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Tonight I prepared some beef stroganoff with a recipe from as a rough guide. It came out really well, except that the meat was very tough.

I bought the meat pre-cut as "stew meat," as recommended by the guy at the meat counter at the supermarket, and thus not specifically chuck roast. I bought it last weekend, expecting to prepare it that day, but plans changed, so I didn't prepare it until now.

I covered the meat (~1 lbs, cut up) with some white flour, then browned it until it was maybe 70% brown (a little red still visible), prepared the rest of the sauce, then let the sauce and meat simmer for an hour.

Did I brown the meat too fast? Did letting it sit in the fridge for a couple days make it more tough?

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Was it chuck roast as called for by that recipe? – Jefromi Mar 21 '12 at 1:54
@Jefromi: Good question, but not really... it was "stew meat." Probably ends and odd pieces I'm guessing... – Flimzy Mar 21 '12 at 1:55
I think your question is probably a duplicate of… or maybe… – Jefromi Mar 21 '12 at 3:05
@Jefromi: Yes, thank you... I searched the site before asking, but didn't come across those. – Flimzy Mar 21 '12 at 3:12
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Supermarket 'stew beef' is notoriously unreliable. Its often just scraps of beef that the butcher or market can't sell otherwise. My stews were hit and miss for years while I tried to tweak cooking time and such. But then one day I watched a movie on (paywall, sorry) and they talked about not using 'stew beef' - its often too lean and doesn't have the 'stuff' to produce tender, but juicy bits. They strongly recommended cutting up your own from a chuck....and they were so, so, so right.

In short, cutting up your own chuck is by far the better route - if you're looking for 'stew beef'.

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A good butcher will be able to provide this too. Supermarket stuff is generally awful – NBenatar Mar 25 '14 at 21:50

Strongonaff is supposed to be made with a tender cut like the fillet that has only been cooked for a couple of minutes at most. The short cooking times mean that stewing meat would not have sufficient time for the collegen to denature into gelatin and make the meat tender.

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American stroganoff is more like a stew as opposed to the quick-sauteed dish we're more familiar with in Europe. – ElendilTheTall Jul 4 '12 at 10:02

Around here, "stew meat" is usually cut into fairly large (1"-1.5") cubes. If yours was like that and you didn't cut it into smaller pieces as the recipe calls for, you should try that next time -- narrow strips cut across the grain will cook fairly quickly and won't be nearly as tough as the larger chunks. Strips are also more traditional for stroganoff.

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I cut them a bit smaller than they came, but did decide they were still too big in the end, so yes, I will be using smaller pieces in the future. Thanks for the tip. – Flimzy Mar 21 '12 at 4:31

I encountered exactly the same problem the same time I did beef stroganoff. Stew meat needs to cook for a long time to become tender. Try letting it simmer 30 min more.

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Regarding, some stewing beef for stews, pies etc. An old lady told me when stewing beef add one tablespoon of malt vinegar into the stock you are going to prepare. You will never have tough beef again, she was so right. I'm 80 now, and I've never have chewy steak. It doesn't smell or taste, when the food is ready.

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What I like to do is buy shortribs (on the bone) and braise them for my beef stroganoff. It's a fair amount of work, as you have to make beef stock (or buy if you so prefer, but I find homemade beef stock to be vastly superior to store brands), make the braising liquid (I like to use a red wine reduction along with beef stock and some herbs) and then braise. You get the tastiest beef you'll ever have out of it though.

Thomas Keller has a great beef stroganoff using this method in his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.

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