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Help with partially making beef stew in advance

Good morning, hounds! I'm having a St Paddy's day blast, serving beef stew to 40-50. Since this is going to be a big undertaking for me (and I'll be doing it solo), I want to be organized and make as much as possible in advance so I'm not exhausted and can enjoy the party.

So...tell me what you think about this idea...probably next weekend, two weeks before the party, I want to get my stew beef (all 12 lbs of it) browned off. I'm planning to deglaze the pan(s), then freeze the browned beef and liquid until a day or two before the party. Then I'll thaw it, and proceed with my veggies, etc. and long oven braise. I'll then refrigerate the stew until time to warm it up for the party.

Do you think this will work? Any pitfalls I need to watch out for? Can I then freeze any leftovers?

Thanks, hounds!!

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  1. I think this is a great idea. Stew always tastes better the next day and freezes well. Waiting to add the veggies until a day before the party is also a good idea since I don't think veggies do that well frozen, esp if you are using potato which shouldn't be added until near the end of cooking so they don't disintergrate.
    Yes, I would still freeze leftovers but I'm not fussy when it comes to stew.

    1. when i do braises like this, i cook through and discard the veggies. chill, defat. then to finish, i add new veggies and cook on very low til the veggies are soft.

      rather than freeze par-cooked beef, i'd cook it all the way, chill, defat and then freeze.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Yes, I'd do it the way hotoynoodle suggests

      2. CI has a new modern version of boeuf bourguignon that is so much easier than the more traditional versions. The beef gets browned in the oven while it cooks. You could adapt the recipe to suit your theme, ie use stout instead of red wine etc...if you made the stew in a big roasting pan you could probably do it in one batch. I like a mix of slowly cooked veg and some fresher tasting ones. I like adding sautéed mushrooms, pearl onions at the end and I always finish off a stew with lots of parsley and some fresh alcohol(I use brandy when making bb)

        2 Replies
        1. re: DowntownJosie

          "..if you made the stew in a big roasting pan you could probably do it in one batch."

          That's a mighty big roasting pan for a crowd of 40-50

          1. re: Bellachefa

            The OP said 12 pds, it is really not that much. I have made the bb with 10 pds in the oven with no problems and would figure the extra 2 pds would not make a big difference. Just an idea based on my own experience!

        2. I was also thinking roasting pan instead of traditional Dutch oven or soup pot for THAT much stew.

          I'm a bit picky about the beef... not necessarily cut but prep. I want beef in ONE bite chunks with ANYTHING "connective" (that would be most unpleasant in mouth, at least for me) trimmed away. These trimmed off bits would be used to start the browning process and fished out for a treat for dog before the REAL browning. Whenever I make stew or something like pot roast where I want BEEFY, dark sauce/gravy... serious browning and deglazing is key to me. I use a LOT of onions (thin sliced or diced) while browning... more flavor and color. I also watch it closely... cooking to just THIS side of "burning", then add liquid (stock or water) to deglaze and repeat the process. While going thru browning, tthat's when I prep veggies... carrots, celery, onions (largish chunks or maybe pearl onions... if I'm feeling especially BORED), and potatoes... all in big container of water. Could be done night before & if ya have a cool/cold place (like in cooler outside back door or unheated garage), ya won't even need to find fridge space.

          1. Nowadays, you have to be very careful with the beef in stew. Meat is so much leaner (unless you buy prime), it can dry out even immersed in liquid (since the stew liquid in fact does nothing to "moisturize" the meat). Cooking the meat for many hours results in fall apart tender but dry meat.

            I would sear the meat AND then fully cook the vegetables and meat in the liquid in advance - but remove the meat as soon as it gets into the tender range (and vegetables too). Then separate and freeze all the components. Meats, Vegetables, Stock. You can refrigerate the stock, pull of the fat once it's cold, then reduce the stock and freeze.

            This way, at event time, you are just reheating and maybe thickening.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sbp

              Thank you.

              For the dry but falling apart comment.

              That's what happens to chicken for 8 hours in a crock pot!

            2. The way I read your specifics....you are cooking at least three times...cooling and storing twice.....washing pots and etc at least 5 times.

              I don't see where you are saving any time or effort anywhere.

              You should post the rest of your menu to see how to make a better schedule for timing.

              3 Replies
              1. re: fourunder

                am curious as to the menu too. 12 pounds of meat, raw weight, is not much for 50 ppl. even as stew.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I see a lot a peeling of vegetables in the future....

                2. re: fourunder

                  Yeah there are too many unnecessary steps in the plan...stew isn't something you need to serve "fresh." I'd just do the entire thing the night before, refrigerate and serve.

                  And get some more meat.

