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How to Avoid Bland, Dry Stew Meat

How to Avoid Bland, Dry Stew Meat

Learn the secret to perfectly tender stew meat.

Q: How do I avoid bland, dry stew meat?

A: When you brown your meat, go big or go home. Here’s the thing about stews: You’re trying to accomplish two separate goals that are completely at odds with one another. On the one hand, you want some flavorful browning on your meat, which requires very intense heat. On the other, you want the meat to stay as moist and juicy as possible, which means cooking low and slow.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Most recipes use the two-stage browning approach: Brown meat cubes first, and then simmer them until tender. But what happens when you rush the process by adding all the meat to the pot at once and crowding the pan? Moisture is exuded faster than it can be evaporated. Rather than searing, you end up simmering and steaming your meat chunks. Instead of taking 10 minutes to brown, you end up blasting your meat with high heat for 20 minutes in order to first drive off that extra moisture. All of this increases the amount of stringy, dry, steamed meat in your final stew. Unless you have a burner the size of a jet engine, you have to brown in small batches, which can take upwards of half an hour for a large batch of stew. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a method that let you minimize the amount of stringy meat in your stew while also creating sufficient browning and being time efficient? Well, there is.

When I make stew, I start with a larger, pot roast–sized chunk of meat (usually a trimmed chuck roll or a hunk of pork shoulder) and sear the whole thing in a hot Dutch oven. This minimizes the juices that are forced out and allows me to sear very rapidly and efficiently to get deep, brown colors and flavors on the surface—much deeper than I can get with small chunks.

Only after searing do I cut it into stew-sized chunks. The chunks aren’t browned on all surfaces, but those browned flavor compounds are water soluble, which means that over the course of stewing, they’ll spread around the pot from the more concentrated areas to the less, flavoring every bite.

Once you’re finished simmering, you’ll wind up with incredibly tender, juicy chunks of meat that are deeply meaty with rich, well-browned flavors.


5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Beef Stew

Filled with tender cubes of meat and hearty vegetables, beef stew is a staple dish and we want to make sure you’re tackling it like a pro. Here are five common mistakes to avoid when you cook up your next pot of stew.

Get the recipe: How to Make Beef Stew from Scratch

1. Using the wrong cut of meat.

Beef is beef, right? Wrong! Stew is the ideal time to skip the lean, pricier cuts of meat and go for the less expensive, tougher cuts. The long, slow cook time leaves lean meat, like sirloin, tough and chewy, while tougher cuts, like chuck, break down and become really tender.

Follow this tip: Stick with using chuck meat. As it cooks, this cut breaks down wonderfully and rewards you with tender, delicious bites. Bonus points — chuck meat is also budget friendly!

2. Not searing the meat.

Whatever you do, don’t just add raw meat to broth and expect it to make stew. Also, when browning, don’t stop at lightly browning the cubes. Searing the meat is an essential step for making a great beef stew. This is where the stew really starts to build its deep, rich, flavor.

Follow this tip: No, if, ands, or buts, you’ve got to sear the meat! Don’t just brown it. Set the cubes of beef in a hot pan and let them cook for a few minutes until the bottom has a dark crust, then repeat that process for the other sides of the meat. It’s timely, but you’ll be rewarded with an extra flavorful stew.

3. Adding the vegetables too soon.

Vegetables cook a lot quicker than beef, so there’s no reason to add them to the pot at the same time. Add them too soon, and you’ll be left with mushy (and unappetizing) veggies.

Follow this tip: Add hearty vegetables, like carrots, turnips, and potatoes halfway through cooking. If you plan to include delicate vegetables, like peas, wait to add them until a few minutes before taking the stew off the heat.

4. Not cooking the stew long enough.

Chuck meat is your best bet for beef stew, but it’s also a pretty tough cut so it needs time to break down and become tender. Rush the cooking process and the beef will be tough and chewy.

