So im going to be making beef stew again, and most recipes call for it to be browned. (This is going in a cast iron OLD dutch oven, so maximum season!)

That being said the Dutch oven itself is....narrowish on the inside. So browning a bunch of meat is tedious.

So I guess my main concern is obviously safety. I believe it's brought to a boil them simmered for 2 hours, or somewhere along those lines. Is it still safe for the beef if I don't brown it?

I know the Myth if browning sealing in the juices, but would I be able to maybe....half-brown it, as in not brown every-side but just kinda put it in and let it brown for a little bit and stir it around to make it still taste ok? Because Browning every single cube of beef is kinda a PITA.



2 Answers 2


Making a stew without browning is relatively safe since the prolonged cooking should kill off most pathogens. This is especially true if you are careful about your kitchen cleanliness and cut the meat down from a larger piece yourself instead of buying pre-cut "stew meat" or ground meat. Whole cuts of meat such as steaks or roasts usually only have E. coli on the surface, which makes the E. coli easier to kill by cooking. When the meat is ground or mechanically tenderized, E. coli on the surface can be transferred to the inside of the meat. This is why ground meat and mechanically tenderized meat are more likely to cause illness than whole cuts of meat. Like ground meats, prepackaged "stew meat" can contain tissues from multiple individual animals, thereby increasing the chance that there is E. coli present in the package. Each additional surface is another place for E. coli to grow while that package is sitting at the store or in your fridge.

Browning, however contributes a significant amount of flavor to the stew, which will be lost. The good news is that you don't have to brown every single piece... One alternative that I use is to buy the quantity of meat I plan to use as a whole roast (instead of pre-cut "stew meat") then sear the entire roast before cutting it down to stew-size chunks. You get the flavor benefit of the Maillard browning with less time spent browning little pieces and less overcooked meat. If you use a lidless, oven braise technique, as suggested in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, you will get further browning on any pieces that aren't totally submerged as well as flavor concentration from evaporation.

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  • 1
    Good answer but why do you think it's only "relatively safe" rather than "just as safe?" May 29, 2014 at 4:14
  • I also ask this.....and why is buying pre cut stew meat not necessarily as safe?
    – user17188
    May 29, 2014 at 15:46
  • Edited to answer comment questions. May 29, 2014 at 16:22

Brown the meat in small batches. You will lose flavor if you do not sear your meat. It's not so much about "locking in flavor" as it is developing flavor you wouldn't otherwise get. Not to mention the texture.

Properly sear a portion of the meat on all sides, remove it from the pot, repeat until you have seared all the meat and finally return it all to the pot.

It may seem tedious, but it should not take long at all in a hot vessel.

Oh. And as far as safety goes, it's a non-issue. The searing isn't meant to cook the meat through in the first place. The meat cooks in the stew. The searing is for building flavor and texture.

  • 1
    As a side note, @Mercfh, you could also brown the meat in a frying pan before putting it in your stew, which I often do. It works just fine.
    – RICK
    May 28, 2014 at 18:35
  • You will lose some flavor by not including the fond (little brown bits) that accumulate on the bottom of your pan. Plus, why wash two vessels?
    – logophobe
    May 28, 2014 at 19:37
  • If you use a separate pan, you can easily deglaze it with a bit of the water or stock that would be going into the stew. This way you don't miss out on the extra flavors. You still have the issue of an extra pan to wash though ;) May 28, 2014 at 21:27

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