Stewing is the process of cooking food slowly, over low heat, in liquid. When it comes to beef, stewing can vastly improve lower-quality cuts of meat. Instead of a tough steak, stewed beef becomes tender, juicy and moist. The beef releases its fat and flavour during cooking, as well, infusing any other ingredients with its beefy goodness. You can purchase pre-cut stew meat at most grocery stores, or purchase a large cut of beef and cube it on your own.
Chuck is a large section taken from the front of the cow. Chuck meat comprises about a quarter of total meat from the cow, so there are a wide variety of cuts. Chuck is made up mostly of well-exercised muscle, which makes it particularly well-suited for stewing. The high levels of connective tissue in chuck melt during the stewing process, infusing the meat and the rest of the stew with plenty of flavour.
Round is another large section of beef, taken from the back of the cow. Just about any cut of round will produce a flavourful stew, except for top round. Top round is far too lean for any slow, wet cooking methods like stewing or braising. In general, round cuts are relatively lean, so choose round meat for a healthier stew. Beef cubes sold as stew meat in grocery stores are often cut from the round.
Shorts ribs are cut from the chuck or the plate, the underside of the cow's belly. The short ribs are made up of alternating layers of lean meat and fat, which allows them to produce a very flavourful stew. Select short ribs with the bones removed for easier cooking. Bone-in short ribs also suitable for stewing. Chuck short ribs come in relatively small rectangles, making them the ideal shape for stewing.
The brisket and shank are two neighbouring cuts located underneath the chuck and next to the plate. Brisket and shank cuts are traditionally used for corned beef and do well with moist, slow cooking. Foreshank, in particular, stews very well. Brisket is only available boneless at your average supermarket, but shank cuts come both bone-in and boneless. Both brisket and shank cuts are made up of sections of fat and lean meat. This combination of lean meat and fat and ensures that the beef remains moist when it is cooked over long periods.