Stewing is a cooking method similar to braising in that it often involves tougher cuts of meat and sturdy vegetables such as root vegetables. Stewing uses a long, slow cooking method with liquid but the meat or product is usually cut into smaller, uniform pieces, unlike braising (think pot roast) in which you cook a whole cut of meat as one large item. Stewing works well for tougher meats and vegetables because it breaks down strong muscle and plant fibers and connective tissue.
Tips and Tricks:
Make sure you cut your items to the same size to ensure even cooking. If you are cooking small pieces of meat as well as vegetables, make sure they will all cook at the same time, which may mean the vegetables are cut to a larger size than the meat.
Searing the meat and vegetables and deglazing the pan are recommended as it will provide more flavor. See the instructions for searing here.
Use a heavy gauge stockpot or cast iron pan with a tight cover.
Cooking temperatures are very low with stewing, usually keeping the liquid at a simmer (about 160-180°F).
The best test for doneness is using a fork to pull the meat or vegetables apart, if it comes apart easily with little resistance, it’s done.
Use at least one acidic liquid when stewing. Tomatoes, vinegar or wine help break down connective tissue and tenderize tougher meats.
Season your liquid with salt at the end ONLY. The liquid will reduce and can lead to a very high concentration of salt at the end.
Vegetables and meats that stew well:
Beef: top blade roast, chuck eye roast, ribs, brisket, shanks
Pork: shoulder/butt, front hock, pork belly, picnic ham/shoulder
Chicken: Thighs and leg meat
Sweet PotatoesSquash – Summer & Winter
There are many recipes for stewing for meats and vegetables and PRFM suggests these cookbooks for regionally available items and recipes, all available through the Cathedral of St. Philip Bookstore:
Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality by Anne Quattrano
Your farmer is always a great source of information on how best to cook your market goodies or check out our recipes page!