Beef bourguignon is a labor of love that is totally worth the effort. Slow-cooked beef in a red wine sauce with sweet pearl onions and earthy mushrooms is the ultimate winter comfort food!
Just over four years ago, back in October of 2014, I made a plan to tackle a dish that had been on my must-make list for a long-time: beef bourguignon and rich slow-cooked red wine beef stew. The experience was so wonderful it’s still at the top of my list of favorite cooking projects and I’ve made it a few more times over the years plus offered assistance to a few people who, after reading the post, wanted to tackle it, too.
And so earlier this week, with a winter storm swirling outside my window, I set out to make beef bourguignon again. I gathered the ingredients and, once again, simmered them over the course of several hours until they transformed into a beef stew that was so delicious, so intoxicating it was almost like some kind of spell was cast over my kitchen by the cooking gods.
Of course, it all started with Julia Child’s famous beef bourguignon, but after making it several times over the years I’ve made some slight adjustments and eliminated a few steps. It’s still a labor of love best made on a day when there’s not a lot to do except envelop one’s self in the aromatic haze of a savory stew simmering in the oven.
Tips for Making Beef Bourguignon
- It starts with bacon. Lots of bacon, eight ounces, in fact, that is cooked just until its fat is rendered in the pan.
- For the beef, I buy one pound of chuck roast or round roast that’s already cut into chunks, usually labeled “stew meat”. You can also use rump roast or pot roast and cut it down yourself into bite-sized pieces. I brown the beef in the bacon fat in batches so that it develops a nice crust. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan while browning the beef otherwise it will just steam and not sear. The beef will leave all kinds of browned bits on the bottom of the pan, which gives the stew even more flavor.
- Sliced onions go into the pan next and cook in the bacon and fat and flavor left behind by the beef. At this point, I like to add the tomato paste and cook it with the onions before adding the beef and bacon back to the pan.
- It’s here that I deviate from the classic beef bourguignon made famous by Julia Child. In her recipe, she directs you to sprinkle flour over the top of the beef and onions and then transfer the pan to a hot oven. She recommends roasting the beef and veggies for ten minutes or so, but it’s a step I skip these days. I sprinkle the flour over the top of the beef and veggies and give them a stir. I skip the roasting part and add the last few ingredients before transferring the pot to the oven to simmer for several hours.
- And the first of the last few ingredients is red wine. I’ve used cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, and Shiraz for this recipe. You want to use a dry wine and one that you like to drink. I pour just enough in the pan so it simmers making it easy to scrape up all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Then I pour the rest in along with some beef stock.
- While I wait for the liquid to come to a simmer I toss in several smashed cloves of garlic, and sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley. You don’t need to worry about chopping everything because the sauce is eventually strained after it’s simmered in the oven for several hours.
- Once the stew is simmering, cover it with a lid slightly askew to allow steam to escape and transfer to the oven for three to four hours. I usually check the beef for tenderness around the three-hour mark.
- The first time I made beef bourguignon I divided the work over two days. Once the stew has simmered and the beef is falling apart tender, you can fish out the beef, strain the liquid, and store the beef and sauce in the refrigerator overnight saving the last few steps for the next day. These days, I do all of the steps in one day. While the stew is simmering there’s plenty of time to prepare the mushrooms and onions and once the stew is done I just keep all of the components in the fridge until the next day when all they need is a gentle warm-up on the stove.
- My favorite part of this dish, even more so than the tender beef and silky sauce, are the pearl onions which are first blanched in boiling water just until their skins are loosened, then peeled and cooked in a skillet with butter and fresh herbs. The onions caramelize a bit in the hot pan and then water is added so that they cook through. They are sweet like candy once they are cooked. I keep them in a separate container until I am ready to warm the stew the next day.
- I cook the mushrooms in the same pan I cooked the onions. They cook in butter and herbs, too, until they’ve released their moisture. It’s important to cook the pearl onions and mushrooms separately because if you tossed them in the stew to cook for all of those hours they would completely break down and disappear into the stew. Cooking them separately ensures they keep their shape and their distinct flavor.
- Once the stew has simmered, I fish out the beef and then strain the liquid back into the pot. I like to simmer the sauce again uncovered until it reduces a bit and thickens. At this point, I add the beef back in, discard the other solids, and pack it up in a container. Into the fridge it goes along with the mushrooms and pearl onions in their own containers.
- With most of the work done, all there is to do the next day is to warm the stew with the onions and mushrooms and prepare whatever side dish that I want to serve with the beef bourguignon. This time I boiled some egg noodles, tossed them with butter and parsley and topped them with the stew.
