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How to make classic French Beef Bourguignon

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Melt-in-your-mouth beef, slow-cooked in red wine is why French Beef Bourguignon is one of the tastiest and simplest meals you can make. Despite having only a few ingredients, it has a rich flavour, soaking up every ingredient as it cooks slowly over several hours. Prepare this recipe in the morning and have it cook in the background, ready for an easy to serve dinner. Usually served with potatoes and beans, it is the perfect comfort food.

Beef Bourguignon, or more accurately, Boeuf Bourguignon is one of France’s most well-known and loved dishes. Each region in France celebrates its own cuisine, blending together to create a country that is world-famous for simple yet tasty food. In France, the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region is the place to find authentic Beef Bourguignon.

It is one of our favourite dishes and showcases our love of both France and its food.

You know a recipe is one of your favourites when you go to open up the page of a prized recipe book and the page you need is stuck together. This happened to me when I grabbed “The Food of France” cookbook off the shelf.

My Beef Bourguignon recipe is no stranger to me so looking at the index was not necessary. I could tell where I would find the tasty recipe feeling along the edge of the pages. Having been opened so many times, the pages have given away ever so slightly from the spine, pushing the pages out and forming a ridge. A stranger’s eye would not see it, but as I rubbed my fingers along the edge, I knew exactly where I needed to be.

We love to cook it at home in a heavy, cast-iron pot but it’s also a simple meal that can be cooked when we are on the road in our motorhome.

Why this recipe works

  • It has very few ingredients and they are all simple ones, usually found in most pantries.
  • It can be prepared ahead of when you want to eat it. Marinading can be done the day before (and is actually recommended) and then all preparation can be done at the same time.
  • It cooks all in one pot, saving time and washing up.
  • The dish can be left for several hours and it will just cook for you without any fuss required.
  • Leftovers are great the next day.
  • The main protein ingredient has severral substitutions.
  • It can be cooked in a heavy pot on the stove top or in the oven. It can also be cooked in a slow cooker or even in a pressure cooker.
  • It’s versatile and a great meal for sharing.

What goes into this recipe

ingredients that go into a french beef bourguignon

Recipe ingredient notes

  • The beef component allows for substitution and any secondary cut can be used in this dish. Chuck, round, blade, shin, even brisket can be used in this dish.
  • Speck or lardons would be used traditionally in Beef Bourguignon. It is ok to use bacon if you do not have either of these.
  • Bouquet Garni is usually comprised of parsley, thyme and bay leaves, but you can substitute other herbs.
  • If you can’t locate French shallots, just substitute for more onions.
  • The mushrooms can be left off if they are something you don’t like.
  • Use the best red wine you can afford. The best red wine for Beef Bourguignon are the big, hearty, heavy reds with complex flavours. Think of the reds from Burgundy and Bordeaux, or big Australian reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

How to make Beef Bourguignon

It’s important to think about when you want to serve the Beef Bourguignon as it takes a little bit of preparation that is best done the day before.

The type of meat can be easily substituted but just be sure to use a secondary cut. This recipe requires low and slow cooking over a number of hours so it’s vital to have tougher meat that can withstand this length of cooking. We used a piece of round steak from a Scottish highland cow, grown by local farmers at Rivertree Farm.

round steak

Step 1

Cut the meat into 4cm (1.5 inches) cubes. Take off any excess fat. In a bowl, add the meat, red wine, garlic and the bouquet garni. Mix it all together, getting the wine and herbs all over the meat.

bouquet garni comprised of tarragon, parsley and thyme

Use the best red wine you can afford or get your hands on. It really does make a difference. As a native dish from Burgundy, the recipe, of course, calls for a Burgundian red. I didn’t have one of those on hand but I did have a wonderful bottle of Bordeaux to use instead.

What is Bouquet Garni?

Bouquet Garni is the French word given to a bunch of herbs.  Usually, they are tied together with string and popped into a pot where a casserole, stew, stock or soup is being prepared.  They add flavour to the dish but are not eaten, hence why they are tied with string. Muslin can also be used to contain them and there are nifty little kitchen gadgets like this herb infuser that you can buy to keep the herbs together.

