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Tonight I made a Carbonnade Flammande (basically just a Boeuf Bourguinon with beer instead of traditional red wine). I have made this stew before successfully, but this time the meat was very tough! I'm trying to troubleshoot, so here are some details.

First, I browned the meat (chuck). Then I caramelized some onions and deglazed the pan with a bit of beef stock. The beef goes back in the pan with enough beer to just cover it. Then I cooked it in the oven (covered) at 175C for about 2 hours and 20 minutes. I had checked it at the halfway point to see how it was going, and the meat was still tough. To my disappointment it was still tough even at the two hour point.

My guess is that either the meat I bought is just a bad/old/tough batch (it was precut stew meat), I didn't have the oven low enough, or didn't cook long enough (though the classic recipe says two hours should be sufficient). I know browning gives you great flavor, but could it make the meat too tough? Should I have had even more or less liquid? What do you think?

I'm really a novice in the kitchen so all of your comments are appreciated.

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It sounds like you did everything right except you didn't cook it long enough. Pre-cut stew meat is often from tough cuts, and can sometimes take a long time to get tender. I would suggest lower and slower next time. Also, maybe you didn't rest the meat after cooking, I would suggest resting at least 30 minutes but give it an hour if you can. Try giving yourself 4 and a half hours from start to serve, 3 and a half for cooking at 150C and 1 hour for resting, that should give you a more consistently tender result.

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It sounds like the meat was just not up to par. These things happen. If you find that your meat is still a bit tough, try putting the whole lot in the pressure cooker for 10 mins, this should tenderize the meat a bit more and still give you a great meal.

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