How Long to Boil Stew Meat to Make It Tender?

By Matt Richmond

On cold winter nights, the word “stew” can take on a magical quality. Tender meat cooking on a slow simmer provides that alluring pot roast scent for hours, waiting to delight your taste buds.

Put simply, stew is the ultimate comfort food.

It helps that the cooking process is relatively straightforward and forgiving. Once the pieces of meat are in the slow cooker or large pot you can just relax till it’s good n’ done.

Will Boiling Stew Meat Make it Tender?

Boiling stew meat makes it firm, yet tender. By “firm,” I mean that the meat will not fall apart. It’s perfect if you like juicy tender chunks of meat in your stew instead of shredded pieces.

Another reason boiling stew meat is a preferred method? You can boil stew just about anywhere. All you need is a pot, some water, and a source of fire to make stew. Let’s say you find yourself without electricity, during a storm or while camping. Unless you have a generator handy, that slow cooker or pressure cooker is useless to you and your family.

Boiling stew meat is the easiest method because all you need is one pot.

To cook this one-pot meal, you only need to turn on your electric or gas stovetop. No other equipment is needed. A true classic beef stew recipe should have the ability to be cooked anywhere. Now that puts the “comfort” in comfort food.

What Meat is Used in Beef Stew?

thick cut of raw chuck roast with lots of marbling

This question seems to answer itself, but the real question is which cut of beef is best for stew. Stew meat is best made from tougher, thicker cuts of beef, typically chuck or round. Thankfully, those tend to be the cheaper options!

In truth, though, cultures around the world include different types of meat, like chicken, lamb, pork, deer, and so on. Boiling just about any kind of meat is actually a tried and true stew-making method.

For the purpose of this article, though, we’re going to focus on the most common stew meat: beef.

Tougher cuts of meat result in more tender stew meat.

The beautiful thing about boiling beef is that any kind works, from ground beef to chuck steak to round roast. Even beef shoulder, ribs, and brisket work. The best options, however, are chuck roast and round roast.

That’s the wonderful thing about cooking stew: the inexpensive bulkier cuts of meat work even better than the expensive kind. You can save money and get a better-tasting result out of it.

When buying your beef at the store, look for lots of marbling, which signifies fat in the meat’s connective tissue. When this fat cooks, it breaks down during the cooking time to deliver tender, juicy results.

Is Boiled Beef Healthy?

How Long to Boil Stew Meat to Make It Tender?

So if boiling cooks off the fat, does that mean boiling meat is healthier? Do you lose nutrients when you boil meat?

Keep in mind that boiling the meat doesn’t get rid of a lot of the fat. Actually, frying or grilling burns more fat than boiling does. So don’t expect a big change in the fat content.

As for nutrients, juices do run out of the meat while being boiled. And some of those nutrients, such as B vitamins, go along with it. But, the nutrients remain in the stew! Those juices seep into the pot of water during the slow cooking process, leaving behind healthy and tasty beef stock.

How to Boil Beef Stew Meat

Whoa there! There are some steps you should take before you even begin boiling your meat (if you want to ensure it ends up as tender as possible). Because if you’re anything like me or Elvis, you love meat tender (wait, isn’t the song called “Love Me Tender”? Oh well, close enough).

Using a meat tenderizer, otherwise known as a meat mallet, before cooking does wonders to break down those tough muscle fibers that can stay tough even through boiling. Beef chuck is a cut of meat in particular that could use some physical intervention with your little meat hammer of Thor.

marbled meat on cutting board next to meat tenderizer and lemons

Marinating thick tough beef like chuck roast also leads to more tender results. Worcestershire sauce is one great example of an effective marinade. It contains sugar, vinegar, and other spices such as onion, tamarind, and garlic to serve to add flavor while tenderizing well.

If you don’t have this sauce, you can add a little bit of lemon juice to the pot of cooking water – the key is to have a little bit of acid present. Some other popular marinades include balsamic vinegar and a little bit of red wine.

So, first, beat up the meat with a mallet and then marinate it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour. Then, take the meat out of the fridge and let it sit out for about a half-hour. The meat will be more tender if you boil it after letting it go to room temperature before cooking.

Okay, Now It’s Time to Boil, Right?

beef stew boiling in an orange pot on the stove

Right. Place the meat in a clean pot, then turn on the stove to medium heat. Add the veggies here too and season it all to your heart’s content with salt or garlic powder or a bay leaf whatever you like.

Now you only need to add about a quarter cup of water and bring this concoction to a boil. Why so little water? If the meat is completely soaking in water the meat will lose a lot of its flavor.

Only add about a 1/4 cup of water at first to your beef stew pot.

After adding this small amount of water, cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for about ten minutes, then add another cup of water.

Once the liquids reach a full boil, it’s important to reduce the burner to low heat to allow everything to simmer. Otherwise, you risk overcooking the vegetables. Just watch until you see a rapid boil then turn the heat down until the liquid has a gentle boil.

Then cover and let the incoming smells get you even hungrier than before.

How Long to Boil Stew Meat? (In General)

boil stew for 12 to 15 minutes per pound of beef

The rule of thumb is to allow 12 to 15 minutes of gentle boil time per pound of beef. But the time also depends on the amount and kind of meat you’re boiling. A thicker cut of meat will take a long period of time compared to small beef cubes. More surface area on small batches means less time boiling.

If you have a meat thermometer, you can monitor the meat’s temperature. Just don’t let the internal temperature exceed 195 degrees Fahrenheit or the results may be unfortunate chewy meat.

You don’t need a meat thermometer however and can determine that your meat is beef boil tender based on it having a firm, but tender aesthetic. The following guide on how long to boil different kinds of meat will help…

How Long to Boil Stew Meat Based on the Cut of Meat

For a big fatty cut of chuck steak (which is beef from the neck area), simmering for about two to two and a half hours will yield the most tender results.

A shoulder blade steak needs to simmer for about an hour cook time to ninety minutes.

Brisket meat, which comes from the chest area, actually takes the longest. This can take about 3 hours to simmer cook.

How Do You Make Stew Meat Tender Fast?

If you need to cook stew meat faster, cut the portions down into smaller pieces to cook quicker yet still yield tender beef chunks. You can also add lemon juice or vinegar to the meat to help tenderize it faster.

How Long Does Beef Stew Last in the Fridge and Freezer?

beef stew lasts for 3 months in freezer & 5 days in fridge

It’s now time to enjoy your juicy, delicious beef stew! But if you can’t finish it all, stew makes the best leftovers. You can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days or 3 months in the freezer.

The best way to reheat stew is to simmer it on the stovetop. To reheat frozen stew, it’s best to let it thaw in the refrigerator first. If you froze it in a bag, I recommend you thaw it on a plate or shallow dish to catch any juices that might leak out.

Of course, you can always pop it in the microwave, but that might make the delicious stew meat you took hours to cook less tender. So, if you have the time, simmering is the way to go.