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Crispy Beef from Stew Meat is that meat you can’t get enough of: It’s succulent, flavorful, incredibly delicious for nibbling and a favorite for everyone, even kids. Use it in tacos, burritos, bowls, for salads and on sandwiches, for lunch or dinner — even for special breakfasts next to fried potatoes or in omelettes.
Usually tender crispy beef comes from well-marbled expensive cuts of meat. Instead, this recipe shares how to turn affordable (often times tough and chewy) stew meat into tender and succulent Crispy Beef!
Use this flavorful beef for general recipes with a simple seasoning of just sea salt and optional pepper, or make spiced meat (like barbacoa with crispy edges), top with coconut aminos, dip into BBQ sauce etc. It’s very versatile!
What used to be my least favorite kind of meat (because I don’t like chewy or tough meat) is now a family favorite! Try to stop nibbling this savory treat!
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Beef for all …
This recipe is great for all meat eaters, but is also great for health food diets like Paleo, AIP, Keto, Whole30, VAD, Gluten-free and more.
Try to find grass-finished beef, if you can. I buy ours from a local farmer; it’s high in omega-3s, plus quite inexpensive! Buy in bulk to save money. (Grass-fed is not as good because it’s finished on grain and high in omega-6 fatty acids and estrogens.)
How to make Crispy Beef from Stew Meat
My favorite meats are slow-cooked very tender cuts of red meat, like lamb shoulder or beef short ribs. To be able to eat stew meat with the same amount of enjoyment is a great culinary boon!
I learned of this cooking method just by experimenting one night as I was cooking dinner. Suddenly, I had made everyone’s new favorite meal, so I was on to something.
Since then, Crispy Tender Beef is something I cook often; it’s a new staple, affordable and SO delicious.
How to make stew meat tender
The outcome takes two simple steps:
- Cook stew meat as is customary: slowly simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until tender, or as tender as stew meat gets, OR use your Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, and cook stew meat for 35 minutes, which is what I do and prefer. (Exact recipe below on the Recipe card.)
- Fry meat slowly over low heat, in a small amount of rendered fat, until crispy. (In the Recipe below, I share how to season the meat, too.)
One of the keys to creating the perfect “non-stick” crispy meat that’s easy to flip over, with tender moist insides, is the low frying heat!
The second slow cooking over low heat melts connective tissues, muscle fibers and any marbled fat and makes the inside of each meat cube or smashed meat chunk moist and very tender. The crispy edges give way to melt in your mouth flavorful beef.
What pan to use
I prefer All Clad’s stainless steel pans for cooking (this one‘s my favorite), including frying. Preheating the pan, before adding the fat, and then the slow cooking over low heat creates a non-stick surface, or almost.
If you have another pan you like that’s well-seasoned or non-stick, that approach will work fine as well.
Just remember that the long cooking over low heat is what makes the meat crispy and easy to scoop from the pan’s surface to flip and serve.
Ingredients in Crispy Beef from Stew Meat
- 2 to 3 pounds stew beef (or it’s probably also okay to use goat, wild game etc); yes, it’s okay to use less meat if you don’t need such a big quantity; just adjust all the other ingredients accordingly. But better yet, make the full recipe, and freeze leftovers for future meals. Also, what happens is: This meat is so good, everyone eats it up quickly!
- fat rendered, or added fat — Any meat fat will do, such as tallow or duck fat. But if you do the first cooking of your stew meat ahead of time (makes for easy meal prep or batch cooking) and chill the liquid it’s cooked in (which is Meat Stock), the rendered fat (fat that liquefies while the meat cooks and then chills and hardens when refrigerated) is perfect to use here, and economical.
- sea salt
- optional spices — For Mexican cooking, it’s lovely to use cumin and other spices. Otherwise, just salt and optional pepper taste great. See the Notes section below the main recipe for spice options, including for AIP and VAD.
How to serve Crispy Beef
I usually make Crispy Beef one of two ways: with just sea salt (and optional pepper/or dried ginger powder for AIP & VAD) — OR, I make it Mexican with cumin, dried oregano and optional chili powder.
When Crispy Beef is prepared with just sea salt (and optional pepper), here are some ways to serve it:
- with a topping of coconut aminos or Teriyaki Sauce and a side of cauliflower rice, Herb Roasted Cauliflower or white rice (for those who aren’t grain-free). Optionally garnish with sliced green onions, and serve with an Asian green vegetable like steamed greens or Marinated Asparagus Salad.
