Simple slow-cooker beef stew (no meat browning)

I realize this is not very timely.  It's Spring - finally been feeling that way too, although it's cooling down again as we head into the weekend - and I'm posting a beef stew recipe (on a baking blog, no less)!  Well, I think this stew is light enough to enjoy even in the Spring and personally, I want to keep this in my archives and share it with you because it's a simple and delicious slow-cooker recipe.  So let's go on another little savory interlude today...
Beef and tomato stew made in the slow cooker, served with farro
I adapted this recipe from one of those old issues of Everyday Food that I talked about recently (there are tons of great recipes in there).  What I love about it is that it makes a big pot of flavorful, somewhat lighter, beef stew without a lot of work.  I sweat some vegetables in a pan before placing it into my slow cooker but you don't need to brown the meat!  I was skeptical until I tried it and I can tell you after making this twice now that it is really good stuff!
 
My husband loves beef stew and when I think about using my slow-cooker more often, I always think that I'd like to find a good beef stew recipe.  The one thing I really don't like about making it is browning the meat.  Recently, I saw something promising in a magazine from America's Test Kitchen.  It featured a slow-cooker beef stew recipe that didn't require browning the meat as well.  Theirs was a somewhat more intricate process (if I'm not mistaken, there was a foil pouch of potatoes sitting on top of the stew involved) but I recall them explaining that adding certain ingredients like soy sauce helped "beef up" the flavor when not browning the meat. 
Fork tender meat after 6 hours on high in the slow cooker
This recipe I worked from didn't call for soy sauce but I took some of those suggestions I'd read and tweaked the recipe by added a few extra things.  There are no potatoes in this stew, which lightens it up, and the heavy focus is on the tender meat as well as onions and carrots that's cooked down with crushed tomatoes and other flavorings I threw in. 

Long story short, if you have a slow-cooker and like beef stew, I highly recommend this!

Okay, it's more than a little weird to see chunks of beef on a baking blog but that's obviously the star of this post today.  I used 2 lbs. of chuck meat, cut into roughly 1-inch cubes.  Trim away excess fat or ask the butcher for the leaner pieces, like I did.  I lightly salt and pepper the meat.
The other component of the stew is the vegetables.  I omitted the celery in this recipe and substituted it for more carrots.  I'm not a fan of celery unless it's cooked way down like in a soup.  I actually wouldn't mind it in this scenario but I'm reluctant to buy a bag of celery only to use a few stalks and have leftovers in the fridge.  If you like it, you can certainly use it.

I sweated 2 medium-size onions and about 6 carrots in a pan for about 10 minutes before transferring it to my slow cooker.
On top of the vegetables, add the meat, 4 cloves of crushed garlic, as well as one 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes.  Looking into my pantry for inspiration, I also threw in a teaspoon of dried thyme, one dried bay leaf, as well as about a tablespoon of soy sauce and rice vinegar.  You could also add some red pepper flakes or other herbs you like.
I gently blend the ingredients together, then set the slow-cooker to cook on High for 6 hours.  Stir occasionally and by the end of 6 hours, not only will your house smell wonderful but you will have a pot of tender and flavorful beef stew.  Just before serving, I stir in 2 cups of thawed peas (the petite kind are my favorite).

You'll find a good amount of liquid in the pot after the cooking period but it does thicken as it sits.  I find the extra sauce great "insurance" for when I need to keep the stew on "warm" for a while before dinner (no one wants dry beef stew).

We like to eat this with a side of quick-cooking (10-minute) farro from Trader Joe's; it'd be great with any type of grain.  For a heartier meal, you could serve it with noodles or mashed potatoes (which I like to make with just milk for a lighter version) since there are no potatoes in this stew.


Recipe:

Slow-Cooker Beef and Tomato Stew
Adapted from the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Everyday Food (The "Light" Issue)

- Serves 6 -

2 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch rounds
1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce*
Dash of worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
2 cups frozen peas, thawed

*Note: Ingredients listed after garlic are items I choose to add.  You can omit or make adjustments as it suits you.

Lightly season the beef with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add onion and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a 5 or 6-quart slow-cooker and add the beef, tomatoes, broth, garlic, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, vinegar, thyme, and the bay leaf.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Cover and cook on high, 6 hours, stirring occasionally.  About 5 minutes before stew is done, stir in the peas (or if not eating the stew right away, add peas just before serving and turn the slow-cooker on high for 5 minutes to warm the peas through).  Remove bay leaf before serving, and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Stew can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Approximate Nutritional information: Listed as 486 calories per serving (served with rice); 19g fat (7g sat fat), 47 g carb.
 
