Beef Stew with Wine (or not) and Bacon

this really is the BEST stew - adapted from Cook's Illustrated, make it with wine or use substitutions

I love stew in the winter, whether made in the oven, on the stove or in a crock-pot whether made with potatoes or served over potatoes (or even noodles), whether with wine or without, or even with beer.  I can hardly wait for a lazy snowy day to make stew, and when winter is over, I always wish I would have made more.

The BEST beef stew, with wine or not, with bacon or not. Serve over mashed or noodles.
The BEST beef stew, with wine or not, with bacon or not. Serve over mashed or noodles.

It’s May as I write, and sitting here in a T-shirt and shorts with the windows open hoping for a breeze. I can picture the snow piled outside and my son coming in from shoveling with his red cheeks, swaggering accomplishment and asking “What’s to eat?  Is dinner ready yet?”  My kitchen warm and steamy, the frost building up on the windows.

I’ll pull my big enameled cast iron pan from the oven (my kids will probably fight over this after I’m gone) and open it to see a delicious, slow simmered melange of vegetables and meat in a heavenly sauce.  I’ll serve it up with a crusty bread – and in that moment in time, honestly, who could ask for more?

The BEST beef stew, with wine or not, with bacon or not. Serve over mashed or noodles.
The BEST beef stew, with wine or not, with bacon or not. Serve over mashed or noodles.

I have a half-dozen or so stew recipes I trot out at various times, each with its own merits and flavors, but my favorite is this one adapted years ago from Cook’s Illustrated. This mimics Boeuf Bourguignon in many ways without the expense of a full bottle of Burgundy.

I’ve had many requests from individuals looking for a non-alcoholic version of Boeuf Bourguignon, and I’ve made a few suggestions on this recipe that I use when I don’t have any wine on hand or don’t wish to use any.

A good stew is never inexpensive to make, but if you shop well you can make it at about 1/2 the price (or less) of paying full retail – this recipe also makes eight servings, so hopefully there’ll be leftovers for another meal. Try making Shepherd’s Pie with leftovers – just place the leftover stew in the bottom of a casserole, top with mashed potatoes and bake.

The BEST beef stew, with wine or not, with bacon or not. Serve over mashed or noodles.
The BEST beef stew, with wine or not, with bacon or not. Serve over mashed or noodles.

Beef Stew with Wine or not & Bacon

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 ounces bacon, diced
  • 3 pounds chuck roast cut in 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt (may need more)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine (or substitute 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, 2 teaspoons red wine or balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon red or black currant jam or jelly – try it when it’s nearly done, and make your own adjustments from here – check below under Wine.)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 8 ounces frozen pearl onions, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, quartered

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Fry bacon in a large pot, remove and reserve when done. Remove two tablespoons of the drippings and place in a medium-sized saute pan. Leave the rest of the drippings in the pot.

Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper and brown, half at a time, in remaining drippings. Add a little oil or butter if needed. Thoroughly brown the meat on all sides for best flavor.

Remove meat, set aside and saute onion in same pan for four to five minutes until softened. Add garlic and saute one minute.

Stir in flour and cook till lightly colored, about one to two minutes. Deglaze with wine and bring up to a simmer, scraping up browned bits. (If not using wine, deglaze with the 1 1/2 cups chicken stock.)

Add in the stock (or the rest of stock, vinegar and jelly/jam if not using wine), bacon, meat, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer, again. Cover and place in oven for one and a half hours until meat is nearly tender. In the meantime, prepare the mushrooms and onions.

Saute the mushrooms for five to seven minutes in the reserved drippings until soft and tender and slightly browned. Remove the mushrooms and add the onions (already cooked) and saute until browned, about two to three minutes. Add mushrooms and onions to stew, along with the reserved bacon, recover and return to oven and cook another 30 minutes or so, until the meat is tender.

This can be served over noodles or mashed potatoes.

from the kitchen of

Crusty Bread
Crusty Bread

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Read {Strategies Applied} for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving money/time, buying at the best prices and managing this recipe.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Use a coupon matching site! Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.


Per Serving: 346 Calories; 23g Fat (63.1% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 809mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.

Put Your Spin on It: 

You can always follow the basic recipe and add potatoes, carrots, rutabagas or any of your favorite root vegetables.  It’s hard to go wrong with this recipe.  Just make sure you have enough broth to almost cover the ingredients.