Beef Barley Soup Recipe

This beef barley soup tastes intensely beefy, with tender chunks of beef, plump pearls of barley, and tender, perfectly cooked vegetables.

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Photographs and video production: Vicky Wasik. Video editing: John Mattia
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Why It Works

  • Using collagen-rich chuck roast or short ribs guarantees flavorful beef that stays tender even after long cooking.
  • Browning the meat in large pieces adds deep, roasted flavor, without the over-toughening that happens when you brown it in smaller pieces.
  • Sautéing the vegetables, then adding them back to the pot toward the end of cooking, ensures that they don't become flavorless bits of mush.
  • Store-bought chicken stock almost always has a better, truer flavor than "beef" stock that's made mostly with yeast proteins.
  • Fish sauce enhances the savory quality of the soup even more.

Beef barley soup should taste deeply beefy, and should be loaded with chunks of tender, flavorful meat, plump grains of barley, and aromatic vegetables. The secret to those results is to make it much like a beef stew, choosing the right cut of beef, handling it the right way, and adding more complex layers of flavor.

Beef barley soup freezes very well and will keep, frozen, for three to six months.

Recipe Facts

Active: 45 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Makes: 3 quarts

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (1kg) boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2–inch steaks, or 3 pounds (1.3kg) bone-in beef short ribs, ribs removed and reserved (see note)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) canola oil
  • 3 large carrots (10 ounces; 280g), diced
  • 1 large yellow onion (12 ounces; 340g), diced
  • 2 ribs celery (6 ounces; 170g), diced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 quarts (3L) homemade or store-bought chicken stock (see note)
  • Sachet of 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, and about 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup pearled barley (7 ounces; 200g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3ml) Asian fish sauce (optional)
  • Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

  1. Season beef with salt and pepper. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until lightly smoking. Working in batches if necessary, add beef and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a large platter.

  2. Add carrot, onion, celery, and garlic to pot and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Scrape vegetables into a heatproof bowl and set aside. Add stock to pot, return to heat, and scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pot.

  3. Meanwhile, cut beef into chunks and add to pot, along with reserved bones, if using, and herb sachet. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until beef is tender, 1 to 2 hours; skim any foam that rises to the top.

  4. Discard bones and herb sachet. Add barley, reserved vegetables, and fish sauce, if using, and simmer until barley and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If soup is too dry, top up with water to achieve desired consistency. Serve, garnishing with parsley.

Special equipment

Large pot or Dutch oven

Notes

Beef chuck is the easier and more affordable option, and produces very good results. Short ribs, especially when combined with their bones, create an even more deeply beefy stew. Ask your butcher to remove and reserve the bones for you if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself. If you have beef chuck that's already cut into chunks for stewing, we recommend searing only half of them in step 1 and adding the other half raw in step 3.

Most store-bought beef stock has poor flavor, which is why we recommend chicken stock instead; if you have good-quality homemade beef stock available, feel free to use it.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Beef barley soup freezes very well and will keep, frozen, for three to six months.

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