Every cooking technique has secrets for success. Here are some basics for stew:
* Invest in a large, heavy casserole for stews, about 6-quart capacity, with a tight-fitting lid. It's an expensive, but worthwhile investment; it doubles as a cooking vessel and a serving dish. Six quarts may seem large too, but with today's focus on health you'll be using far more vegetables in stews, which take a good deal of space. And regardless of your family size, you might as well cook enough stew for six. It takes little additional effort, and any leftover stew can be frozen.
* Use a non-stick skillet for sauteing the necessary vegetables and browning the meat, to omit almost all fat in preparing a stew. The fat itself is rarely a flavor factor, once these complex ingredients are simmered together. Just be sure to transfer all the juices and little bits of cooked foods from the skillet to the casserole.
* Don't worry about the amount of garlic and onion in a stew. They always cook up sweet and mild.
* Home-cooked stocks are preferable in stews, but unrealistic. Low-sodium canned broths are an acceptable substitute. Hold the salt until the stew is cooked; the amount needed will depend on the salt content of the broth.