A hearty beef and kidney stew, slow-cooked until you can cut the meat with a fork! And I've also got two secret tips for making the tastiest, thickest gravy, without the need for thickening agents.
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This post has been updated January 2024 to add new images and proper process shots. I also changed the recipe slightly to add cubed potatoes to the stew, and make the mushrooms optional. Other than that it is as originally posted!
Thick and tasty beef and kidney stew
Much as I love a barbeque outdoors in the summer, I have to admit I do love a good winter stew too. There's something so comforting about tucking into a bowl of hearty stew, with slices of crusty bread to soak up the delicious juices.
And this slow-cooker beef and kidney stew ticks all my boxes.
- Easy to make - this stew couldn't be easier if it tried. Just brown the meat, onions and mushrooms and tip it all into the slow-cooker with some stock, red wine, vegetables and spices and leave it alone for 6 hours.
- Time-saving - this stew is a real time-saver because apart from browning the meat, all the cooking is done in one pan. And because you can just leave the slow-cooker to get on with the hard work of cooking, there's no standing and stirring to be done.
- Economical - because the meat is cooked long and slow, you can get away with using a cheaper cut of meat such as chuck. Comparing chuck to steak is like comparing apples and oranges. Steak has a higher fat content which means it can be cooked quickly over a high heat, whereas chuck has more connective tissue which requires a longer time to break down. If you were to cook a piece of chuck in the same way that you cook steak, you would end up with something resembling shoe leather; but pop the chuck into a slow-cooker, leave it alone for a few hours and you will have the most tender melt-in-the-mouth meat that you could wish for. And at a much lower price than you would pay for prime beef steak.
- Delicious to eat - the flavour in a piece of slow-cooked stewing beef has to be experienced to be believed. If you were to boil prime steak for hours, the fat would just melt into the stock, taking with it all the juices and flavour, and leaving you with tough stringy meat; but boil a cheaper cut and the connective tissues soften and hold the meat together, helping to keep the flavour locked in the meat.
And as an added bonus you get all the delicious smells coming from the kitchen!
This recipe will feed 4 hungry people, but you can easily increase it to feed more - just increase the amount of meat, stock and vegetables and up the seasoning slightly. And if you happen to make too much, don't worry. This stew freezes beautifully - in fact, I always make a double batch and freeze half for another meal.
- Prep time - 2 minutes
- Cooking time - 6 - 7 hours
- Yield - feeds 4 people
- Calories - 350 per serving
- Main equipment - slow-cooker or crockpot. I like this one because it has a large 3.5-litre bowl which can be used on the hob for searing meat before cooking. And even though this feature doesn't really add to the efficiency, you can get it in different colours to match your kitchen 🙂
What you will need:
These are the ingredients you will need - (and I've included my secrets below).
**Get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making beef and kidney stew on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
- Chuck (or another cut of stewing beef) and beef kidneys. The chuck should be cut into bite-sized pieces and the kidneys should be cut into approximately 1cm or half-inch chunks. I would recommend using either chuck or flank steak as this has lots of connective tissue that holds up well in the slow-cooker.
- Onions, cabbage, carrots and grated potato. My first secret for getting a lovely thick, tasty gravy is to add a grated potato to the stew. The potato cooks away into the gravy and the starch in the potato acts as a thickening agent. My second secret is to add shredded cabbage. Because of the long cooking time, the cabbage disintegrates into the sauce, leaving lots of yummy flavour.
- Beef stock. You can use a stock cube or a stockpot to make the stock if you don't have real beef stock to hand. If you prefer you could substitute half of the stock with red wine. Red wine adds a delicious richness to the stew. But do make sure that it is a wine that you would actually drink. The flavour of a bad wine will not improve with cooking, and may even spoil the flavour of the finished dish. My rule of thumb when cooking with wine is "if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it".
- Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and thyme. I use tomato puree that I buy in a tube at my local supermarket. It is made with very highly concentrated tomatoes. You may know it as tomato paste.
- You can use either dried or fresh thyme. Dried herbs are much more concentrated in flavour than fresh herbs. The rule of thumb is to use 1 teaspoon of dried herbs or 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs.
- For extra flavour I've added crushed garlic - you can use fresh cloves which you should mince finely, or for convenience simply use a teaspoon or so of ready-crushed garlic from a jar.
- You will also need flour seasoned with salt and pepper for coating the meat, and one or two tablespoons of sunflower oil for browning.
Substitutions and variations
If you don't like kidneys you can just leave them out and up the amount of chuck to compensate.
If you prefer to cook with olive oil you can use this instead of sunflower oil when browning the meat.
As I mentioned above you could substitute half of the stock with red wine. You could also substitute the red wine with red grape juice.
If you enjoy mushrooms, you could add a cup or so of sliced mushrooms to the casserole.
You are also not limited by my choice of vegetables. Use whatever you have available. Why not try adding chopped swede (rutabaga) or perhaps some sliced green beans? Just remember that the stew will cook for a long time in the slow-cooker, so avoid softer vegetables such as cauliflower or courgettes which might turn mushy.
