Boeuf bourguignon, though seemingly elaborate, is a simple-enough dish to cook. This French classic, made of fall-apart beef chunks swimming gloriously in a rich red-wine sauce, takes around three hours to stew and is incredibly nourishing.
A Sunday ritual that my partner and I have come to love? Whipping up a mean boeuf bourguignon, a glass of wine in our hands, and our favourite Queen songs on loop.
In fact, we love it so much that it’s now become a “whenever we have a day off” ritual as well!
I first met boeuf bourguignon in Nora Ephron’s Hollywood hit Julie and Julia. Despite the hundred thousand steps in the recipe (or so it seemed, at the time!), this was a piece of art I had to try for myself—and it helped, the first few times I attempted it, that this is such a forgiving recipe.
Before we proceed, don’t let the number of ingredients and steps scare you. Every step is worth the effort, so just keep soldiering on with a lot of love and patience!
Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe
- A large pot or dutch oven
- A slotted spoon
- A wooden spoon or ladle
- A colander
- An extra pot (to collect the sauce)
- A medium-sized skillet or pan (for the mushrooms)
- Additional plates/dishes (to use while transferring ingredients between equipment)
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- A tablespoon Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1.5 kilograms Stewing beef or chuck steak, or beef brisket with the fat trimmed off chopped into two-inch pieces
- 170 grams Bacon, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons All-purpose flour
- 1 large White onion, diced
- A large sliced carrot keep the slices half an inch thick, at most
- 6 Garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups Fine red wine—I love a pinot noir, but you can also use a merlot or a chianti, and reduce the quantity by a cup if you want a milder sauce
- 2 tablespoons Tomato paste
- 2 cups Beef stock, if you’re making your sauce mild, add an extra cup of beef stock
- Beef bullion, crushed
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons Fresh parsley, finely chopped
- A teaspoon Fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 500 grams Quartered brown or white mushrooms
- A pinch Freshly ground pepper and coarse salt,
- 12 Pearl onions, these are optional but I love my onions and feel like you can never have too many in a stew!
- This recipe serves six to eight people (or one person for four or five days, if you’re like me!) and uses the oven. You can also cook this on the stove with a slow or pressure/multi cooker, but I find the oven method the easiest.
- Let your oven preheat to 175℃.
- In the meantime, heat up the oil in a heavy pot or a large dutch oven.
- Once heated, saute the bacon until it’s brown and crispy. This should take about three minutes over medium heat.
- Once the bacon is cooked, transfer it to a large dish using a slotted spoon so that you aren’t taking away too much of the oil and fat remaining in the pot.
- It’s now time to sear your beef! I find that searing the beef in batches works best for me, as that means I can better ensure that each piece is evenly browned on all sides. Also, the chunks sear better when you pat them dry with a paper towel before searing. Remove the chunks once cooked.
- In the remaining mix of fat and oil, saute your white onion and carrots until they soften. This should take around three minutes.
- Once cooked, add about four cloves’ worth of minced garlic and let this cook for another minute.
- With the vegetables still inside, drain all but a tablespoon of fat/oil from the pot and put the bacon and beef back in. Season this with a bit of ground pepper and coarse salt, sprinkle the all-purpose flour all over the meat, making sure that all the meat is evenly coated, and let this cook for four or five minutes.
- Now, add the wine, pearl onions, herbs, bullion, tomato paste, and enough stock to just cover the meat. Let this simmer on the stove for a couple of minutes.
- Cover the pot and transfer it to the lower rack of your oven, where it should simmer for another two or three hours. We’re looking for a tenderly-fall-apart consistency in the cooked meat, for which it’s important that the liquid simmers slowly (you may have to adjust the heat a couple of times to achieve this).
- When the meat is almost done, with just about five minutes of cooking time left, it’s time to get onto your mushrooms.
- Use a medium-sized pan to heat up the butter. Once it’s done foaming, add in the remaining minced garlic and cook it for about 30 seconds, until it turns fragrant. Add the mushrooms.
- Let the mushrooms cook for around five minutes, ensuring that all the pieces are coated with butter. If required, season the mushrooms with pepper and salt. Cook until they’re browned, and then set aside.
- Place a colander over a large pot and empty the now fully-cooked contents of your dutch oven/pot. You can get rid of the herbs.
- Put the meat and veggies back into your pot or Dutch oven and add in the mushrooms.
- Skim the fat that’s now floating on the surface of your sauce. There are many ways you can do this, though I prefer to keep it simple and simple scoop it off with a ladle.
- Once you’ve skimmed the fat off, let the sauce simmer for a couple of minutes. If any additional fat rises to the surface during this time, skim this off, too.
- At the end of two minutes, you should have around two and a half cups of thick sauce (thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon; if it’s thicker, dilute with a few tablespoons of stock and if it’s thinner, reduce until you hit the desired consistency).
- Season once again with pepper and salt. It’s important to taste before seasoning; don’t underestimate the importance of tasting! Once the seasoning hits the right notes, pour the sauce over your meat and veggies.
- If you plan to dig in immediately, simmer the dish for another couple of minutes before doing so. Though many folks opt for the classic meat-and-mash combination, I love my boeuf bourguignon garnished with a bit of parsley and a side of rice. It’s also pretty darn delicious with noodles.
- If you’re serving the bourguignon a day or two after cooking it, let the pot cool entirely. Then, cover it and refrigerate it. When you need to serve it, let the bourguignon sit outside the fridge for at least an hour before you need to reheat it.
- To reheat it, simmer gently over medium-low heat for about ten minutes. Make sure you baste the veggies and meat with the sauce during this time so that they don’t dry out.
- Always taste, whenever possible. Because there are so many components and flavours, it’s very easy to have one overwhelm the other, especially the first few times you whip up this delicacy. Tasting is the best way to fix any overwhelming flavours before it’s too late.
Having said that, know that some flavours mellow out once the stew is allowed to rest a little, such as the flavour of the wine.
- Simmering the dish for a couple of minutes before eating it may seem unnecessary after all that cooking (and waiting!) but trust me when I say that the payoff is worth it.
These two minutes of simmering can make all the difference between a rich, glossy sauce that’s the perfect consistency and a sauce that’s either too weak or too thick.
- It doesn’t matter if the wine you use isn’t worth hundreds of pounds. I use a £20 pinot noir that works excellently; you can go even cheaper as long as the quality of the wine is good.
- If you’re not a fan of wine, you can replace it entirely with beef stock (though the wine is a huge flavour point).
Boeuf bourguignon is best cooked with stewing beef or any lean cut. For the pork, bacon works best.
Overcooking your boeuf bourguignon will cause the wine to turn bitter, imparting a bitter taste to the whole dish. In such a case, a little sugar and butter may help correct the flavour, but it’s always touch-and-go.
There’s no denying it—boeuf bourguignon is a fair bit of effort but the result is more than worth it, in my opinion. You can always store the leftovers—and these just taste better with time! Again, just make sure you have plenty of patience and love to pour into this recipe (and some wine to pour into yourself), and you’ll be golden.