When it comes to meats that work well in curry, arguably beef is the master. It is relatively cheap, easy to prepare, and normally pretty lean too! Using precooked beef for curry brings loads of taste and benefits. Today, I will show you exactly how to do it using an authentic BIR cooking method. Let’s jump straight in!
Why Precook Beef for Curry?
There are plenty of reasons why you really should use precooked beef for curry. The main reason why chefs tend to use it is for convenience. With a little preparation and forward planning, you will be able to have a curry cooked and ready to go in under 15 minutes. Here are the reasons why pre-cooked beef for curry is the way to go: -
Granted, it may take a little while to make a batch of pre-cooked beef, but with a little preliminary effort, you can save time later in the week when you need a curry in a hurry.
Because precooked beef is already cooked, all you need to do is heat it through when you need it. If you’ve got a few hours to kill, why not get prepped and ready for when. Do you have less time?
Precooked Beef is More Tender
This has to be one of the best reasons to use precooked beef for curry. For beef to be the right consistency, it needs to be cooked for a long time. Precooking is the easiest way to do this.
As the beef cooks, the protein fibres loosen, making your meat really tender. The interconnective tissue in the meat, called collagen, breaks down, leaving you with juicy and tender meat.
If you have found your beef curry to be tough, pre-cooking is how to get around it.
Make Amazing Curry Stock
Precooking beef is similar in technique to braising. The fat and connective tissue within the meat will slowly break down and infuse into the cooking liquid, giving you an amazing stock that can take your curries to the next level.
If you want to make super tasty curries, then consider using some in your BIR base gravy.
Precooking Works Out Cheaper
If you’ve ever had a substandard steak, you’ll know that the cheaper cuts of meat tend to be nowhere near as juicy and tender as the more expensive joints.
Precooking removes the need to spend a large amount to get good results. Even the cheapest cuts of beef can be transformed into something special given a little care and attention. Because of this, you can save significantly and make curries in bulk without spending a fortune.
One night you might fancy a madras, the next a bhuna. The good news is that you don’t have to do anything different. While precooked beef is big in taste, it is neutral in any particular curry flavour. As a result, you’ll be able to use it in any type of curry dish that you see fit.
What’s the Best Beef to Use for Curry?
The best beef to use for curry is normally topside. This cut is easy to prepare and has just the right amount of fat to make your beef curry tender and juicy without being too dry. It isn’t a particularly expensive cut of meat, and you should easily be able to make at least 5 curries from a medium-sized joint.
There are plenty of options that you can use when making precooked beef for curry. Here’s a quick guide to the various beef cuts that will give you the best results. You’ll also find a quick reference table below: -
Best Beef for Curry Quick Reference Table
Cut of Beef for Curry
Price Per KG
Cooking Time in Minutes
£12 per KG
£7.25 per KG
£9 per KG
£10 per Kg
120 - 180
Reasons to Use It: -
- Relatively cheap
- Easy to source
- Customise how big your beef chunks are
- Relatively quick cooking time
- Quite lean
First on my list when I go shopping for beef for curry is a topside joint. First off, you get quite a lot of meat for the price. It is also really easy to source. `the good news is that you don’t have to opt for the expensive ‘finest’ brands. The cheap ‘no frills’ joints will work wonderfully.
Topside comes from the very back end of the cow. It has a low(ish) fat content, meaning that it is relatively low in calories but still big on taste.
One great thing about buying a joint of beef for use in your curry dishes is that you are in control of how big the chunks are in your dish.
I normally tend to cut mine fairly big, but if you prefer bite-sized morsels, you can chop it any way you like by buying a joint. I normally work on around 150g of beef cubes per portion, so for a 600g joint, you’ll easily get 4 portions. That works out as a great deal!
To get it nice and tender, you will need to cook it for at least 90 minutes. But the end result is well worth it.
Reasons to Use It: -
- Very cheap
- Often comes pre-cut into cubes
- High fat content and maximum taste
Chuck beef comes from the front end of the cow up towards the neck. You’ll hear chuck steak referred to by a few different names. This includes braising steak, stewing steak, and is even the type of beef normally used to produce mince!
If you are looking for great value, this is one of the cheapest cuts around. It has a relatively high fat content making it supremely tasty and rich in your curry dishes.
