You are here


Stew is a dish made by cooking solid food ingredients cooked in liquid and served with the resulting gravy. The ingredients used for stew are usually meat or fish and vegetables in stock like liquid. Meats used are of the tougher variety that is used for slow cooking. Beef is often used, while sausages, poultry and seafood are also used. Vegetables like carrots, potatoes, beans, peppers and tomatoes etc are used. The liquid for cooking stew may be water, wine, stock or beer. Seasonings can be added. Stew recipes are generally prepared by the slow cooking method, so that the flavors blend well.

Tough and least tender meat pieces become tender and juicy by slow cooking method adopted in stew recipes. For this reason cooking stew is a low cost dish to prepare. Meat having gelatinous connective tissue gives moist, juicy stews, while lean meat does not give the same desired effect. For thickening in stew recipes, the liquid may be allowed to simmer so that the liquid evaporates, or flour may be added. If using flour, the meat pieces can be coated with flour before searing, or a butter and flour mix (in equal parts) called roux or beurre manie can be used. Some stew recipes also use arrowroot or corn starch for thickening.

Stews are great to taste, and give off delicious aromas when cooking. They are a nutritious way of satisfying hunger. Stews require a good cast iron or non stick stockpot for cooking. There is no clear demarcation between soups and stews. Generally, stews are thicker than soups, and are cooked for longer periods of time. Stews may be served in bowls or even in a plate when the gravy is too thick, while soups are almost always served in bowls.

History of Stew

The history of stew recipes dates back to prehistoric times. The stew recipes can be found in as old as 8th to 4th century BC records. Stew recipe in those days consisted of animal flesh mixed with water was placed in an animal’s paunch, which was boiled over bone fire. The animal could be ox or any other sacrificial animal. There is also historical evidence that tribal people in the Amazon region boiled turtle flesh along with other ingredients in the shell of the turtle. People from other cultures are known to have used larger shells of animals like mollusks for their stew recipes. The Roman cookery book from the 4th Century also contains stew recipes which used lamb and fish. An old cookbook from France by the name of Le Viandier also contains information about stew recipes cooked at that time. There are also historical evidences of the prevalence of the stew recipes in Hungary and Ireland.

Types of Stew

Stews can be of numerous kinds, made of different kinds of ingredients and methods of cooking. One classification divides them into white stews and brown stews. White stews are also known as blanquettes or fricassees. They are made with lamb or veal meat which has been blanched or seared without browning, and cooked in stock. Brown stew recipe uses red meat that has first been browned. Browned flour, stock and wine are also added to it. Here are some of the many varied kinds of stews-

  • Booyah, an American meat stew
  • Caldeirada from Portugal, a stew recipe cooked with fish
  • Carnitas from Michoacán, Mexico, a stew recipe cooked with pork
  • Cassoulet from France, made of beans
  • Cawl, a Welsh stew, made with lamb and leeks
  • Chankonabe from Japan, a stew recipe flavored with soy sauce or miso. It is traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers.
  • Chicken stew made with whole chicken along with seasonings
  • Chicken paprikash made with chicken and paprika
  • Chili con carne from Mexico is made with meat and bean.
  • Chili sin carne from the United States of America is similar to Chili con carne, but containing no meat.
  • Chilorio from Sinaloa, Mexico, made with pork.
  • Cholent, a Jewish dish that is slow cooked.
  • Cochinita pibil from Yucatán, Mexico, a stew recipe cooked with pork.  Cotriade, from Brittany, a stew recipe with fish.  Gaisburger Marsch from Germany, made with beef.
  • Gheimeh from Iran, a stew recipe made with lamb and yellow peas.
  • Nihari from Pakistan, made with beef
  • Nikujaga from Japan, a stew made with beef and potato.
  • Ragout from France, containing a lot of seasonings.
  • Ratatouille from France, a stew recipe made with vegetables.
  • Sancocho , a stew recipe from the Caribbean

Stew Recipe: Beef Stew

With Red Wine The ingredients used for preparing this stew include beef (cut into cubes), all-purpose flour, ground cracked black, salt pork, celery stalks, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, dry red wine, tomato paste, quartered white potatoes, fresh parsley (chopped) and salt to taste. For making the stew, beef is seasoned with salt and pepper, and the pieces are lightly coated with flour. Pork fat is cooked in a heavy pot over medium flame till it renders its fat. The large pieces of pork fat are removed, and the beef pieces are browned in the remaining fat in the heavy pot. The browned beef is set aside. Now onion, garlic, carrot and celery are added to the pot and cooked till soft. Next bay leaves, tomato paste and red wine are added to this, and stirred to dissolve the tomato paste. Beef chunks are then added, and salt and pepper are added to taste. The pot is covered and the contents allowed to simmer for a couple of hours, till the meat is tender. Next, potatoes and remaining celery and carrots are added. The mixture is allowed to simmer again, till the potatoes are just cooked. The stew thus prepared is served in wide bowls and garnished with parsley.

Serving Stew

Stew is served in wide bowls. It may even be served in plates if it is too thick. It is served on its own or with simple side dishes such as rice pilaf or salad. It can also be paired with any vegetable or carbohydrate based dish. Beef stew can be served with any vegetable dish or a dish based on carbohydrates. Some people also prefer noodles as a side dish with or mixed in their stew.

Health Benefits of Stew

Stew is a health laden food. It contains meat which is rich in protein, amino acids and phosphorus. Phosphorus in meat is much more easily absorbable by the human body than that present in vegetarian dishes. The liquid content of stew, along with the herbs and spices used in stew recipes, and the warm temperature at which it is consumed, makes it very agreeable for the digestion system. It also has a heating effect on the body and is perfect food for cold winter days.