled in the bottom of the bowl under the stew.
Once you've made Sunday Best Beef Stew, it will be your favorite one-dish supper!
This chunky beef stew is a cozy, comforting dish just right for cold drizzly days, when you want something on the back of the stove simmering away that does not need tending every few minutes.
A long slow simmer will let you spend quality time with family, catch up on chores, or read, and it scents the whole house with delicious, savory home-cooked goodness.
But, making a good beef stew takes time. Not so much prep time and standing over the stove time…but cooking time. There are some dishes that really benefit from long slow cooking.
Like tomato-based pasta sauces and pot roast, beef stew is one of those dishes. Unfortunately, our lives have gotten so busy in these times, Sunday is often the only day we have that we can afford the time of a long slow-cooked meal.
About This Recipe
So, just in time for this Sunday, let’s talk stew. I love my stew recipe. Not just because it is delicious, but because when I make it, I make it because I love my family and friends. I want them to know I love them by making something that takes time because for me time & care spent = love.
Now, it does take more than love to make a good dish… so let me share with you my secrets to making the best beef stew!
Three Secrets to Making the Best Beef Stew
- DRY THE BEEF. You must dry the beef cubes with a towel before seasoning them and dredging them in flour. This was my Mom’s rule… and she was right. You get the best caramelization if you dry your meat first.
- USE A GRAVY & SAUCE FLOUR. Since the meat is dredged in flour, this stew’s sauce will thicken as it cooks and reduces. So, you should not need to add additional thickeners. For this reason, I especially love using Wondra flour for the dredge. If you haven’t used it before, please give it a try. It makes the loveliest gravies and sauces.
- ALLOW TIME. This stew takes no less than 3 ½ hours to make and I typically plan for a 4-hour cook.
I would love to attribute this recipe to someone special in my past. But, I honestly don’t remember where I got the original basic recipe.
It could have been a neighbor, or a very old cookbook belonging to my Mom. I only know this is the same recipe I’ve used to make beef stew for about the last 50 years.
The only change I’ve made to it is I buy the beef stock and do not make it myself anymore. The ones in the soup aisle are so very good now.
So, let's cook!
Here's What You Need For the Beef and Gravy: (pssst! This beef stew is made without wine!)
- Beef Stew Meat - The best meat for beef stew is cubes of beef that are cut from the chuck, like chuck steak or chuck roast. Most grocers have prepackaged already cut chuck meat cut into cubes. But I generally cut the cubes into smaller cubes.
- Salt - Just plain iodized salt is best to use.
- Wondra Flour - This special sauce and gravy flour will make a smooth gravy.
- Safflower Oil - I prefer safflower oil, which has a high smoking point and lets me get a good sear on the beef. But you can use any neutral-flavored cooking oil that also has a high smoking point.
- Yellow Onion - One large sweet yellow onion is all you need. I like to use Vidalia or Maui onions, but any type of yellow onion will have a sweet, mild flavor.
- Brown Sugar - This gives the gravy notes of caramel flavor that go very well with the beef. You only need a little and you can use light or dark brown sugar.
- Tomato Paste - Tomato paste deepens the flavor of the sauce and adds acidity that helps the meat become tender.
- Worcestershire Sauce - One word... Umami! Worcestershire sauce brings that "something extra" that makes the stew gravy delicious.
- Bay Leaf - A dried bay leaf is what is added to most stewed and braised beef dishes. This herb is very good with beef.
- Beef Stock - I prefer to control the amount of salt and add salt to my taste. So I prefer to use a "No Salt Added" or "Low Sodium" beef stock.
- Black Pepper - Freshly Ground Black Pepper is piquant, and flowery, and has more flavor notes than pre-ground black pepper which will taste only hot and spicy.
Plus You Will Also Need These Vegetables:
- Small Golden Potatoes - The best potatoes for beef stew are new potatoes. Fresh, small golden potatoes are my favorite. But you can also use other new potato varieties like red or white. Save your russet potatoes for baking as they will break down too much and not hold their shape when cooked in a stew.
- Carrots - Fresh carrots that are peeled or scraped are then cut into large 1-inch chunks. This makes a very hearty stew.
- Celery - Clean the celery well and cut it also in 1-inch pieces. It adds a bright flavor to the stew.
Please see the recipe card for the exact quantities.
Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Make The Best Beef Stew
Dry and Dredge the Beef. Remove the beef from the packaging and dry well with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. Drying the meat is essential to get good caramelization during the searing of the meat. Sprinkle meat with salt and Wondra Flour, coating all sides. Shake off excess flour.
Brown the Beef and Onion. In a large Dutch oven heat the safflower oil over medium heat. When oil is shimmering add cubes of dredged beef in batches, turning and browning until all sides are a rich golden brown. Remove the beef from the Dutch oven and add onion wedges. Cook the onion until slightly brown and translucent.
Make the Gravy Base. Add brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaf. Stir well and add beef stock. Return the browned beef to the Dutch oven, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 2 hours.
Add the Vegetables. Add the carrots and simmer for 30 minutes. Next, add the potatoes and simmer for another 15 minutes. Lastly, add the celery and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender.
It is very important to add the vegetables in stages. The carrots take the longest to cook and the celery the least. By adding them in stages you get the best flavor of each veggie.
Serve. Remove the bay leaf, serve, and enjoy!
Substitutions & Variations
Add Red Wine. Add 1 cup of good dry red wine to the pan after cooking the onion. Red wine adds wonderful flavor and it has some acidity that helps make the meat tender.
Always use a wine you like to drink and don't use "cooking wine". Good choices are single varietals or blended wines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, zinfandel, and of course Bordeaux.
Add Fresh Thyme. Thyme goes very well with beef and with bay leaves. If thyme is an herb you like add a small bundle of fresh thyme when you add the bay leaf.
Substitute Balsamic Vinegar. Instead of using brown sugar, you can substitute balsamic vinegar. It will add both sweetness and acidity to the stew.
You can use any large Dutch oven for this recipe. Metal pots of stainless steel, cast iron, and enameled cast iron are good choices as long as the pot has tall sides and a lid.
However, do not use cast iron if you add wine to the stew. Wine simmered for a long time in cast iron that is not enameled will remove the seasoning from the pot.
Make-Ahead & Storage
Actually, this Sunday Best Beef Stew is better the day after you make it, when all of the ingredients have had time to blend. So, you can make it in advance.
It will also keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 weeks.
More Delicious Main Dishes
Sunday Best Beef Stew
- 3 Pounds Beef Stew Meat, Cut in ¾” Cubes
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- ¼ Cup Wondra Flour, Sauce and Gravy Flour
- ¼ Cup Safflower Oil
- 1 Large Sweet Yellow Onion, Peeled, Cut in Half and each Half Cut into 6 Wedges
- 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Quart Beef Stock, No Salt Added or Low Sodium
- ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper, Freshly Ground
- 3 Cups Carrots, Peeled and Cut in 1” Chunks
- 3 Cups Small Golden or Red Potatoes, Quartered
- 1 ½ Cups Celery, Cut in 1” Chunks
- Dry and Dredge the Beef. Remove the beef from the packaging and dry well with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. Drying the meat is essential to get good caramelization during the searing of the meat. Sprinkle meat with salt and Wondra Flour, coating all sides. Shake off excess flour.3 Pounds Beef Stew Meat, 1 Teaspoon Salt, ¼ Cup Wondra Flour
- Brown the Beef and Onion. In a large Dutch oven heat the safflower oil over medium heat. When oil is shimmering add cubes of dredged beef in batches, turning and browning until all sides are a rich golden brown. Remove the beef from the Dutch oven and add onion wedges. Cook the onion until slightly brown and translucent.¼ Cup Safflower Oil, 1 Large Sweet Yellow Onion
- Make the Gravy Base. Add brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaf. Stir well and add beef stock. Return the browned beef to the Dutch oven, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 2 hours. The stock should be reduced approximately by half. Taste and add additional salt, if needed. Add finely ground black pepper, if desired.1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar, 2 Tablespoon Tomato Paste, 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce, 1 Bay Leaf, 1 Quart Beef Stock, ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
- Add the Vegetables. Add the carrots and simmer for 30 minutes. Next, add the potatoes and simmer for another 15 minutes. Lastly, add the celery and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender.It is very important to add the vegetables in stages. The carrots take the longest to cook and the celery the least. By adding them in stages you get the best flavor of each veggie.3 Cups Carrots, 3 Cups Small Golden or Red Potatoes, 1 ½ Cups Celery
- Serve. Remove the bay leaf, serve, and enjoy!
Encharted Cook Notes
Per 1 serving. All nutritional information on this site is an estimate. Your results may vary.