The truth is, if you don’t brown stew meat correctly, any number of things can go wrong. You can overcrowd the pan and wind up steaming the meat in its own juices; if the meat has been dusted with flour, you can steam the flour as well and wind up with paste. If you use the wrong kind of oil, you can burn it, and the meat, and the pan. If you use all butter, you can burn it, and the meat, and the pan.
Browning meat correctly is the key to making a delicious, flavor-packed stew, and here are the easy steps to make sure you’ll never steam your meat again.
1. Use a heavyweight stew or soup pot. A lighter one might be easier to lift, but it will conduct heat poorly, and you’ll wind up with hot spots (and cool spots).
2. Go easy on the flour. If the recipe instructions tell you to dredge the meat in flour, do so, but do so lightly. Too much, and you’ll wind up with paste.
3. Heat the oil you use until it shimmers; if it smokes, it’s too hot and you’ll scorch it. When it shimmers, add a few pieces of meat at a time to the pan — no more than five or six of average stew meat.
4. Wait, and be patient. Do not stir for 5 minutes, and then, using tongs, rotate the chunks of meat so that all sides are browned. Repeat.
5. If you’re making a large portion, remove the browned meat to a plate, cover loosely, and then add back to the pan (with all of the yummy accumulated juices), when the meat has browned completely.