A few weeks ago I got myself a new tool.
I’m sadly attracted to shiny new tools.
But this is one that I’ve been eying for quite some time. And when I saw it sitting on the store shelf by itself with its price tag slashed three times, I knew it was time to take action.
I swooped in, dropped some bills, and was told that I just grabbed the last unit in the store.
Meant to be.
I stuffed it in my car, drove back carefully to my apartment like I was bringing home a new born, and unpacked it with such a love and care to make sure it stayed in supreme condition.
This is how I continue to treat my brand spankin’ new slow cooker – the original Crock Pot.
But what’s the big deal right? A tool is just that – a tool. Nobody cares about tools. You don’t care about tools. You care about what one can do with those tools.
That’s what I like about you.
So today I’m going to show you what I’ve been able to do with my brand new crock pot. I’m going to show you how I used it to make a week’s worth of absolutely delicious sweet potato beef stew in just under 60 minutes.
Let’s dig in.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this happen:
- A slow cooker (doesn’t have to be a Crock Pot),
- A deep saute pan (I use stainless steel),
- A cutting board (preferably a big one),
- A good knife,
- A peeler (optional, but very helpful),
- A garlic mincer (optional, but amazing).
Before I jump into the good stuff, I’d like to send a shout out to Jessica Williams from Butter with a Side of Bread. I used her awesome Best CrockPot Beef Stew Recipe as a framework for building mine. I made modifications where I had to, but I must admit she does have cooler pictures than I do! Make sure you check out her recipe for alternative ingredient ideas!
Alright, let’s get into the ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make a sweet potato beef stew:
- 3-4 medium-sized sweet potatoes,
- 2 lbs trimmed beef chuck (patted dry with paper towels),
- 1 medium onion chopped up,
- 2 cups of sliced up mushrooms,
- 3 stalks of diced up celery,
- 3-4 cloves of minced garlic,
- 3 good-size carrots sliced up,
- 1-2 cans of beef broth,
- 3 stalks of diced up celery,
- 1 can diced tomatoes,
- 1-2 Bay leaves,
- 1 tsp dried thyme,
- 1 tsp dried parsley,
- 1 tsp of Vegeta (spice)
- Salt and pepper (as needed),
- 2-4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil,
- 1-2 tablespoon of Coconut Oil.
- The quantities are not set in stone. Feel free to play around with them. The quantities I listed above gave me enough sweet potato beef stew to feed a small village (or enough to last me the whole week;
- Jessica uses 1 can of beef broth alongside a cup of cooking wine to make the sauce. If you’re like me and like to save your wine for drinking in excessive amounts, then either add an extra can of beef broth to the mix or simply add boiled water as you see fit when things are cooking in the slow cooker;
- Don’t overdo it with the sweet potatoes. They take the longest to cook. As I’ll explain later, you don’t want to have a bunch of them floating on top of the slow cooker;
- I talk more about this later, but I like to use coconut oil to coat the pan for high temperature cooking. Jessica uses olive oil. It’s up to you. Just note that regardless of what you use to coat the pan, you’ll still need 2 tablespoons of olive oil for the deglazing process later.
Once you’ve got all your shopping done, it’s time to roll back the sleeves and get to work. While some people like to do things as they go, I like to prepare everything ahead of time to make it easier for myself later on in the process . That’s why we start with preparation.
Step 1: Preparation
Estimated Time: 20-25 minutes
Grab your peeler, your knife, an your cutting board.
Peel and dice your sweet potatoes. Wash all your vegetables Cut up your mushrooms, dice your celery, peel and slice up your carrots, and mince your garlic (if you don’t have a garlic mincer, just cut up your cloves with a knife). Cut your beef chuck into 1/2 inch cubes and marinate them with your spices (Vegeta, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper). The picture above shows how I prep everything into containers.
Now throw your sweet potato cubes, celery, carrots, and can of diced tomatoes into the slow cooker and get your meat ready for some sizzling action.
This is definitely the longest part of the process, but it helps dramatically speed things up in later steps.
Step 2: Sear the Meat
Estimated Time: 5 minutes
Start heating up your saute pan on high.
