Catching up on Freezer Nesting: Slow-Cooker Beef Stew


How did the third trimester get here already?

While there haven’t been a ton of posts here lately, the Freezer Nesting mission has continued. How about a catch-up?

When we left off, I had stashed a whopping 12 meals (or meal starters) in the chest freezer. Since then, I’ve put away another dozen, bringing us tantalizingly close to my goal for 30 meals to launch us into our expanded family a few months from now. Let’s take the next week to recap what else has been stashed in the freezer, and continue on from there. Starting with…

Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew

Beef stew, with those fall-apart chunks of meat swimming in harmony with tender bites of root vegetables, is made even lovelier with a crusty slice of homemade bread or using a piping-hot popover to wipe up the last remaining bit of broth from the bowl. On one of those days when the impulse to bake bread strikes, it will be all the easier to grab a pouch of this stew from the freezer to thaw while making the bread dough. And a homemade supper is already halfway done.

(From America’s Test Kitchen’s “Slow Cooker Revolution” cookbook)


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 onions, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (4 to 5 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 pound carrots (about 6), peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1 inch thick
  • 2 cups frozen peas


Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, tomato paste, garlic and thyme and cook until onions are softened and slightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker.


Stir in beef broth, soy sauce, and bay leaves.


Season beef with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker.


Toss potatoes and carrots with remaining tablespoon oil, season with salt and pepper, and wrap in foil packet.


Lay foil packet on top of stew. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.


Transfer foil packet to plate. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat using large spoon. Discard bay leaves. Carefully open foil packet (watch for steam), and stir vegetables with any accumulated juices into stew.


Stir in peas and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.


Once I added the peas, I turned off the slow cooker to let the mixture cool for a bit. I then portioned the stew into three packets, sealed and labeled them, and into the freezer they went…

IMG_1756This was the recipe that put us at the halfway mark of the goal – a good day! And better still: this is a simple thaw-and-reheat dish that doesn’t need anything more done to it (other than that crusty bread I was talking about earlier). This will be great for one of those “wormhole” days when you wake up to a baby needing your undivided attention and suddenly another person in the house is asking what’s for dinner.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Ellen says:

    These have all sounded so good! I don’t remember – did you talk about what size freezer you have? We are on the lookout for a stand alone chest freeze so I’d love to hear your take on the subject.

  2. Wahine says:

    Urgent question – I’m making this but the foil packet doesn’t fit even 1/2 the carrots and potatoes. What should I do? Also, crock-pot instructions say to not fill over 3/4, yet with foil packet it will be. Still OK?
    Lastly, can I drop biscuit dough on top of stew the way I would on a pot on the stove? Never made dumplings in a crockpot before.
    Thanks if anyone has ideas!

    1. Wahine says:

      Btw, the amount of carrots and potatoes I cut up, based on weights given in recipe, were WAY more than what was photographed. Perhaps the amount is just too large? Likewise, I could fit only 2,not 3, onions, into the 12″ skillet, minced.

      1. Hi Wahine:

        The amount of potatoes, onions and carrots has been pretty constant – a pound and a half do potatoes, a pound of carrots, and the 3 onions should be just regular size (no bigger than a tennis ball). However, if you’ve got too much for your crock pot, definitely use your judgment on how many should work for you and your crock pot.

        Hope that helps!

    2. Hi, Wahine – sorry this recipe is causing you a few headaches!

      I think the first question to ask is the size of your slow cooker – I use a pretty large one (6 or 8 quarts, if memory serves), and a smaller one would seem overfill with this recipe. That would also explain why the foil packet would seem not to work.

      I think biscuit dough could work, if you kept the heat on and make it the last step in your recipe. I’ve done that with a crock pot chicken and dumplings. I think I let the dumplings simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Wahine says:

        Hey Martha (not sure if this is your name),
        Thanks for the reply. I’m pretty sure my Crock Pot is the largest they make. Until recently, it was their highest end one.
        It ended up OK once I more than halved the # of carrots/potatoes. Someone else replied on another board that they also had trouble fitting in the foil packet amount in another recipe form the same book. I think CI overestimates the weight on the veggies. Good tip about the tennis ball sized onion, though. The ones I routinely use are prob like at least 2 tennis balls, so that explains that one.
        I really wanted to like this recipe, but the taste didn’t do it for me. Too tangy. I loved more the wine-based, French recipe for beef stew printed in CI. Not for a crock-pot. Would love to try it if someone converted that recipe to a crock-pot-appropriate one, ingredient-wise!
        Do you happen to know where I could go to have such recipes converted?

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