Cold weather food for those long nights of winter, Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings is the one pot meal you need right now. It does not get any more basic than this. A simple English-style stew topped with light, fluffy dumplings to soak up all that rich, meaty sauce.
With the price of, well frankly, EVERYTHING skyrocketing I’ve been leaning hard into recipes of thrift that were Mom’s staples in tough times.
Soups, stews, and slow braised meats, even a good old-fashioned macaroni casserole. Mom knew how to stretch a dollar!
Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings is the antithesis of fast food. It’s a low and slow braise that takes tough cuts of meat, makes them melt like butter, and fills you up with dumpling deliciousness.
A Very English Dumpling
The steamed dumpling has a deep history. Recipes date as far back as the 1600s in England. Suet dumplings, made with four, milk and suet were dropped on soups and stews all over Europe, long before the invention of baking powder or the colonization of the Americans and Southern-style Chicken & Dumplings which appeared around 1879.
This is the dumpling I grew up with. A rustic, suet-based, wholesome ‘fill the gap’ meal served piping hot.
Mom’s Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings, a meaty stew topped with light, fluffy dumplings is still among my favourite meals.
Today I swapped out suet for butter, but other than that, the dumpling recipe is the same.
Keeping It Simple
Stripping down this Beef Stew & Dumplings recipe down to the essentials using just onions and carrots, because I cook for two of the pickiest people on the planet.
I love a beef stew packed with rutabaga, parsnips, celery, and turnip. The people I live with – not so much. Peas. I can get away with peas.
This underscores a point on thrift though, even with just those three vegetables, it’s a fantastic stew!
Stewing Beef vs. Beef You Can Stew
Let’s talk about beef for a minute. It’s rare that I bring home stewing beef from the meat aisle. It’s often ungraded meat that’s too lean and poorly cut, filled with sinew or gristle. Some meat departments pass the toughest end cuts as stewing beef. It has little flavour and terrible texture.
Instead, I look for moderately marbled beef often labelled as pot roasts, European pot roasts, or blade roasts – which are frequently on sale – and cut my own stewing beef.
This gives any stew or curry I make a big jumpstart in flavour. Fat equals flavour, so fattier cuts always lend to a better stew.
Of course, we’re going to sear before we braise so any excess fat we’ll render and pour off before we start our sauce. Because fat, once spent, is grease – and nobody wants that.
Once we’ve degreased our pot, we have a pan of dark suc behind, and that, my friend, is your sauce. So when you deglaze, and scrape it all off, it is culinary gold.
To Dredge or Not To Dredge
Many stew recipes call for you to dredge your meat in flour. Not this one. Why? Because that’s not how we’re going to get the best flavour, texture or sauce thickening.
Dredging your meat in flour means your searing flour, not the meat itself. Terrific way to establish a sauce, but if what you want is big beefy flavour in your Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings, sear THE BEEF.
Then we thicken after the fact, using either a cold roux (as we do here) or cornstarch slurry (see notes) to get to the consistency we like.
Four Tips for a Great Braise
First, dry your beef well, using a paper towel. Typically I do this both before and after I trim and cut the meat. Then season, and sear.
Second, make sure your pot, and oil, is hot. Not one thousand degrees hot, but a good solid medium-high, where the oil is shimmering and the meat sizzles as it’s added.
Third, for best Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings results, don’t crowd your pot. Your best sear allows the meat to breathe on all sides, so it does not boil. Generally, I sear in batches removing the meat into a waiting bowl once nice and golden brown.
And last, once that beef hits the pot, with the hot oil, don’t touch it. No flipping. No stirring. Just let it cook. Mind your temperature, moving the pot, as needed to distribute your heat evenly, until you can SEE the colour on the edge of the meat. THEN turn it.
This is how you develop both great colour and deep flavour.
If you find the meat is stuck to the pot, simply remove the pot from the heat for a minute or so to let the moisture loosen the adherence to the pot so you can turn and continue, with beautifully browned results.
Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings, The Dumpling Part
English steamed dumplings are similar to a drop biscuit but wetter. Don’t over-mix. Your dumpling dough should be barely mixed until it comes together.
Then just scoop with a tablespoon or portion scoop and quickly drop on top of your simmering stew, drop the lid and steam.
Depending on the size of your dumplings, they will take 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Smaller dumplings? Less time. Check doneness the same way you’d check a cake, with a toothpick or pairing knife inserted into the centre. If it removes cleanly, with a few crumbs, your Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings is ready to rumble. Immediately remove the lid and your pot from the heat.
Serve piping hot. Finish with fresh chopped parsley. It’s what Mom would do.
A cold-weather classic, Beef Stew & Dumplings is a snuggle-up and stay-cozy kind of meal designed to fill the hunger gap, on a budget. Meaty and comforting, with light fluffy dumplings, it makes the long nights of winter – warm!
For the stew:
- 4 lbs (1.5 kilos) braising beef
- 8 cups low-sodium beef stock
- 3 – 5 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
- 2–3 carrots, peeled & roll cut
- 2 – 3 onions, cut in quarters
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 – 3 large bay leaves1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 teaspoons flour (see note)
- 3 teaspoons butter
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Salt & Pepper to taste
For the Dumplings:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, if desired
- 3/4 – 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley – to finish
For the stew:
1. Preheat oven to 350°f (175°c). Dry meat well with paper towel. Trim any excess fat or connective tissue. Cut meat into cubes a little over an inch in size, and dry again, then season well with salt & pepper.
3. Heat a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot, cocotte or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add a generous slick of high-smoke point oil (I prefer sunflower for neutrality) and heat until the oil shimmers. Add half the cubed beef, being careful to space out prices in the pot to sear.
4. Sear meat in batches, to a deep, golden brown. Adding more oil as needed. Remove seared beef from the pot and reserve.
5. Pour off hot fat into a heat-resistant bowl or jar. Return pot to heat, reducing the temperature to medium. Immediately add 1 – 2 cups of low-sodium beef stock to deglaze, and scrape any and all browning from the pan and into the stock, then add the remaining stock.
6. Return beef to the pot. Add onions, carrots, (and any other firm vegetables you enjoy) as well as garlic, bay, and thyme. Stir to combine and bring to a rapid boil before covering with a tight-fitting lid and place ing in 350f (175c) oven.
7. Slow cook until meat is tender, about 90 minutes. Check the liquid level at about the 45-minute mark, adding more stock or water if needed to ensure ingredients are well covered by liquid.
8. While stew cooks, make your cold roux: combine equal parts melted butter and flour in a small bowl and stand at room temperature, or chill until needed. (Best practice, dry mix dumplings while stew cooks, so they can be added quickly.)
9. Once the meat is fork tender, remove cocotte from oven and return to stove top, on medium heat. Add cold roux, a tablespoon at a time, stirring to check consistency until the sauce is rich and smooth.
10. Add peas, stir, top with dumplings, reduce heat to simmer, and return the lid to steam dumplings for 15 – 20 minutes depending on size. Finish with parsley. Serve immediately.
1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, pepper, and salt. (Dry mix, prep while stew cooks). Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add milk and butter.
2. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir together until you have a rough dough. If your dough seems dry, add up-to a quarter cup of buttermilk.
3. Using a large portion scoop, scoop dough and drop the dumpling directly into the simmering stew. Place around the pot, leaving space between for expansion.
4. Steam as directed above.
If you prefer a cornstarch-thickened gravy, swap out the butter and flour for approximately 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with equal parts water, added directly to the boiling liquid. Cornstarch MUST be added to hot liquid to thicken properly. I prefer to add slowly, while stirring, to gage consistency.
- Prep Time:30 minutes
- Cook Time:2 hours
Keywords: Classic Beef Stew & Dumplings, beef stew & dumplings, english dumplings