Easy Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

This is a recipe we've tweaked and adapted to where it's finally just about perfect. The tender beef combines with tangy tomatoes, rich barley and a mild hint of dried thyme to make a recipe that's out-of-this-world delicious.

But best of all, it's easy. It takes maybe 15 minutes of prep work, and then just a few hours of zero-maintenance simmering in your crockpot. Before you know it, you'll be sitting down to an incredibly delicious and hearty meal that feeds up to nine hungry people. All for the laughably cheap cost of about $1.25 per serving. Can't beat that!

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

2 to 2.5 pounds stew beef, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
Black pepper and kosher salt, to taste
4 Tablespoons olive oil, in all
2 onions, chopped coarsely
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 cup red wine
3 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes (canned!)
5-6 cups water (depending on your slowcooker's capacity)
2 bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon ground dried thyme
2/3 cup pearl barley
Fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

1) Season the beef with black pepper and salt. Heat about 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil to medium-high in a large skillet, then brown the meat for a few minutes on each side. Don't overcook. Place the meat in the slow cooker.

2) Add another 2 Tablespoons olive oil to the same pan, heat to medium high, and saute the onions, celery and carrots for 5-7 minutes until softening. Add the red wine. Deglaze the bottom of the pan and let simmer for 3-4 minutes. Then add the vegetable/red wine mixture to the slow cooker.

3) Last, add the tomatoes, water, bouillon cubes, thyme and barley to the slow cooker. Stir and combine everything well, set slow cooker on high and cook for 3-4 hours. Serve with optional fresh parsley.

Serves 9.

Recipe notes:
1) You'll need a 5 quart slow-cooker in order to make this recipe as written, and even then, you might need to slightly reduce the amount of water in the recipe by a cup or so to make sure everything fits. Don't worry, it's still going to come out amazing. A good crockpot rule of thumb is to leave half an inch or so of space between the top of the food and the crockpot lid. Otherwise, sauce can splatter out from under the lid during cooking.

2) A suggestion for two easy side dishes that go perfectly with this recipe: Morrocan Carrot Salad and Perfect Corn Bread. Delicious and healthy!

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Sally said...

I made some beef and barley soup a few weeks ago that started with leftover brisket, but otherwise had the same ingredients. Very tasty! After a night in the fridge it was essentially stew.

I have a Moroccan carrot salad in the fridge right now. It is a little different, but the same idea and so tasty.

Daniel said...

Yep, the barley is what makes it all happen. I'm really coming around to this grain, yet sadly there's only one other recipe here at CK that includes it: our Mushroom, Barley and Swiss Chard Soup.

I've got to look around for some more CK-worthy recipes that use it.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm...interesting that you think the barley makes the soup. I was thinking about using buckwheat groats instead because that's what I have in the cupboard. I know that's blatantly ignoring your rule about always making the recipe 'right' the first time, but I'm really lazy about going to the grocery store! What do you think the chances are that this would be good with a substitute grain?

Daniel said...

I don't think I have an answer for you. The thing about the barley is that it releases starches as it cooks, which thickens the stew perfectly. Will you get this effect from buckwheat groats? I don't know. If other readers have any context to share on this, I'd love to hear it.