Can leftover beef stew be frozen? (3 ways to thaw)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “can leftover beef stew be frozen,” and discuss what is the best way to freeze beef stew, and how to reheat the frozen beef stew so it is tender.

Can leftover beef stew be frozen?

Yes! Leftover beef stew can be frozen, but it’s important to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked and cooled before adding it to the freezer.

Utilizing freezing as a preservation technique stands as one of the most effective approaches for extending the life of leftovers. When aiming to repurpose surplus food and ingredients for future meals, the practice of freezing becomes invaluable.

By properly packaging leftovers in appropriate containers and securely covering them before storage in the freezer, the result is twofold: longer-lasting edibles and the cultivation of sustainable habits to combat food waste. (1)

What is the best way to freeze beef stew?

For extended freezer storage, safeguard your stew by employing either a protective cover or by sealing it within appropriate storage containers. These actions are essential for preventing bacterial intrusion, retaining moisture, and preventing your leftovers from absorbing odors from nearby foods. 

While beef stew remains safe to eat indefinitely in frozen conditions, its texture and flavor may gradually diminish over time. To ensure the best experience, it’s recommended to enjoy it within 2-3 months of freezing.

Remember to clearly label each package with the freezing date, simplifying the tracking of storage durations. (2)

How to thaw the frozen beef stew?

Three secure methods exist for thawing food: refrigerator thawing, cold water thawing, and microwave thawing.

For a gradual and safe thawing process, it’s recommended to prepare in advance and opt for refrigerator thawing. Smaller items might defrost overnight, whereas most foods will need a day or two.

If a quicker thawing approach is preferred, submerge the container in cold water. To prevent the introduction of bacteria from the air or environment, ensure the container doesn’t leak. 

Regularly monitor the water temperature to maintain its coldness, and change the water every half an hour. After thawing, proceed to cook the food immediately.

Should you choose to defrost beef stew using a microwave, it’s advisable to plan for immediate cooking afterward. This is because certain parts of the food may start to warm and even cook during the microwave process. (3)

How temperature affects beef stew?

The temperature has a significant influence on the growth and multiplication of microorganisms. The prime temperature range conducive to the proliferation of most bacteria responsible for spoilage spans between 12 to 30 °C.

However, the chilling process lowers temperatures to 2–4 °C, initiating a cold shock that harms and ultimately destroys microbial cells. Keeping meat stored at temperatures below 4 °C effectively hampers bacterial growth, thereby extending its shelf life by several days.

Further reduction of the temperature to −2 to −18 °C results in a complete cessation of both microbial and enzymatic activity due to the freezing process and the absence of available water. (4) 

Can you refreeze beef stew?

After thawing beef stew in the refrigerator, you have the option to refreeze any remaining portions. It’s advisable to freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. However, refrain from refreezing any foods that have been left outside the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures exceeding 32 °C. (3)

How to tell if beef stew has gone bad?

Several signs can indicate that your beef stew is spoiled. Changes in texture, the emergence of sliminess or liquids, color shifts, the presence of molds, and the onset of unpleasant odors and flavors are key indicators of stew spoilage. These signs of spoilage typically stem from various mechanisms. (5)

What happens if you eat spoiled beef stew?

Common signs of foodborne illness encompass diarrhea, stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Symptoms may vary depending on the type of contamination, which can stem from alterations in the initial product composition, incorrect manufacturing procedures, or improper storage methods.

Prominent pathogens found in fresh meat products include E. coli O157:H7 and related enteric microorganisms like Salmonella. Conversely, the Gram-positive bacterium L. monocytogenes raises concerns, particularly in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. (6, 7)

Other FAQs about Beef that you may be interested in.

Can beef brisket be used for stew?

Can beef brisket be cooked in a slow cooker?

Can beef bourguignon be frozen?


In this brief guide, we have addressed the question, “Can leftover beef stew be frozen,” and discussed other questions related to the subject, such as what is the best way to freeze beef stew, and how to reheat the frozen beef stew so it is tender.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Ground Beef and Food Safety. 2016.


U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Freezing and Food Safety. 2013.


Nethra, Perichitala Vasudev, et al. Critical factors affecting the shelf life of packaged fresh red meat–A Review. Measurement: Food: 100086. 2023.


Luong NM, Coroller L, Zagorec M, Membré JM, Guillou S. Spoilage of Chilled Fresh Meat Products during Storage: A Quantitative Analysis of Literature Data. Microorganisms. Aug 6;8(8):1198. 2020.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Food Poisoning Symptoms 2022.


Hennekinne, J.-A., Herbin, S., Firmesse, O., & Auvray, F. European Food Poisoning Outbreaks Involving Meat and Meat-based Products.