Making a stew sounds simple enough. Once the initial work is done, the pot just simmers away without needing much of your attention, right? But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely foolproof. Here are the top mistakes to avoid when making beef stew.

1 Not Searing the Beef

Once you’ve diced your beef, you need to brown it. Too many cooks add the meat to the cooking liquid and then go away. Yes, that will still make edible stew, but it will be bland and one-dimensional. Searing meat creates all kinds of complexity of flavors, literally by producing new flavor compounds through the magic of heat plus protein.

Moreover, brown meat is more attractive than gray meat, which is what you’ll get if you don’t sear your meat. Brown all sides of the cubes over high heat in a bit of oil. Don’t worry about overcooking it. Braised meat is by definition well-done, and your stew will keep it from being too tough

2 Including Thickeners

There’s a misconception that stew ought to be “thick.” True, stew is heartier than soup, but this is mostly due to the fact that the pieces of meat, potato, and carrots are bigger than they might be in ordinary soup. That, and there is also a higher solids-to-liquid ratio. But the liquid itself should not be thick in the same way that gravy is thick. 

3 Overcooking the Veggies

Speaking of simmering, it might take an hour or more for the beef to break all the way down, but that doesn’t mean you should simmer your carrots and potatoes for that long. Your onions will be fine, but mushy potatoes and carrots are a no-no. Instead, add them about 20 minutes before the end of cooking. When they’re tender, the stew is done. If you’re adding frozen peas? They only take a minute to heat through, so wait to the last minute before adding them.

4 Serving It Right Away

This is not so much a mistake as a reminder that beef stew is one of those dishes that gets better when you heat it up the next day. The flavors continue to intermingle overnight, especially if you got a good sear on the meat to begin with, so that leftover beef stew can often surpass the original stew in terms of flavor complexity and harmony

5 Throw away all ingredients at the same time

Personally, we like a little bite on our veggies, so we add them with about 45 minutes in cooking time left. This way, they won’t fall apart and get mushy. But they should be fairly soft—otherwise, the stew will be a little more on the soupy side. Also, don’t think you’re restricted to just beef, carrots, and potatoes. Go crazy with hearty herbs like rosemary and thyme, and experiment with veggies like fennel and squash. And don’t be afraid to use spices to give everything a little

6 You want your stew to be rich, but not so decadent that it’s a gut bomb. Skim the top of your stew and remove as much of the fat as you can before serving.