What exactly is the difference between soup and stew? The most prevalent interpretation is based on the quantity of liquid included in the dish. The hypothesis states that a soup contains more liquid than a stew and vice versa. However, the cooking process is the determining aspect for classifying food like soup or stew.
Comparing Soup and Stew
Thin broths and transparent noodle soups represent one end of a continuum of “thickness” for soups and stews, while thick, substantial beef stews represent the other. The issue with this concept is that it is hard to determine the precise thickness (or lack thereof) that separates soup from stew.
If the difference cannot be defined, the terms “soup” and “stew” lose any sense in relation to one another. A soup is nothing more than a thin stew, while a stew is nothing more than a thick soup. Fortunately, we can differentiate between soup and stew based on their respective cooking methods. Stews are braised while soups are simmered.
What Is the Definition of Soup?
There are two main types of soup: clear and thick. In general, all soups are prepared by beginning with a liquid and adding ingredients, followed by an uncovered simmering process.
- Vegetable soup, chicken noodle soup, and beef-barley soup are all clear soups. They consist of transparent stock or broth and are not thickened. Typically, aromatics like onions and celery are sautéed or sweated before the addition of stock or broth and the other components. The soup is boiled until the veggies are completely cooked, with the addition of prepared meats at the end (although fish and seafood, which cook quickly, can be added raw). Typically, cooking time is rather brief.
- Cream soups, pureed soups, bean soups, chowders, bisques, and various chilis are examples of thick soups. Cream soups are prepared with a veloute sauce, a bechamel sauce, or stock thickened with a roux or a puréed primary ingredient such as potato, broccoli, or mushroom and finished with cream or an egg-and-cream combination called a liaison.
- Similar to cream soups, puréed soups are thickened with the natural starches of their constituents, such as carrots, potatoes, or rice, and are puréed just before serving.
Chowders are usually cooked with potatoes, milk, fish, or shellfish and are often chunky. Crustacean shells are simmered and finished with milk or cream to produce bisques. Bean soups are cooked similarly to clear soups, but since the starches in the legumes thicken the soup and longer cooking periods are required, they are categorized as thick, not clear.
What Is the Definition of Stew?
The method of preparing stew is known as braising. In truth, the terms stewing and braising have the same culinary significance. The cooking method of braising breaks down tough portions of meat and renders them soft and delicious. It is cooked at a low temperature for a reasonably long time in a covered pot on the stovetop or in the oven.
Meats such as beef chuck, beef short ribs, brisket, oxtail, hog shoulder, and lamb shanks braised well, as do dark-meat chicken parts such as thighs and drumsticks. Depending on the kind of meat, cooking time might range between one and several hours.
Traditionally, the meat is first browned in hot oil before being partly or fully covered with stock or another tasty liquid along with spices and cooked at a low temperature, preferably between 205 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the connective tissues in beef degrade and transform into collagen, which thickens and imparts body to the cooking liquid. Before browning the meat, it is often dusted with flour, which provides further thickness.
When preparing stew as opposed to pot roast, the meat is sliced into smaller pieces, but the cooking procedure remains the same. Vegetables such as carrots and potatoes would be added at the end of the cooking period to prevent them from becoming mushy.
What Regarding Chili?
Chili is a rare situation that, depending on how the meat is cooked, might fall into either category. Occasionally, chili is cooked by braising a big beef cut, such as beef chuck or beef pieces, then adding the beans and other ingredients at the end. In this instance, it is stew.
Other chili recipes call for ground beef that is cooked on the stove before the liquid, and other ingredients are added. In this situation, it is soup.