Since we’re dealing with high heat, I like to use coconut oil instead of olive oil to coat my pan (always better to use a saturated fat for high heat cooking). Throw in your minced garlic. When the pan is hot, toss in your beef.
The idea here is not to cook the meat all the way. You just want to sear it. This part isn’t necessary (see Jessica’s post for simpler alternative), but it will provide a much better taste when it’s all said and done. Let the beef sit on high heat for five minutes with limited stirring. Let the meat brown the bottom of the pan. After 5 minutes, throw the meat into the CrockPot.
Step 3: Deglazing
Estimated Time: 10 minutes
Wait! Don’t you dare wash that pan!
We need it nice and dirty for our next step – deglazing!
“To deglaze a pan means adding liquid such as stock or wine to a pan to loosen and dissolve food particles (called fond) that are stuck to the bottom. The flavorful mixture produced by deglazing can then be used to make a sauce.” [Source]
We’re going to deglaze the pan to loosen up the flavorful meat remnants from the bottom of the pan and make the liquidy portion of our stew.
Place the pan back on the stove (on hot) and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil gets hot, throw in your diced up onions and wait 3-4 minutes for the onions to become translucent. Finally, add your 1-2 cans of beef broth.
When the liquid begins to boil, turn off the heat and add the entire mixture into your slow cooker.
Step 4: Add the final ingredients
Estimated Time: 5 minutes
You’re almost done.
Throw your mushrooms into the mix and stir up your concoction. Throw your bay leaves on top (for flavor).
Now you’re ready to get your slow cooker started.
There are a number of cooking time and heat combinations you can use with a slow cooker, but the best (and easiest) is to just throw it on low heat for 10 hours and let it sit over night (or over the course of the day).
Note: I did not include the 10 hour slow cooking time into the overall ‘recipe time’ because once the slow cooker is turned on, you don’t have to do anything until it’s done and ready to eat (except clean up and wash all your dishes!). Since you can do other things during those 10 hours (like sleep or go to work), the 10 hours are omitted. I usually make the stew Sunday evening and have it ready for Monday morning.
When you wake up, you’ll have this beautiful thing waiting for you…
Here are a few extra tips to follow:
- If you have lots of sweet potato sitting at the top of the stew, I would recommend you give the mixture a good stirring every few hours. I didn’t do this and the layer of sweet potato on the very top didn’t cook through all the way (I sadly had to remove it),
- If you feel that there isn’t enough liquid, you can add a little bit of boiling water to the mix as you see fit. Just keep in mind that the juices will rise over time.
- When it’s had time to cool off a bit, transfer your stew into a big pot and keep it in the fridge.
Step 5: Clean up!
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Please don’t be like my old roommate and leave all your stuff dirty and sitting around your kitchen. After your turn the slow cooker on, take some time to clean the place up, throw out the garbage, and wash all your dishes. Thank you!
Now for the best part…
You, my friend, get to have a delicious bowl of sweet potato beef stew every day of the week. Simply throw a portion into a small cooking pot, heat it up on the stove top (sorry, I don’t use microwaves), and enjoy the variety of flavors and textures!
With the winter months coming (at least up here in Canada), you can be sure that I’ll be making stews quite often. It’s the absolute best thing to come home to when you’re freezing your face off outside. I’ll keep you posted with any new slow cooker experiments I conduct.
But here’s the thing: being able to make a good, hearty, delicious stew is important. It’s an essential skill you need to master because, for the bit of time that’s required to make a big batch, you get a huge return on your effort in terms of satiety, nutrients, and time-saved.
You can see just how easy it is to make a stew with a slow cooker. In under 60 minutes I made more sweet potato beef stew than I knew what to do with. Well, I did. I ate it. And I shared it. And people loved it.
So no more excuses about not having time to make healthy meals throughout the week. Be smart and make it ahead of time!
So I’ll leave it at that. Any questions are welcome in the comment section below.
If you enjoyed this post, please be kind and do two things: 1) try making the recipe and let me know what you think; 2) share this post with your friends and family so they can get in on the fun too!