As we settle into autumn and watch the leaves change colors, the colder air makes us hungry for some of the best comfort food around. Our thoughts turn to chili... and chicken noodle soup... beef stew... homemade vegetable soup... The list goes on and on!
As it turns out, there are no hard and fast rules that separate soups from stews. There are a few general guidelines that tend to define the two, though.
A soup is any combination of vegetables and/or meat cooked in liquid. Soups are usually made with water, although milk and even fruit juice can be used. Since they're mostly liquid, soups tend to be thin.
A stew is also a combination of vegetables, usually paired with meat cooked in liquid. Unlike soups, however, stews tend to have more ingredients and less liquid. In fact, the liquid in a stew is often thickened with flour or corn starch to form gravy.
So how can you tell the difference between soups and stews? Soups tend to be thinner, while stews tend to be thicker with more meats and vegetables.
Stews are almost always served hot. Soups, on the other hand, can be eaten hot or cold.
Another key difference between soups and stews is cooking time. Stews are usually cooked for a long time over low heat. The slow-cooking process allows the natural flavors of the ingredients to mix together.
Soups, though, tend to be cooked quickly at higher temperatures. Most soups rely on added flavors, such as herbs and spices, to create their final taste.
Of course, in the end, it may be nothing more than the cook who decides what he or she wants to call what's in the pot. If the cook calls it soup, then it'll probably be called soup… even if it's a thick, slow-cooked mixture that contains more gravy than water.
Our recommendation? If you're hungry, don't argue with the cook! Just grab a spoon and enjoy… regardless of what it's called!