Crockpot Beef Stew is a meal-in-one packed with tender meat and veggies swimming in the most amazingly flavorful gravy broth!
Crockpot Beef Stew is easy, hearty, comforting and SO good you won’t be able to stop at just one bowl! You will be amazed at the luxurious thick gravy broth (no watery broth here!) and the buttery tender beef. This Slow Cooker Beef Stew is the perfect make-ahead dinner, reheats beautifully and you can double the recipe for a crowd. I’ve included tips and tricks, how to make ahead, how to freeze and more!
This Crockpot Beef Stew joins the ranks of my other favorite slow cooker beef recipes: Slow Cooker Beef Brisket, Beef Stroganoff, Beef Tips and Gravy, Italian Beef, Mississippi Pot Roast and French Dips, In each recipe, the meat emerges melt-in-your mouth tender, richly satisfying and infused with epic flavor from cooking in its spiced bath all day. It might just be the longest day of your life.
But this Crockpot Beef Stew is SO worth the wait with its juicy beef and fork-tender vegetables smothered in luscious, perfectly seasoned gravy broth. It is an old comforting classic waiting to become a new family favorite! So, prepare to fall in love with this Slow Cooker Beef Stew recipe.
Here are a few reasons why:
Why Make CrockPot Beef Stew?
Crockpot does the work. This Slow Cooker Beef Stew combines my favorite ways to make an EASY meal – soup and the slow cooker! The most time-consuming part of this soup is the chopping of your carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and garlic. But, it’s easy and mindless and a perfect way to put your kids to work. I loved helping my mom prep her stew – especially because I knew the deliciousness that was on the other end.
Thick gravy broth. The silkiness and flavor of the Beef Gravy Broth is what makes this Crockpot Beef Stew the “Best” in my opinion. Not only is it lusciously thick, but the combination of crushed tomatoes, beef consommé, beef broth, soy sauce, Dijon mustard and the bevy of hand-picked spices: paprika, oregano, thyme and cumin, infuse the beef and vegetables with flavor as they simmer all day, filling your home with the savory aroma of anticipation.
Crowd pleaser. There simply isn’t anything more comforting than a big bowl of hearty beef stew drowning in luscious beef and tomato-infused sauce. It’s like a warm blanket that warms you from the inside out with every heaping slurpful. Even your pickiest eater will be clamoring for more beef stew!
Meal-in-one. This Crockpot Beef Stew is loaded with beef and veggies so it’s a meal-in-one all made in your crockpot! You can skip the sides all together because it is stand-alone worthy or serve it with no-fuss sides like a simple green salad and bread.
Makes a large quantity. This easy Crockpot Beef Stew makes a hearty crockpot full so its perfect for large crowds, dinner parties or company.
Less Expensive. a crockpot full of beef stew feeds the whole family with some tantalizing leftovers to spare at the fraction of the price of dining out.
Make Ahead. Crockpot Beef Stew can be started in the morning and then welcome your bellies at night OR it can be made days in advance and reheated because it tastes even better the next day!
Freezer friendly. You can freeze Slow Cooker Beef Stew and pull it out for busy nights ahead!
What kind of beef is used for stew?
Boneless chuck is the best cut of beef for Crockpot Beef Stew. It boasts a succulent, beefy flavor and melt-in-your mouth texture due to its rich marbling. It is guaranteed to become fall apart tender when cooked long enough.
You can purchase a single piece from your butcher (I like Costco) and chop it yourself. This ensures every bite is the same cut of beef (imagine that!) and is (roughly) the same size so they cook evenly.
Can I use Stew Meat?
While you might assume “stew meat” is the best cut for Crockpot Beef Stew – its NOT! Stew meat is a hodgepodge of different cuts of meat all packed together. This creates a problem because not all cuts of meat cook the same due to their meat to fat ratio so you are left with tender bites, tough bites and rubbery bites – all in the same stew!
How do you make beef stew meat tender?
In order for Crockpot Beef Stew to be a success, the beef MUST be tender. This requires the right cut of beef, searing the beef and cooking the beef long enough.
- Cut of beef: As previously discussed, boneless chuck roast will deliver fall apart tender results due to its rich marbling. If you choose another cut of beef, be aware it might not deliver as spectacularly tender results.
