Stew meat is a go-to for families on a budget. It can be used in a variety of recipes from stew to enchiladas. Here’s how to cook it into a delicious dinner.
Beef stew meat is an economical cut of beef. It can be used for a variety of meals, not just beef stew. You can really stretch your budget by using stew meat to cook a multitude of dishes like beef stroganoff with egg noodles, enchiladas, beef paprikash, chili, slow cooker pepper steak, and beef stew (of course!)
As a basic rule of thumb, it can be used in any recipe that calls for chopping up and braising chuck or round roast. Instead of the chuck or round, simply swap in an equal weight of stew meat. It’s really that easy!
What is stew meat?
Did you know if you look at a beef chart, there isn’t a cut of beef labeled “stew meat.” The term “stew meat” is used to describe meat that is cut into cubes and packaged together. It can come from a variety of different cuts, like chuck, round or sirloin. Essentially, it’s trimmings of certain primal cuts.
A very high-level overview of the process is, when a whole beef is being butchered, there’s always some leftover (or trimmings) that aren’t quite big enough to turn into roasts. The trimmings are cut into cubes, packaged together, and labeled as stew meat.
How to cook stew meat
When cooking beef, it’s important to match the cut of beef with the correct cooking method. Some beef cuts are ideal for quick-cooking, like grilling, and others need slow-cooking methods, like stewing.
Stew meat comes from areas on the cow that are well-worked muscles, like the shoulder, leg and rump. These areas full of collagen-rich connective tissue so the cuts are tougher, but they also have fat and marbling for flavor. By cooking these cuts for a long time in liquid, proteins in the connective tissues break down into a gelatin that keeps the meat moist and tender. If you try and cook it quickly, it will be very tough.
Comparatively, tender cuts of beef, like tenderloin and ribeye, are ideal for quick-cooking methods like grilling for a short period of time. Because these cuts are already soft, cooking them for long periods of time will dry them out and make them chewy.
How to make beef stew meat tender?
The secret to making beef stew tender is the cook time. As explained above, certain cuts, like chuck, get more tender as they cook. If you’re using chuck and the beef isn’t tender enough, simply keep cooking until it is tender.
What kind of meat do you use for beef stew? Is beef stew meat the same as beef chuck?
Since stew meat is beef cut into cubes, you can either buy it pre-packaged or make your own.
If you decide to make your own — cut a roast into cubed meat — there are five cuts of beef that we recommend for stew meat. As we’ve already mentioned, all of these cuts are from well-worked muscles that are full of collagen-rich connective tissue. As the beef cooks low and slow, the collagen melts into the beef, and the meat will become more tender as it cooks.
- Chuck – Chuck is from the animal’s shoulder. It’s our favorite choice for stew meat because it has good marbling, which makes it very flavorful, and it’s an economical cut. If you’re looking for stew meat and can’t find it prepackaged, you can purchase a chuck roast and cut it into pieces. You’ll be very happy that you did.
- Round – Round is a lean and inexpensive cut. It’s found at the cow’s rump and hind legs, so it’s tough with low fat.
- Sirloin – Sirloin cuts are taken from the back of the cow, behind the ribs. The sirloin cut is typically more expensive than a chuck, and for that reason, it’s not as popular for stew meat.
- Brisket – Did you know you can make amazing stews with brisket? The brisket is the steer’s breast. Brisket is usually tough and contains a substantial amount of fat. Cook it low and slow and it melts in your mouth.
- Oxtail – Oxtail is from the tail of the cow. They have a very high fat content, and lots of gelatin in the bone. Many people avoid cooking oxtail because of the cut of beef makes them squeamish and because of the price. Oxtail is expensive because of limited availability — after all, there’s only one oxtail on an animal.
Are stew meat and kabob meat similar?
You may have noticed that stew meat and kabob meat often look very similar in their packaging. The reason for this is because they’re both trimmings. Stew meat comes from trimmings from the roast and chuck section. Kabob meat is trimming from primal cuts like sirloin. If you do a side-by-side comparison of the two, you’ll see that kabob meat is usually larger chunks of meat.
Stew Meat Recipes: What can I make with stew meat, other than beef stew?
You can use stew meat in any recipe that calls for chuck or round roast and that braises the meat in liquid for a period of time. If you decide to adjust a recipe you’ve found, simply swap in the beef in the equal weight. Here are a few of our favorite stew meat recipes to make with stew meat:
Easy Beef Stew Recipe
Yes, we know this blog post has been talking about dishes you can make with stew meat other than stew, but we had to start with this classic beef stew recipe. This is a go-to, comfort food recipe in our house in the fall. This beef stew meat recipe is great with a variety of different root vegetables, so don’t be afraid to try something other than carrots, onions and potatoes. Other great veggies are celery, parsnips and sweet potatoes. Get the recipe for Easy Beef Stew
Stuffed Pepper Soup
If you like traditional stuffed bell peppers, this soup is for you. It has all the same flavors, but instead of stuffing individual peppers, you put all the ingredients in one pot and make comforting soup. Get the recipe for Stuffed Pepper Soup
When you braise a large piece of meat for hours it gets so tender that it falls apart when you stick a fork in it. So, if you shred that tender meat, it’s ideal for beef enchiladas. Whether you’re making a weeknight family dinner or cooking for guests, this beef enchilada recipe is always a hit. It’s full of flavor and easy to make with either ground beef or any left-over chuck roast you happen to have on hand. Get the recipe for Beef Enchilada Recipe
Yes, beef chili can absolutely be made with ground beef. But you can also upgrade the beef flavor by using stew meat. Everyone has their own favorite chili recipe, and we’ve never found a recipe you can’t swap stew meat in for. Just be sure to slowly simmer the it with spices and beans. After a couple of hours, it’ll be succulent and tender. Get the recipe for Three Bean Crockpot Chili
Slow Cooker Pepper Steak
Typically, when we make pepper steak on the stove top we use sirloin or flank steak. However, when making pepper steak in a slow cooker, you can substitute stew meat because it has a chance to cook longer in liquid. We don’t recommend using stew meat in the stovetop version of this recipe, but it works in a slow cooker. Get the recipe for Slow Cooker Pepper Steak
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One more thing!
Do you want to learn more about beef? Join our weekly e-newsletter where we share farm happenings, recipes and beef availability. Sign-up and get a cheat sheet with 9-must-ask questions before buying beef directly from a farmer. Or, we have an entire ebook about beef that goes through purchasing and preparing beef from a cattle farmers perspective.
Here are a few other links you may like:
- What everybody ought to know about beef cuts
- Buying a Cow. How Much Beef Is It?
- 7 Steps to Grilling a Steak to Perfection
- How We Raise Our Grass Fed Beef
- Bonfire Burger
- Prime Rib Roast with Garlic Herb Butter
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