Follow this tip: For really tender meat, cook the stew low and slow, for approximately two hours.

5. Serving your stew solo.

Don’t make your stew stand alone. Without bread or noodles how will you mop up the bottom of the bowl?


5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Meatloaf

Meatloaf just might be one of the very best comfort foods. It’s the farthest thing from a fancy meal, but it’s homeyness is exactly what makes it so wonderful. While the ingredients and process are simple, there are a few missteps that can easily turn this hearty, comforting meal into a less-than-desirable mound of overly dry, bland meat.

Here are five common mistakes to avoid, plus our best tips for making a really great meatloaf!

1. Not using meat with enough fat content.

Making meatloaf with super-lean meat, like ground chicken or ground turkey, can be tricky. Because of the minimal fat content, the meat easily dries out.

Follow this tip: Consider using a meat blend. Any combination of beef, veal, pork, or lamb works really well. If you’re using very lean meat, consider blending it with about 30 percent ground pork. The fattier pork will keep the meatloaf moist and tender.

Flavor the meat and add additional moisture with wet ingredients like ketchup, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce.

2. Not seasoning the meat enough.

When it comes to seasoning, meatloaf is like any other cut of meat. Forgo the salt and pepper and you’ll find yourself with a bland meatloaf. This may seem obvious, but since you can’t taste the meatloaf mix, and since you can’t see the amount of salt and pepper very well (as you would when seasoning the exterior of a steak) it can be hard to judge the right amount.

Follow this tip: Before mixing the meat, season it with salt and pepper. Also, consider adding some of your favorite dried herbs or spices.

3. Not using cooked vegetables.

Vegetables are a wonderful addition to meatloaf — they add both flavor and texture — but it’s best to use cooked vegetables instead of crunchy raw veggies.

Follow this tip: Whether you use a classic blend of onion, carrot, and celery, or go for a blend of different veggies, give them a quick sauté with some olive oil first. Not only will the vegetables be more tender and flavorful, but they’ll also add a little more moisture to the meat.

4. Not soaking the bread.

Stale bread is an essential ingredient in meatloaf, as it works to bind the meat together. But blending in dry bread will take away some of the moisture from the meat.

Follow this tip: For a more moist meatloaf, soak the bread in milk until it becomes thick and mushy before blending the mixture together.

5. Not resting the meat.

Just like other types of meat, it’s best to let the meatloaf rest before cutting into it. This gives the juices time to redistribute and settle. Slice into your loaf too soon and the juices will seep out, leaving you with a drier meatloaf.

Follow this tip: After removing the meatloaf from the oven, let it rest for five minutes before cutting into it.


The Bland Diet

Purpose: The bland or soft diet is designed to decrease peristalsis and avoid irritation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Use: It is appropriate for people with peptic ulcer disease, chronic gastritis, reflux esophagitis or dyspepsia. It may also be used in the treatment of hiatal hernia.

The soft/ bland diet consists of foods that are easily digestible, mildly seasoned and tender. Fried foods, highly seasoned foods and most raw gas-forming fruits and vegetables are eliminated. Drinks containing Xanthine and alcohol should also be avoided.

Foods Recommended Foods to Avoid
MILK &DAIRY 2-3 servings each day

All milk and milk products

Mild flavored vegetable juices

Cooked, frozen or canned vegetables as tolerated (asparagus tips, beets, carrots, green or waxed beans, mushrooms, pumpkin, green peas, white or sweet potato, spinach, summer or winter squashes)

Raw vegetables, dried peas and beans, corn

Cooked or canned fruit without skins, seeds, or tough fibers

All other fresh and dried fruit

White, refined wheat, seedless rye breads. Plain white rolls, white melba toast, matzo, English muffin, bagel, pita bread, tortilla

Saltine, graham, soda or plain crackers

Cooked, refined cereals such as cream or wheat, oatmeal, farina, cream of rice. Dry corn and rice cereals such as puffed rice or corn flakes