 

22 comments:

  1. The weather is definitely hay-wired these days! Comforting recipe :)

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    1. Yes - I just need some meat sometimes. It's hearty but not too heavy.

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  2. I am always up for a good slow cooker recipe. This looks simple and delicious - perfection!

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    1. Thanks, Marie! I got my slow cooker many years ago but barely used it. I'm finally dusting it off and taking advantage of it, and very glad for it!

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  3. Yay for sharing! I love what you added to the recipe. The soy sauce addition is intriguing! As for the seasonality...oh well. When you want something, you don't always care about the season/weather. I remember for my husband's birthday (end of July) during our 2nd year of dating...we were in the middle of a huge heat wave (100 degrees and up) without air-conditioning (most people don't have it here) and he asked for a steak dinner--the kind you cook in an oven. We were sweating, but enjoyed it anyway! I even baked a cake.

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    1. Hi Alyssa! You definitely inspired me to post these couple of savory dishes. I don't know how you do it - posts for desserts seem much easier!

      I thought the soy sauce thing was interesting, too. I guess it's like that whole mushroom theory sort of contributing the same meaty flavor. I probably didn't use enough to make a difference but I didn't want to over-do it and make it too salty.

      I definitely still bake and eat hearty foods during the winter... *but* I have to admit it's done with air conditioning! : )

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  4. you had me with "no meat browning"! Honestly, who can figure out what to cook right now, as one minute it's shorts-and-tee weather and the next i'm wearing my sweaters again, right? This looks lovely for a chilly day, spring or not. :)

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    1. Hi Shannon - Spring weather is definitely unpredictable! The only consistent seasonal food I can claim to want without a doubt is ice cream in the summer. Wait, wait...I also want it in the spring, fall, and winter! ; )

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  5. Oh my goodness, I really need to buy a slow cooker. This looks fantastic!!

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    1. Love slow cookiers! I really wanted to use mine more often. It's so nice to have a big pot of food waiting for you at night...plus, it usually makes the house smell so delicious!

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  6. I wish my husband liked beef...you've totally got me craving beef stew! Yours looks like a great version and serving it with farro on the side sounds amazing!!!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! My husband and the little guy are both big on meat and beef. I love farro and this one from Trader Joe's that cooks in about 10 minutes is so easy and I just love that texture.

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  7. That meat looks so tender and since we're still having a few cool days - this is going on the menu! Thanks :)

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    1. I was a little worried about how tender the meat would be cooked on high even at 6 hours...and without browning...but it came out wonderfully tender and moist. Hope you enjoy it! : )

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  8. I make beef stew at least once a month, it's such a good meal and makes for great leftovers. I would love to try your recipe out, and thank goodness for no beef browning haha.

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    1. I need to do that, too. I've discovered taht leftovers are the best thing ever. : ) This recipe is filling without being heavy. Hope you give it a try!

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  9. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! The part I hate too is browning meat when I make stew. It spatters EVERYWHERE and the clean-up sucks! This is going on my to-make list Monica. Pinning! :)

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    1. lol! I can relate, Anne! The splatter(not to mention the lingering smell after...) is my least favorite. I hope you like it if you try it. I made it twice so far and plan to keep it in my rotation, particularly in the cooler months.

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  10. Monica! So funny, I was just looking online for a slow cooker beef stew recipe that doesn't require browning the meat, and look whose blog I came across ;) And I even see that I commented on how amazing this looked way back when you made it! Little did I know that two years later I'd need to use a slow cooker to get anything done with a baby around, haha. Anyway, I'm commenting specifically because I have a question! For me the point of not browning the meat is not having to cook anything...but you sweat the veggies. Do you think that step could be left out and just put raw veggies in instead??

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    1. Hi Amy!! Hope you and family are well, especially the baby! : )
      It's funny because I was just thinking about making this. I've made it a couple times and rule-follower that I am, I've always sweated the veggies. That said, I have no doubt that you can do it without cooking the veggies first (would not be a big issue if we had an insert that works on the stove) like in many other recipes! I would go rogue and try it!

      I made pot roast for Halloween dinner in slow cooker the night before. I use one of Martha's recipes and there is no browning of anything. It's this: http://www.marthastewart.com/313619/slow-cooker-pot-roast I like this recipe a lot; doesn't look very pretty but tasty. Also making this tomorrow: http://www.marthastewart.com/1087458/classic-pot-roast
      And lastly...have you tried this?? http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2015/02/oven-braised-beef-with-tomatoes-and-garlic/ It is sooo good! : )

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    2. Hehe, k, i'll give it a shot! Thanks for the other links...gonna check 'em out now :)

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    3. Hi again, Amy! Just wanted to tell you I made this stew today and did not brown the veggies first. I cannot tell the difference so go ahead and skip that step. : )

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