I'm working on making a long cooked version of a stew which uses apple cider vinegar as part of the flavor.

I was wondering what happens to the flavor of the vinegar when it's cooked for a long time. I have technical constraints and it needs to cook for about 24 hours, and I was wondering if it would lose the flavor.

Also I was wondering if adding vinegar is pointless, seeing as long cooked stews tend to get very brown, it'll end up being a very alkaline environment, and maybe that would cancel out the acidity.

  • 1
    How does brown = alkaline?
    – JAB
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 21:43
  • 1
    @jab maybe it doesn't. It goes the other way, that an alkaline environment causes more browning, so I assumed it would go in the reverse.
    – A Gold Man
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 7:11

3 Answers 3


An acid in a stew serves much the same purpose it would in a marinade. It aids in the tenderizing (typical 'stew meat' is cut from inferior cuts of the beef and can be tough) and balances the flavors. (As such I would disagree with @lspare about adding it "at the end", it needs time to do it's work)

Browning is a separate issue. Browning is the result of the Maillard reaction and should occur when stew meat is seared prior to being incorporated into the stew. In a stew the 'cooking temperature' is never above 212°F (100°C) and this will not 'brown' the meat.

  • Unless the "browning" observed is actually blackening from oxidation ... Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 10:54
  • Don't you think, though, that the long cooking time would be enough to tenderize the meat? I mean, 24 hours... Since he's specifically asking about flavor, I don't think you'll get much in the flavor dept. after stewing for that long.
    – lspare
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 16:09
  • How tender is 'tender enough'? When it comes to flavor adding it at the end probably won't make any difference, but the other effect of vinegar (tenderizing) would definitely benefit from the longer time.
    – Cos Callis
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 16:51

Add the vinegar in at the end of the cooking time if, after tasting, you think it needs the brightness. Long cooking times mellow flavors (as you have pointed out), and acidic/bright ingredients like vinegar are usually added toward the end so they don't get lost.

The only exception I can think of to this is when making bone broth, but the vinegar in that is not as much for acidity as for freeing up the collagen in the bones for the added nutrition.

  • some flavours become more intense with cooking due to reduction, for example salt. do you have any source that explains that acids mellow with cooking?
    – Mr Shane
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 19:46

Add vinegar when putting the meat in the pot after browning (Maillard reaction). Add spices at this time. Tough stew meat will take a couple of hours to get tender, and the vinegar helps this happen as well as add special flavor. Then add the onions, carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts etc and cook until the vegetables are the way you like them.

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