The nice thing about chuck beef is that it is often found in supermarkets, cut into chunks, which means even more time saved in the kitchen.
Reasons to Use It: -
- Very cheap
- Very high fat content
- Really tender
Brisket has begun to feature more and more in various dishes. Once considered a substandard off-cut, it should be one of your go-to choices if you are wondering what beef to use in your curry.
Brisket comes from around the chest area of the animal, where the upper leg joins. It is one of the cow’s bigger muscles, meaning there is also a lot of fat and connective tissue. This means that this particular cut will need a fairly long cook to get the best results.
With a little time and patience, your efforts will be rewarded. Brisket, when cooked properly, is pull apart and melt in the mouth tender. If you are a fan of ‘pulled’ style meat dishes, then you’ll get a similar effect by using brisket in your curry.
Reasons to Use It: -
- Great value
- Pre-cut chunks
- Relatively lean
- Holds it structure well in curry
No prizes for guessing where this cut of beef comes from. Located on the front of the lower part of the leg, this cut is particularly lean. As with chuck steak, you’ll tend to find that it comes pre-cut into the ideal-sized chunks for curry.
This cut has lower fat content than some other types of ‘stewing’ steak. So if you are trying to cut down on the calories, it could be an ideal choice.
The low-fat content means it isn’t quite as rich as some of the other cuts, but being a muscular cut, it will require a little longer if you want to avoid your curry being tough.
Which Curry is Best with Beef?
The best curries using beef tend to be those that are slightly darker and normally tomato and onion-based. Dishes like madras are custom-made for beef. You could also consider curries such as bhuna, jalfrezi, and dopiaza as ideal curries to use beef with.
Creamy or sweet curries such as passanda and butter don’t tend to work well with beef, and you would be much better using precooked chicken in these dishes.
If you are looking for a little inspiration, here is a quick list of curries that work well with beef: -
How Do You Cook Precooked Beef for Curry?
Precooking beef for curry is actually really easy to do. There are a few stages that we go through to get it just right. In short, we start by browning the beef and adding a few mild spices to give it an Indian flavour. From there, it is simply a case of covering the beef with stock and simmering until it is cooked to perfection. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the process.
The Browning Stage
To get the best possible results for your precooked curry beef, you will need to brown your meat. By cooking the meat briefly on very high heat, you can ensure that a process called caramelisation occurs.
Browning your beef will give it a lovely visual appeal. But it isn’t all about looks. Those brown bits are packed full of flavour. The Maillard reaction increases a flavour known as umami. The simple way to explain this taste?
Meaty and delicious
However, there is more to recooking beef than simply frying it. We also want to impart maximum flavour. We do that by adding a subtle blend of spices.
Adding the Spices
We are trying to impart a generic Indian-style flavour into our dishes. We don’t want to make our beef taste too strong as it will be used in a variety of other curries.
It’s a fine line to tread.
We add a few relatively mild spices in flavour (and especially mild in heat). When we add the spices, they will gently toast while also coating the beef, giving it a sort of hot marinade, if you will.
But which spices do we use in precooked beef for curry?
Well, I haven’t seen a curry yet that hasn’t been improved by adding a few onions, so this seems like a great; place to start. I add a small chopped onion to the beef and stir it well. The fat from the beef will soak into the onions and make them turn a little soft and translucent.
We then go in with a finger-sized piece of cinnamon, along with a teaspoon of cumin seeds. We add a tablespoon of mix powder (a homemade curry powder), a couple of bruised cardamom pods, and a good dollop of garlic and ginger paste for good measure. We finish by adding salt and pepper to taste before stirring until all the beef is covered in this delicious spice mix.
But we aren’t quite done yet…
The final stage of the process, now that we’ve dealt with the flavour side of things is to get the consistency and texture of our beef up to scratch. We do this in the braising stage. It is important to note this isn’t quite the same as slow cooking… We DO want great consistency, but we don’t want to take all day doing it.
So, as a result…
We’ll cook our beef over medium heat.
Braising is actually really easy. I add a couple of tablespoons of diluted tomato puree along with enough beef stock to just about cover the beef. From there, it is simply a case of bubbling it away gently until the beef reaches the desired texture.