Whilst there is no “rule” on what herbs are in a Bouquet Garni, traditionally it includes parsley, thyme and bay leaf. 

We tend to use whatever we have available in our herb garden at the time, or old herbs that we need to use up

Step 2

Cover the bowl with a food cover and place it in the fridge.

red wine garlic bouquet garni and meat in bowl to marinade

Cook’s tip: For maximum flavour, the beef should be marinated the day before, leaving the beef to soak up all the flavours overnight. If time isn’t on your side, give the beef at least three hours.

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 160° Celsius (315°F).

Step 4

Using a strainer, drain the meat. Keep the leftover marinade and the bouquet garni.

Dry the meat using paper towel.

beef on kitchen towel to absorb moisture

Note: I try to only use one dish to do the pre-cooking of ingredients and the final dish. It makes it simple and saves on washing up. I use a cast-iron dish that can go easily from the stovetop to the oven. If you don’t have a dish that can sit on the stovetop, use a separate frying pan.

Step 5

In a heavy pan or pot, heat 30g of the butter and add the chopped onion, carrot and the bouquet garni. Cook this for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

cooking carrots onions and bouquet garni

Step 6

If you are using the same pan, remove it from the heat.

Add another 20g of butter to the dish (or to a separate frying pan) and cook the meat in batches until caramelised.

Cook’s tip: don’t be tempted to do this part quickly and put all the meat in together. Too much meat in the pan at once will cause it to stew and not caramelise.

Step 7

Remove browned meat from the pan and place it on a paper towel.

Step 8

Pour the reserved marinade back into the pan to deglaze. Be sure to give it a good stir to get all the flavour from the meat and vegetables that may have stuck to the pan.

Step 9

Coat the meat and the vegetables with flour. You can do this either in the pan or on a plate. Turn up the heat in the pan, add the meat, vegetables and bouquet garni, and bring the liquid to a boil.

If this is in the casserole dish you plan on using in the oven, simply add the lid and transfer. If using a separate pan, add all of this to your oven pot and place it in the oven.

Step 10

Cook for two hours.

Cook’s tip: At the halfway mark, check how the sauce is going. If the sauce looks a little dry, I often add some beef stock to it. Whilst this isn’t traditional, I like there to be plenty of sauce and adding a bit of extra stock in it won’t hurt it at all.

Step 11

To finish, heat the remaining butter in a clean frying pan and cook the bacon and the French shallots for around 10 minutes. The French shallots should be softened but not brown.

cooking bacon and shallots

Note: I actually use more butter than the recipe suggests as I think it’s a little “light”. Since butter is only used to fry vegetables and meat, this can be discretionary.

Step 12

Add the mushrooms and cook for several minutes, stirring along the way. Add all of this to the pot in the oven and cook for another 15-30 minutes, until the French shallots are cooked.

Step 13

Before serving, remove the bouquet garni. It’s not exactly the prettiest looking meal and trying to find a way to plate it so that it looks good is not an easy task. Rest assured, the end result is incredibly tasty and full of flavour.

My best tip is definitely not to rush it. Let the flavours take time to develop and you will be rewarded.

Note: I didn’t use any seasoning in this recipe which probably goes against every rule, but I personally don’t believe it requires it. The wine, vegetables and herbs add such flavour to the base and the addition of the salty bacon is more than enough salt for me. The use of seasoning should be entirely at the cook’s discretion.

This recipe is for six people. I halved the recipe which gave us enough for dinner and then leftovers. The leftovers can be eaten the next day, although it will keep in the fridge for several days. The Beef Bourguignon can also be frozen for another time.

What to serve with Beef Bourguignon

French meals are simple meals, so you won’t traditionally find this served with a whole range of side dishes. The French serve potato, bread and green beans with their Beef Bourguignon. The potatoes can be mashed, gratin or dauphinoise. You can also check out our potato dauphinoise recipe.