- with Korean Pancakes and dipping sauce
- alongside braised cabbage, sauteed greens and/or fried or Smashed Potatoes
- with Mashed Parsnips, Biscuits and Gravy (Paleo AIP)
- with hummus and Mediterranean mezza sides, and flatbreads or tortillas
- on top of a tender bun with BBQ sauce and cole slaw
- all by itself or with other hearty nibbles
- for breakfast, with fried potatoes or inside omelettes
For Crispy Beef with Mexican spices, serve it:
- in tacos
- inside burritos
- on a Mexican bowl
- on nachos
- tossed into a Mexican salad
- with rice and beans, and any desired Latin condiments
Crispy Beef from Stew Meat (Tender Meat from Tough or Chewy Meat)
- good quality frying pan like this one
- Instant Pot or pot for slow-cooking (simmering) meat on the stove top
- 2 to 3 pounds beef stew meat (probably also okay to use wild game stew meat) -- Cube into big bite-size pieces, if it isn't already.
- up to 2 Tablespoons fat rendered, such as tallow or duck fat (See Recipe below for more on this if you want to render your own fat. Or use store bought.)
- 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons sea salt , divided
- optional spices -- For Mexican cooking it's lovely to use cumin and other spices. Otherwise, just salt and pepper taste great. See the Notes section below the main recipe for spice options.
- First, to slowly simmer or pressure cook stew meat: Place meat in large cooking pot, or insert pot of Instant Pot. Cover with water by 2 inches. Add 1 Tablespoon sea salt. Stove top -- Cover, and slowly simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until tender, or as tender as stew meat gets. (Add a little extra water if needed as water evaporates.)Instant Pot -- Seal lid. Press "Stew" button, and cook at High Pressure for 35 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally or do QPR, whichever is preferred.
- Use a colander or strainer with a handle to scoop the meat from the pot, straining off any excess liquid (or you may also wait to strain the meat if you're going to chill the stock to congeal the fat).
- If you wish, at this time, chill the stock overnight (that resulted from cooking stew meat in water with salt). Once chilled, all the fat from the stock will rise to the surface and congeal into a solid layer of fat. This is tallow and perfect for frying the stew meat. Otherwise, you may use your own solid fat that you already have on hand, such as tallow or duck fat. (It is also okay to use avocado oil, but animal fat is preferred.) [Photos below show chilled tallow on top of meat stock in pot and same tallow in frying pan. The amount of tallow you use can be estimated. It does not need to be measured perfectly.]
- Slow-fry beef over low heat: Heat dry pan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking hot. (If your tallow is wet with stock, there is no need to preheat the pan before adding the fat.) Add just enough fat to coat the pan when it's melted (about 1 Tablespoon to start, and then add more as needed), allow it to melt, and swirl it around to cover the surface of the pan. Add strained meat to the pan, spreading it out evenly. If you wish, smash some of the meat so it's not as "tall" but has a bigger surface area to get crispy. If you use the full 3 pounds, use two pans, or fry meat in 2 batches, so as not to overcrowd.Sprinkle, to taste, with sea salt. When you first start frying the meat, it is likely some moisture will need to first evaporate. That's fine. As soon as it cooks off, the low heat frying begins. Reduce heat to low.
- Fry meat slowly over low heat until crispy. (In the Recipe below, I share how to season the meat additionally, too, if that's desirable, as with Mexican dishes.) The frying will take as long as 25 to 30 minutes on the first side and 20 to 25 minutes on the second side, depending on your pan. (Try flipping one piece toward the center of the pan to see if it's done cooking. It will be crispy brown when ready to be flipped.)
- How to scoop up the meat and flip it: After frying the first side of the meat cubes for 25 to 30 minutes on low heat, use a spatula to flip it. You may still need to scoop deeply into the pan, or turn your spatula upside down to get the best scoop and help the crispy meat come clean from the pan. As needed, use a fork with your spatula to make sure each piece of meat is flipped upside down, so the second main side can also fry up crispy brown. If you wish, gently smash some of the meat down flatter after flipping. There is no need to add extra fat to the pan at this time unless you feel it's needed or want to.Season second side of meat with sea salt, to taste, and also add optional freshly ground black pepper, or for AIP and VAD, use dried ginger, to taste, as you would with black pepper.
- When second side of meat is crispy brown and done cooking, keep meat warm until you're ready to serve, or serve immediately.
Mexican spiced meatWhen you season each side of the meat with sea salt, optionally add a medley of Mexican spices and herbs. Stir together first, or sprinkle on separately:
- 1-½ teaspoons cumin
- 1-½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional, omit for nightshade-free)
This looks wonderful! For the first cooking, the slow one in the instant pot or similar, is the meat in one big chunk/joint, or is it in bite-sized chunks? Sorry if I missed it in the recipe! 🙂
Hi Carina, no problem. It is already cubed into bite-size pieces before the first cooking. 🙂
I did the first step in the instant pot this morning and need to fry what’s left of it, maybe this evening, as we ate beef with the stock for breakfast.
Leave it to you for coming up with this appetizing way to prepare stew beef!
You’re so sweet, Dorothy. Great to hear, and thank you! What a lovely breakfast, and I hope you end up loving the Crispy Beef!