How to Make Better Stew, in 3 Easy Steps

Yahoo FoodFebruary 18, 2014

Allison Roman

1) Sear It
Getting a good sear on the meat is the first (and, we’d say, most important) moment. The browned surface of the meat and those crusty bits on the bottom of the pot deliver concentrated flavor and rich color. Don’t crowd the pot (otherwise everything will steam), and take your time, working in batches if necessary.

2) Skim It
Who wants oily stew? Exactly. Skimming rendered fat and other impurities as your stew simmers is especially crucial with rich cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder and beef chuck. As the fat rises to the top, gently spoon it off with a ladle or serving spoon. If any fat forms on the surface of a cooled stew, remove it before reheating.

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3) Finish It
Crunchy croutons, sharp onions, a showering of herbs—these toppings are only the beginning. Adding last-minute texture, acidity, and freshness will keep your palate engaged all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Finishing touches dial up the visual appeal, too, transforming comfort food into a Saturday night centerpiece. 

Hungry yet? This is probably when you want to check out our latest stew recipes. Or, try the one below.

Our favorite Dutch oven is heavy-duty, big enough for any stew, and handsome enough to put on the table.

Chicken stew:
6 oz. slab bacon, cut into 1/4” pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour 4 chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs; about 2 lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pound mixed mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic crushed
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Dumplings and assembly:
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk

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Chicken Stew: Crisp bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat; transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Working in batches, cook chicken, skin side down, in same pot over medium heat until deep golden brown and crisp (do not turn), 12–15 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Working in 2 batches, cook mushrooms in same pot, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring occasionally, until brown, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add onion and garlic to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, 5–8 minutes. Add wine to pot; simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add chicken, bacon, thyme, bay leaves, and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer, partially covered, skimming occasionally, until chicken is falling off the bone, 2–2½ hours. Add mushrooms and simmer until flavors meld, 10–15 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Dumplings and assembly: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, pepper, and ¾ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs and milk (batter will be slightly lumpy). Reduce heat until water is at a strong simmer. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into water; cook until dumpling are cooked through and doubled in size, about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon; add to stew just before serving. DO AHEAD: Stew (without dumplings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.