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How to Cook Brunswick Stew

Watch as Tim Bendall cooks up a huge batch of this traditional Southern dish.

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Tim Bendall: Good morning. I’m Tim Bendall. I’m in Prince George County, Virginia. I’m here today to show you how to cook a Brunswick stew, a traditional Brunswick stew in a big black iron pot. We’ll be cooking about 20 gallons today, so hopefully I can show you how to do it and give you some tips on what you need to do to make it come out right. 

This stew was started in 1828 in Brunswick County, Virginia. It was created by a man by the name of Uncle Jimmy Matthews. He was a cook for a hunting party. While the party was out hunting, he was in charge of cooking the day’s meals. He had squirrel, potatoes, onions, took with him some stay bread, and he put in a big black pot and cooked it all day, and when the party got back, they tried it and loved it. 

And over the years since 1828, the recipe has changed. Instead of squirrel nowadays, most people use chicken, some people use beef. What I’m doing here is just getting my spices. What we do is season it four times throughout the cooking. We’ll start at the very beginning, and once we add an ingredient, we’ll add seasonings too over the time. What we use is boneless skinless thigh meat. I always smell the chicken, every bag, to make sure it’s fresh chicken. Don’t want to put bad chicken in a stew. 

We’ll use a total of 40 pounds of chicken a day. But this is just brown fat back is all it is. What this does is actually help the cooking process. The chicken doesn’t necessarily have enough fat in it to cook. What the fat back does is it actually help the cooking process along. 

Well, we’ve added our chicken and our fat back, and now, we’re just stirring it and we’ll cook it until the chicken starts breaking down. Potatoes, then some onions before we paddle up.

That’s that secret. That’s one of the secrets is you smash half of your butter beans and that’s what thickens it up. Some people use thickeners. We don’t. We actually use the [butter beans]. I’m going to let Mamma look at that next can before I put it in there. She’ll put that in there. 

I put a pound in this recipe, about a pound and three-quarters, excuse me. About a pound and three-quarters. 

Normally, the stew is done once the paddle stands straight. 

It’s too thick. Actually, a little too thick. I should add a little more water in it. 

Group: We are Brunswick stew.

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