How to Cut Onions for the Perfect Beef Stew

Beef stew is a comforting, hearty dish that is loved by many. A key ingredient in beef stew is onions, which add tremendous flavor. However, cutting onions the right way is essential to bringing out their full potential in beef stew. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the entire process of how to cut onions for beef stew.

Why Onions Are Important in Beef Stew

Onions play several important roles in beef stew:

  • Flavor – Onions are packed with flavor compounds that get released during cooking. They impart a savory sweet, aromatic base of flavor to the stew.

  • Aroma – When onions are cooked they develop a wonderfully appetizing aroma that makes beef stew smell absolutely delicious.

  • Texture – The texture of onions evolves during cooking. They start off crisp and end up soft and yielding, adding pleasant contrast to the stew.

  • Browning – Onions brown beautifully to add color and additional layers of flavor through the Maillard reaction.

  • Thickening – Onions release juices and starches that help thicken and bind the stew as it simmers.

Cutting the onions properly ensures you maximize all these attributes in beef stew.

Choosing the Right Onion

For beef stew, yellow, white, or red onions all work very well. Sweet onions are also great since they have a milder flavor.

The most important thing is to select fresh, firm onions without any bruises or soft spots. Large onions tend to have the best flavor for stew since they have a higher ratio of flesh to skin.

Prep Work Before Cutting

Before you start chopping, it helps to do some prep work:

  • Peel the onion by cutting off the stem and root ends, slicing the onion in half vertically, and removing the papery outer layers.

  • Trim the ends and remove any bruised portions or skin.

  • Rinse the onion under water to remove any dirt or debris. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.

  • Gather your cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring cups, and other prep tools.

How to Cut Onions for Beef Stew

With the prep work done, it’s time to cut the onions. Here is a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Cut the onion in half – Place the peeled onion flat side down on your cutting board. Cut it in half from root to stem.

  2. Make horizontal slices – Lay each half flat side down. Make thin parallel slices across the onion, leaving the root end intact.

  3. Make vertical cuts – Hold the slices together and make vertical cuts crosswise. The width of these cuts determines the size of your onion pieces.

  4. Separate the onion pieces – Gently separate the onion with your fingers into individual diced pieces.

  5. Transfer to a bowl – Scoop up the diced onion pieces and transfer them to a bowl.

  6. Repeat with remaining onions – Follow the same process to dice all the onions needed for your stew recipe.

Onion Cut Styles for Beef Stew

Depending on your preferences, there are a few different ways you can cut onions for beef stew:

  • Small dice – 1/4 inch or smaller. Cooks quickly and blends into the stew.

  • Medium dice – Around 1/2 inch. Offers the best of both worlds.

  • Large dice – 3/4 inch or larger. Holds its shape and adds textural interest.

  • Sliced – Thin half-moons. Provides a nice rustic, chunky texture.

  • Chopped – Irregular sized pieces. Rustic with lots of edges to brown.

Onion Cutting Techniques and Tips

Follow these techniques and tips as you cut onions for the best results:

  • Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice cleanly through the onion with ease.

  • Keep onion root end intact while slicing to minimize tears.

  • Work quickly and efficiently while cutting to avoid releasing too many sulfur compounds.

  • Refrigerate onions for 30 minutes before cutting to reduce tearing.

  • Position a cutting board near an open window or turn on a fan to direct fumes away.

  • Soak diced onions in water for 5 minutes then drain and dry to remove harshness.

How Much Onion to Use in Beef Stew

As a general rule of thumb, use 1 to 2 cups of diced onions per 3 to 4 pounds of beef stew meat. Adjust the amount based on your preferences and stew recipe.

Sauteing the Onions for Beef Stew

Once your onions are prepped, it’s time to cook them. The basic process is:

  • Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.

  • Add the onions and saute for 10 to 15 minutes until softened and browned.

  • Stir frequently to ensure even cooking.

  • Add other aromatics like garlic, carrots, celery, etc. and cook briefly.

  • Add the beef and remaining stew ingredients and follow recipe directions.

Sauteing the onions properly before adding the beef builds tremendous flavor in the stew.

Storing Pre-Cut Onions

If you need to prep onions in advance:

  • Place cut onions in an airtight container.

  • Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

  • If storing more than 2 days, soak in water for 5 minutes first to revive texture.

  • Pat dry thoroughly before using onions to remove excess moisture.

With this comprehensive guide, you are ready to confidently cut onions for the perfect beef stew. By using the right onion variety, prepping them properly, cutting them to the ideal size and shape, and sauteing them correctly, you will maximize their impact on flavor, texture, and aroma. Master this simple skill and take your beef stew to the next level!

Chop Onions for Crock Pot Beef Stew


How long do onions take to soften in stew?

Add onion, cook 10 min or til soft and browned.

What onions are best for beef stew?

Yellow onions are perfect for stews, soups, barbecues, roasts and sauces. Avoid eating them raw as they have a strong flavour.

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