Save this one for the next cold weekend and treat yourself. I promise the result is well worth the effort!
Post, recipe, and photos updated from the archives. First published October 2014.
More Cozy Soups and StewsPrint
Beef bourguignon is a labor of love that is totally worth the effort. Slow-cooked beef in a red wine sauce with sweet pearl onions and earthy mushrooms is the ultimate winter comfort food. Plan to make the stew a day in advance (you can make the onions and mushrooms while the stew simmers) and keep it in the fridge overnight – it will continue to develop its flavor as it chills.
Serve the stew on its own, with buttered egg noodles, or mashed potatoes.
For the Stew
- 8 ounces sliced bacon, cut into 1 1/2 inch slices
- 1 pound lean stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1 large white onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 (25-oz) bottle red wine (either Cabernet or Pinot Noir)
- 14 ounces beef broth
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 1 bay leaf
For the Pearl Onions
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 20 white pearl onions, peeled (see note)
- 1 pinch of kosher salt
For the Mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 pinch kosher salt
Make the Stew
- Preheat oven to 325°F degrees.
- In an oven-safe pot (see notes) cook the bacon until it’s browned and the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon leaving the fat behind in the pan.
- Dry the beef thoroughly (otherwise, it won’t brown well) by patting it with a paper towel. Add the beef to the hot bacon fat and sear on all sides. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to do this in batches. Overcrowding the pan will make it difficult to get a nice sear on the beef. Once browned remove the beef from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pot, saute the sliced onion until softened and lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s coating the onion. Place the beef and bacon in the pot with the onion. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir until it’s coating the beef and onions.
- Pour about 1/4 cup of the wine into the pan. As it simmers, scrape up the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the wine and beef stock to the pan. Adjust the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a simmer. While you wait for it to simmer, add the garlic, thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Once the stew is simmering, cover the pot with a lid slightly askew, and transfer it to the oven.
- Simmer the stew for 3-4 hours in the oven (adjust the temperature up and down as needed) or until the beef is fork tender.
- Remove the beef from the stew and set aside. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce into a saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer it for about ten minutes or until it has reduced and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the beef to the sauce and stir. Transfer the beef and sauce to a container and store it in the refrigerator overnight.
Make the Pearl Onions
- Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the thyme sprigs and the onions, stirring to coat them in the butter. Cook the onions until they start to brown and caramelize in spots.
- Add a 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover it with a lid. Simmer the onions in the water for about 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue simmering the onions until most of the water has evaporated and the onions are tender. Season the onions with the salt, transfer them to a container and discard the thyme.
Make the Mushrooms
- In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sautee them in the butter until they’ve released their moisture and are a deep golden brown. Season them with salt and transfer them to a container. Store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the stew.
Assemble and Serve the Stew
- Combine the stew, mushrooms, and pearl onions in a pot. Warm it over medium heat. If needed, thin the stew with a few splashes of beef stock. Taste the stew and add more salt, if needed.
- It’s good to have a plan and I recommend making the stew first and, while it’s in the oven, make the pearl onions and mushrooms. Keep them in the refridgerator overnight and then warm them together the next day when you’re ready to serve the stew.
- Everyone has different ovens, stoves and cooking equipment so don’t take the cooking times listed as the law. Instead, use your senses and trust your gut – if the onions are lightly browned in less time for you, go with it. Just because there’s time left on the timer (or, in some cases, more time may be needed) doesn’t mean you follow it. Trust your gut and your senses.
- As far as pots and pans, I used an 8-quart stock pot to make the stew, and a 10-inch skillet for the pearl onions and mushrooms. Depending on the size pots and pans you use you may need to adjust some of the measurements and cooking times.
- I adapted this recipe from Julia Child’s famous recipe and you may notice a couple of big differences. First, I only used one pound of beef, which means my versions is a little soupier than the original. I like how it turned out – it produces four very generous helpings. Also, the original recipe calls for carrots which I left out.
- I chose to use fresh white pearl onions instead of frozen ones, which is a popular substitute. You will need to peel the onions first and this tutorial shows you how. The fresh pearl onions are worth it because once cooked, they literally melt in your mouth like candy. If you do decide to use frozen ones, just toss them in at the end after you’ve reduced the sauce and added it to the beef. They will warm quickly in the hot stew.
- Recipe adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- Calories: 779
- Sugar: 19g
- Fat: 34.3g
- Carbohydrates: 47.8g
- Fiber: 7.2g
- Protein: 40g
Keywords: beef bourguignon