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Stew beef comes out dry

Half the time when I make stew with beef, the meat comes out dry. I don't know why that's the case. I admit that every time I cook something, the steps that I follow are probably different from the last time because I don't go by a recipe. It's in my head. So one time I might add the salt at the end, another time at the beginning. One time I might fry the beef for 10 minutes before adding water, and another time I might only do it for 5 minutes. So I'd love to say that the main culprit for the dried meat might be the beef itself, but it could also be me.

These stews are for Persian recipes. What I usually do is cut the stewing beef into smaller cubes if they're really big. I saute some finely-diced onions until they start getting golden, then I add the beef. I stir it a few times and leave it on medium until it doesn't look raw on the outside anymore. Then I add my tomato paste, stir it for 30 seconds or so, and then some turmeric and pepper, and maybe a little bit of salt.

Now, that's the base of my stews. Depending on what I'm making, I'll add or have added something else to it, like split peas. But that's basically the essence of it. I add some water until it just about covers the meat, cover the pot, and let it simmer gently.

I've let it simmer from 90 minutes to 3-4 hours before. It doesn't really make a difference. The meat becomes tender but sometimes it's dry, and sometimes it's nice and moist, irrespective of whether the stew has simmered for an hour and a half or 4 hours.

SO, what do you suspect I'm doing wrong?

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  1. It could be the beef.. If you buy "stew meat" you really don't know what you are getting, you might try getting a chuck roast or other cut that does well for long braises and cutting up yourself. A tender lean cut will just get dry.

    You might try searing the beef first, it hotter oil than the onions. You don't want a lot of juice to come out of the meat. Once the meat is brown (do in smaller batches if needed so that you don't crowd the pan), add the onions.

    Also, the simmer should be very low, just barely bubbling

    Hope this helps!

    3 Replies
    1. re: firecooked

      I was going to suggest the same thing about buying a whole roast and cutting it up yourself. The pre-cut stew meat is random and could be a big reason it is never the same when you make it.

      Not letting it boil was also a suggestion.

      Lastly - sometimes just letting the meat cool in the stew - and then eating it the next day can really help the meat re-absorb some moisture if it has gotten dry.

      Good luck!

      1. re: firecooked

        What would you recommend instead of stew meat, I have the same problem, find meat in stew dry?

        1. re: Ruthie789

          I don't believe "stew meat" is really a real name. You want to use fatter cut of meat or meat with more collagen.

          Supermarkets always sell these "stew meat" or "stir fry meat". I always find that the "stir fry" meats they had are never the best meat for stir fry anyway. Well, that was 15 years ago. Since then I have never bought any more "stir fry meat"

      2. You don't seem to me to be doing anything wrong in the kitchen. You're frying the meat to add flavour and your cooking it for a long time.

        I can only think the problem must lie in the beef itself. Maybe buy a specific cut of meat intended for stewing. Maybe have a change of supplier.

          1. Break down your own chuck and don't go for "stew" meat.
            Try going low and slow in the oven so that the heat comes from all directions, gently.
            Good luck!

            1. I agree with everyone - cut up your own stewing beef from a large chuck roast. You can trim the excess fat, but get the grains of fat through the meat that will break down and melt into the stewing mixture.

              Also - don't put ALL of your beef into the pot to brown. Scoop out the diced onions, add some more oil, and brown the beef separately. Dust the beef pieces in some flour, salt and pepper in a ziploc bag (shake it up well to cover the pieces of beef), and brown them in hot oil a few at a time - all pieces should be touching the bottom of the pot and the oil. Let them brown really well, then flip them. Remove them and start anew with another batch. If you add all of them at once, the beef isn't able to brown properly - they start to put off some liquid and essentially simmer in it and just get gray. You want the good browning for extra flavor.

              1. Thanks everyone! Most people are suggesting I buy chuck roast next time. Is there a chance they're called something different in Canada? I've never come across that term before.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: sepandee

                    Don't know about Canadian names but, here in the UK, the best stew beef is shin.

                  2. In the United Kingdom, this part is commonly referred to as "braising steak".

                    This is according to Wiki.
                    It's the shoulder, basically the braising part of the shoulder.

                    1. It can be many thing, but 90% of the time it is the meat. Are you sure this is the same meat cut as your previous times? Maybe you used a leaner meat this time.

                      1. Have you tried heating it up as slowly as possible and then using the lowest possible simmer you can.

                        1. Sounds like your "stew meat" may be round, or sirloin which are definitely too lean. IMO chuck, or even short rib are the best cuts for stewing. I dredge with flour prior to browning then saute in onions, and garlic. Sometimes I like a tomato based stew, and liquid could be stock, or wine depending on what the end product will be. Slow, and low will yield fork-tender meat.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: letsindulge

                            <chuck, or even short rib are the best cuts for stewing>

                            I agree. I have had very tasty shank as well -- but I have never made it. Other made it for me.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I swear by beef shanks for stews - you have to cook it for about two hours before it's tender enough, but it's tasty and has a great mouth-feel from all the gelatin.

                          2. Cut up blade roast or steaks are good. Also, brisket can be quite nice as stewing beef, with a rich beefy taste, but it is more difficult to access.