                3. ok, y'all are making me nervous! 12 are kids. menu is...
                  Apps: Reuben sliders (on cocktail rye, made on panini maker downstairs where guys will prob be watching March Madness), upstairs putting out shrimp/cocktail sauce platter, smoked salmon/cream cheese/fixins/bagel slice platter, veggie/dip platter, chips/dips & stuff for kids, olive spread/crackers, misc. that people inevitably bring
                  Dinner: beef stew, salad (tbd), soda bread/butter, probably a tray of mac & cheese for kids
                  Dessert: birthday cake (we have 4 in March), decorated shamrock cookies, Bailey's cheesecake
                  My plan was to next weekend brown off the meat (12 lbs not enough - ? - how much do you think?), deglaze then freeze meat & liquid. Clean up big mess in kitchen. Following weekend shopping & clean house. Thursday before Saturday's party, braise, adding veggies (potatoes, carrots, onions - yes, lots of peeling!). Chill til Saturday & warm in oven as party gets started. Friday will be prepping & assembling apps. Saturday last minute pick ups (bread, bagels, balloons, etc), Yikes - lots of work, I need to do in advance & stay organized.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: nojunk

                    1. Are you cooking the Shrimp and Corned Beef, or are you purchasing them like the (assuming) Smoked Salmon?

                    2. Are you making any of the desserts, or will they be store bought?

                    3. What time are you planning for the Beef Stew and according to the recipe, how long do you anticipate it to complete cooking?

                    Without knowing your comfort or skill level, it's hard to advise....but in general, would simply say prep all your vegetables and shred your cheese the day before, and you can assemble any dish or platter the next day. Browning the meat should take no more than 45 minutes and braising in the oven...another 3.5 hours. Depending on how thick cut you make your vegetables, you could add at the 1.5-2 hour mark. At this time, you could par cook your macaroni and start your cheese sauce. When you pull the stew from the oven, you can heat the mac & Cheese. Personally, I see no need to cool simply to remove the fat. You will be able to remove most of it with a ladle and the residual won't kill anyone....they probably wont even notice it....While some commercial kitchens will do a 2 day process for braises, their presentation is the main goal....but they would not do it for Bulk Stew for a catered party. They may cook twice...but really they are reheating portions, not entire trays for service...in such a party as yours, they make the dish once....and hold it until ready to serve.

                    I'd rather get up early on the morning of and get the Beef Stew into the oven once, rather than a few times. It's really much the same as Cooking Prime Rib Roast and Gravy. You get it in the oven and wait....then finish

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Another thought: if you have a foodservice supplier nearby, maybe you can order the potatoes, onions and carrots pre-chopped, like restaurants do. These are often referred to as "processed" vegetables, as they are no longer whole. Just remember to request "no chemicals", as some processors will use citric acid or other items to prevent oxidation.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Except unlike prime rib beef stew is better on the second and third day.

                        1. re: magiesmom

                          I'm guessing you never had a Prime Rib French Dip Sandwich.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Yes, but I still think prime rib doesn't improve as stew does.

                      2. re: nojunk

                        For this menu, 12 lbs is probably enough, depending upon the cut. For stews, I prefer to use hip/shoulder/chuck which shrinks a bit more than sirloin tip, which some folks like. So, I'd likely go 14-ish lbs, and enjoy the leftovers. :)
                        As for the pre-cooking: Agree with the earlier recommendations to finish braising the meat before freezing. This will give you the opportunity to taste and adjust seasoning, check doneness, etc., well ahead of time. AND will add my recommendation to freeze in smaller portions, i.e. 8 servings, max, per pack. Quick freezing and thawing are your friends, for best quality and convenience! If possible, cool the braise, quickly, in an ice bath before storing.
                        For veg prep, peel & chop carrots, store raw, in heavy zip bags; a couple of days in the fridge will be fine. Consider using frozen peeled pearl onions instead of chopping.

                      3. I just made a freezer and crisper surf stew before garbage day in about an hour. Leftover Christmas beast thawed and chopped. A small tub of leftover turkey gravy - gravy is gravy. An opened box of chicken stock. Veggies - onion, celery, garlic, red pepper, carrrots, potato, parsnips. Fresh thyme, rosemary and a good dose of paprika,curry and a generous sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

                        I would cook the meat, and then make a pan gravy, and freeze them. Easy to chop the veggies ahead of time, although potato can be tricky. I would just defrost and finish the stew that morning with the defrosted beef and gravy, adding stock.

                        1. thanks for all of the feedback everyone. I'm taking it all into consideration & still planning.....
                          to answer someone's question, I'm purchasing all the other - costco cooked, tail on shrimp (i'll make the cocktail sauce). also costco corned beef, cooked & sliced. desserts will be purchased or brought by guests. ok, maybe i'm a wimp, but i want to enjoy and participate in my own party, so i want do-ahead (resisting the urge to use all caps on do-ahead!!) ;~D

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nojunk

                            Try a variation of this but refrigerate longer or freeze, depending on your time.


                          2. here's an update....i browned the chuck earlier, softened onions & celery, deglazed with guiness draught & beef stock, tossed in some diced tomatos (didn't have tomato paste). the whole thing is in my (almost full) roasting pan in a 325 oven, probably for about 2 hours. right now it is smelling so good i might have to leave the house, but i have a major mess to clean up! i'm going to separate beef from braising liquid & freeze in small easily thawable batches (out on my deck in the short run LOL, then in my neighbor's borrowed freezer space). i think this might work! couple days before party thaw, add potatoes, carrots, etc. final bake & presto - let's party!