- Sear beef: Searing seals in the juices so the beef doesn’t dry out when cooked for an extended period of time. The caramelized crust achieved by the Maillard reaction also delivers a rich, depth of flavor that can’t be achieved any other way. I brown my beef in my cast iron skillet in order to achieve a deeply golden crust. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, then any heavy bottom pan will do, it will just take a little longer. Take care to work in batches and not to overcrowd your pan or else the beef will steam and not sear.
- Cook until tender. I learned this trick from my Mom’s Crazy Tender Pot Roast. If your beef isn’t crazy tender, then cook on! It just means the proteins needs more time to break down and tenderize. Even 30 more minutes in the crockpot can make the world of difference between an “okay” beef and melt-in-your-mouth beef.
Do you have to cook the meat before you put it in the slow cooker?
You do not have to cook meat before you put it in the slow cooker but I HIGHLY recommend it. If you don’t sear your meat beforehand, you will miss out on the complex caramelized flavor that comes from the deeply golden crust. You can’t fake this rich flavor any other way. A beef stew without seared meat can hardly be called stew in my opinion.
What’s the best potato for beef stew?
Not all potatoes are created equal. For soups and stews that cook for a long time, you need low starch waxy potatoes such as red potatoes, Yukon, new potatoes or fingerling potatoes. Waxy potatoes do not absorb moisture while they cook so they retain their shape despite extended high heat.
Starchy potatoes, such as russet potatoes, should be avoided because they develop a mealy texture and are likely to fall apart.
What Spices Do You Put in a Beef Stew?
- Salt pepper: Slow Cooker Beef Stew needs to be well seasoned because vegetables by themselves are very bland. Salt and pepper awaken the flavors. If you feel like the stew is missing something at the end of cooking, it is probably salt or pepper and can easily be remedied with a few shakes.
- Herbs: we add just ½ teaspoon of ground cumin, paprika, dried oregano, and dried thyme to enhance the earthy, savory flavor.
- Aromatics: onions and garlic are flavor powerhouses and absolutely essential.
- Soy sauce: Soy sauce is my secret weapon, I even add it to my marinara sauce! When its used in correct proportions it adds a savory, salty depth that enhances the other flavors but doesn’t taste like “soy sauce.”
- Dijon mustard: adds a slight tanginess to awaken the earthy flavors.
- Beef bouillon: adds a salty beefy flavor. 2 teaspoons is two cubes beef bouillon. You may also use better than bouillon.
How to Make Crockpot Beef Stew
Step 1: Sear Beef: First, season your meat with salt and pepper while it is still on the cutting board. There is no need to coat your beef in flour. Heat oil over high heat in a large cast iron skillet. Using tongs, sear meat on all sides until browned. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use a nonstick pan, it will just take a little longer go brown.
Step 2: Vegetables: Add the beef to the slow cooker along with chopped potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic and bay leaf.
Step 3: Gravy: Whisk together flour, crushed tomatoes, beef consommé beef broth, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, beef bouillon and seasonings in the same pot you cooked your beef in so it soaks up all the flavor. The flour will be lumpy at first but will dissolve as you cook and continue to whisk. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until thickened to the consistency of gravy. Add it to slow and give everything a big stir
Preparing gravy this way results in the most amazing gravy broth. I call it gravy broth because it is not watery like beef broth but rather the perfect silky consistency of a medium-thick gravy (read more on thick broth below).
How long does it take to cook stew meat in a crock pot?
The exact cooking time will depend on our cut of beef, exact size of beef and your particular slow cooker.
For two pounds beef chuck roast cut into 2” chunks in a 6 quart slow cooker, expect your beef stew to cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours or on LOW for 8-10 hours. You will know the beef stew is done when the vegetables and beef are very tender.
Some crockpots cook hotter and therefore faster than others, so make sure you check your beef sooner if you have not made this Crockpot Beef Stew before.
How Do You Thicken Beef Stew in a Crock Pot?
Unlike many Slow Cooker Beef Stew recipes that call for adding cornstarch to the broth in the crock pot the last hour or so in order to thicken (which will NOT result in a velvety thick broth but still be watery), I have found that the best method is to make your thick gravy on the stove then add it to the slow cooker.
