How to prepare a classic french beef bourguignon?

January 17, 2024

The Birth of a Classic French Dish

Every country has its signature dishes, and the beef bourguignon is, without a doubt, one of the culinary jewels of France. This hearty stew, a testament to the French love for good food and wine, is as rich in history as it is in flavor. It is a dish that requires time, patience, and a certain understanding of the subtleties of French cooking. But fear not, as we will guide you through the step-by-step process of creating this iconic dish in your own kitchen.

Originating from the Burgundy region of France, beef bourguignon is traditionally prepared using the local Charolais cattle. This breed is known for its marbled meat, which provides a rich beef flavor that is not overwhelmed by the wine in the recipe. Nowadays, any high quality beef cut into chunky pieces will suffice.

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Let’s first gather all the ingredients that you will need for this classic recipe.

Gathering Your Ingredients

To prepare a classic French beef bourguignon, you’ll need a selection of ingredients that include beef, preferably chuck roast cut into two-inch cubes, thick-cut bacon, red wine, preferably a Burgundy or a Pinot Noir, beef broth, tomato paste, fresh onions and garlic, and a bouquet garni (a bundle of fresh herbs). You’ll also need some mushrooms, pearl onions, and a bit of brandy to add that extra depth of flavor.

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An essential part of the dish is the wine. The wine not only adds flavor, but it tenderizes the beef, breaking down the fibers in the meat to make it melt-in-your-mouth tender. When selecting your wine, remember the golden rule of cooking with wine: if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.

Preparing the Ingredients

Before you start cooking, it’s essential to prepare your ingredients. First, cut your beef into two-inch cubes. This size is perfect as it allows the meat to cook evenly and absorb the flavors of the stew.

Next, you’ll want to prepare your bacon. Cut your bacon into small pieces and cook it in your pot until it’s crispy. Remove the bacon, but leave the fat in the pot. You’ll use this to brown your beef, adding an extra layer of flavor to your dish.

Finally, peel and quarter your onions, and clean your mushrooms. You’ll add these to your stew later.

Cooking the Beef Bourguignon

Now that all your ingredients are prepared, it’s time to start cooking. Preheat your oven to 325°F (165°C). This is where your stew will finish cooking, slowly simmering and developing all those rich flavors.

First, season your beef with salt and pepper. Then, add it to the pot, browning it in the bacon fat. This process, known as searing, locks in the juices and gives the meat a beautiful color. Once your beef is browned, remove it from the pot and set it aside.

Next, add your onions and garlic to the pot, cooking them until they are soft and golden. Then, add the tomato paste, stirring it into the onions and garlic. This will give your stew a rich, tomatoey base.

Now, you can add the wine, beef broth, and bouquet garni. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and add the beef back into the pot.

Finally, cover the pot and place it in the preheated oven. Cook the stew for about three hours. This long, slow cooking time allows the flavors to meld together and the beef to become tender.

Adding the Final Touches

Once your stew has been in the oven for about three hours, it’s time to add the final touches. Add the mushrooms and pearl onions to the pot, stirring them into the stew. Then, return the pot to the oven and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

During this final cooking time, the mushrooms and onions will become tender and absorb the flavors of the stew. After about 30 minutes, remove the pot from the oven.

Your classic French beef bourguignon is now ready to serve. Ladle it into bowls, topping each serving with a sprinkle of fresh, chopped parsley. Serve it with a slice of crusty bread for dipping, or over mashed potatoes for a truly hearty meal. Bon appétit!

The Role of a Dutch Oven in Beef Bourguignon

The dutch oven is an all-important kitchen tool for anyone planning to master the art of French cooking. Its thick, heavy walls and tight-fitting lid create an ideal cooking environment for our beef bourguignon. The dutch oven can be transferred from stovetop to oven with ease, making it perfect for this recipe that requires both methods of cooking.

Begin by searing the beef on the stovetop in the dutch oven. This process caramelizes the sugars in the meat, resulting in a rich, complex flavor that’s essential to the beef bourguignon. Once the meat is browned, we add beef broth and red wine, traditionally a pinot noir, to deglaze the pot and capture all those tasty tidbits stuck to the bottom.

The next step is to add in our tomato paste, garlic, and onions before placing the dutch oven into the preheated oven for the long, slow cooking process. This method of cooking breaks down the connective tissue in the beef, resulting in melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Julia Child, the beloved French chef, famously endorsed this method in her cookbook, cementing its role in the creation of this classic French dish.

Serving Your Classic Beef Dish

After hours of slow cooking, your beef bourguignon is now ready to impress. This classic beef stew is traditionally served with a side of creamy mashed potatoes, which complement the rich flavors of the stew perfectly. However, it’s also delicious served with crusty French bread, which can be dipped into the red wine-infused broth.

Before serving, remember to remove the bouquet garni. While it has imparted its flavors into the stew during cooking, it’s not meant to be eaten. Afterward, ladle the beef bourguignon into bowls and top with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley for a pop of color and freshness.

In keeping with the French tradition, consider pairing your beef bourguignon with a glass of red Burgundy wine. The same wine used in the recipe is always a safe choice to complement the flavors of the dish.

In conclusion, preparing a classic French beef bourguignon may be a labor of love, but it’s well worth the time and effort. The rich flavors of the beef, red wine, and bouquet garni, along with the earthy mushrooms and sweet pearl onions, make for a hearty, satisfying meal that’s sure to impress. Whether you’re preparing it for a cozy family dinner or a special occasion, this dish is a surefire way to bring a taste of France into your home. Bon appétit!


Creating a classic French beef bourguignon is not merely about following a recipe. It is an exercise in patience and an exploration of rich French flavors. From the choice of beef and wine to the slow cooking process in a Dutch oven, every step is a testament to the French’s love for detailed and gratifying cooking. And the result – a rich and hearty beef stew, bursting with the flavors of red wine, herbs, and vegetables.

Pair it with a nice glass of Pinot Noir, some mashed potatoes or a baguette, and you have a meal fit for a king. But the real beauty of this dish is not just in its taste, but in the joy of cooking it. The process might be long, but as the flavors meld and the aroma fills your kitchen, you’ll find that every moment spent is worth it. After all, as Julia Child said, "The measure of achievement is not winning another, but winning yourself."

So go ahead, put on your chef’s hat, and step into the delicious world of French cooking with a classic beef bourguignon. You’ll find that it’s not just a dish, it’s an experience. Bon appétit!