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Stew meat can be used in a number of delicious recipes and is eaten all around the world. Planning to prepare a meal for a group can be nerve-wracking, especially if you are not a professional. Luckily, professionals have tips that even home cooks can find useful.
When serving stew meat, plan to serve each adult 1/2 pound and each child 1/4 of a pound. Expect everyone to eat about six ounces, but planning for 1/2 pound per person will make enough to feed everyone and have some leftovers. If serving the meat in a sauce or stew, cut the portion down by 1/3.
There are many ways to serve stew meat, so the amount you need will vary depending on the recipe you are using. There are a few rules of thumb when it comes to meal planning, and following them will prevent a scenario where you don’t have enough food.
How Much Stew Meat to Put in Stews
The most common use for stew meat is, well, stew! A stew is a one-pot meal that can be flavored with just about any seasoning and is typically full of vegetables and other ingredients. Well-known stew dishes include Coq au Vin, Hungarian Goulash, Paella, and Beef Stroganoff. Unlike, soup, a stew is generally thicker rather than brothy. Stew is often called “a poor man’s meal” because it includes relatively cheap ingredients that are easy to find.
The benefit of serving stew is that guests are filling up on other less expensive ingredients, which allows you to stretch the meat portion of the meal (which is typically the most expensive part of the meal). If you are serving the meat in a soup or stew, you could probably cut the serving of meat to 1/3 of what you would normally give if you were just serving the meat on its own. So this would come down to about 2.67 ounces of meat per person.
For example, if you are making a stew for six people, you would multiply 2.67 by 6, which would be about 16 pounds of meat. The same goes for curries or other dishes where the stewed meat is not the main ingredient. Bulking up the meal with other ingredients is a great way to serve large groups.
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How Much Stew Meat for Other Dishes
Stew meat is pretty versatile and can be used in almost any recipe that calls for chuck or round roast beef. The only difference is that stew meat is usually chopped up. If you are making a dish where the stew meat is the main ingredient, then plan on half a pound of meat per person or a quarter-pound per child. Examples of these types of dishes would be tacos, beef pot pie, or beef kabobs.
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About Stew Meat
Stew meat is pretty versatile and can be used in almost any recipe that calls for chuck or round roast beef. The only difference is that stew meat is usually chopped up. If you are making a dish where stew meat is the main ingredient, then plan on half a pound of meat per person or a quarter-pound per child. Examples of these types of dishes would be tacos, beef pot pie, or beef kabobs.
Stew meat is typically beef shoulder, which is made of connective, tough tissue that is cut into smaller chunks. But when this type of meat is cooked down, it becomes very tender. Stew meat can also be lamb, pork, or veal, but beef is the cheapest and most common.
When buying stew meat, look for the cuts that have the most marbling, which are the thin white lines of fat that run through the meat. This will produce the juiciest and most tender meat.
Because stew meat has a lot of connective tissue, it needs to be cooked for a long time at very low temperatures to be tender. If you pan-sear this cut of meat, the result will be very tough and chewy.
Beef Stew Meat Cuts
We all know there are different cuts of meat offered at the grocery store, but what cut do you want for stew meat? We know from the above section that stew meat tends to be tough with high-fat content. Other than that, there aren’t many rules about what stew meat should be, which might make it tough to choose what to buy. Here are some suggested cuts to buy when looking for stew meat.
Round: Round cuts of beef are cut from the back legs of the cow and are low in fat content. The round is divided into three different cuts, called the eye round, bottom round, and top round. The whole of this cut is relatively tough, which makes it a great option for stew meat. The slow, wet cooking of this meat will make it more tender. The difference between the top and bottom rounds is usually only size. The top round tends to be thicker and bigger in general compared to the bottom round.
Bone-in short ribs: Ribs are not used in your everyday stew recipe, but they can be great due to their balance of fat and toughness. These cuts are narrower and shorter than other ribs (hence the name “short rib”), so they traditionally don’t make a great steak. However, when cooked for long periods of time in a slow roast or stew, the bone can add a lot of flavor to the dish. This is also a reason not to go for boneless short ribs. This cut can get expensive, though.
Sirloin: The sirloin cut comes from the back of the cow. It is close to a round cut and another cut called “chuck” in terms of how tough it is and how much fat it has in it. Just like the round, it has different types of steak in this category. The sirloin consists of the pin bone, flat bone, round bone, and wedge bone.
