Stewing is a relatively slow process, but one that can often take place in the background (with perhaps only an occasional stir required). You can prepare a stew in an electric slow cooker or using a conventional pot, either on a stovetop or in the oven. Many cooks prepare stews in quantities large enough to last for several meals. Stews often taste even better the second time around.
Stewing not only develops and concentrates flavor, it is also a good way to save money by using cheaper cuts of meat that respond well to slow cooking.
Those cheaper cuts of meat, in the case of beef, include chuck, round, brisket and shank. Poultry stews often include cheaper cuts such as the legs and thighs. Fish stews call for meaty fish like cod, halibut, snapper and sea bass. Vegetable stews can include anything that will stand up to a slow cooking process.
Some cooks dredge the foods they are stewing in flour and brown them in oil or butter before stewing, while others simply throw diced vegetables and meats into a pot, add liquid, and move on to other tasks. If you do the browning step, put the browned items aside, and then add diced carrots, onions and celery. Brown these diced vegetables. Deglaze the pan by adding liquid (stock or wine) and scrape up the bits of flour and vegetables that stick to the bottom of the pot. Add back the browned foods, stir, and then slow cook over medium heat.
A vegetable or seafood stew might be ready in twenty minutes, while a hearty beef stew could take a few hours. A recipe might give you some cooking time guidelines, but even if it does, it pays to test for doneness from time to time. A good cook will also make an effort to skim off the fat from a stew after the cooking process is complete.