For most cuts of beef, you’ll find that this normally takes somewhere in the region of 90 mins to 2 hours.
Keep a lid on your pan as you cook the beef for your curry, as this will help prevent too much liquid from evaporating! If you do find the stock starts to get a little low, just top it up with a splash of water!
The End Result!
After the cooking time is over, it is now time to see if your beef is ready. The best way to do this is to stab a chunk with a fork and give it a twist. It should pull apart really easily.
Don’t worry if it seems a little fragile. As the beef cools, it firms up, and if you refrigerate it, you’ll find that it turns pretty solid (it loosens again when heated).
If you are looking for a perfect result, be sure to check out my hints and tips as part of the recipe.
Tips and Tricks
- To get your beef nicely brown, you’ll need to use high heat initially. To avoid burning the cinnamon and cumin seeds, consider adding them with the oil at the start.
- During the braising phase, absolutely avoid stirring the beef too much. Once it starts to cook and soften, it will break apart quite easily. A gentle stir to avoid sticking is ok, But avoid being too enthusiastic.
- If you want to reduce the amount of cooking time for your precooked beef, make the chunks smaller. This gives them a greater surface area and a quicker cooking time.
- Feel free to adapt the spice mix that you use. If you always like hot curry, consider adding a little chilli paste to the above recipe.
- If you haven’t made a batch of mixed powder (why not?), don’t worry. Instead, add the following in its place. One teaspoon cumin, once teaspoon turmeric, one tablespoon coriander powder, and a teaspoon of paprika.
- If you want to save time and make pre-cooked lamb, you can combine the beef and lamb in the same pot. I’d advise doing this with precooked chicken, as it cooks much quicker.
- Keep the leftover cooking broth from making your precooked beef for curry. I normally store mine in ice cube trays in the freezer. A couple of cubes adds real depth to practically any curry. It’s also really nice as a soup on a cold day.
Precooked Beef for Curry FAQ
How do I Make my Beef Curry Tender?
Pre-cooking is the best way to make beef curry tender. You may occasionally see recipes that call for the curry to be cooked for an extended period. Trust me. This is not the way that authentic Indian takeaways do it. They certainly don’t have 20 different pots of curry on the go at once.
So how do they do it?
Using the BIR Cooking method. You can read more about this technique here.
Why Do You Cook Meat Before Adding it to Curry?
You essentially gain two things when you cook meat before adding it to curry. Convenience and flavour. Because the meat used in your curry is cooked beforehand, you simply need to heat it through. You also save time as you can store it for use at a date in the future.
The texture and consistency of the meat are improved, too, as you have done the hard part of cooking it to the desired consistency beforehand.
Why is My Beef Curry Tough?
The sole reason beef in curry is tough is that it hasn’t been cooked for long enough. There are two things that break down the collagen in meat, heat and time. If your meat is a little tough, simply pop the lid back on, ensure there is adequate moisture and return it to the heat.
How Do You Store Precooked Beef?
There are a few ways you can store precooked beef for curry. The first option is to refrigerate it and use it at a date not exceeding three days. A much longer-term solution is to freeze your pre-cooked beef. Here are instructions to show you how to utilise both techniques: -
Storing precooked beef for curry in the refrigerator
- After the recooking the beef, allow it to cool slightly in a large bowl
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm or kitchen wrap
- Place on a high shelf in the freezer away from any other cooked meats
Using the Freezer to Store Precooked Beef for Curry
This is by far my preferred method for using precooked meat for curry. It keeps pretty much indefinitely and is super convenient. Here’s how to do it: -
- Allow your cooked beef to cool slightly in a large bowl
- Using a spoon, portion your beef out into ziplock-style freezer bags. I normally do two portions per bag
- Gently squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing it shut.
- Place in the freezer.
- To defrost your precooked meat when making curry, simply place the bags in a large pan of cold water approximately an hour before you intend to cook.
Precooked Beef for Curry | Final Thoughts
More convenience? Better Taste? A technique used by genuine takeaway chefs? Using pre-cooked beef for curry ticks all of the boxes. If you don’t fancy beef on your curry menu, don’t worry. I also have guides on preparing both chicken and lamb for curry. Why not check them out? Why not used the time saved to make a nice tandoori Indian starter, this is my favourite.