Homemade Irish Beef Stew in The Slow Cooker
An Irish beef stew is total comfort food. Raining? Beef stew. Snowing? Beef stew. Cold day? Stew. St. Patrick’s Day? Stew! The best way to describe the taste is fantasizing about hiking through The Burren and coming back to a nice warm, robust rustic beef stew with a proper Guinness poured along-side. Take it into a comfortable chair that’s in front of the fire. Can you feel the comfort? That’s proper.
Now before we get too deep into this recipe, there is a bit of preparation, a trip to the grocer and many hours of slow cooking to account for.
Planning Your Beef Stew Properly
Put your slow-cooker or Crock-pot on low right now with a little water at the bottom. Even if there isn’t anything in it and even before you go to the store. No, this is not crazy talk. This will cut the total time down.
I am going to stop here for second.
I make my own hearty beef stock. That takes hours and days, but having control of the salt and flavor is paramount for me. That’s me, it does not have to be you. If you want to forego that lengthy beef stock making process, go to your local butcher. Sometimes they have their own stock. As a Plan B, you can pick some beef base (e.g. Better than Bullion) up at places like Union Market, WholeFoods, and the likes. Basically, you need a robust low sodium beef stock (not broth).
A quick note about the ingredients I use for my Irish beef stew.
First, I always use Guinness. There is no substitute. It imparts all the right barley flavors into the stew with very few carbohydrates. Next, I use rutabaga due to it’s subtle cabbage, radish like flavor. Much better for you than more potatoes and is a bit more complex. I also only use fresh herbs. For me it would be a sin to use anything else. Lastly, I like to use a super condensed tomato paste with nothing added. Straight umami. It helps sweeten the broth. All this together with a splash of balsamic vinegar and you’re set. The rest of the stew ingredients are fairly straight forward.
- 1 medium and 1 small russet potato
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 medium rutabaga
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 heaping Tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 3/4 lbs of premium stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 Tbsp European unsalted butter
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth (homemade preferred)
- A couple splashes of balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups room temperature Guinness beer
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp raw sugar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 big bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp water
- Ok, now you have everything! Start to time manage your time. The next steps are for your prep cook (A.K.A loved one / kids). By the way, If people are coming over, I peel everything that has a skin. If not, I skip this part and just give the skin a good scrubbing.
- Cut the potatoes, carrots, onions, celery into a 1/2 inch cubes. Make them easy to pick up and eat by a fork or fit in a soup spoon. This is great for presentation and feeling like you are all that.
- Now turn your attention to the meat. Season it liberally with some course Kosher salt - since it is much tastier than the stuff from Morton's - and some fresh cracked pepper. Put it aside for 10 min.
- Mince the garlic.
- Measure out the beer, tomato paste, sugar, soy, thyme, starch. This will make things go faster.
- Place all the chopped vegetables into the crock-pot that has been on warm.
- In a large, heavy bottomed skillet (like from Granny, Ma-maw - for grits and stuff), heat olive oil at medium to medium-high heat. Add beef to the pan and "sear" brown on all sides, only about 2 minutes. The inside will be raw. We want to sear and brown the skin - it's a protein thing. Look it up on Serious Eats.
- Add garlic and cook for about one minute, do not burn the garlic! Things should be kinda smoky.
- Remove the beef and add to the Crock-pot on top of the vegetables.
- Immediately add butter to the skillet until it's melted. Then add beef broth, beer, tomato paste, sugar, soy sauce and fresh thyme (no stems or schwag ;). This will create your base.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir the liquids as well as scrape the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, allow to boil for at least two minutes.
- Lower heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add cornstarch and water and stir together. Go ahead and taste it. It should taste delicious. This is the last time you can really add salt or pepper or even more thyme. The taste will become more intense in the slow cooker.
- Pour this broth mixture into the Crock-pot over vegetables and beef. Add bay leaves and cook on high for 4-6 hours or 6 -9 hours on low.
Enjoy Your Irish Beef Stew Properly
This recipe is extremely tasty if you let it cool properly – about an hour on warm. Believe it or not it’s better the second day. Serve with rustic pumpernickel bread or ciabatta bread and a shot of Glenfiddich. Say wha?
Treat yo self.