How long can you keep beef stew in the fridge? (Reasons why it can it spoils)

In this article, we will answer the question “How long can you keep beef stew in the fridge?”, and how to cook, freeze, thaw and reheat beef stew?

How long can you keep beef stew in the fridge?

The USDA advises that cooked beef should be consumed within 3 to 4 days when stored in the refrigerator at 4°C or lower (40°F or less). It’s important to note that refrigeration slows down the growth of bacteria but does not completely halt it.

Similarly, cooked leftovers are recommended to be used within 3 to 4 days. Pathogenic bacteria can multiply quickly within the “Danger Zone,” which spans temperatures between 4°C and 60°C (40°F and 140°F).

Remarkably, these bacteria typically do not impact the sensory aspects such as taste, smell, or appearance of the food, making it difficult to discern their presence. (1)

What affects the shelf life of beef stew?

Beef stew deterioration can be attributed to a combination of physical, chemical, and biological factors. These factors encompass various microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and mold, alongside the impact of enzymes present within the meat, like lipases and proteases.

Chemical reactions within foods, such as browning and oxidation, as well as physical changes resulting from freezing, drying, and the application of pressure, contribute to the overall spoilage process.

Although several agents play a role in beef stew spoilage, microorganisms stand out as the primary catalyst for the decline in the quality of animal-derived foods.

These spoilage microorganisms are responsible for breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in meat. This breakdown leads to the development of off-flavors, the formation of slime, and alterations in color. Consequently, the beef stew becomes unsuitable for consumption. (2)

How to tell if beef stew has gone bad?

Alterations in texture, the formation of slime or liquids, color variations, the growth of mold spots, and the development of off-odors and off-tastes are major signs of stew spoilage. These spoilage manifestations typically arise from diverse mechanisms.

The primary catalyst for spoilage is the inevitable introduction of microorganisms (mainly bacteria) during the animal-to-meat product processing phase, followed by their subsequent growth and metabolic activities during storage.

Each step of the processing procedure can influence microbial contamination, while storage conditions can shape the composition of bacterial communities, thereby impacting the progression of microbial spoilage over time. (3) 

How to avoid foodborne illness?

The standard recommendation suggests cooking all varieties of meat until they reach an internal temperature of a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius). This temperature is highly effective in eradicating any potential bacteria that might be present in the meat.

Dedicate a particular cutting board or plate solely to handle raw meat, while employing a separate one for items such as fruits, vegetables, and bread that won’t be subjected to cooking.

Following each instance of contact with raw meat, it’s crucial to diligently wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water to ensure thorough sanitation. (4)

What are the symptoms of eating spoiled beef stew?

The prevalent indicators of food poisoning encompass diarrhea, stomach pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Symptoms can differ based on the type of contamination, which can result from changes in the original composition of the product, improper manufacturing processes, or incorrect storage practices. Notable pathogens found in fresh meat products include E. coli O157:H7 and related enteric microorganisms like Salmonella. In contrast, the Gram-positive bacterium L. monocytogenes raises alarms about ready-to-eat meat and poultry items (5, 6).  

How to freeze beef stew? 

To ensure prolonged freezer storage, shield your stew by either placing a cover over them or sealing them within suitable storage containers. These steps are vital to exclude bacteria, preserve moisture, and ensure that your leftovers don’t absorb any odors from neighboring foods, promptly freeze them to facilitate swift cooling.

Beef stew maintains its safety indefinitely when kept frozen, though its overall quality might decline with time. It’s advisable to consume it within 2-3 months. Don’t forget to label your packages with the date of freezing for convenient tracking of storage durations. (7)

Other FAQs about Beef that you may be interested in.

Can I reheat beef more than once?

Can Kobe beef make you sick?

Can leftover beef be frozen?


In this article, we answered the question “How long can you keep beef stew in the fridge?”, and how to cook, freeze, thaw and reheat beef stew?


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U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC.How long can you keep cooked beef? 2023.


Pellissery, A. J., Vinayamohan, P. G., Amalaradjou, M. A. R., & Venkitanarayanan, K.  Spoilage bacteria and meat quality. Meat Quality Analysis, 307–334. 2020.


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]. Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning 2023.


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. Procedia Food Science, 5, 93–96. 2015.


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