What to do
- Peel the potatoes. Grate one potato on the largest holes of a cheese grater and cut the remaining potatoes into large chunks.
- Peel the carrots and cut them into large pieces.
- Shred the cabbage finely using a sharp knife.
- If you are using mushrooms, cut them into thick slices or halves, depending on their size.
- Clean any other vegetables you may be using and cut them to size.
Pat the cubed meat with a paper towel to remove any surface moisture then coat it lightly in flour which has been seasoned with salt and pepper.
Fry the meat in hot oil in a frying pan for 2 to 3 minutes until it has browned. Stir often to brown it on all sides. Transfer the browned beef to your slow-cooker.
Tips for browning the beef
- Let the oil get hot enough so that it sizzles when you add the meat.
- Don't overcrowd the pan or the meat will release moisture and boil rather than brown.
- If you have a large amount of meat, fry the meat in batches to avoid overcrowding.
Pat the kidney with a paper towel to remove any surface moisture and stir fry them in the same pan for 2 to 3 minutes until they lose their red colour. Add another splash of oil if necessary.
Add the browned kidneys to the beef in the slow-cooker.
Chop the onion into medium dice and fry it with the garlic and thyme in the same pan until the onions turn translucent. This will take 4 to 5 minutes. Stir continually. Add a little extra oil if necessary.
Transfer the onions to the slow-cooker.
If you are adding mushrooms to your beef and kidney stew you should fry those in the same pan until they have released their moisture before adding them into the slow-cooker.
Finally, add the grated potato, shredded cabbage along with the cubed potatoes and sliced carrots (and any other vegetables you may be using). Mix the Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree into the stock and pour it into the slow-cooker.
Cover the slow-cooker with a lid and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours until the meat is fall-apart tender.
You should find that the grated potato has done a good job of thickening the stew. If you find you do need to thicken the stew drizzle in a slurry of 2 teaspoons cornflour and 2 tablespoons water and let the stew simmer for a few minutes longer. Be careful. You may not need all the cornflour mixture.
Because there are such a lot of vegetables and potatoes in this stew, I find that all that is necessary is a side dish of crusty bread to help mop up the delicious gravy.
As I mentioned above, this stew freezes really well. Just allow it to cool and then pack it into a Tupperware container, or a strong large Ziploc bag, and place it in the freezer. You can freeze this stew for up to 4 months.
To use, either defrost in the refrigerator and then reheat in a large saucepan. You could also just tip the frozen stew directly into a large pan and leave it, covered, on the lowest heat setting, until it defrosts. Then just turn up the heat and bring it to a boil.
Beef and kidney stew can be made 3 to 4 days in advance, then cooled and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat it in a saucepan on the stove until piping hot before serving.
No, you don't. However, if you don't add grated potato you will find that you will definitely need to thicken the stew with a slurry of cornflour and water before serving.
I feel the cabbage adds additional flavour and goodness to the stew, and it cooks away to almost nothing. You can leave it out if you prefer.
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If you enjoyed this beef and kidney stew recipe, you might also like to try some of my other soup and stew recipes.
Slow-cooker beef and kidney stew
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 14 ounce / 400 grams stewing steak or topside cut into cubes
- 7 ounce / 200 grams beef kidney coarsely chopped and membranes removed
- ¼ small shredded white cabbage approximately 2 cups
- 2 medium carrots sliced into rounds
- 1 large onion cut into 1cm dice
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms optional
- 14 ounces / 400 grams potatoes cubed
- 1 medium potato grated (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 2 cups beef stock made with a stock cube
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil for browning the meat
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black peper
- 2 teaspoons cornflour / cornstarch optional for thickening
- Coat the cubed meat with flour seasoned with salt and pepper and brown in sunflower oil. Transfer the browned meat to a slow-cooker.14 ounce / 400 grams stewing steak or topside, 2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black peper
- Add the diced kidney to the pan and fry until it is no longer pink. Add the kidney to the slow-cooker.7 ounce / 200 grams beef kidney
- Fry the chopped onions, thyme and garlic in the same pan until just translucent. You may need to add a little extra oil. Add the onions to the slow-cooker.1 large onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- If you are using mushrooms, fry them in the same pan until they soften and release their juices. Add to the slow-cooker.1 cup chopped mushrooms
- Add the shredded cabbage, grated potato, carrots and potatoes to the slow-cooker.¼ small shredded white cabbage, 2 medium carrots, 1 medium potato, 14 ounces / 400 grams potatoes
- Pour in the stock and add the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. If you are using red wine add it here too.2 cups beef stock, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Stir well then put the lid on the slow-cooker and leave on high for 5 to 6 hours, or on low for 6 to 8 hours until the meat can be shredded with a fork.
- Check the consistency of the stew. If it is too thin, make a slurry of 2 teaspoons of cornstarch (cornflour) in 2 tablespoons of water and drizzle in slowly, stirring, until the desired thickness is reached.2 teaspoons cornflour / cornstarch
- Serve hot, with slices of crusty bread to mop up the juices.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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