This is a rich meal so minimal side servings ensure that the beauty of the main dish remains. Recently, I served this with a quick potato gratin to use up some cream I had in the fridge.

final dish of beef bourguignon and potato gratin

Expert tips

  • Don’t rush this dish. If you are using secondary cuts of beef they will require a longer period of time to cook properly. The secret of this dish is to have the beef so tender you only need to use a fork. It will need at least three hours to cook properly at low heat.
  • Buy beef that has a reasonable amount of marbling in it. Lean meat will dry out.
  • Don’t skip caramelising the beef first. This is the beginning of the layers of flavour that you will create.
  • Give the beef enough time to marinate in the red wine. If you are only doing it for a short period of time, you’ll waste the money you spent on your red wine.
  • The heavier the pot the better. I use a dutch oven or heavy cast-iron casserole dish.

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Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Yield: 6 serves
Prep Time: 15 seconds
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes 15 seconds

Beef Bourguignon or Boeuf Bourguignon is one of France’s most well-known and loved dishes and it is simple to make. Each region in France is known for its specific cuisines. Burgundy (Bourgogne) region is the place to find Beef Bourguignon. This tender dish packed full of flavour is the perfect comfort food.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg blade, round or chuck
  • 750 ml red wine
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Bouquet garni
  • 70g butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 200g bacon cut into pieces
  • 300g French shallots, peeled, left whole
  • 200g small button mushrooms

Instructions

  1. Cut the meat into 4cm (1.5 inches) cubes. Take off any excess fat. In a bowl, add the meat, red wine, garlic and the bouquet garni. In this recipe, I used parsley, thyme and French tarragon.
  2. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge.
  3. For maximum flavour, the beef should be marinated the day before, leaving the beef to soak up all the flavours overnight. If time isn't on your side, give the beef at least three hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 160° Celsius (315°F).
  5. Using a strainer, drain the meat. Keep the leftover marinade and the bouquet garni.
  6. Dry the meat using paper towel.
  7. In a casserole dish, heat 30g of the butter and add the chopped onion, carrot and the bouquet garni. Cook this for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. If you are using the same pan, remove from the heat.
  9. Add another 20g of butter to the dish (or to a separate frying pan) and cook the meat in batches until caramelised.
  10. Remove browned meat from pan and place on paper towel.
  11. Pour the reserved marinade back into the pan to deglaze. Be sure to give it a good stir to get all the flavour from the meat and vegetables that may have stuck to the pan.
  12. Coat the meat and the vegetables with flour. You can do this either in the pan or on a plate. Turn up the heat in the pan, add the meat, vegetables and bouquet garni, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  13. If this is in the casserole dish you plan on using in the oven, simply add the lid and transfer. If using a separate pan, add all of this to your oven pot and place in the oven.
  14. Cook for two hours.
  15. To finish, heat the remaining butter in a clean frying pan and cook the bacon and the French shallots for around 10 minutes. The French shallots should be softened but not brown.
  16. Add the mushrooms and cook for several minutes, stirring along the way.
  17. Add all of this to the pot in the oven and cook for another 15-30 minutes, until the French shallots are cooked.
  18. Before serving, remove the bouquet garni. It's not exactly the prettiest looking meal and trying to find a way to plate it so that it looks good is not an easy task. Rest assured, the end result is incredibly tasty and full of flavour.

Notes

  • Various type of beef can be used: Blade, round, chuck or any secondary cut.
  • The longer you can marinate the beef the more flavour you will pack into the dish.
  • Speck can be substituted for bacon.
  • If you don't have access to French shallots, use small onions. Whilst not traditional, mushrooms can also be left out if you prefer.
  • Batch fry the beef in small quantities to maximise the caramelisation and enhance the flavour.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 732Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 223mgSodium: 766mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 68g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix.

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Thanks to my favourite French recipe book “The Food of France” by Maria Villegas and Sarah Randell for this fabulous Beef Bourguignon recipe.

Meal of beef bourguignon and potato gratin

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