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Beef Barley Soup


Most beef barley soups recipes that use the slow cooker are thin, bland, and vegetal. We set out to create a recipe in which the star ingredients—beef and barley—shone through. To build flavor from the onset, we browned the beef and vegetables before adding them to the slow cooker. A few tablespoons of tomato paste—which we sautéed with the vegetables to bring out its flavor—gave our Beef Barley Soup a welcome sweetness and a satiny texture. To give our broth even more intense beef flavor, we added a couple of beef bones— easily found at the supermarket—to our beef broth base. Most slow-cooker beef barley soup recipes call for just 1/2 cup barley, but we found we needed twice as much to add the proper substance and heft to the soup.

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  • Beef Bones=Big Flavor
  • 3 3 1-inch pounds boneless beef chuck stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 2 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 2 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 2 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 6 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 3 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 1/2 1/2 cup red wine
  • 8 8 8 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 1 can 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 2 2 beef marrow bones (see note)
  • 1 1 1 tablespoon cider vinegar


Adapted from


Step 1

1. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of beef, about 8 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker and repeat with additional 2 teaspoons oil and remaining beef.

2. Add remaining oil, onions, and carrots to skillet and cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Cook garlic, thyme, and tomato paste until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, using wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits. Transfer to slow cooker.

3. Add broth, tomatoes, barley, and bones to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until meat is tender, 7 to 9 hours (or cook on high 4 to 5 hours). Skim fat from surface and discard bones. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Make Ahead: You can prepare the recipe through step 2 the night before the ingredients go into the slow cooker. Refrigerate the browned beef and the vegetable mixture in separate containers. In the morning, transfer the beef and vegetable mixture to the slow cooker and proceed with step 3. Cooking time will be on the high end of the ranges given.

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