The pin bone sirloin has a T-bone and is close to the porterhouse. It has the largest tenderloin muscle and top loin muscle, and it has the highest bone-to-meat ratio of the four sirloins. The flat bone sirloin has an S-shaped bone with a smaller tenderloin. Round bone sirloin is not the same as a round cut steak. It has a small, round bone in it that makes it recognizable. The last of the sirloin types is the wedge bone. It looks similar to the round bone, but the bone is smaller and shaped like a triangle.
Brisket: A brisket is cut from the breast or chest of the cow. There are two types of brisket called the point and the flat. The point is the fattier part, called the deckle, and the flat cut, or first cut, has the deckle removed, making it leaner. The pointcut has a better ratio of tough tissue to fat and is often better for stewing because of this. Brisket is typically on the less expensive side of beef cuts.
Chuck: Chuck meat is cut from the shoulder and is one of the most common and popular choices for stew meat. This is because it is high in both tough tissue and fat content. They are also quite round cuts of meat, and while they are a little more expensive than a round roast, it is not by much, and they are great for slow-cooking stews.
Where to Buy Stew Meat
If you need large quantities of stew meat, warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are good options. They won’t necessarily always have the best prices, but they will have good quality meat and in quantities that a local grocery store might not be able to supply right away.
A warehouse store currently sells stew meat for about $5.99 per pound, but you might find it in a local grocery store for as little as $4.00 per pound if it is on sale. Keep in mind that “stew meat” implies that it comes pre-cut, but you could buy a full roast or another cut of meat for cheaper, and cut it up yourself.
Fresh or Frozen?
In your average grocery store or warehouse store, you will only find stew meat that is raw and fresh in the refrigerated meat section. However, stew meat does freeze very well and can last three to four months in the freezer. If you refrigerate stew meat, make sure to eat it within three to four days.
If you cut up your own stew meat, make sure to cut it up before freezing and portion it out into plastic bags, as a larger cut of meat will be very difficult to defrost. You can easily defrost smaller quantities of stew meat using the defrost setting on your microwave.
You should never try to slow cook stew meat from frozen because it will not cook, but you can throw frozen stew meat straight into a pressure cooker.
How to Cook Stew Meat
Most stew meat recipes require first searing the meat at a high temperature in oil or butter. This allows the meat to start to develop a rich flavor. Next, the stew meat is typically cooked in a slow cooker or simmered in a pot or dutch oven. After this, seasoning is added to the meat and/or to the broth or sauce that will provide the meat with moisture as it cooks.
The best way to get juicy and tender stew meat is to cook it low and slow in a high-moisture environment. Stew meat typically needs to cook on low for at least three to four hours. When it can be broken apart easily with a fork, you know it is done.
This is the typical way to cook stew meat, but there are other ways as well. It can also be braised, cooked in a pressure cooker, or sous vide.
Braising stew meat can be done on the stovetop, slow cooker, or oven. For this type of cooking, you season the meat before you do anything else as part of the prep. After all the seasonings and flavors are added, you brown the meat on all sides. Because most braises also have chopped vegetables, this is when you would saute them.
After searing your meat, you then add a little liquid to the pan. You can use beef broth, juice, water, or cooking wine and scrape up all the brown bits that have stuck to your pan with the rest of the cooking. This is called “deglazing.” After you deglaze, put the meat back into the pan and add more liquid. Turn down the heat, cover, and let the mixture simmer for a while. The beef will be fork-tender when done!
Sous vide is a specialized cooking mechanism that uses water to cook meat to an exact temperature over a long period of time. To prepare this, follow the instructions for the setup that come with the sous vide. This will likely include filling a pot or something of the like with water and attaching the wand to it. You then season and seal the meat inside a watertight bag. Most recommend vacuum sealing it.
Then you let the meat soak in the water. The water will keep the temperature consistent and slowly bring your meat up to the same degree. Follow the recipe on cooking time, but be aware that this cooking time could last up to 48 hours. After it is done, simply remove the meat from the bag, sear the sides, and serve!
Another standard option is to use a pressure cooker. This is very similar to a crockpot or Dutch oven, but it takes much less time to prepare and cook. When cooking stew meat in a pressure cooker, you will want to sear and deglaze the meat beforehand, just as described above in reference to braising.
After this, however, the only step is to follow the recipe and watch the timer! You simply have to put your ingredients and meat inside of the pressure cooker and set the device. When it is done, you can either manually release the pressure by opening the pressure valve, or turn off the heat and wait for the pressure to drop on its own. Most recipes recommend a natural release. After the pressure releases, your dish is ready to serve.