Tender beef that falls apart, rich ale broth and hearty vegetables make this steak and ale stew the perfect dinner for a winter night.
Beef and ale stew is a winter classic. It's hearty and rich and truly makes the most of British produce. And this one may be the best (and easiest) one you make this winter.
I've always been a big lover of long slow-cooked stews whether they be made in a slow cooker or on the hob in a Dutch oven. This beef stew with cheddar scones is a big favourite. Also, this slow cooker cottage pie is constantly on repeat all winter long, too.
- Ruby red ale- any dark or amber ale will work.
- Beef brisket- this joint is perfect for slow cooking.
- Tomato puree
- Bay leaves
- Beef stock cubes
- Plain flour
See recipe card for quantities.
It's always helpful to be able to go through a recipe and have a visual reference for each stage of the cooking process. Below you'll find all the tips and tricks for making the perfect steak and ale stew.
Step 1 & 2- Cutting the beef brisket
- This recipe uses a large single joint of beef brisket because it has a great fat to meat ratio and as the beef cooks, the fat breaks down and adds so much flavour to the stew.
- It's really important to cut the beef across the grain so that you can achieve the most tender beef. As you can see from the photo below, the fibres of the beef run left to right so in order to cut across the grain you need to cut top to bottom and be sure to season it well.
Step 3 & 4- Browning the beef and building flavour
Heat the oil in the Dutch oven and sear the beef on all sides so it's a very deep golden brown. This creates the Maillard reaction. Use a paper towel to dry off the beef before searing.
The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavour. Seared steaks, fried dumplings, cookies and other kinds of biscuits, breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction.Wikipedia
You may need to brown the beef in batches so that it doesn't steam due to an overcrowded pot. Once all the beef has browned, add in the diced onion and the celery and carrots.
Step 5 & 6- Thickening the stewing liquid
Add in the flour and tomato puree before the ale and stock. This helps to cook out the raw flour and mellow out the tomato flavour. These also help to thicken the liquid. I prefer to start this process at the beginning so that you only need to make minor adjustments towards the end.
Finishing the stew
Pour in the ale, beef stock and bay leaf. Bring everything to a high simmer and turn the heat down. Cover the stew with the pot lid and let gently simmer for about 4 hours until the beef is falling apart and the stew is thick.
Hint: The pot lid should be a match for the pot so that the broth doesn't evaporate while the stew simmers. This cast-iron Dutch oven is amazing and I swear by it!
Because the ingredients are so simple for this recipe you probably won't need to make any substitutions. But if there's anything you can't find then you can always try these common substitutions.
- Ale - instead of using the ruby ale you can try something like a stout (Guiness is a stout) because it has an even stronger flavour.
- Beef - as mentioned above, I love brisket for it's fat to meat ratio but you can very easily use diced cubes of stewing beef.
- Potatoes - I prefer to make this stew without potatoes and serve it over buttery mash, but you can absolutely add in some cubed potatoes in the last 30-45 minutes of cooking.
This beef and ale stew is so adaptable and you can really use your creativity here. So below are a couple of options that you could try.
- Spicy - add in some worcestershire sauce and English mustard to give the whole stew a little kick.
- Deluxe - add in mushrooms and bacon lardons while you saute the onions and garlic.
- Kid friendly - the alcohol in the ale cooks out during the simmering process, but if you're concerned you can skip it and use extra beef stock.
- Extra veggies - add in some parsnips, turnip or even some butternut squash. Not traditional additions, but still delicious and worth trying.
Equipment can have a big impact on how a recipe turns out. The use of cast iron in this and all stew recipes is great because it retains its temperature so well. That means that you will achieve a gentle simmer for the whole 4 hours without needing to adjust the hob.
A great cooks knife to trim and dice that beef and a sturdy chopping board are all really great tools to have in the kitchen for all recipes but they specifically make this recipe much easier to pull off.
As everyone knows stew is always better on the second day. And this one is no different. Cool the stew before placing it in the fridge in airtight containers for up to 3 days.
Stew always freezes well, too. A great tip is to cook some extra veggies on the side because the veggies in the stew can tend to need a little help after being frozen and reheated.
Take your time browning the beef. It is the crucial key to a good stew. And don't be afraid of getting your pan very hot. Turn on your extraction fan to help with the smoke. And be sure to use vegetable oil with a high smoke point. A sunflower or vegetable oil is perfect.
Rich and Hearty Beef And Ale Stew
- 1 kg (2 ⅕ lb) beef brisket
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil
- 1 (1) large onion, diced
- 3 cloves (3 cloves) garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) fresh rosemary chopped
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) fresh thyme leaves
- 2 (2) medium carrots, peeled and chopped *see notes
- 3 (3) sticks celery, chopped
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) flour
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) tomato puree
- 300 ml (1 ⅕ cups) dark ruby ale
- 400 ml (1 ⅗ cups) beef stock, made with a stock cube
- 1 (1) bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Worcestershire sauce
- Using a sharp knife cut across the grain of the beef brisket and dry the cubes with a paper towel. Season well with salt. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven and sear the beef on all sides until all the pieces are a very deep golden brown. You may need to brown the beef in batches. *see notes so that it doesn't steam due to an overcrowded pot.
- Once all the beef has browned remove it to a plate or bowl and add in the diced onion, garlic, celery, carrots, thyme and rosemary. As the onions sweat, they will release moisture. Use that to help scrape all the golden brown bits of beef on the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the flour and tomato puree. This helps to cook out the raw flour and mellow out the tomato flavour. These also help to thicken the liquid. Add the beef back to the pan.
- Deglaze the pan by pouring in the ale, beef stock and bay leaf. Give the bottom of the pan another scrape with a wooden spoon and bring everything to a high simmer and turn the heat down. Cover the stew with the pot lid and let gently simmer for about 4 hours until the beef is falling apart and the stew is thick.
- You may need to brown the beef in batches so that it doesn't steam due to an overcrowded pot.
- The carrots and celery should be cut in half lengthways then chopped to ½ the length of your index finger.
Most of these food safety tips are things that we do without even thinking. But sometimes it's helpful to have a little reminder.
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Turn on the extractor fan when searing foods to control the smoke.
See more guidelines at https://www.food.gov.uk/.