Make classic beef stew by tossing beef cubes in flour and browning them in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add water, wine or beef stock, and simmer the beef with a bay leaf, salt, pepper, and aromatic vegetables such as onions and potatoes for 2 to 3 hours until everything is tender.
Prepare classic beef stew in a slow cooker by tossing beef, such as cubed chuck roast or stew meat, with flour and browning it in a heavy-bottomed skillet. While the beef browns, add 1 1/2 pounds of cubed potatoes, 6 sliced carrots, 1 chopped onion and 3 chopped celery ribs to the bottom of the slow cooker. Top the vegetables with the browned meat.
In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients, which may include a 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes with the juice, 1 cup of beef broth or a combination of broth and red wine, 1 teaspoon of ground mustard and 1/2 teaspoon each of dried thyme, pepper and salt. Combine all of the ingredients, and pour them over the beef and vegetables. Cover the slow cooker, and cook it on high for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Turn the heat to low, and continue cooking for 7 to 8 hours until the meat and vegetables are tender.