Stew is forgiving. The best pork stew is likely something you already know how to make. Never made stew? Look up a method in your favorite cookbook and then play around with the ingredients however you want.
Here’s the basic approach, in three steps. First, brown the meat (season and flour before searing, if you’d like). Second, add the liquid. Third, add the rest — this means anything from parsnips to potatoes to turnips to rutabagas to whatever secret ingredient your great grandmother once whispered in your father’s ear. This method works likes a charm. From there it’s really up to you to figure out what, exactly, the best pork stew means to you.
If you’ve never made a traditional stew, do a little reading about it. You can Google, sure. But there’s something to dusting off a copy of Joy of Cooking to learn how to make a standard. No other cookbook offers sentence gems like, “A well-made stew offers fork-tender meat with a gloriously deep-flavored, glossy sauce.”
The browning of the meat — and vegetables — is what really gives stew its distinct flavor. (Though some variations-on-stew recipes don’t call for browning at all.) Browning is an art. As is written in Joy of Cooking (so you know its true): “Good browning takes time, patience, and vigilance. The pan needs to be hot enough to sizzle but not so hot that it scorches what is put into it. The ideal is a rich, deep brown crust on the meat without producing a pan with a blackened bottom.”
Next comes liquid. You can do water, stock, wine, beer, or even the juice from canned tomatoes. Try a new one each time you make stew to choose what you think makes the best pork stew.
And then there’s the rest, and this is where you can really play to your flavor preferences. Beyond the obvious celery, carrots, and onion, don’t forget about leeks or shallots or mushrooms — if you like them. Spices and herbs, and of course bay leaf, will also deepen and change the flavor. If you want something non-standard, this Yucatan pork stew sounds fantastic.
One supremely easy way to make the best pork stew is in a pressure cooker. If you’re going to use one, you’ll want to consult a pressure cooker cookbook for approximate cooking times. Basically a pork stew in a pressure cooker will take around 20 minutes, while one in a stew pot or Dutch oven on the stovetop might take at least an hour, but usually a lot longer.
Depending on how you like your meat to turn out (totally falling apart versus something with a little shape and chew), stews can actually be made relatively quickly because the meat is cut into small pieces and then submerged in cooking liquid. So it can be a faster process than, say, how long it would take to braise an entire hunk of meat. But a pressure cooked stew makes for a very easy mid-week meal or a last minute feast for unexpected guests.
So what’s your best pork stew?