If you do prefer your stew on the thicker side, though, you can toss your beef in flour or cornstarch before you sear it—the bits left behind will thicken your stew and add deeper flavor. Personally, we like a little bite on our veggies, so we add them with about 45 minutes in cooking time left.
If you're using the flour or cornstarch slurry method, add the mixture at the last 30 minutes of cooking. This is enough time to cook the starch and thicken the soup.
Use cornstarch to thicken your stew towards the end of cooking, as cooking it for a long time can break down the starch and your stew will thin out again.
Thin, watery stews are easily thickened by adding flour. You can use any flour, from regular white flour to more nutritious flours like cassava or chickpea flour. If you want to add flour to thicken your stew, you'll need to first make a roux — a mixture of flour and fat.
Your stew broth should naturally thicken while cooking, thanks to the release of starch from the potatoes in your stew, and also from the collagen that cooks out of the meat, adding body to the liquid.
Whether you ran out of flour or have someone in the family with an allergy restriction and need a gluten-free thickener for your soup recipe, it's important to note cornstarch has twice the thickening power of flour. So if you need to substitute cornstarch in a gravy recipe that calls for ¼ cup (4 Tbsp.)
Cornstarch, potato starch, and chickpea flour are a couple of pantry-friendly ways to thicken soups, stews, and sauces in the slow cooker. Just a tablespoon or two of any — added towards the end of cooking — will thicken sauces especially well.
The easiest way to thicken a sauce with plain flour is to make a flour slurry. Simply mix equal parts of flour and cold water in a cup and when smooth, stir in to the sauce. Bring the contents to a simmer for 5 minutes to cook away the raw flour taste.
So long as you're not gluten-free, flour is an excellent option that you'll likely always have on hand. Not only can you use it to thicken sauces, but it makes an excellent thickener for gravies and soups as well. When added to liquid, the starches in the flour expand, helping to thicken whatever you add it to.
Flour can be used in three ways:
It can be added to the meat as it's being fried, before liquid is added, and this way it will thicken a stew as it cooks. We use this method in our beef & vegetable casserole recipe.
Thicken with Gravy Granules
It's an effective way of thickening and adding flavour, but it can add quite a few more calories to the dish if you use a heavy hand. There are around 17 calories per teaspoon of gravy granules (depending on the brand you chose) so make sure you account for this if you use this method.
Cornstarch is a gluten-free thickener. Unlike flour, cornstarch produces a clear, glossy sauce. Make a slurry. Just whisk together equal parts cornstarch and water to make a slurry — using about 1 tablespoon cornstarch per cup of liquid in your recipe — then whisk this into your pot.
Flour is a traditional thickener for stew, and it can be added in a few different ways. You'll want to use about 1½ teaspoons of flour per cup of liquid added to the stew. If the stew is meat-based, you can add the flour when you sear the meat (aka before adding any liquid).
The answer is you can do either. But traditionally coating the beef with the flour is the way to go and there are several reasons for this: The flour helps brown the meat better, the browned flour enhances the flavor of the sauce, and it also enhances the surface texture of the meat. So we're going to coat it!
Simmer the sauce in a sauce pot until it reaches your desired consistency. Make sure to keep the pot uncovered to allow excess liquids to evaporate. Avoid boiling the liquid to prevent any curdling or sauce separation. Keep in mind that simmering intensifies the sauce's flavors.
However, when using flour as a gravy thickener, you must double the amount—use 2 tablespoons of flour per 1 cup of liquid. Use a whisk or wooden spoon to incorporate, stirring constantly until you thicken the gravy to the desired consistency.
1 Tbsp. flour mixed with 1 Tbsp. of butter or other fat should yield enough roux to thicken 3/4 to 1 cup of warm liquid. To avoid lumps forming, slowing whisk liquid into the roux and simmer until mixture thickens.
Rush the cooking process and the beef will be tough and chewy. Follow this tip: For really tender meat, cook the stew low and slow, for approximately two hours.
Can you overcook beef stew? Yes, you sure can. Overcooked beef stew has mushy, mushy vegetables and loss of flavor.
The most readily available sauce-thickener is flour. For a too-thin sauce, try adding a slurry (equal parts flour and water, whisked together) or beurre manie (equal parts softened butter and flour, kneaded together to form a paste)—both are ideal thickeners for rich and creamy sauces, such as steak sauce recipes.
Try adding soy sauce or Worcestershire for extra savory (or umami) flavor, a touch of honey or brown sugar for sweetness, lemon zest or vinegar for brightness or chili powder or smoked paprika for spice and depth.
To thicken sauces, soups, and stews in a slow cooker, leave the lid open and let the cooking liquid simmer gently until it has reduced to the desired thickness. A slow cooker is like a Dutch oven with its own heating elements.
The only difference between the HIGH and LOW setting on a slow cooker is the amount of time it takes to reach the simmer point, or temperature at which the contents of the appliance are being cooked at.