Stew is too bitter, need advice quick

On my first attempt to make beef stew, today, I used some really thick, dark stout of a beer as part of the liquid in my pot. After two hours of cooking the meat, I discovered that the broth is very bitter due to the beer. A fairly decent amount of brown sugar didn’t fully compensate for the bitterness–is there anything else I can do besides throw in more sweetener?

What else is in the stew? How thick is it? Can you add tomatoes? More stock? A bit of Madeira? Sherry? Sweet Marsala?

Onions? Onions are actually sweet-ish.

Alcohol in savory foods can produce a bitter flavor. I don’t know if you’re using a low temperature or a slow cooker, but the temperature may not have evaporated all the alcohol from the beer. Before doing anything else, blast it to boiling point for about 2 minutes, then allow to cool, and taste again. I wouldn’t add more sugary stuff if I were you.

Beef, carrots, onions, potatoes, a bay leaf, and water. No tomatoes or stock, and I thought wine and beer together would be weird–but maybe it would be okay? Since it’s my first time making stew, I took the betty crocker beef stew, which has surprisingly little seasoning, and added beer.

jjimm was right on. After a couple minutes of a rolling boil, the bitterness was gone. The beer, if anyone’s interested, was a 9.1% ABV Russian imperial stout by Victory which, it turns out, was way too heavy to drink. An ounce is tasty–a glass of the stuff, though, I find undrinkable.

If people have more tips on making stew, such as yummy ingredients to add, please post. The recipe I started out with seems very unrealistic: it used only about 4 cups of water, whereas I started with that and ran dry before filling up the pot again with beer and water.

Maybe a touch of vinegar and salt? Really, I got nothing. That might or might not work, I can’t guarantee the results.

I’d say to just enjoy it for what it is… Dark beer will give you that complexity. Maybe throw in some mushrooms and garlic to absorb and/or counter and complement the bitterness?

It’s been said already, but I had this same problem cooking with Guiness.

A rolling boil for 2-3 mins prior to adding to the cooking pot gives a rich, smooth liquid without the bitter taste.

Beef ‘n’ Guinnes Pie - YUM!

Glad that worked. Yeah, 9.1% is very alcoholic for a beer - that’s more like a barley wine, so it takes a bit more oomph to get the booze out of it.

As for stews - lots and lots of fresh thyme and a bay leaf; that’s all I got. Oh, and dumplings. And if you hadn’t already put sugar into it, I’d recommend a tablespoonful of balsamic vinegar.

Crap. I mixed 1/2 cup of cold water with 2 T. of flour, slowly added it into the stew, and boiled for two minutes, but the raw flour taste is there and pretty strong. I thought boiling was supposed to get rid of that?

1/2 cup is a LOT of flour! If you’re going to use that much, make a basic roux with butter, and cook it well first. Otherwise, use cornstarch - about 1 tbsp per pint of stew - mixed up in a little cold water first, to make a paste, then pour the paste in, and mix well while simmering, until it thickens.

Not 1/2 cup of flour–two tablespoons of flour mixed into 1/2 cup of water. Going by the betty crocker.

It’s going to take a while for the flour to cook and lose the floury taste. I rpefer cornstarch or arrowroot if I am using a thickener like that. Even better is to use some oxtails or a shank, the collagen makes for an even better thickener and adds taste as well.

Well, everything went well except for the flour at the end. Next time I’ll make a roux and brown it before adding. Do I need a double boiler to make a roux, or just careful control over the heat?

Try this. Next time, dredge the stew meat in flour, brown it, and then add the liquid and the other stuff. When I do this, I never need thickener at the end of cooking, and there’s no flour taste.

Those fine minute tapioca granules are a traditional American thickening for stew. Just sprinkle a tablespoon or so into the stew towards the end of cooking. It’s the same fine tapioca that is also very traditionally used in American fruit pies.

The easiest thing to thicken stews - almost instantly and virtually tasteless, is instant mashed potato. I keep it for no other purpose. Just stir it in by the spoonful until you get the desired thickness.

Incidentally, although the boiling appears to have solved the problem, it wasn’t because you boiled out all the alcohol. Alcohol actually takes a really long time before it all boils out. FIfteen minutes of simmering would only get rid of 60% of the alcohol; 2 minutes of rolling boil would probably get rid of less than that.

I wonder whether it may have broken down some bitter proteins in the dish?

It seems to me that the bitterness is more likely due to the hops content of the beer, rather than the alcohol. I’m as big a beer snob as the next guy, when you’re talking about drinking. But having learned the bitter lesson the hard way, when it comes to cooking with beer–which I do a lot–I use the cheapest, pisswateriest American beer I can get. That way I get the nice yeasty depth that makes cooking with beer so nice, without–in my experience–the nasty bitterness you tend to get with “better” beers.

A roux is a very simple thickener, it is nothing more than flour sauteed with butter or some kind of fat or oil. It should be made over direct heat in a frying/sautee pan/skillet.

Simply singe the flour till blonde (or dark, if preferred) in a medium heat pan with a roughly 2 to 1 ratio of fat to flour (about 6-10 minutes). You should only need from 1-2 tablespoons of roux to thicken a pot of stew, but usually roux is a base and should be used from the beginning. It can be added to stew later as a thickener, but traditional American stew would probably not be roux based or derivative unless you were from Loisiana…