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What is Beef Bourguignon?

By Tiffany Manley
Updated May 16, 2024
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Beef bourguignon is a traditional French beef stew. Auguste Escoffier, a legendary Franch chef in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is credited with the dish’s entrance into mainstream cooking, because it traditionally was known as a peasant dish. Beef bourguignon, or beef Burgundy as it is also known, consists of beef braised in red wine with onions, garlic, carrots and a garnished bouquet of herbs.

Early preparation of beef bourguignon was a lengthy process that spanned two days. It involved larding a piece of beef, then braising it. Larding is a time-consuming process that consists of cutting very small strips of lardon and threading them through meat with a special needle. This traditionally was done to compensate for tough, flavorless pieces of meat. In modern times, lard or bacon fat generally are used to render some initial cooking fat as well as to add some flavor and crunch to the dish.

Despite subtle changes in the recipe for beef bourguignon, the fundamentals remain unchanged. The recipe begins with cooking bacon or lard and then browning beef cubes in the rendered fat. After this is done, the meat is removed, and the vegetables are then cooked. The meat is added back to the pot, and everything is covered with Burgundy wine, beef stock and a few spices, this it is simmered for several hours. This cooking method produces beef that is tender yet flavorful and a delicious sauce to accompany it.

The Burgundy region of France claims to raise some of the best cattle for beef bourguignon. These cattle, of a species known as Charolais, are known to be very tender and delicious. Credit is given to the diet of cereal, hay and fodder that is fed to the cattle. The region even engages in festivals that celebrate the Charolais cattle and during which beef bourguignon is served at roadside stands.

Beef bourguignon can be found on many restaurant menus, especially at traditional French restaurants. There are many ways to prepare the dish, from modified easy versions designed for the beginning or busy cook to elaborate traditional versions for those looking to stay true to the early preparation methods and the true flavor of the dish. Various recipes also call for various cooking equipment, from a simple soup pot or crock pot to enamel cooking dishes and sieves.

Beef bourguignon was made popular in modern times by television personality Julia Child. She was a popular chef who not only prepared it on her TV show but also published its recipe in one of her books. She not only introduced the dish to a new audience but also showed the general public how easy and rewarding it can be to make this delicious dish.

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Discussion Comments
By fify — On Jul 13, 2014

I love beef bourguignon and I have made it in the past. It always turns out amazing. It makes the whole house smell delicious and family members eat every single morsel. The only issue is that the dish takes too long to make. It's very time consuming, just peeling those pearl onions takes a long time.

I will make it again when I have lots of free time and if there is a special occasion. But this is definitely not a dish that can be enjoyed all the time.

By bear78 — On Jul 12, 2014

@serenesuface-- Well, Julia Child's recipe calls for bacon and that's the version I use. But some people use lard or something else. There are also beef bourguignon recipes that do not call for pork whatsoever. It's really a personal preference.

One thing is for sure though, animal fat, quality meat and quality wine are the ingredients that make beef bourguignon so good. Leave them out or replace them with poor quality ingredients and the results won't be the same. So don't be stingy with the ingredients and use them. You will be very happy about it after the first bite!

By serenesurface — On Jul 11, 2014

What is the best fat or meat to use in this recipe aside from beef? I'm talking about the fat that's used in the beginning. Should I use lard? Or should go for bacon or salt pork? Are there any other alternatives?

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