Enriched rice, barley, noodles, spaghetti, macaroni, and other pastas

Whole grain and very coarse cereals such as bran

Seeds in or on breads, and crackers

Bread or bread products with nuts or dried fruit

All lean, tender meats, poultry, fish and shellfish

Soybean curd (Tofu) and other meat substitutes

Butter or fortified margarine

Mild salad dressing such as mayonnaise, French or vinegar and oil All fats and oils

Sugar, syrup, honey, jelly seedless jam, hard candies, plain chocolate candies, molasses, marshmallows

Highly seasoned salad dressings with seeds or pickle relish

All sweets and deserts containing nuts, coconut or fruit not allowed

All beverages as tolerated

Seedless jams, taffy, sugar, honey, jelly

Mildly flavored gravies and sauces

Caffeine-containing beverages (coffee, tea, colas, orange soda, Dr Pepper)

Strongly flavored seasonings and condiments such as garlic, barbecue sauce, chili sauce, chili pepper, horseradish, pepper, chili powder and other highly spiced foods


The Broth – We usually use about 4 cups of broth and then top it off with just enough water to cover the meat and veggies. Add water to cover everything by a half an inch or so. Bring the stew to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot.

Add stock or water halfway up the meat you ‘re braising and bring to a boil, then immediately lower to a simmer. Once it’s simmering, you can add in aromatics. Cover and keep it at a low simmer on the stovetop or in the oven at 350 degrees F. Cooking low and slow breaks down the tough meat so it’s tender and delicious.


Beef Stew - Why do I have dry meat?!

Take the gun away from your head. it's not THAT big of a problem!

Sounds like you aren't cooking it long enough. The meat will be tough if not cooked enough. You should be able to poke it with a fork and determine if it is tender or not. If not, keep cooking.

Mike9

Chrisbelgium

It could be anything but if you asked me, three hours or more of braising isn't right at all. In my own country we make a beef stew called "carbonnade flamande", using cuts of meat from the neck and shoulder part of beef which is quite tough meat. Usual simmering time is 90 minutes, possibly 15-30 minutes longer if needed!! If you go longer, the meat will get very stringy and dry.

Could also be the searing of the meat cut in not too large nor too small chunks. 3/4 to 1 inch is perfect. Sear on medium-high fire but only a few at a time. Take as much time as needed to get a nice coloring, this will seal the meat and prevent getting dry (this will also color the sauce). If you overcrowd the pan when searing, the meat will start to boil in it's own juices which it will release. The end-result will always be very tough.

I posted a recipe for carbonnade flamande in a post started by Siduri, maybe it will reveal some more ideas. Good luck with your next stew!

(You can use red wine instead of beer as a stewing liquid in that recipe)


The 11 Slow Cooker Mistakes That Might Be Sabotaging Your Meals

The slow cooker is the one appliance heralded by just about every home cook for making our lives easier. But just because it'll cook you dinner all on its own doesn't mean there aren't rules and guidelines that need to be followed for it to do its job well. Because there are. Quite a few of them, actually.

If you've been using the slow cooker, chances are you've broken one or two of these rules. Read on to learn about the most common slow cooker mistakes -- and up your slow cooker game when you finally stop making them.

1. Don't cook chicken with the skin on. In all other cooking instances, we love chicken skin. It crisps up so nicely and is the perfect complement to the tender meat hiding underneath. But in a slow cooker, where things stew instead of sear, the skin just turns into a rubbery, gelatinous nightmare we wouldn't wish on anybody.

2. Don't waste your money on fancy cuts of meat. The slow cooker is famous for tenderizing cheap cuts of meat, and that's just one more reason we love it so much. Those pricier, already-tender cuts of meat will soften too much in the slow cooker. That also leads us to .

3. Don't use lean cuts of meat. Fat is what gives slow-cooked meats flavor and keeps them moist when cooked at a low temperature. Lean meats get stringy and tough when they're cooked for a long time -- the opposite of what you're going for.

