It’s a great time of year to pile a load of beef and root vegetables in the slow cooker. The longer they cook, the better the flavour.

Let’s be honest: nothing beats returning home to the smell of a perfect stew and the knowledge that you have to do is open the red wine and grab a bowl. You know the feeling….

But what do you put in the stew? Braising steak, stewing steak, stewing beef – here’s what they mean and what you should buy.

Braising Steak: the leanest of the lot, it means you’ll pay a little more per kilo, but it will cook quicker. Great if you don’t have much time. You can buy braising steak as slices or diced up – if you really want to impress your butcher ask for some chuck, leg of mutton cut (it is beef, I promise) or thick flank. They all give great braising steak, just with slightly different flavours and texture.

Stewing Steak: generally has more fat than braising steak. Fat equals flavour and succulence, so I’d always recommend you include some in your cooking. However if you’re on a big health kick, go for leaner braising steak. Stewing steak normally takes longer to cook but has better flavour – ask your butcher for diced brisket, blade or neck if you want to speak the lingo.

Stewing Beef: these are the offcuts from the butchering process. They generally don’t cut from any one cut, but are still good for a stew. Generally the fattiest and cheapest, stewing beef will need a longer cooking time but you’ll still get really good flavour.

Shhhhh, it’s a secret!

In my opinion the very best stewing cuts are either shin or skirt – both are actual cuts of beef – and they taste fantastic. The shin is from a cow’s, well, shins and does need a really long cooking time. It is well worth the wait if you can be bothered!

Skirt on the other hand is the muscular section of the diaphragm that attaches to the underside of the ribs. Make sure your butcher has removed the translucent layer of gristle before you buy it. Skirt has a really open texture and takes very little cooking. It’s lovely.

So there you have it, go make a stew – here’s a BBC Good Food recipe to help you.

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