The Trick To Making Hamburger Stew In A Slow Cooker

If there is a perfect way to enjoy the tastes of summer on a cold, dark winter's night, it might just be hamburger stew. Depending on the weather where you live, January probably isn't bringing that "grilling-on-the-patio" vibe to your doorstep, and cooking burgers in your kitchen can leave your clothes smelling like a campfire (without any of the joys of actually being in the woods). The solution to this, and many other kitchen conundrums, is simple: get out the slow cooker.

The trick to making a good hamburger stew in your slow cooker, according to this recipe by Budget Bytes, is to brown your minced meat before you put it in the crock pot. This reason for this is actually twofold: first, searing before you slow cook is simply best practice for locking all those delicious, complex flavors into your meat. Slow cooking is a moisture-making process, and browning your ground beef before it goes in will ensure you don't sacrifice that roasty, toasty taste that comes from searing on the stove. Second, browning your meat will allow you to drain away excess fat before the beef goes into the slow cooker, resulting in a less greasy final product.

Make your stew summery with a few extra ingredients

Once you've browned the meat (and drained it of extra fat), you're ready for the sacred right of every slow cooker chef: throwing everything into the pot and forgetting about it for hours. The Budget Bytes recipe uses standard stew fare, like potatoes, carrots, onions, and stewed tomatoes. A little Worcestershire and soy sauce will help bring out that hamburger flavor, too, and you can finish the dish with some frozen peas when all is said and done.

If you want something a little more hamburger-y, check out this recipe from Southern Living, which uses dry mustard and a couple of tablespoons of ketchup; for when you really want to fool the senses, and imagine it's the middle of summer and you're at a barbecue picnic. To drive the point home, Southern Living suggests toasting hamburger bun bits in the oven with olive oil and salt, and then serving them as "croutons" on top of your finished hamburger stew. Beyond brilliant.