I’ve made several attempts at beef stew when my meat share gives me chuck meat. My beef stew is decent, but it’s never as beefy as I want it to be. I don’t add red wine into my stew, since I don’t drink, and it’s a waste to buy it for only a small amount for the stew I make maybe once every 2-3 yrs.
The recipes I find online are all pretty similar. Beef (browned before hand), carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, bay leaf, thyme, beef broth, water and a bit of tomato paste. I use an instant pot to speed it up, and everything gets cooked nicely. The stew is edible and fairly tasty, and always has a slight acidic note to it (think tomato, but don’t think it’s the tomato paste), but not overwhelming.
Am I mistaken in how beef stew should taste? I expect almost a beefy gravy taste, but it’s not how it come out. Am I missing something in the ingredients that I should add? Is the choice of broth the problem (I used BTB beef), or is not adding the wine the cause?
What he said, plus in the non-traditional additions to beef stew list (but cut back salt):
7. Soy sauce
And also – but but if your palate is sensitive (like mine) you might be able to taste in the end product –
9. Fish sauce
Deeply browning the onions improves the flavor (I’ve also used onion soup mix, but that took the salt way over the top so keep that in mind). Also caramelizing the tomato paste, but that has less impact than the onions imo.
Even though you don’t drink wine, it adds a lot of flavor to beef stew. It’s sold in little 4 packs and lasts forever. I use boxed stock since I don’t particularly care for BTB products. Although a lot of people here do. Might I suggest a small sprinkling of Lipton’s beef onion soup mix to give the right taste and lose the tomato paste. Just a thought.
Good suggestions for things to try. I’ll add coffee to the list.
(Keyrock the unfrozen caveman lawyer; your world frightens & confuses me)
All of everyone’s suggestions above are the things I would have hoped I could have thought to have thought of (but probably wouldn’t have, just by myself) to offer to a friend or family member with a question like yours.
But I also want to suggest you try this guy’s suggestion (Brian Lagerstrom, below) because the long, slow cook of this stew is seriously kick-butt. I’ve done this several times and been really happy to present the results to family and guests. I do double or more the mushrooms, though - just a personal choice.
But like both Natascha and Saregama suggest, a bit more salt element like miso, soy, or fish sauce (subbing for, reducing salt equivalently in whatever recipe you’re following) is also good. I’ve used both extra miso (getting it too salty the first time) and fish sauce. It might seem weird to put fish sauce in a beef dish, but 1-2 teaspoons can really make it shine. Just be aware of how much sodium is in your fish sauce (mine seems to be HUGE) and adjust.
I haven’t tried coffee like ChimaJoe suggests, but it does sound good. I’ve used coffee in slow-cooker pork roast and really liked the outcome.
Then, just to be contrary, I’ll argue with Miss_belle and say I think the tomato paste is indispensable.
The best thing you could add to increase the beefiness is a stock or broth with a more concentrated beef flavor. So, you could spend a bunch of time making a very concentrated beef stock or you could get a commercial product like this reduced brown stock from More Than Gourmet. A little goes a long, long way and it lasts for a very long time in the back of your fridge (if you get the 16 oz., which makes over 4 gallons worth of stock).
Use a beef stock vs. broth for a beefier taste, and maybe add a beef or mushroom bouillon cube into the liquid. Worcestershire sauce adds a good depth of flavor, as does red wine. You can buy mini bottles of red wine (a cabernet would help add some oomph) so it’s not wasted. But the mushroom bouillon will do the same thing - give it a stronger depth of flavor.
I also don’t like a soupy beef stew; I prefer a thicker beefy gravy, and that’s how mine always comes out. The beef shouldn’t be swimming in liquid at the beginning, IMO; you can always add more if the liquid starts to simmer out.
I never cook the potatoes and carrots with the stew meat; always separate. But that’s just me.
@Phoenikia 's beef stifado recommendation is a good one.
Try also slow cooking the stew in a pot. I have cooked beef stew in both the Instant Pot (fast) and a regular stainless steel pot (slow). The taste from the IP version is less ‘beefy’. IP will break down the beef faster, but the flavors seem to lag behind.
First try upping the amount of Better than Bouillon concentrate you use - IMO it isn’t flavorful enough when diluted as recommended on the jar. I also like to use a bottle of stout (like Guinness) in place of some of the stock/water. Finally, if you want a more “gravy” like flavor, try adding some flour as a thickener, either at the end as a beurre manie or early on (you can dredge your beef in it or just make a roux after you’re done browning it).
Beef I used to buy from the butcher was okay, but when I purchased beef from a small farmer it was surprisingly beefier. The butcher’s prices have also risen to the point that it’s no longer value for my money either.
I also like mushrooms in beef stews and braises so that doesn’t hurt. Also generous dashes of Worcestershire.
I’ll probably get grief for this but at my age, I just don’t care.
Cube your beef after trimming, leaving a some fat. Cubes about 3/4 to 1”. Season the the cubes and toss in a bit of flour and brown “well”. You want beyond grey to well browned. This will help produce a good fond and that’s going to give you what you’re looking for.
Caramelized onions, mushrooms, etc will absolutely deepen the flavor but the fond will give you the beefiness you want. Beef stock or broth or boullion can also help but that fond is just magic.
My mom adds a pinch of sugar anytime she’s using tomatoes of any kind, and I think that really helps balance the acid out. I forget to do it myself most of the time, but often remember later when I’m eating that it was the missing tweak.