Beef stew is actually one of the earliest food memories that I have. And truth be told, I didn’t exactly love the stuff, since it was on regular rotation on our school’s lunch menu and was simultaneously goopy, yet gristly. I just wrinkled my nose typing that. The fact that it was served with faux, powdery potato product and was spooned onto my little divided platter with a “schloooppppp”-ing sound didn’t help it on the appetizing front.
So, despite the fact that I grew up “in the land of brown food” according to Mr Meatified, I don’t think I’ve ever posted a beef stew recipe here before. Usually when I make me a meaty, braise-y dish like this, I favor the low, slow oven approach. It’s the hidden grandma in me that loves a Sunday putzing around the house while something delicious bubbles away, making the place smell like something good is going down come dinner time.
But so often, it isn’t idea to wait around for hours for a great one-pot comfort food meal. Liiiike any given weeknight when you’re home and on the verge of hangry. After flipping and then cooking my way through the AIP Instant Pot Cookbook recently, I caught sight of a bunch of different stew recipes and thought it might just be time to revisit my old stew-aversion, especially since stew meat is a great, economical way to buy good quality beef. And so, I started tinkering around with an Instant Pot beef stew that had a bit more style than schloop.
Now, I love me some one-pot dishes, but when it comes to browning the beef, I choose to throw everything into a large skillet instead of using the SAUTÉ function of the Instant Pot here for a few reasons:
- Since this recipe uses 2 lbs of beef and the diameter of the Instant Pot insert is a little shy of 8 inches / 20 cm, you’d have to work in batches to get it all browned nicely. I find it much easier to throw everything into a large skillet than repeat the browning step multiple times in the Instant Pot, personally.
- Stew beef gives off a lot of liquid that inhibits browning. Since we want both the flavor from the liquid, but also need a dry pan with plenty of fat to brown the beef, it’s easier to cook the beef in a large skillet, drain the liquid into the Instant Pot, then continue to brown and caramelize the beef in the skillet.
I’ve made this a few times and you can definitely tell when the pumpkin or butternut puree is left out: it adds a little extra savory flavor and helps to thicken things up a tad. If you go for the larger amount of puree, then you may not want to thicken so much in the final step. Start with the smaller amount of arrowroot starch and then add extra if you think it’s needed.
With a view to making this Instant Pot beef stew recipe super weeknight-friendly, I usually opt to throw in a bag of baby carrots and use frozen pearl onions, meaning the only real chopping to be done is for a couple of parsnips. When it comes to the pearl onions, I’ve tested this out with both fresh and frozen and you can use either. But since the high pressure will tend to soften and even disintegrate the smaller pearl onions, there’s not much of an advantage to using the fresh ones, especially since they’re fussy and require blanching before peeling. If you don’t have the frozen suckers on hand, you can simply chop up the equivalent weight in normal yellow onions: just slice them into chunky half moons and throw ’em in!
Instant Pot Beef Stew
- 2 lbs / 900 g beef stew meat
- 2 – 3 tbsp / 30 – 45 ml avocado oil or tallow
- 2 tsp / 10 g fine sea salt
- 2 cups / 480 ml beef broth
- 1/2 – 1 cup / 120 – 240 ml pumpkin or butternut puree (see notes)
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp / 5 g garlic powder
- 1 tsp / 1 g dried rosemary
- 1 tsp / 1 g dried thyme
- 1 lb / 454 g carrots, peeled & chopped into 1 inch pieces OR baby carrots
- 1 lb / 454 g parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 12 oz / 340 g peeled fresh OR frozen pearl onions OR onions sliced into chunky half moons
- 1 – 2 tbsp / 9 – 18 g arrowroot starch / flour (see notes)
- BROWN: Check the stew beef over and trim off any large pieces of hard fat or silver skin. Make sure it’s chopped into even, bite size pieces. In a large skillet over medium, brown the stew beef (see notes). First, cook the beef until it has released it’s juices, then drain those and add them to the Instant Pot. Once drained, add the oil or fat of your choice and the salt to the skillet and toss the beef to coat. Continue to cook, stirring every few minutes so that the beef evenly browns on all sides. Once browned evenly, transfer the beef to the Instant Pot.
- LAYER: Add the broth, pumpkin or butternut puree, apple cider vinegar, garlic, rosemary and thyme to the Instant Pot. Stir through to combine. Add the carrots, parsnips and pearl onions to the Instant Pot.
- PRESSURE COOK: Close and lock the lid. Press the MEAT / STEW button and set cooking time to 35 minutes. Once the time is up, quick release the pressure carefully.
- THICKEN: Release and remove the Instant Pot lid. Turn on the SAUTÉ function. Taste and add additional salt, to taste, if needed. Mix the arrowroot starch up with a little water into a slurry and stir it through the stew. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the starch has thickened the stew, then turn off the SAUTÉ function. Remove the stainless steel insert from the Instant Pot and transfer it to a trivet to rest for a few minutes, then stir and serve immediately.
When it comes to browning the beef, you could use the SAUTÉ function of the Instant Pot, but I choose not to here for a few reasons:
1) Since this recipe uses 2 lbs of beef and the diameter of the Instant Pot insert is a little shy of 8 inches / 20 cm, you’d have to work in batches to get it all browned nicely. I find it much easier to throw everything into a large skillet than repeat the browning step multiple times in the Instant Pot, personally.
2) Stew beef gives off a lot of liquid that inhibits browning. Since we want both the flavor from the liquid, but also need a dry pan with plenty of fat to brown the beef, it’s easier to cook the beef in a large skillet, drain the liquid into the Instant Pot, then continue to brown and caramelize the beef in the skillet.
I’ve made this a few times and you can definitely tell when the pumpkin or butternut is left out: it adds a little extra savory flavor and helps to thicken things up a little. If you go for the larger amount of puree, then you may not want to thicken so much in the final step. Start with the smaller amount of arrowroot starch and then add extra if you think it’s needed.
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