French beef stew is an easy version of the classic bourguignon recipe. Make this recipe to serve for Christmas or a comforting winter meal.
My French beef stew starts with Julia Child’s beef bourguignon recipe as a base. Pancetta is used instead of bacon, garlic, shallots and onions are sautéed in the rendered fat, beef cubes are browned and I keep it low and slow in the oven with Cipollini onions and Crimini mushrooms for a beyond tender dinner.
French Beef Stew
This recipe makes a good comfort food. It looks like a lot of effort to mae, but it’s really very easy. It’s all about using fresh ingredients and allowing it to slowly cook in the oven.
Beef bourguignon is a classic French dish, first brought to the consciousness of American cooks from the Grand Dame of America’s Culinary heritage, Julia Child.
I was always fond of her cooking shows as a kid and remember the others like Jacques Pépin, the Galloping Gourmet and other shows on PBS, but she stood out. Maybe it was her stature, her accent, her ability to have fun in the kitchen all the while being serious about the method and technique at the same time.
In my version here I will be using a bottle of Pinot Noir I was given and because I don’t drink, will put it to good use in this dish. The Cipollini onions are a favorite of mine and will substitute for the small pearl onions usually used in this dish. And while any kind of bacon is good, I am using pancetta here since I was recently at my favorite deli Mona Lisa and picked up a pound or two. Let’s get cooking!
What kind of beef to use:
The best cuts of beef for stew are large cuts from either the front shoulder or the rear. These are a little tougher and lend well to slow cooking because the connective tissue breaks down, leaving you with tender meat. It’s less expensive as well. These are the specific cuts to look for. Any of them can be used in the French beef stew:
- Beef Chuck
- Chuck Shoulder
- Chuck Roast (also known as chuck-eye roast
- Top Chuck
- Bottom Round Roast
- Bottom Eye Roast
- Rump Roast
- Eye Round Roast
- Top Round
How to peel Cipollini onions
I love the small Cipollini onions. They are Italian and a version of the pearl onion. Their creamy flavor makes it a perfect addition to the rich, red wine and pancetta sauce.
To quickly and easily peel these, I immerse them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and then rinse under cold water. I then cut the root part off and squeeze the other end and the onion slips right out.
Notes for making French beef stew
- Use cast iron if possible. I prefer to render the pancetta and brown the beef cubes in my cast iron skillet to get a really good crust on them. It may add one more pan to clean, but I prefer that extra touch. Completely optional of course!
- Don’t overcrowd the pan to brown the meat. Take your time, it’s worth it. You want the beef to have a nice crust, so it needs to sear, not steam. Give them some room in that pan!
- Scrape up all the little bits on the bottom of the pan. The culinary term for those little bits of brown goodness from the pancetta and beef is fond. You want to use all of those to add a deep and rich flavor to the finished dish. If using a cast iron skillet scrape all into a casserole pot/dutch oven, deglaze a little with some beef broth.
Pour the red wine and beef stock in and stir to mix thoroughly. Place the bay leaves and tied thyme bundle in the spot and stir. Cover and place in oven to bake for 2 hours. At this point take a break and relax! Or you can prep your garlic bread to sop up all that delicious red wine sauce you’ll be eating later.
After 2 hours check the liquid level in your baking casserole and if more is needed to just cover the meat, add some beef stock. At this point add the mushrooms and onions to the pot and stir to mix in. Cover and continue to bake for 2 1/2 more hours.
When time is up remove from oven, remove thyme bundle and stir. Serve this Beef Bourguignon with your choice of potato, rice or over pasta. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with some crusty, garlic bread to sop up the delicious red wine sauce.
This post, first published on Kevin is Cooking on April 11, 2014, was last updated with new content on Sept. 28, 2021
French Beef Stew (Bourguignon)
- 8 oz pancetta or bacon lardons
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 lbs lean stew beef (See Note 1)
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 shallot large, diced
- 3 cloves garlic diced
- 5 sprigs of thyme tied
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 bottle red wine (750ml)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 3 bay leaf
- 30 Cipollini onions
- 1 lb Crimini mushrooms
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Cut the pancetta into small bite size cubes and beef into 2-inch cubes. Set aside.
- Heat a cast iron skillet or casserole pot and render the pancetta low and slow over medium heat. Remove browned pancetta and set aside.
- Add 2-inch beef cubes to rendered pancetta fat and brown on all sides. Season with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Set aside.
- Add olive oil to pan and sauté the sliced onion until golden in color then add the diced shallot and crushed garlic. Cook for several minutes.
- With spoon scrape up all the little bits on the bottom of the pan from the pancetta and beef.
- Next, add the browned pancetta and beef, sprinkle with flour and stir, cooking for several minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to mix in.
- Pour the red wine and beef stock in mixing thoroughly. Place the bay leaves and tied thyme bundle in the pot and stir. Cover and place in oven to bake for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours check liquid and if more is need to just cover meat then add beef stock. At this point add the mushrooms and onions to the pot and stir to mix in. Cover and continue to bake for 2 1/2 more hours.
- When time is up remove from oven, remove thyme bundle and stir. Serve with your choice of potato, rice or over pasta. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
- The best cuts of beef for stew are from either the front shoulder or the rear. These will be a little tougher and lend well to slow cooking where the connective tissue breaks down for tender meat. It’s less expensive as well. These are the specific cuts to look for. Any of them can be used for French beef stew: Beef Chuck, Chuck Shoulder, Chuck Roast, Chuck-Eye Roast, Top Chuck, Bottom Round Roast, Bottom Eye Roast, Rump Roast, Eye Round Roast and Top Round
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.