Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter Favorites: Beef Barley Soup

  • This is going to be my last post about soup for awhile because, as has been mentioned before, we just plain don't eat much soup at our house. And when we do, it tends to be one of two kinds: cream of chicken, or this, beef barley. Both have their own strong merits, and I have a weak spot for both of them, so it's really a matter of what I'm wanting most on a given Soup Day...
Today's it's this one. :-) This can be an afternoon project or a crockpot one, so just read ahead to find specifics for each before you jump in.

1 T. bacon grease or butter
1.5 lbs. beef stew meat
1 c. chopped carrots
1 c. chopped onions
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 c. beef broth (how to make it here)
2 bay leaves
2/3 c. dry barley
salt & pepper to taste

Stew meat. Buying bulk beef like we do, we end up with a lot of steaks that we never use, so I'm not picky- I grab whatever we need out of the freezer. At a flat rate per pound regardless of the cut, I don't have to worry about wasting expensive cuts.  :-) If you're using an actual package of stew meat, you'll probably want to cut the pieces smaller anyway; stew meat cuts tend to be pretty big.

This particular time around, I used more than 1 1/2 pounds of meat so it would be a heartier final product. It worked.  :-) Pull this out the night before and let it thaw.

Using kitchen shears, cut all the meat into bite sized pieces. We like pretty small pieces so we can get other flavors onto our spoon at the same time, but it's up to you. I've found that scissors make this job so much less dread-worthy than a knife...

Heat a large heavy pot or dutch oven on medium heat. Add some bacon grease or whatever saturated fat you prefer for browning the meat a little. (Despite nationwide practices, olive oil isn't stable at most cooking temps, and will oxidize, creating free radicals. It's best used cold in things like salad dressing.)

Add beef to heated fat, season with a little salt, and brown meat a few minutes. The meat doesn't need to be cooked through, just browned a bit for flavor.

While the meat is browning (or beforehand), dice up your carrots, onions, garlic, and celery. I used a food processor this time around and have no regrets...much quicker, and the final product is smaller, which is great for the goal of mixing all flavors in one spoonful.

Add the veggies to the meat and give it a stir.

Add your broth and bay leaves to the pot, and a couple good pinches of salt.

By the way, it's hard to see in a picture, but can you tell how gelatinous that spoonful of broth is? (It's cold.) That's fabulous broth!

If you want this to be a crockpot meal, do all the above work in the morning or the night before, and at this point transfer everything to the crockpot, including the barley.

Bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. (If using a crockpot, just start it on low. All day on low will produce what you need just fine.)

Simmer covered over low heat until the meat is soft, about 1 1/2-2 hours. After this time frame the meat will be tender, but you can let it cook as long as you like as long as you add back any water that steams off.

Half an hour before serving time, add the barley, adjust salt and pepper if needed, and simmer for 30 minutes until serving time. Serve alone for a quick lunch or with your side of choice for a more filling dinner.

This post is part of the Thank Your Body Thursday and Unprocessed Fridays blog hop.


  1. I have never actually eaten Beef Barley Soup. Sounds yummy and I have plenty of beef broth, so I may have to give it a try!

    1. It is TOTALLY worth a try. Rob even complimented it. :-)

  2. Yum. You might convert me back into loving soups!