Ingredient substitutions and directions (particularly the two-stage beef
cooking) from On Food and Cooking by McGee.
3 to 3½ pounds chuck roast, excess fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
3 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
2 cups (16 fl. oz) stout beer, or more to cover ingredients in Dutch oven
2 cups beef broth, or more to cover ingredients in Dutch oven
6 oz tomato paste (1 can)
⅓ cup maple syrup, preferably dark
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
Chuck roast may be substituted with fore-shank. You need a cut with a
significant amount of tough connective tissue, which will come from the neck,
shoulders, chest or front limbs of the steer.
The terminology is intimidating. The chuck is the shoulder of the steer.
A chuck roast is a larger cut of meat that comes from the chuck (as
opposed to chuck steaks).
At the market/butcher, you may find chuck roll roasts or chuck eye roll
roasts. These are just various parts of the chuck, and can be used.
Trimming excess fat is non-optional. It will either melt into the stew and
congeal on the surface at serving time, or present flabs of fat which are
unpleasant to eat.
Cutting into large (between 1½ to 2-inch) chunks is non-optional. Smaller
chunks will have more surface area through which moisture can escape, thus
drying the beef.
Carrots, parsnips and potatoes may be substituted with any root vegetables,
such as turnips or rutabaga.
Peeling is non-optional. Skins will not soften like the rest of the
vegetable, and will result in a fibrous, clingy coating around the main
part of the vegetable, which is unpleasant.
Rosemary and thyme may be substituted or supplemented with any herb high in
antioxidants, such as oregano, sage or bay leaves. This minimizes the
warmed-over flavor in the beef which results from refrigerating the stew.
Using herb sprigs is strongly preferred to using loose herbs (they do not
need to be fresh, but you will have a hard time finding sprigs of dried
herbs, which is a happy coincidence). Loose herbs will float on the surface
of the stew and provide an irregularly spiky, chewy texture, which is
A good alternative is to use an herb bag (a tea bag will do fine), and
remove it after cooking.
Stout beer is non-optional and non-substitutable. Guinness is a good choice.
Season the beef with salt, and dust with flour. Sear in vegetable oil in a
hot pan, working in batches if necessary.
Deglaze the pan with beef broth. Add everything except the parsnips (beef,
the rest of the vegetables, fond, herbs, maple syrup, tomato paste, beer,
beef broth) to a cold Dutch oven. Add more beer or beef broth as need to
cover the ingredients by half an inch. Season with 2 teaspoons of salt and a
generous amount of pepper.
Heat in a cold oven, uncovered, at 200°F/93°C. Carefully manage the
temperature of the stew so that it warms to 120°F/50°C. Anectotally and for
reference, a full Dutch oven will reach this temperature in 1½ hours.
Maintain the stew below 120°F/50°C for 1 to 2 hours, taking the Dutch oven
out of the oven if necessary.
Raise the temperature of the oven to 250°F/120°C so the stew slowly warms to
180°F/80°C. Maintain that temperature.
After 1 hour in step 4, add the parsnips to the Dutch oven and check the
beef every 30 minutes. As soon as the muscle fibers of the beef are easily
pulled apart with a fork (a.k.a. “fork tender”), take the stew off the heat.
Expect this to take 2 to 4 hours, on top of the 1 hour. Let the beef cool in
the stew; it will reabsorb some liquid.
Remove the beef. Bring the liquid to a boil and let it simmer. Periodically
spoon out some liquid, let cool for a few seconds, and taste: be sure to
spoon out enough to cover your entire mouth. Simmer to the desired flavor
and consistency. Season to taste.
If possible, refridgerate overnight. The chilled fat will rise to the
surface and solidify. Skim it off with a spoon before reheating.
To reheat, take care not to continue cooking the beef. Remove the beef,
bring the liquid to a boil, return the beef, remove from the heat and let
the liquid temperature fall to 140°F/60°C. Maintain that temperature until
the beef is heated through.
Yield: 8 servings.
Time: 10–12 hours. Approximately 1 hour preparation; 2 hour cook in
stage one, 5 hour cook in stage two; 1 hour cool; 1 hour subsequent cook; 1
hour subsequent cool; 1 night refridgeration.
The two-stage cooking process and careful management of the beef’s
temperature may seem laborious and unnecessary, but is critical to the
succulence of the beef.
In stage one, the beef spends a prolonged time below 120°F/50°C. This
amounts to a period of accelerated aging that weakens the connective tissue
in the beef and reduces the time needed in stage two at higher,
In stage two, the beef is cooked at 180°F/80°C, which is around the
temperature at which collagen dissolves. As the collagen in the connective
tissue dissolves into gelatin, it will hold on to some of the juice
squeezed from the muscle fibers, thus imparting a kind of succulence to the
One sign that this two-stage process has been done correctly is a reddish
tint throughout the beef, even though it is well done. The same slow
heating that allows beef enzymes to tenderize and flavor the beef also
allows more of the red myoglobin pigment to remain intact.
Under no circumstances let the stew approach the boil. Doing so will badly
dry out all but the fattiest or most gelatinous cuts of beef.
A closed pot in an oven at any temperature above the boiling point will
come to the boil. Close the pot to raise the temperature of the stew
At oven temperatures above 180°F/80°C, leave the pot open to allow
evaporative cooling and produce a lower cooking temperature.
Stew in the oven if possible, not on a stove. Oven heat is more even.
Parsnips soften and brown faster than other vegetables and are more prone to
drying out; this is why they are added later. If substituting, just keep in
mind the cook times of your vegetables.