Crock-Pot® beef stew is a hearty dish containing chunks of meat and vegetables. In most recipes, the beef and vegetables are cut into small pieces, seasoned and placed in a slow cooker for several hours. Various types of liquid can be added to the stew to help boost flavor, including wine, broth and tomato juice. Flour or cornstarch may be used to thicken the stew during cooking. Crock-Pot® beef stew is something of a cold-weather meal and tends to be served more often during the fall and winter months than during the spring and summer months.
Many recipes for Crock-Pot® beef stew call for boneless cuts of meat such as chuck or round. These cuts can be purchased whole and cut into 1-inch (2.54 centimeters) cubes. Some grocery stores and butchers may sell stew meat that is pre-cut and intended for use in beef stew recipes. While these cuts may seem tough at first, the long cooking time helps break down the proteins and connective tissues within the beef and produces a tender, flavorful dish.
Along with the beef, vegetables are another key ingredient in a Crock-Pot® beef stew. Traditional recipes tend to call for onions, potatoes, carrots and celery, though some also add peas or mushrooms. Like the beef, the vegetables are cut into smaller, bite-size pieces for easier eating once the stew is done.
Before all of the ingredients are added to the Crock-Pot®, the beef is usually coated with flour and browned in a skillet. This step helps improve the final texture and appearance of the beef and ensures that the stew will thicken during the cooking process. Some recipes also may call for the onions and other vegetables to be cooked slightly before going into the pot.
Along with the beef and vegetables, Crock-Pot® beef stew must have some sort of liquid in which to cook. Some recipes may use water or beef broth as a base for the stew, while others call for the addition of red wine or tomato juice to help add flavor to the final dish. Crock-Pot® recipes may use slightly less liquid than recipes for stews made on the stovetop, because the Crock-Pot® helps seal in moisture during the cooking process.
Once the Crock-Pot® beef stew has been assembled, it is set to cook for several hours, depending on the recipe and temperature settings. Most recipes are cooked for four or five hours on the high setting or from eight to 10 hours on the low setting. After cooking, the beef and vegetables should be tender and flavorful. The stew often is served with some good bread or over rice.