Considered by many to be the mother of all stews, beef bourguignon is a slow-cooked French dish of beef, bacon, carrots, onions and mushrooms in a rich red wine sauce.
To make the best stew of your life, start two days before you plan to serve her. Don’t cut frying ingredients individually, use homemade beef he broth.
One of the best memories of my trip to Burgundy was finding a family-run bistro in a small village. Serving traditional French cuisine, it was so good you could swear you were in a hidden Michelin starred restaurant.
Being in the birthplace of beef bourguignon, I couldn’t help but order this iconic dish again and again. Every bistro had a secret recipe and no two were exactly alike.
The most incredible beef burgundy I’ve ever had in my life, apart from the quality of each!.
I have one more thing to add to this list. That’s the beef bourguignon recipe you’re reading right now. It was created with the help of his Jean-Baptiste Alexandre of Baptiste & Wilson, a traditionally trained Burgundian French chef who lives here in Sydney. For such an iconic dish, I refused to compromise on old recipes. I’m here.
What goes in Beef Bourguignon
There are two main components to making Beef Bourguignon:
- Red wine-marinated beef; and
- Slow cooked stew
RED WINE MARINADE FOR BEEF
What you need to marinate beef in red wine
- Chuck beef – Not all beef is created equal, even when slow-cooked into fall-apart submission! Look for good quality chuck beef, ribboned with fat for the juiciest result.Also, be sure to either buy BIG pre-cut pieces – as in 4-5 cm / 2” cubes – or a one single piece which you slice up yourself. If you purchase pre-cut pieces that are too small, they will cook faster than the time it takes for the sauce to develop enough flavour;
- Pinot noir – Beef Bourguignon is also known as Beef Burgundy, and thus the wine called for is a Pinot Noir – the most famous variety of wine produced in the Burgundy region of France. Using a lighter style wine might sound unexpected for a hearty stew, but the more delicate flavour compared to bolder wines like Shiraz makes it ideal for using as a marinade so the red wine flavour doesn’t overwhelm the natural beef flavour. We’re using a whole bottle here. Sorry folks, you’ll need another bottle for drinking!
- Thyme and bay leaves – Classic herb aromatics;
- Carrot – Just your everyday standard carrots will do fine;
- Pearl onions – These small onions are the traditional onions used in Beef Bourguignon but are annoyingly difficult to find here in Australia. I use what’s sold as “pickling onions” which are virtually the same but slightly larger, so I peel an extra layer or two off the surface to make them pearl onion size (~3 cm / 1.2″ diameter).Alternative: Just use slices of a normal onion. The end result tastes the same, I promise!
And here’s what goes into the stew:
- Beef stock – The single biggest variable on which a stew hinges, differentiating a good home-cooked stew and a quality, why-does-this-restaurant-stew-taste-so-damned-good result. Homemade beef stock trumps store-bought. But if you’re going down the store-bought path, try to opt for a good quality stock from the butcher rather than the cheap mass-produced stuff. The difference I promise is remarkable. Having said that though, I would never say that this is not worth making with basic supermarket beef stock. It is, oh-so-very worth making!
- Bacon – Get slab bacon from your butcher if you can, so you can cut it yourself into big chunky lardons (batons). A proper bite of meaty bacon lardons is part of the awesomeness that is Beef Bourguignon.If you can’t find slab bacon, try speck (which in Australia seems to usually smoked pork belly chunks). Failing that, normal bacon slices works just fine too;
- Mushrooms – Just your everyday normal mushrooms. Cut large ones into quarters, medium ones in half;
- Garlic – Flavouring (rare to see a savoury dish around here without it!);
- Tomato paste – For a touch of tang, to help thicken the sauce, for flavour and for colour; and
- Flour – For thickening the sauce.
How to make Beef Bourguignon
For the absolute best results, start this 2 days before you plan to serve it to allow for:
- Overnight marinating of the beef; and
- Leaving the finished stew overnight to let the flavours develop even further.
PART 1: BEEF MARINADE
- Marinate beef for 24 hours in red wine with the onion, carrot, thyme and bay leaves. This tenderises and infuses the beef with beautiful flavour. I’ve tried it with and without marinating, and marinating is way better. It’s worth it!
- Strain and reserve the red wine – we’re going to reduce it to use as the stew braising liquid;
- Pat beef dry – Separate the beef from the carrots and onion, then pat dry. Why? Because wet beef won’t brown. Browning is key for flavour!
- Season beef with salt and pepper. Ugh, please don’t skip this step. I once did, and even though I was salting the sauce furiously at the end, it just wasn’t the same!
PART 2: MAKING THE STEW
I recommend taking the time to brown each ingredient individually before slow-cooking it in the broth.
- Brown beef aggressively all over, because colour = flavour! A very heavy pot like a cast iron pot / Dutch oven works best for this job.Be sure to use enough oil so the beef browns rather than burns. Work in batches and don’t crowd the pot otherwise the beef will just braise instead of brown.Once browned, remove into a bowl;
- Bacon – Cook the bacon next, to release all that tasty bacon fat which we then use to brown the subsequent ingredients;
- Onion next – Just cook until you get some nice golden patches, it’s impossible to make it golden all over due to the shape. Put these in a separate bowl because these get added back into the stew partway though the slow cooking phase;
- Mushrooms – Cook the mushrooms until golden, then add them into the same bowl as the onions;
- Carrots last – And finally, pan-roast the carrots until you get some lovely colour on them. We add some butter here, because you’ll find that the mushrooms soak up all the remaining bacon fat, but we need some fat to make the roux with the flour in the next step;
- Tomato paste and flour – Add the tomato paste and cook to take the raw edge off. Then add flour and cook for a minute;
- Add liquid – Slowly add the beef stock while stirring so the flour dissolves easily, no lumps! Then stir the reduced red wine in;
- Add beef, bacon, thyme and bay leaves, then give it a good stir and bring to a simmer. Now, it’s ready to slow-cook into fall-apart magnificence!
PART 3. SLOW-COOKING
It’s just a matter of time – don’t forget to add the onions and mushrooms in between!
- Oven 1 hour – Cover pot then place in the oven for 1 hour at 180°C/350°F (160°C fan). At this temperature, the stew is simmering very, very gently in the oven, like it would on a low stove. I find the oven is easier than stove because you don’t have to worry about the base catching – no need to stir;
- Add onion and mushroom then give it a gentle stir;
- Return to the oven for another 1½ hours, until the beef is “fall apart tender” – like THIS:
- Adjust thickness and salt – At this stage, if the sauce hasn’t reduced enough (ie. too thin) or the sauce is too thick (which can happen if you didn’t use a heavy-based pot), you can adjust it using the stove. If it’s too thin, just simmer gently on low heat. It won’t take long to reduce and thicken. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of water then simmer gently to bring it together again. Also, don’t forget to check if there’s enough salt in the sauce! Taste and adjust as necessary.
Highly recommended: Leave overnight before serving
As with all stews, beef bourguignon benefits greatly from being left overnight for more flavor development and even better mixing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s sensationally served the day it’s made…but even better the next day!
What to serve with Beef Bourguignon
I think it’s good to accompany short pasta, polenta, and cereal.
And although I usually offer Paris mash as an even more luxurious alternative, beef burgundy is actually richer. I feel it is too much.