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Help ASAP! Tough beef stew!

I'm in the process of making a beef stew. I started cooking about 2 hrs ago, and started with some onions and garlic, browned my meat, added a little tomato paste and some spices, tossed in some mushrooms, water, and a little balsamic. Its been cooking stovetop on low to medium low since then. I kept thinking that it would just soften up over time, and similar to pot roast, brisket, etc. longer was better. BUT its totally tough, and i'm afraid is going to be dry. Is is possible I over cooked it? Is there anything I can do to save it?
Thanks!

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  1. My guess is you started with beef that was very lean, which isn't great for stew. What cut of meat was it?

    I'm not sure you can rescue it at this point. I'm sure it will still be very tasty, just not particularly tender?

    1 Reply
    1. re: rockandroller1

      It was pre-packaged in the supermarket as "stew beef" already cut into chucks. I have a cold this week, and I thought to myself "oh, that looks easy to do..." It was a very lean cut, which (like in the case of brisket) can be fine. I'm not sure, perhaps i'll let it sit overnight and eat it tomorrow instead...

    2. if you cook it for a few more hours it will soften. the heat will break down the muscle. It will not be dry (unless the pieces are huge). But, the texture may suffer as the remaining items in the stew may turn to mush. The flavor will probably be fine though. I used some meat that was too lean in a stew last week and it took about 4 hours on a low simmer.

      3 Replies
      1. re: frankiii

        Just keep cooking--gently cooking.

        1. re: Regan B

          I agree with frankii and regan. Two hours isn't long enough to soften it up. If you are worried about compromising the rest of the stew ingredients, just fish them out and add back in later to finish up.

        2. re: frankiii

          Agreed. Some meat really needs longer to cook, and that's normal. My brisket usually takes at least three hours, and I cook it in the oven (covered), which is good because it reduces the urge to peek! It shouldn't dry out if you have plenty of flavorful liquid in the pan with it. The amount of fat will determine how moist it will feel in your mouth, though.

          As someone else mentioned, the other stew items may turn to mush. My solution to that is to add any vegetables that you want to eat later, maybe when you have only an hour or two left. That said, carrots hold up pretty well if they're cut in big chunks.

        3. i would up the vinegar, add more water (or wine!), and turn at least to medium for a slow simmer.

          1. Braising is all about low moisuture, low heat, long cook time, and that's what you want. Let that stew continue cooking for at least 4 hrs. Plan on discarding any non-mushroom veg in there, as they will be mush and flavorless, but you can replace them with fresh, raw veg (chunked potato, cubed carrots and pearl onions are great. For easy, just nuke some chunked potatoes and a bag of frozen frozen peas and carrots and add them to the stew) and let them cook for about 20-30 minutes before you serve.

            1. I made a beef stew the other day, and some most of the chunks of meat came out a little tough. If I had stewed the meat longer, would it have all been tender (the cubes of meat were about 1 1/2 inches in diameter)? Also, I had some leftovers heated up for lunch today (I made the stew 2 days ago) and the meat all seemed very tender for some reason. Could the meat have gotten more tender while sitting in the pot in the refrigerator for the past 2 days?

              2 Replies
              1. re: chickky311

                yes, that has happened to me (i don't know why, unless it is carryover heat)….and i'll bet it tasted better too. ;-).

                1. re: chickky311

                  I also think it might have been carryover heat. The temp of the soup dropped and it sort of braised itself in the fridge for a little while.

                  Tough beef is almost always caused by having the heat too high. Simmer it very gently next time (just occasional, tiny bubbles in the soup).