There are variations as to the cuts of beef and the vegetables involved, but a typical pot-au-feu contains:
Cooking cartilaginous meat in the stew will result in gelatin being dissolved into the broth. If the stew is allowed to cool, the broth may turn into a jelly, resulting in an interesting texture. Allowing the stew to cool also allows the removal of excess grease, which floats on the surface and will congeal if cooled.
The pot-au-feu broth may be used as a soup (often enriched with rice, pasta or toasted bread), as a base for sauces, or for cooking vegetables or pasta. There are ready-to-use concentrated cubes to make what purports to be pot-au-feu broth when water is added.
A pot-au-feu—a pot always left on the fire—could be a continuous affair in the past, with new ingredients added as some is used; nowadays houses do not have a permanent fire in cold weather, and the dish is cooked for a specific meal.