Best Foods for Stewing: Outdoor Cooking Method Essentials

Best foods for stewing outdoors

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Outdoor cooking often conjures images of grilling, but stewing is a versatile and deeply flavorful method suited for open-air preparation. Employing a pot to slowly simmer ingredients, this technique allows for a blend of flavors that develop robustly over time. As a cooking method, stewing involves submerging cuts of meat, seafood, or vegetables in a liquid—be it water, broth, wine, or beer—and applying gentle, prolonged heat.

When stewing, meats like beef, lamb, or chicken transform, as slow cooking softens their fibers, making them tender. For robustness, root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions offer structure and absorb the flavors of the stewing liquid. A well-seasoned broth, possibly enhanced by rich ingredients like tomato juice, plays a critical role in imparting taste and ensuring the dish’s ingredients meld harmoniously.

For a successful stew, you’ll need a sturdy pot like a Dutch oven, which can withstand open-flame cooking in this outdoor cooking method. Begin by browning your choice cuts of meat to introduce a Maillard reaction, creating a foundation of savory depth. Once browned, reduction of the stewing liquid through simmering concentrates the flavors. Incorporating seasonings such as garlic, aromatic herbs, and spices turns a simple stew into a complex one-pot meal, brimming with nutritional value and satisfying warmth.


For an optimal outdoor stewing experience, selecting the right cut of beef that benefits from slow cooking methods is key. Stewing, a technique that involves simmering food in liquid over a long period, enhances the flavor and tenderness of beef cuts, especially when combined with wine and aromatic herbs.

Beef Chuck

Beef chuck is a cut from the shoulder area, well-suited for stewing. It’s rich in connective tissue, which, when browned and then slowly simmered, turns into gelatin and gives beef stew a silky texture. Pair beef chuck with herbs like thyme for best results.

Beef Shank

Beef shank, taken from the leg portion, is ideal for braising due to its dense muscle and bone content. Its exposure to moist heat softens the tough fibers, releasing robust flavors. You’ll find that beef shank becomes exceptionally tender after it’s been cooked in a stew.


Oxtail, once browned, provides a depth of flavor unmatched by many other cuts. It is traditionally used in rich stews that benefit from its bone marrow, which melts under slow cooking conditions, contributing luxurious richness to the dish.

Bone-In Short Rib

Bone-in short rib is another premium choice for outdoor stewing. This cut offers a combination of meat and bone that imparts a hearty flavor to the stew. Simmer bone-in short ribs with a mix of red wine and stock, alongside carrots and onions, for a classic dish.


Lamb refers to the meat from young sheep that is tender and full of flavor, often used in various cuisines for its succulent quality. When stewing, you can expect lamb to contribute a robust, slightly sweet taste to your outdoor cooking. Simmer lamb cuts on low heat for optimal tenderness.

Choose the Right Cut: For stews, select lamb shoulder or leg, as they are ideal for braising and slow cooking methods. These cuts stand up well to prolonged cooking, which breaks down the connective tissue, resulting in fork-tender meat.

  1. Prepare Your Lamb: Trim off excess fat to maintain a clean flavor profile.
  2. Season Generously: Coat with herbs and spices suited to lamb’s hearty taste.

Begin by browning the lamb pieces to lock in juices and add depths to the stew’s taste. Then, place the meat into your pot and cover it with a flavorful liquid base. Utilize stock, wine, or a mixture of both for a well-rounded flavor.

  • Cook lamb at a simmer, not a rolling boil. Maintain a gentle bubble to ensure the meat cooks evenly without toughening.
  • Allow the lamb to cook slowly, typically taking 1 to 3 hours, depending on the size of the pieces.

Employ a tight-fitting lid to retain moisture within the stew. Check periodically and add liquid as necessary, ensuring the lamb remains submerged.

Finish your dish by incorporating vegetables like carrots and potatoes during the last half hour of cooking. This method preserves their texture and nutritional value, while their flavors meld harmoniously with the lamb.


When stewing pork, one cut stands above the rest for its balance of fat, connective tissue, and flavor: pork shoulder. Stewing involves cooking meat slowly in liquid, bringing out the richness of flavors and softening tougher cuts.

Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder, also known as Boston butt or picnic shoulder, is ideal for stewing. The cut contains a generous amount of fat, which imparts flavorful qualities to the dish and retains moisture during long cooking periods.

  1. Choose a well-marbled pork shoulder for your stew to ensure tenderness.
  2. Cut the pork shoulder into uniform pieces to promote even cooking.
  3. Brown the pieces in a heavy pot before stewing to deepen the flavor profile.
  4. Simmer the pork shoulder gently; this technique preserves moisture and enhances flavor without causing the meat to become tough.

By stewing pork shoulder, you allow its rich flavors to meld with other ingredients, resulting in a robust and satisfying dish. The slow simmering process employed in braising breaks down the connective tissues in the meat, leading to a fork-tender texture.