4. Whatever you do, don't forget to sear. The slow cooker makes cooking easy, but that doesn't mean that you can skip the step of searing the meat. Browned meat tastes better, and the slow cooker just isn't hot enough to get that done. Sear first, then slow cook. (Except when it comes to chicken. You can just throw that right in the pot.)

5. Don't forget to cover the meat. Make sure it's all submerged under liquid for even cooking. Cooking times for meat cooked under liquid are different for those not --so push it all down or add more liquid.

6. Don't use too much alcohol. On the stove top, when you add wine and beer to recipes it's able to react with the air, cooking off the alcohol and reducing itself to add flavor without a strong alcoholic aroma. In the slow cooker, since it's covered and doesn't react with the air, this just doesn't happen -- the booze just sits in the liquid. Using a heavy hand with booze in a slow cooker recipe will leave you with a boozy-tasting dish. No good.

7. Don't peek. Just don't do it. The slow cooker needs that contained heat to make sure everything cooks as it should. Only raise the lid when adding additional ingredients like herbs and dairy.

8. With that said, don't add herbs or dairy too soon. Fresh herbs will lose their flavor and dairy products will curdle. Add herbs within the final hour of cooking to ensure a bright flavor and dairy, like cream, at the very end.

9. Don't assume that one temperature and time setting fits all. Cooking times vary depending on what you're making, as does how long things need to cook. Pay attention to recipe details and experiment with your slow cooker's settings to find the best results.

10. Whatever you do, don't overcook. Just because you can cook foods for a very long time in a slow cooker doesn't mean it will yield the best results. Invest in a machine with a timer and have it shut off at the appropriate time.

11. Don't overfill. Or underfill. To ensure things don't simmer over or cook to a burnt mess, make sure the slow cooker is filled at least halfway and no more than two-thirds full. Respect that, and the slow cooker will reward you with greatness.


The mistake: It's awful

What goes wrong: Look, it happens to the best of us. You take a recipe from a less-than-trusted source, or you go rogue and make stuff up and as the world of pioneering goes, it just doesn&apost work out. At all.

How to fix it: Never fear: There is always a solution. And in this case, that solution is pizza. Or PB&J. Or a giant bowl of popcorn. Life is too short for bad casserole. Comfort food should not be a punishment. Take a deep breath, feed the trashcan, and pivot.


As mentioned before, slow cookers don&rsquot evaporate much liquid, so putting large glugs of wine or beer straight into to your crockpot is not a great idea.

Alcohol needs to evaporate a little to taste appealing and not acrid, so try reducing it in a separate pan on the hob first.


Prepared seitan can be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores. It is usually in a tub similar to the way tofu is sold, or sometimes in sealed plastic inside a box. You can find plain seitan or flavored varieties. You can also purchase it online, either as a refrigerated product or a dry mix.

You can keep homemade seitan in the refrigerator for a few days look for an expiration date on store-bought packages. You can also freeze prepared seitan for up to three months.


Frequently Asked Questions

What can you eat if you're feeling nauseous after surgery?

To keep up your strength, try eating small amounts of bland foods throughout the day. Flat ginger ale, chicken broth, crackers, plain toast, and bananas can be good options. Hard ginger candies or peppermints may also help to soothe your stomach.

What should you eat after oral surgery?

Your doctor or dentist will give you directions for what you can eat after oral surgery. You'll probably be instructed to drink liquids and eat soft foods for the first few days. Some good examples might be smoothies, milkshakes, apple sauce, pudding, ice cream, soup, and protein shakes.

What should you eat after gallbladder surgery?

You may notice changes in your digestive system after your gallbladder is removed. Fatty foods in particular may be more difficult for your body to process. Avoid high-fat or fried foods for several weeks to limit gastrointestinal pain or discomfort. Try to keep your calories from fat at 30% or less of your daily calorie intake.