Beef bourguignonne, a traditional French stew, is perfect for drafty winter days. The classic Burgundian peasant dish, which is sometimes referred to as boeuf bourguignon or boeuf a la bourguignonne, consists of beef slowly simmered in red wine, mushrooms and bacon until tender. It’s a rib-sticking, warming dish that isn’t difficult to make—but there are a few things worth keeping in mind when preparing it. Here are a few of our best beef bourguignonne pointers.
If possible, prepare it a day before serving.
Letting beef bourguignonne sit overnight allows the flavors to meld together and intensify. If you have the time, prepare the stew a day ahead, chill it overnight, and reheat it once you’re ready to serve. (This also makes it a great make-ahead dish for dinner parties.)
Use the right cut of beef.
Chuck roast is the most traditional cut used in beef bourguignon. Cuts like chuck or blade roast are perfect for the dish, as they’re high in connective tissue, which will break down into collagen, creating a thick, full-bodied sauce.
Brown your beef in batches.
Well-browned beef is the key to a great beef bourguignonne. The Maillard reaction—a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that gives browned food its caramelized flavor—is a crucial step in this dish. For best results, always pat your beef thoroughly to remove as much surface moisture as possible. We also recommend browning your beef in batches to avoid crowding the pot, and using medium-high heat to achieve a really nice sear. Even if you decide to go with a slow cooker version of beef bourguignonne, don’t pass over these two steps; skipping either could result in steaming rather than browning.
Our secret ingredient: demi-glace.
Demi-glace, an intensely-flavored sauce base that contains meat stock and fortified wine, adds a depth of flavor to our beef bourguignon recipe. If you don’t have veal demi-glace, beef demi-glace would also work instead.
Skip the cooking wine and use a quality dry red instead.
Never use cooking wine, which has inferior flavor and can also include extra preservatives. Instead, opt for a good-quality dry red wine that’s affordable but still drinkable. Traditionally, beef bourguignonne is made with red Burgundy. Opt for a medium-bodied red wine that’s not aggressively tannic: as a first choice, we’d suggest going with Pinot Noir (either French or American) or a Beaujolais Gamay, followed by a Cotes-du-Rhone red blend or a not-too-tannic Zinfandel.