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Is stew meat and stir-fry meat the same?

Quick Answer

No, stew meat and stir-fry meat are generally not the same cuts of meat. While they can both come from similar cheaper cuts like chuck or round, stew meat is usually cut into 1-inch cubes to cook low and slow in liquid while stir-fry meat is sliced thinly across the grain for quick cooking over high heat.

Stew Meat

Stew meat refers to tough cuts of beef that have been cubed into 1-inch pieces to break down and become tender after cooking low and slow in liquid for hours. Common stew meat cuts:

Chuck Roast

This well-worked shoulder cut has a good amount of collagen and becomes very tender when braised for stew. The connective tissue breaks down into gelatin that thickens and flavors the stew liquid.

Round Roast

Round comes from the back leg and tends to be leaner but tougher than other cuts. When cut into cubes, it can braise into tender, beefy chunks for stew.


Brisket is another nicely gelatinous cut that provides richness when braised into stew meat. The fat cap is usually removed when cut for stew.

Short Ribs

Meaty short ribs are ideal for stew as the abundant collagen melts into the sauce during the long cooking time. They can be left bone-in or cut across the bones into cubes.

Stir-Fry Meat

Stir-fry meat is typically sliced thinly against the grain to quick-cook over high heat while staying tender. Common stir-fry meat cuts:

Flank Steak

Flank steak has prominent grain running through it and slices into thin strips perfect for stir-frying. The meat has good beefy flavor.

Skirt Steak

Similar to flank steak, skirt steak has loose grain that allows for thin slicing. It’s a flavorful cut that stays tender with fast cooking.

Sirloin Steak

Lean sirloin makes an affordable, readily available stir-fry choice. Sliced across the grain, it cooks up tender while retaining moisture.

Top Round Steak

Round steak cuts into thin strips suitable for stir-frying. The meat is very lean yet tenderizes quickly with high heat.

Key Differences

Stew Meat Stir-Fry Meat
Cut into 1-inch cubes Sliced thinly against the grain
Tough, collagen-rich cuts like chuck or brisket Leaner cuts like flank, skirt, sirloin or round
Braised low and slow in liquid Cooks quickly over high heat
Becomes tender from long cooking time Remains tender from thin slicing

Using Stew Meat for Stir-Fry

While stir-fry is typically made with quick-cooking sliced meat, you can use stew meat cubes in a stir-fry in a pinch with a few adjustments:

– Cut the meat into smaller 1/2-inch cubes to reduce cooking time.

– Marinate the cubes in cornstarch, oil, soy sauce and sherry to help tenderize.

– Cook over very high heat and continue tossing for a few minutes once browned to help break down the meat.

– Add a splash of water or broth and cover to steam and further tenderize before uncovering to reduce liquid.

– Slice cooked stew meat after stir-frying if needed to serve or bite sizes are too large.

Using Stir-Fry Meat for Stew

To use stir-fry cuts like flank or skirt steak for stew:

– Cut the meat against the grain into 1-inch pieces instead of thin slices.

– Brown the cubes well for enhanced flavor.

– Braise with added liquid at a gentle simmer for 1-2 hours until very tender.

– Remove meat and reduce liquid to thicken for serving.


While stew meat and stir-fry meat can come from similar economical cuts like round or chuck, the preparation is different. Stew meat is cut into cubes to break down with moist heat while stir-fry meat is thinly sliced to cook quickly over high heat. In a pinch, you can use stew meat for stir-frying with some adjustments and quick-cooking stir-fry cuts can also be adapted for stew by cutting into cubes and braising low and slow in liquid to become tender.