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No meat searing required!! Homemade Slow Cooker Vegetable Beef Barley Soup is perfect winter comfort food and just 10 minutes of prep!
It started with an article in the charter issue of Milk Street, Christopher Kimball's new magazine. In it, there was a recipe for a delicious looking lamb stew and the recipe claimed that there was no need to sear the meat in advance.
From the magazine: "Searing meat for stew is messy and fussy—and, it turns out, entirely unnecessary. There is a time and place for the Maillard reaction (the high-heat browning of meat), but stew isn't it."
I already had this slow cooker vegetable beef barley soup on our week's menu. So I decided to test the theory.
I've made this soup dozens of times and had always browned the meat ahead of time. This time I didn't and, guess what? I couldn't tell the difference in taste or texture. The only differences were that it took 10 minutes of prep instead of 30 and I didn't have a dirty pan or an oil splattered stovetop to clean.
Vegetable Beef Barley Soup is a long time favorite of mine with its rich broth, melt-in-your-mouth beef, tender barley and ample vegetables - especially mushrooms. And with this method, preparing it is almost effortless.
More Must Try Soup Recipes
Slow Cooker Vegetable Beef Barley Soup
- 2 pounds stew beef cut into 1-inch chunks
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 10 cups slow cooker beef bone broth or commercial beef stock or broth
- 3 ribs celery chopped
- 1 large onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 pound potatoes
- 3 carrots chopped, and peeled if you prefer
- 1 pound mushrooms sliced
- 1 cup pearl barley
- Add raw stew beef to slow cooker and season generously with salt and pepper. Add stock, celery, onion and garlic. Stir and cook on high for 4 hours.
- Dice potatoes (cutting them up just before you add them will keep them from discoloring). Add potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and pearl barley and cook on high for 2 more hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Veg beef and barley is Dave’s favorite soup! Now I love it too, but this slow cooker version is killer. I personally love to sear the meat first as the texture and caramelization suits me, but by no means is it necessary. Beautiful photos! P.S. With all the rain we've been having this will do nicely. 🙂
Thanks, Kevin! You're not kidding about the rain!! I saw a photo last week taken in San Diego and I could not believe all of the water...
Sonali- The Foodie Physician says
Beef stew is one of the ultimate comfort foods. And this one looks delicious!
Thank you, Sonali! And I agree completely...xo
Karen (Back Road Journal) says
I appreciate your relating the background story and how you found that you could eliminate the browning of the beef. Your soup looks absolutely delicious…it has been years since I've made it. Thanks for your post and recipe.
Thank you, Karen. 🙂 It's fun to learn new ways of cooking familiar recipes, especially when it means a streamlined version that doesn't sacrifice taste or texture.
David @ Spiced says
Well now that's an interesting concept! Like you, I've always used the theory that meat should be browned first...and even more so when going into something like a stew. I'll have to try out that idea next time I make something similar. And by the looks of this stew, that might just have to happen really soon. This sounds delicious, Marissa! 🙂
Thanks, David! It's funny because with some dishes, it really does make a difference. Jambalaya for example, once I tried to make it without browning the meat and it tasted totally homogenous. I'm not sure why it works here, but I'm so glad to know that it does! 🙂
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says
Hmmm, now I want to go test the theory on ALL of my slow cooker recipes that require you brown the meat first! Because if I can skip that step and still get the same exact end result I am going to be thrilled... and probably slap myself against the forehead and say "stupid me". lol 🙂 Thanks for sharing that tip, Marissa! And thanks for sharing this soup!!! Looks amazing! Barley doesn't get enough love so I adore that you used it here! So much flavor going on! Cheers!
Crazy, right? I'm pretty excited about how simple this will make the soups and stews I make all winter long! And I so agree about Barley - so good! xoxo
Rachel @ Bakerita says
We've had a SUPER rainy weekend here in San Diego and I've been craving a hearty beef soup - this looks too perfect! Wish I had a big bowl of it right now.
I wish I could send you a bowl, Rachel! xo
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen says
My husband would love this soup Marissa! He's always asking me to cook something in the slow cooker too. I'll need to give your recipe a try for sure! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Mary Ann (also my best friend's name 🙂 ) I'd love to hear what you think if you give it a try.
Dawn - Girl Heart Food says
I'm going to try that next time I cook meat. You are SO right...I'm always left with a messy splattered stovetop when I sear meat. Plus, it definitely adds much more time to prep. This soup looks absolutely delicious!! And lots of mushrooms? This one is made for me 🙂 Pinned! Hope you're having a great weekend!
Thank you, Dawn! Never too many mushrooms... 🙂
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
I agree! I always thought that browning was necessary but I found the same thing as you Marissa! 😀
What a game changer, right!? 🙂
Dorothy Dunton says
Hi Marissa. I'm happy to see this post. No browning of the meat and using the slow cooker make this so much more convenient. Any mushrooms and barley are meant for each other.
Hi Dorothy...you are so right about that! Mushrooms and barley are a perfect couple - have you ever tried the mushroom, barley and brie soup I posted a while ago. I wish I could make you and Gary a big pot of it! xo