Understand the difference between stew and casserole to perfect both dishes!
With the winter months rolling around the corner, it’s time for us all to brush up on our comfort food recipes.
These slow-cooked, rich and hearty dishes seem like a cosy sweater on a chilly day.
They can warm us up from the inside and let us feel relaxed – after all, there’s a reason they’re called comfort foods.
Two of the most popular comfort foods are stews and casseroles. Traditional, warm, and rich; these dishes can make any winter day cosier. However, many can confuse these two dishes for being more or less the same.
If you want to ensure that your cooking skills are on point, and if you want to do justice to these two classic dishes, the first step is learning the difference between the two.
Learning about and appreciating the classics in cooking is incredibly essential because only when we appreciate the classics can we fully understand the modern renditions.
So, without any further ado, let’s learn the difference between stew and casserole!
The similarities between a stew and a casserole
Before we get into the difference between stew and casserole, we can get the similarities out of the way.
The most significant similarity is that both are one-pot dishes and are slow-cooked.
The fact that they are slow-cooked with lots of meat and vegetable ingredients is what makes them so rich and hearty. The formula for both these dishes can also be similar.
There are millions of ways to prepare both a stew and a casserole, apart from using the traditional ingredients. However, that’s really about it when it comes to the similarities.
To understand the difference between stew and casserole, you need to know what a stew and casserole are, and how they are made.
What is a stew?
Stews are a great gateway to the culinary world.
The stew is truly the one-pot wonder, where you can combine a whole host of ingredients, let them simmer for hours, and then simply enjoy the result!
Stews have the softest meat mixed in a blend of vegetables and spices, and carried by a rich and filling gravy.
This gravy is one of the most distinguishable parts of any stew, and without a thick, hearty gravy, any stew would be incomplete. The meat in a stew is incredibly soft, yet chunky.
Additionally, it’s important to note that a stew is cooked on a stovetop in a covered pan.
How to eat a stew?
The way that you eat the stew is entirely up to you.
Many choose to have the stew on its own as the perfect way to warm up on chilly nights.
Another easy option can be to serve your stew with some fresh, hot bread.
Based on the stew you’ve made, you can add mashed potatoes, another fail-safe option.
Stews can also be served with rice, dumplings, or even noodles. There are many ways to be creative with a stew.
You can play around with the base ingredients, spices, and toppings to create the perfect stew for you.
What’s a casserole?
Now that we’ve gotten the stew out of the way, we can discuss the humble, yet incredibly delicious casserole.
Casseroles have three main types of ingredients. It would be best if you typically had a base protein, some vegetables, and a starchy ingredient to hold the casserole together.
Casseroles are more put together than stews, and while you can still play around with the ingredients of a casserole, you need the three basics.
Differences between stew and casserole
There are several differences between stew and casserole. Below, we discuss a few:
The gravy is inarguably one of the essential parts of any stew.
Many people make stews just so they can enjoy the rich, flavorful gravy on mashed or roasted potatoes, pasta, rice, or bread.
In contrast, casseroles don’t have much gravy. The liquids are added only after the casserole is assembled, and they’re there to help the ingredients cook and add another layer of rich flavour.
Casseroles aren’t totally dry, but they have much less gravy than stews, which can sometimes be even soupy. This is a key difference between stew and casserole.
As such, there’s no assembly to a stew. All you need to do is chuck all the ingredients in a deep pot and wait for them to cook over several hours.
Casseroles, on the other hand, are well assembled, almost like a lasagna.
While both dishes are easy to eat, casseroles can appeal more to those who like more structured dishes with defined layers.
Different Methods of Cooking
When cooking a stew, there’s no limitation on the ingredients you add. As long as the flavours can harmoniously come together, you can easily pair them up for a delicious stew.
However, for the casserole to come together, you need to have the three basic ingredients: a protein, a vegetable, and a starch. The starch is one of the most essential parts of any casserole then.
Apart from this, a casserole is cooked in the oven with even distribution of heat through the dish.
The stew is cooked only on the stove and is generally done in a covered pot.
While the casserole itself is uncovered, casseroles are generally topped with breadcrumbs or cheese which can become crispy or bubbly. This can help sort of ‘seal’ the casserole and keep the flavors simmering within. It also helps add a nice, crisp texture.
The Bottom Line - Difference between stew and casserole
Both stews and casseroles are essential recipes for any chef to have in their repertoire.
Appreciating the differences between the two is the first step to creating perfect dishes.
You should make a stew if you prefer gravy, whereas a casserole is for those who prefer something more structured.
Both these dishes are real one-pot wonders, and they can be perfect meals for your family, and even on get-togethers. While fancier dishes have a certain charm, casseroles and stews have a warm and welcoming quality unmatched.
Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.
This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!