A stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in water or other water-based liquid, typically by simmering, and that are then served without being drained.
Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables (potatoes, beans, etc.), fruits (such as peppers and tomatoes), meat, poultry, sausages and seafood. While water can be used as the stew-cooking liquid, wine, stock, and beer are also common. Seasoning and flavourings may also be added. Stews are typically cooked at a relatively low temperature (simmered, not boiled), to allow flavors to combine.
The distinctions between stew, soup, and casserole are subtle and not always easy to judge. The ingredients of a stew may be cut into larger pieces than a those of a soup and retain more of their individual flavours; a stew may have thicker liquid than a soup, and more liquid than a casserole; a stew is more likely to be eaten as a main course than as a starter, unlike soup; and a stew can be cooked on either the stove top (or range) or in the oven, while casseroles are almost always cooked in the oven, and soups are almost always cooked on the stovetop. There are exceptions; for example, an oyster stew is thin bodied, more like a soup.
Stewing is suitable for the least tender cuts of meat that become tender and juicy with the slow moist heat method. This makes it popular in low-cost cooking. Cuts having a certain amount of marbling and gelatinous connective tissue give moist, juicy stews, while lean meat may easily become dry.
Stews may be thickened by reduction, but are more often thickened with flour, either by coating pieces of meat with flour before searing, or by using a roux or beurre manié, a dough consisting of equal parts of butter and flour. Other thickeners like cornstarch or arrowroot may also be used.
Food has been boiled since prehistoric times, first using naturally occurring vessels and later pottery. Herodotus says that the Scythians (8th to 4th centuries BC) "put the flesh into an animal's paunch, mix water with it, and boil it like that over the bone fire. The bones burn very well, and the paunch easily contains all the meat once it has been stripped off. In this way an ox, or any other sacrificial beast, is ingeniously made to boil itself." Some sources consider that this was how boiling was first done by primitive man, perhaps as long ago as ½ to 1 million years ago.
There is ample evidence that primitive tribes which survived into the 19th and 20th centuries boiled foods together. Amazonian tribes used the shells of turtles as vessels, boiling the entrails of the turtle and various other ingredients in them. Other cultures used the shells of large mollusks (clams etc.) to boil foods in. There is archaeological evidence of these practices going back 8,000 years or more.
The Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible records that Esau traded his inheritance to his twin brother Jacob for a meal of lentil stew.
There are recipes for lamb stews & fish stews in the Roman cookery book Apicius, believed to date from the 4th century. Le Viandier, one of the oldest cookbooks in French, written by the French chef known as Taillevent (1310-1395, real name Guillaume Tirel) has ragouts or stews of various types in it.
Hungarian Goulash dates back to the 9th century Magyar shepherds of the area, before the existence of Hungary. Paprika was added in the 18th century.
The first written reference to 'Irish stew' is in Byron's 'Devil's Drive' (1814): "The Devil . . . dined on . . . a rebel or so in an Irish stew.”
Popular recipes for regional stews, such as gumbo, bouillabaise, Brunswick stew, and burgoo were published during the 19th century and increased in popularity during the 20th.
Types of stew
In meat-based stews, white stews, also known as blanquettes
, are made with lamb or veal that is blanched
, or lightly seared
without browning, and cooked in stock. Brown stews are made with pieces of red meat that are first seared or browned, before a browned mirepoix
, sometimes browned flour, stock and wine are added.
List of stews
- Baeckeoffe, a potato stew from Alsace
- Barbacoa, a meat stew from Mexico
- Boeuf Bourguignon, a French dish of beef stewed in red wine
- Bigos,a traditional stew typical of Polish and Lithuanian cuisine
- Birria, a goat stew from Mexico
- Bouillabaisse, a fish stew from Provence
- Booya, an American simple meat stew
- Brunswick stew, from Virginia and the Carolinas
- Burgoo, a Kentuckian stew
- Caldeirada, a fish stew from Portugal
- Carbonnades a la Flamande, a Belgian beef stew with beer, mustard and laurel
- Carne Guisada, a Tex-Mex stew
- Carnitas, a pork meat stew from Michoacan, Mexico
- Cassoulet, a French bean stew
- Cawl, a Welsh stew, usually with lamb and leeks
- Cazuela, a beef and corn cobs stew from Sinaloa, Mexico
- Chamin, a Sephardic Jewish dish
- Chankonabe, a Japanese dish consisting of large amounts of protein sources and vegetables stewed in chicken stock and flavoured with soy sauce or miso. Chankonabe is traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers.
- Chakchouka, a Tunisian and Israeli vegetable stew.
- Chili con carne (Mexican and Tex-Mex)
- Chili sin carne (a meatless American adaptation of the Mexican dish)
- Chilorio, a regional pork stew from Sinaloa, Mexico
- Cholent, an Ashkenazi dish
- Cochinita Pibil, an orange color pork stew from Yucatan, Mexico
- Cotriade, a fish stew from Brittany
- Cocido, a staple home-cooked stew in Spain. In Portugal, it is called cozido.
- Daube. a French stew
- Dike. a Mexican stew, consisting heavily of beef, potatoes, beans and onions. Sometimes referred to as Bourche.
- Fabada Asturiana, a Spanish bean and meat stew
- Feijoada, Brazilian or Portuguese bean stew.
- Gaisburger Marsch, a German dish of stewed beef served with Spätzle and cooked potatoes, from Swabia
- Ghormeh Sabzi, an Iranian stew
- Goulash, a Hungarian paprika stew
- Gumbo, a Louisiana creole dish thickened with okra.
- Hasenpfeffer, a sour, marinaded rabbit stew from Germany
- Haleem, a Pakistani lentil/beef stew.
- Hayashi rice, a Japanese dish of beef, onions and mushrooms stewed in a red wine and demi-glace sauce, served with rice
- Irish stew, made with lamb or mutton, potato, onion and parsley
- Jjigae, a diverse range of spicy Korean stews.
- Karelian hot pot
- Khash, a stew from Armenia and Georgia.
- Khoresht, a diverse range of Persian stews, often prepared with liberal amounts of saffron.
- Lancashire Hotpot, an English stew
- Locro, a South American stew (mainly in the Andes region)
- Nikujaga, a Japanese beef and potato stew
- Olla podrida, a Spanish red bean stew
- Perpetual stew
- Peperonata, an Italian stew
- Pescado Blanco, a famous white fish stew from Patzcuaro Michoacan Mexico
- Pörkölt, a Hungarian meat stew resembling goulash, flavoured with paprika
- Pot au feu, a simple French stew
- Puchero, a South American stew
- Ragout, a highly seasoned French stew
- Ratatouille, a French vegetable stew
- Red cooking, a Chinese stewing technique.
- Sancocho, a stew from the Caribbean
- Tajine, a Moroccan stew, named after the conical pot in which it is traditionally cooked and/or served in.
- Tharid a traditional Arab stew made of bread in broth
- Waterzooi, a Belgian stew