When you choose poultry for stewing in outdoor cooking, you’re looking for meat that holds up to slow cooking methods and melds well with flavors to create a rich, comforting gravy or stock.


Poaching is a gentle, simmering process ideal for chicken. It involves cooking the chicken at a low temperature in water or stock, infused with herbs and spices, until it’s tender. To poach chicken:

  1. Begin by submerging the chicken in enough liquid to cover it.
  2. Simmer at a low temperature to prevent drying out, ensuring maximum flavor absorption.
  3. Cook for approximately 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces.

Gravy creation: Integrate the flavorful liquid resulting from poaching into a gravy by thickening it with a roux or cornstarch. Chicken, after twice being addressed, demonstrates exceptional taste when stewed, as its fibers tenderize and distribute the absorbed seasoning throughout its texture.

Tougher Bird Meats (Turkey Legs, Duck)

Slow cooking method: Turkey legs and duck require a longer cooking time due to their dense muscle fibers. For tougher poultry like these:

  1. Season your meat thoroughly with desired spices before cooking.
  2. Braise in a covered pot at a low heat; this involves searing the bird first and then cooking it slowly in a small amount of liquid.
  3. Cook turkey legs for about 2 to 4 hours and duck for up to 3 hours until the meat is tender and easily pulls away from the bone.

Stock enhancement: Utilize the rich, gelatinous stock that forms from stewing these tougher meats. By slow cooking, you ensure the turkey or duck is flavorful and succulent. These meats serve as a strong base for intricate stews and deliver an unmistakable flavor depth to both stock and gravy.


Seafood refers to marine and freshwater organisms commonly consumed as food by humans, offering a variety of flavors and nutrients. For outdoor stewing, certain seafood stands out due to its robust structure and compatibility with simmering in flavorful cooking liquids.

Tough Cuts Of Fish (Monkfish, Halibut)

Monkfish and halibut are ideal for stewing due to their firm texture. These tougher cuts maintain their integrity when subjected to prolonged cooking, absorbing the flavors of the broth without falling apart. Start by cutting your monkfish or halibut into large chunks. Submerge these pieces in a seasoned broth and simmer over a low heat source to extract maximum flavor. The key to stewing tough cuts of seafood is a gentle, slow cook that preserves the fish’s nutrients and texture.

Shellfish (Shrimp, Clams, Mussels)

Shellfish contributes a rich, oceanic taste to stews when steamed or simmered in a cooking liquid. Sequentially add shrimp, clams, and mussels to your stew to ensure they cook evenly without becoming too tough or losing their delicate flavors. Introduce clams and mussels first, as they take longer to open and cook through, followed by shrimp which cooks more quickly. Remember to discard any shellfish that do not open after cooking, signifying that they are not safe to eat. Shellfish not only adds depth to the stew but also infuses essential nutrients into the liquid, enhancing the overall savoriness and healthfulness of the dish.

Game Meats

Game meats are prized for their rich, distinct flavors, and when stewed, yield tender and hearty meals perfect for outdoor cooking. Stewing, a slow cooking method involving simmering small pieces of meat in liquid, is an ideal way to soften the typically tougher fibers of game.

Game Meats (Venison, Rabbit)

Venison, the meat of deer, is lean and contains less fat than beef, making it a healthier option for stewing. To begin stewing venison, cut it into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Then, season well and brown the chunks in a hot pot with a small amount of oil to enhance its naturally savory taste. Add aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery, as these contribute additional flavors to the stew. Incorporate liquids like stock or wine, include herbs like rosemary or thyme, and allow the mixture to simmer gently. Venison stews for approximately 1 to 2 hours or until the meat becomes fork-tender.

Stewing is particularly well-suited for rabbit, a lean meat similar to chicken but with a more pronounced flavor. Prepare rabbit for stewing by sectioning it into pieces and browning them in a pot. Mix in a flavorful liquid, such as broth or a tomato-based sauce, to braise the meat. Braising is similar to stewing but usually involves larger cuts of meat and less liquid. For rabbit, the process frequently takes about 1 hour, resulting in a delicate texture that easily pulls apart. Seasonings like garlic, mustard, and bay leaves complement rabbit’s subtle gaminess, accentuating its taste without overwhelming it.

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Rob Orr

Robert David Orr is the pitmaster behind Rob's culinary experience and knowledge is built on a rock-solid foundation of years spent perfecting the craft of grilling, starting with his vast hospitality experience at 15 and continues today. His passion for the craft of open-fire cooking is matched only by his fervor for sharing his experience and knowledge with other foodies. Rob has an infectious enthusiasm for all things culinary that truly defines the heart of this site. Whether you're seeking the secrets to the perfect brisket or the nuances of wood chip selection, Rob is an outstanding resource for those who take outdoor cooking seriously. Rob's philosophy is simple: Many of life's best experiences revolve around food and the most memorable are about simplicity and authenticity: great food, great company, and enjoying it all in the great outdoors.

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