Stop wasting money on packaged "stew meat." Discover the best cuts of meat to make stew, and learn how to cut it up yourself.
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bowl of Slow Cooker Beef Stew I
Credit: Meredith Food Studios

Buying a package of pre-cut "stew meat" may sound like a time-saver, but you're not really doing yourself a favor, and you're probably spending more than you should. Find out why, and learn how easy it is to cut up meat for stews and chili yourself. You'll save money, and get a much better dinner, too.

What is Stew Meat?

The typical package of stew meat contains random scraps of different cuts of meat in all shapes and sizes left over after the supermarket butcher breaks down larger pieces of meat.

What's the Problem with Pre-packaged Stew Meat?

Different cuts of meat require different cooking methods to bring out their best. And if you don't know exactly what kind of meat is in that hodge-podge package of "stew meat," then you can't predict how it will all behave when you simmer it low and slow in a stew or chili. Will it cook down into fork-tender morsels, or will it go all tough and stringy? No one wants to play that kind of guessing game with their dinner.

What's the Solution?

First of all, learn what meat makes the very best stews, whether you use a slow cooker, stovetop, or oven. (Bonus: it's usually cheaper per pound than packaged "stew meat.") Then, learn how to cut it up, or cube it, to make your own stew meat.

How to Cut up Meat for Stew

Basically, you're cutting up a piece of meat such as beef chuck into pieces that are the same size on each side. Meat that's properly cut into cubes cooks evenly (and looks good on your plate). Use this same method to cut pork shoulder or lamb shoulder into cubes for stew.

How to Cut a Roast into Cubes in 3 Easy Steps

cutting meat into cubes
Credit: Vanessa Greaves

1. Place the roast on a large cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife, trim off hard fat. Then cut across the roast into 1-inch slices, as if you're slicing a loaf of bread.

2. Cut each slice into 1-inch strips.

3. Cut across the strips at 1-inch intervals to make cubes. Your finished cubes will measure 1 inch on each side.

Seriously, it's that easy. To make larger cubes, start with wider slices, cut those into wider strips, and cut across the strips into wider cubes. Just keep each cut the same width, and you'll get pretty close to perfect cubes every time. Yes, you'll always end up with odd little bits, but the vast majority of your meat will be cubed like a pro did it.

Try out your skills with our collection of stew recipes.