You’re preparing a hearty pot of beef stew. It’s got good flavor, but it’s still kind of runny even after a long simmer-sesh. Naturally, you want your stew to be thicker than a regular old bowl of soup—that’s one of the main differences between the two dishes, after all. So how do you get the glossy, rich results you want? Here’s how to thicken stew (it’s easy, promise).
How to Thicken Stew in 3 Easy Ways
Before you decide on a thickening method, take stock (heh) of the type of stew you’re cooking. Is it meat-based (like chicken or beef)? Is it mean to be more saucy, or chunky? And are there any dietary restrictions? Next, you can pick your thickening agent.
How to Thicken Stew With Flour
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). This will not only cook off the raw-flour taste and lend body to the stew; it also helps the meat develop a tasty golden crust. Dredge the meat in enough flour to coat it before searing in the pot you’re making your stew in.
Make a roux by combining equal parts flour and butter. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat, then whisk in the flour and cook until it’s golden brown and smells nutty. The liquid for your stew can then be added and whisked to combine.
If you’re not searing the meat first, you can add the flour in a slurry: Mix equal parts cold water and flour, stirring until it’s thoroughly combined with no clumps. Then, slowly pour the flour slurry into the simmering stew, stirring to prevent lumps. The stew should then be brought to a boil to cook the flour and activate the starch.
Make a beurre manié, which is French for “kneaded butter.” It’s a mixture of equal parts soft butter and flour, similar to a roux but it gets added after the liquid (and is less likely to clump). Simply mix equal parts butter and flour in a small bowl until it’s the texture of playdough, then add to the stew in small additions until it’s thickened to your liking.
How to Thicken Stew With Cornstarch
Cornstarch will thicken stew similar to flour, but has the added benefit of being flavorless and won’t cloud the liquid as much. It’s also gluten-free but has to be added carefully to avoided gloppy lumps. One tablespoon cornstarch per cup of liquid will give you a medium-thick stew that’s not overly viscous.
- Make a slurry by combining equal parts cold water and cornstarch in a small bowl, and whisking thoroughly to combine. Pour the slurry into the stew while it’s simmering, whisky constantly while bringing it to a full boil. Boil the stew for at least a minute, to ensure the cornstarch is activated (otherwise, it won’t thicken properly).
How to Thicken Stew With Arrowroot
Arrowroot is almost identical to cornstarch, but it’s smoother and even clearer. It’s also gluten-free, but shouldn’t be used in stews containing a lot of dairy (or it might get slimy). Like cornstarch, use about 1 tablespoon per cup of liquid added to the stew.
- Make a slurry by combining equal parts cold water and arrowroot in a small bowl, and whisking thoroughly to combine. Pour the slurry into the stew while it’s simmering, whisky constantly while bringing it to a full boil. Boil the stew for at least a minute, to ensure the arrowroot is activated (otherwise, it won’t thicken properly).
How do you thicken stew in a slow cooker?
No matter what thickener you choose for your stew, they all require high heat to actually do their job. But what if you’re making stew in a slow cooker, where you have less control over the temperature (and it’s not super-hot to begin with)? Here’s how to thicken stew in a slow cooker.
- Prop the lid: Since the lid of the slow cooker traps evaporating liquid, the moisture content remains the same. But if you prop the lid slightly with a wooden spoon or chopstick, some of the liquid has a chance to dissipate, which will thicken the stew slightly.
- Puree the soup slightly: If you’re making a vegetable stew, you can use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree some of the mixture. This will thicken the stew slightly without adding any additional ingredients.
- Use less liquid: If you know you want the final dish to be on the thicker side, you can slightly reduce the amount of liquid from the beginning. (And if it looks too thick, you can always add more liquid as needed.)