Browning meat properly…is an essential flavor-building technique for authentic Hungarian goulash or other stew recipes, as well as for roasts or braised meats. The following easy goulash method will demonstrate how to create a good fond, and how to deglaze it for optimum flavor.

fresh meat cubes

Ingredients And Prep List For Authentic Hungarian Goulash

  • 5 pounds lean beef cubes (top round or eye round)
  • 1 large yellow onion; diced
  • 2 medium green bell peppers; diced
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic; minced
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 quarts beef stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • cornstarch slurry or flour/butter roux for thickening
  • potato and carrot dice (optional)

Browning The Meat

  • use some of the oil to cover the bottom of a sauce pan; bring to medium-high heat
  • brown the meat cubes in single batch layers until they have a good crust
  • transfer the finished beef to a bowl to make room for the next batch
  • do not crowd the pan, this would cause a drop in temperature; the meat would draw too much water and not brown properly anymore
  • when all the cubes are deeply browned and moved to the holding bowl, you should see the sediment (fond) on the pan bottom, the corners, and a couple of inches up the sides

Let me say this again, because it is the most important part of your flavor-building process: the meat should be dark brown and lightly crusty…not burned, of course! If you simply cook the beef until it has changed colors from pink to light brown, you will not have enough caramelized meat juice for the fond layer left in the pan. Use high heat and be bold!

More Flavor Building For A Rich Goulash Sauce

  • heat a little more oil in the pan and add the chopped onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato paste, and caraway seeds
  • cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste leaves a reddish-brown substance on the bottom; the caramelized sugars from the tomato and onion are an important part of the sauce flavor
  • you should have a somewhat scary-looking mess in your pan (“Help! I burned it!”); don’t worry, as long as it is not black, you now have a beautiful base (fond) for fantastic flavor development!
  • add the meat cubes to the vegetable mix; stir and cook for 30 seconds

Flavor Building

Deglazing The Pan

Add the red wine to your pot and bring everything to a light boil. With a spatula, scrape the pan bottom and the sides until all of the fond is released and incorporated into the liquid. Now add the beef stock, paprika, and lemon juice.

Easy Goulash

Cover the pot and simmer your goulash on low heat for about 90 minutes, or until the meat is fork-tender.

15 minutes before the end of the cooking time, you may add diced potatoes and carrots to your stew. Thicken it as you prefer, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

A more liquid stew can be served as goulash soup on a chilly day. Crusty bread or a pretzel make wonderful accompaniments.

The thicker, authentic Hungarian goulash is often served with rice, pasta (spaetzle!), dumplings or boiled potatoes.

One last thing: the properly browned meat provides – aside from a rich flavor – the beautiful, appetizing color of a stew cooked right.