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Mar 26, 2009 04:05 PM

Best lean cut for tender beef stew?

I'm making a beef stew, and I always struggle with trying to find the best cut that's both tender and lean. I really hate fatty meat, but I'm always told that the meat needs fat to become tender...
I don't mind if there's a big glob of fat that can easily be removed after cooking, or if the meat is marbled in such a way that the fat simply melts away during the cooking process. What I hate is actually biting into a mouthful of meat that has fat running through it...

The stew I'm making is called Rendang, it's an Indonesian recipe that's supposed to simmer slowly for hours in a mixture of coconut milk and spices. For this recipe the beef is cubed, cooking as a whole roast wouldn't work.

Any suggestions on the best cut to use, and how long I should cook it for? Ideally longer is better, I prefer getting something that won't toughen up from cooking too long. This is one of those recipes where it tastes better each time you reheat it.


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  1. I tend to use chuck, but, to be honest, I'm not sure how lean it is, though I don't recall seeing obvious bit of fat on it. Another option is boneless short ribs.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Cooks Illustrated recommends short ribs for several stew recipes, and for a generic "best"stew, a chuck round roast is suggested. Yesterday I bought a chuck blade since the store didn't have a round roast -- but I was frustrated at the sinewy toughness throughout the meat as I cut it up. So I gave up and went to a premier market to find the chuck roast. That proved worth the effort as the meat was much cleaner and of course flavorful.

      1. re: RonGav

        You should just have removed the entire strip down the center of the blade, THEN chunked the meat. The sinew can be included in the braise, then pulled out before chilling so that the rendered fat is easy to remove.

    2. Try a blade roast (from the chuck). It is lean but has lots of connective tissue or collagen which lends itself well to slow braising.

      1. I also usually use chuck. It does have some fat and connective tissue in it, but if you are cooking the meat for a long period, it should melt away and you'll be left with tender, fall-apart meat. I do trim away the excess fat before browning the meat.

        The recipe sounds wonderful. Please post and let us know how it comes out!

        1. As others may tell you, lean cut may not lead to tender beef stew. And as usual jfood confirms MMRuth's choice of boneless short ribs. He made a batch, braised for 4.5 hours in the oven and the tenderness was a 10.

          Bring the liquid with the meat to a beginning boil on the stove and braise for 4-5 hours in the oven at 275. Then refrigerate and serve the next day. these cuts do much better on day 2 as all the molecules cool off and realign to make the meat fork tender.

          1. As jfood mentioned lean meat does not make good beef stew. You need the connective tissue to form gelatin between the meat fibers for a tender bite. The leanest I would use is a shoulder roast which is from the chuck but there is less fat. I still would prefer a basic chuck. The basic boneless chuck also called a under blade roast is a very good choice. The 7 bone chuck roast is also an excellent choice. The top blade roast is what is used to cut flat iron steaks and has enough connective tissue to render some gelatin but it quite tender even when cooked medium rare. Brisket as well as flank steak can be used for beef stew. The brisket has enough fat and connective tissue and since some brisket flats are pretty lean you can choose one that isn't as fatty as others. Flank steak is often used to make the Cuban beef stew ropa vieja.