How to Tenderize Stew Meat 

( And THE perfect Beef Stew Recipe )

For a long time I went searching for the perfect Sunday Pot Roast Stew  recipe and each and every time I tried to make this comfort meal in different ways I ran into a re-occuring  problem. Tough Beef. Creating a tender stew can sometimes be challenging, and various issues may arise during the cooking process. Below are some common problems people encounter and some simple ways to address them. At the end of this post, you’ll find my always perfect, pull apart tender, slow cooker, chuck roast recipe. 

1. Is your meat tough?

   Issue: The stew meat turns out tough and chewy.

   Solution: Ensure you choose the right cut of meat, and consider marinating, slow cooking, or using enzymatic marinades to tenderize the meat before cooking.

2. Is your meat dry? 

   Issue: The stew lacks moisture and is dry.

   Solution: Use a flavorful liquid base, such as broth, wine, or tomatoes, and make sure there’s enough liquid to cover the ingredients. Consider adding more liquid during cooking if needed.

3. Overcooked Vegetables? 

   Issue: Vegetables become mushy and overcooked.

   Solution: Add vegetables later in the cooking process or choose heartier, root vegetables that can withstand longer cooking times. Alternatively, cut vegetables into larger chunks to maintain their texture.

4. Flavor Imbalance?

   Issue: The stew lacks depth of flavor.

   Solution: Layer flavors by sautéing aromatics like onions and garlic before adding the meat. Use a combination of herbs, spices, and umami-rich ingredients like tomato paste to enhance the overall taste. You can also try searing your chuck roast in a mix of olive oil and red wine on medium-high heat to lock in the flavorful juices. Sear on all sides until a dark brown crust is formed on the outside. ( Be sure not to cook all the way through on this step! ). 

5. Bland Stew?

   Issue: The stew is bland and lacks seasoning.

   Solution: Season generously with salt and pepper throughout the cooking process. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Consider adding herbs, spices, or a splash of acidity       (such as vinegar or citrus) to brighten the flavors. I like to use a package of Lipton’s dry Onion Soup!

6. Thickening Issues?

   Issue: Difficulty achieving the desired thickness in the stew.

   Solution: Adjust the amount of liquid, and consider using a roux (flour and fat mixture) or a cornstarch slurry to thicken the stew. Be mindful not to add too much thickening agent at  once to avoid over-thickening.

7. Inconsistent Cooking?

   Issue: Some pieces of meat or vegetables are undercooked while others are overcooked.

   Solution: Cut ingredients into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking. Stir the stew periodically, and if using a slow cooker, ensure that ingredients are evenly distributed. Cook on      low temperatures for long lengths of time for best results!

Addressing these common issues can help home cooks achieve a tender and flavorful stew. Adjusting techniques, ingredients, and seasoning throughout the cooking process can help you to achieve the epitome of a warm, comfort meal. 

Tenderizing stew meat is a crucial step to ensure a flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth texture in your dishes that call for stew meat. 

Here are several methods to tenderize stew meat, but if you want to know MY SIMPLE secret to getting the meat tender every time, check out the recipe below and my thoughts on  number 5 on this list! 

1. Marinating

    Create a marinade with acidic ingredients like vinegar, wine, or citrus juice. The acid helps break down the tough fibers in the meat.

   Allow the meat to marinate for at least a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Enzymatic Marinades

   Use natural tenderizing agents like pineapple, kiwi, or papaya, which contain enzymes that can break down proteins.

   Be cautious with marinating times, as these enzymes can over-tenderize and affect the meat’s texture if left for too long.

3. Salt Brine

    Submerge the meat in a brine solution with salt. The salt helps break down muscle fibers and improves the meat’s ability to retain moisture.

   Brine for a few hours, depending on the thickness of the meat.

4. Pounding

   – Use a meat mallet or the back of a heavy skillet to pound the meat gently. This physically breaks down the muscle fibers and tenderizes the meat.

   – Cover the meat with plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag to prevent splattering.

5. Slow Cooking

   Cook the stew at a low temperature for an extended period. This allows collagen in the meat to break down into gelatin, resulting in a tender texture.

   Consider using a slow cooker or simmering the stew on the stovetop. But here is the BEST WAY to attain tender beef stew meat .. When adding any liquid or beef broth to your dutch oven or slow cooker, be sure NOT to cover your roast all the way with liquid. IF cooking your stew beef  in any type of broth or acidic marinade, be sure to only cover the meat HALF WAY in liquid. Depending on the thick cut of meat, there should still be 1-2 inches of the meat outside of the liquid though out the slow cooking process. 

6. Commercial Meat Tenderizers:

   – Use a commercial meat tenderizer powder or liquid according to the product instructions.

   – Exercise caution with the quantity, as some tenderizers can affect the taste if used excessively.

7. Choose the Right Cut:

   – Opt for cuts of meat that are naturally more tender, such as chuck, round, or sirloin.

   – Trim excess fat, which can contribute to toughness.

The Perfect Beef Stew Recipe

And if the lists above were too much to think about all at once, you've got to try my Perfect Beef Stew Recipe below for no-fail results! 
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Servings 6


  • 1 Slow Cooker


  • lbs Chuck Roast
  • 1 package Lipton's Onion Soup
  • 1 Yellow Onion Quartered
  • 2 Garlic Cloves Chopped
  • 2 cups Beef Broth
  • 2 cups Red Potatoes Chopped
  • 2 cups Baby Carrots Chopped
  • 1 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS Red Wine
  • 1 TBS Corn Starch


Prep your meat

  • In a large pan or dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of  oil over medium heat. A red wine to the heat and oil.
  •  Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits of red wine and oil at the bottom of the pan. 
  • Lay chuck roast on all sides at 1 minute per side to sear. 
  • Sear until a brown crust has formed, but do not cook all the way through. 
  • Place Chuck Roast into your crock pot and rub with, garlic & onion soup mix inside your crockpot. 

Prepare your vegetables

  • Add red potatoes, onion, and baby carrots around the side of your roast. 

Add Liquid

  • Add enough broth so that broth only covers half of the roast.* This is essential for juicy and tender stew meat!
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 6 hours until the stew meat tender can be shredded easily with a fork. 
  • 30 prior to serving, ladle ¼ cup of broth out of the slow cooker and whisk in 1 tablespoon of corn starch to thicken. Put liquid back into your crockpot.
  • Throw it together before church and you’ll have an extra tender beef stew all ready for Sunday night supper!

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