Cooking – A Home Cook’s Soups, Stews, and Chowders Primer

Although soups are not served as frequently as a first course these days, they are often a  part of a light meal or can even be the main course.

Basic soups are like basic (or mother sauces) in that dozens of variations can be made from the fundamental item. A basic brown stock is used in making bouillons, French onion soup, vegetable beef soup, or the popular Slavic soup Borsch Garnishes added to soups also change their character.

Soups are liquids, which can be very thin or quite thick, depending upon what they contain and are classified according to their thickness or to the principal liquid and/or other ingredients they contain. So, here is one system of classification:

Stock or broth

Stocks or broths and their derivations bouillons and consommés. A stock is predominantly made with bones and some trim, where and broth is usually made with pieces of actual meat; except vegetable broth, obviously.  All usually, have some vegetables and herbs added during cooking, before they are then strained

Cream soup

Cream soups are those are prepared by adding cream or milk at the end of the cooking process, but are not considered to be chowders.


Bisques are heavy cream soups and typically containing shellfish.


Purees are thickened with cooked vegetables or fish passed through a sieve or comminuted by some other device such as a blender.


Chowders, thick soups or stews usually containing seafood, potatoes and milk (or cream).

Potages or paysanne

Potages or paysanne (country or common folk soups) are heavy with ingredients, such as gumbo, chili, chicken noodle or vegetable.


Stews are similar to soups, generally, contain a lower ratio of liquid to meat and/or vegetables.

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