Written by adam on Sep 29, 2006
Food Dictionary: Soups Vs. Stews
I don't like a definition that begins with the word "theoretically." It negates the defining that the definition is supposed to do. Usually epicurious' definitions are clear, but this one leaves a little to be desired. Here's epicurious definition of soup:
SOUP: Theoretically, a soup can be any combination of vegetables, meat or fish cooked in a liquid. It may be thick (like GUMBO), thin (such as a CONSOMMÉ), smooth (like a BISQUE) or chunky (CHOWDER or BOUILLABAISSE). Though most soups are hot, some like VICHYSSOISE and many FRUIT SOUPS are served cold. Soups are often garnished with flavor enhancers such as CROUTONS, grated or cubed cheese or sour cream. They can be served as a first course or as a meal, in which case they're often accompanied by a sandwich or salad.
I have included both the noun and verb definitions of stew, because they need each other.
STEW: Any dish that is prepared by stewing. The term is most often applied to dishes that contain meat, vegetables and a thick soup- like broth resulting from a combination of the stewing liquid and the natural juices of the food being stewed. stew v. A method of cooking by which food is barely covered with liquid and simmered slowly for a long period of time in a tightly covered pot. Stewing not only tenderizes tough pieces of meat but also allows the flavors of the ingredients to blend deliciously.
Beef stew is probabyl the most common thought when one considers stew types. But also consider that there are such thngs as stewed tomatoes ... stewed to tenderize. Oh and don't forget that stewing is different from braising in the amount of liquid that is in each. Braising uses a small amount of liquid, whereby stewing uses a lot.
So it seems that a soup is really defined by what it contains, what method it contains those items, and what temperature the items are. One could probably argue that all stews are soups, but let's not mince words. Stews are obtained by the process of stewing something, ususally meat or tough vegetables in order to tenderize them. I consider my chili to be both a soup and a stew, because it is stewed in order for the flavors to "blend deliciously," and because it is sort of thin and not so chunky.
As I'm sitting here writing this, a voice is in the back of my head telling me "why would anyone give a horse's patoot about the difference between a soup and a stew?" Well, me I guess. Knowledge is power.