The gravy will seem extra thick but will thin to the perfect gravy broth-like consistency as the vegetables simmer and release their juices. Also, by making gravy first with flour, you can skip the step of dusting your beef with flour, which can result in burnt beef pieces and an undesirable texture/consistency.
If by the end of cooking, you still want to thicken your Slow Cooker Beef Stew even more, then you can use any of these following methods:
- Cornstarch: Remove some broth from the stew and whisk in 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch with a fork until smooth then whisk it back into the beef stew. Turn slow cooker to high until thickened, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Flour and butter: Mix equal parts flour and softened butter together with a fork so it becomes a thick paste and almost forms a ball. You will want 2-4 tablespoons each, depending on how thick you want the beef stew. Add it to the stew, stir, and cook on high until thickened, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Puree soup: Remove 1-2 cups of the stew and puree it in your blender or food processor. It will add body to the soup while preserving the flavor.
- Mash potatoes: Remove some of the potatoes, mash them and return them to the soup. Mashed potatoes are a natural thickener. Alternatively, you can microwave a few potatoes separately, mash them and add them to the soup if you don’t want to use any from the stew.
WHAT CAN I PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?
Veggies: you can pre-cut all your veggies the night before you plan on cooking your Slow Cooker Beef Stew and place them in an airtight container.
Potatoes: Once you cut the potatoes, starch is released which will cause them to brown, so make sure you submerge them in water to prevent this discoloration. Simply place the potatoes in a bowl or airtight container, cover with water then cover with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate until ready to use.
Beef: you can chop your beef into 2-3” pieces the night before. You can even sear the beef the night before. Make sure your beef cools to room temperature before sealing in an airtight container or zip bag and placing in the refrigerator.
Gravy: You can whisk all of the gravy ingredients together and store in an airtight container.
Everything: You can completely assemble the Crockpot Beef Stew IN the crockpot and refrigerate the ceramic insert. This makes for a hassle free, no fuss morning! Just be aware you may need to add additional cooking time and a little extra broth at the end of cooking.
How Do I Store Beef STEW?
Once your Crockpot Beef Stew has cooled to room temperature, you can remove the pot from the slow cooker and put the whole insert (lid on) in the refrigerator. You can also transfer your stew to an airtight container. Plan on consuming within 3-4 days.
HOW DO I REHEAT Beef STEW?
Crockpot: To reheat your Slow Cooker Beef Stew from the refrigerator, place your ceramic crockpot insert back into your crockpot and heat on low for 1-2 hours.
Stove: Alternatively, you can reheat large batches on the stove over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the beef is heated through to 165 degrees F. This may take 20-30 minutes, so plan accordingly.
Microwave: For smaller batches or individual servings, you can use the microwave. Transfer stew to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
CAN I FREEZE Beef STEW?
I would not advocate freezing your cooked Slow Cooker Beef Stew because potatoes do not freeze-and-reheat well. They turn into a bizarre, mushy texture. If you still want to freeze your Crockpot Beef Stew, I suggest removing the potatoes.
To freeze Beef Stew:
- Cool: Allow Crockpot Beef Stew to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients.
- Package: Transfer soup to an airtight freezer safe container or freezer bag. You can even use sandwich size plastic bags for individual stew portions. Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn and label
- Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Defrost/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat in the microwave, crockpot or stove according to aforementioned instructions.
WHAT CAN I SERVE ON THE SIDE?
Since you’ve already have meat and vegetables in your Crockpot Beef Stew, side dishes can be minimal. My Moist Sweet Cornbread would be a delicious addition or softy and fluffy Dinner Rolls or Parmesan Breadsticks would also be great to sop up your stew with! If you’re looking for some greens, I HIGHLY suggest my wedge salad and for fruit, either my Perfect Fruit Salad or Winter Fruit Salad.
Looking For more Crock Pot Soup Recipes?
- Crock Pot Creamy White Chicken Chili
- Slow Cooker Potato Soup
- BBQ Chicken Chili (Slow Cooker or Stove Top)
- Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken Chowder
- Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Wild Rice Soup
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortellini Soup
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