Stewing meat has been a method of cooking that is older than almost any other. From the moment man made his first fire, almost immediately thereafter he began slow cooking meat over a low flame for long periods of time.
In the 14th century, a French epicure, mentions beef stew for the first time in modern history in a recipe for a braised dish called a ragout, where the main ingredient is beef. Hundreds of beef stews have appeared since then, all over the world.
The two prerequisites for a dish to be considered beef stew is that it have beef as it's main component, and that it is cooked over a direct flame in a pot with a liquid base. Geography, recipe, and tradition make up the rest. An American stew of beef will usually use a cut of meat that's less tender. Vegetables and water (or stock) will be added and it will simmer for hours until the beef is tender and cooked through. Geography plays a big part in making the beef stews different from region to region. Making stew is a practice in patience. It is common knowledge that if you give a stew more time, it will just keep getting better. Stews were born out of the working class kitchen. Nowadays, you'll find them on the menus of very expensive restaurants, but their origins are humble. That is why these dishes are always better with cheaper, tougher cuts of beef. While full of flavor, the tough cuts of beef do not do well over high heat for short amounts of time. Simmered slowly over low heat, however, the beef will break down and become easy to chew, while still maintaining it's flavor.
How do you make your beef stew? On top of the stove, in the oven, or in a crock pot? Do you brown your meat before adding it? Do you flour it first? What vegetables do you use? What kind of liquid? What seasonings? What do you serve with it? Please share your recipe or method.