Stew and casserole are the ultimate comfort dishes. Not only they are easy to cook but also rather filling and versatile. While stew and casserole may seem similar, certain properties that set these dishes apart.
What’s the difference between a stew and a casserole? While both are one-pot dishes with an almost similar basic formula, stews are cooked on the stove as opposed to oven-baked casseroles. These two comfort meals also differ in terms of ingredient preparation and the amount of gravy in the dish.
Read on if you want to learn all about these one-pot wonder meals.
What Is a Casserole?
The casserole is a go-to dinner in many families. It is a well-loved dish due to the variety of ingredients that can be put in it and the ease of making.
Generally speaking, a casserole is anything that is cooked and served in the same deep cooking vessel. This dish is cooked in the oven. Thus the cookware should be oven-safe.
The casserole is not a fastidious dish when it comes to the pan. You simply need to find one that is deep, suitable to be a serving dish, and most importantly, safe to put in the oven.
However, casserole pans come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials. You can find glass, ceramic as well as metal casserole pans on the market.
Do not be surprised if your casserole dish comes without a lid. The casserole is meant to be baked uncovered in the oven.
The origin of the dish dates back to thousands of years ago. It seems like even back then people liked one-dish meals. Centuries ago casserole consisted of rice and some type of meat.
Now, however, people add all kinds of ingredients and spices to the dish to elevate it and turn it into the comfort food that is hard to beat.
The Main Three Parts of a Casserole
When it comes to ingredients, casserole consists of protein, vegetables, and some kind of a starchy binder to hold everything together.
For the protein, you can opt for beef, chicken, and even fish. As far as the vegetables go, the options are unlimited. If you are following a plant-based diet, you will enjoy making a vegan casserole with eggplants, carrots or potatoes.
One of the key ingredients of casserole is the starch or some kind of a starchy ingredient. Pasta, rice, and potatoes can also be added to the casserole to act as a binder ingredient while bringing more flavor to the dish.
Meat and vegetables in a casserole dish are usually cooked and chopped into bite-size pieces. Meat is usually pre-cooked. Further cooking in the oven makes it even more tender while raw vegetables cook to perfection.
Aside from the three main parts of the casserole, sauces, additional seasonings, and toppings can be added to a recipe. The finishing touches of a casserole are usually grated cheese or crunchy bread crumbs.
Liquids, such as water, wine or stock, may also be added to the dish once it is assembled.
What to Serve with a Casserole?
Casseroles can be served as a main course or a side dish. Protein-packed casseroles are filling enough to serve as the main dish. However, it is always nice to have a light side dish to go with it.
Here are some options to be served as a side dish with a casserole:
- Mashed potatoes
If you don’t know what to serve with your casserole, look at the main ingredients of the dish and try to balance it out with the side dish. If you are at a loss, go for a green salad.
What Makes Stew a Stew?
Stew is a one-pot dish made with meats that require more cooking and a variety of vegetables. As opposed to a casserole, a lot more liquid is added into a stew, as the final result should be a combination of solid food and delicious gravy.
Aside from being the name of the dish, stew also refers to the technique of cooking. It is when ingredients are cooked on low heat, in a liquid, and in a covered pan.
When making a stew, you can choose tough kinds of meat, such as poultry or beef. As a result of cooking for a long time, the meat becomes tender and rich in flavor.
Once the meat is braised, vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery, are added along with such thickening ingredients as flour or egg yolk. The most appealing part of a good stew is the sauce. To get a nice rich gravy, liquids are added to the ingredients after which they simmer on a low heat for a couple of hours.
While water can be added to the ingredients, adding stock, wine or even beer will make the final dish taste nothing like a plain combination of meat and vegetables.
How to Serve a Stew?
You may look at the beautifully cooked meat and vegetables under a mouth-watering gravy and think about what you should serve with it.
Stews are comfort food that many people like to enjoy with just a few slices of crusty bread. But there can be more than that.
If you have cooked a flavorsome stew to serve as the main course for the dinner, there are a lot of options to go with it as a side dish.
The first thing that comes to the mind as a perfect companion for a stew is potatoes– roasted, mashed or baked.
If you want to serve something starchy with the stew to play well with the gravy, you can choose anything from egg noodles to rice, and from biscuits to dumplings.
If you want to balance the heaviness of the stew with a fresh side dish, a green salad, roasted broccoli, asparagus or cauliflower may be a good choice.
Casserole Vs Stew: What’s the Difference?
Casserole and stew, both being a one-pot dishes and favorites for comfort-food lovers, have similarities as far as the main ingredients go. The basic formula for both of these dishes is the same: protein, vegetables, a starchy ingredient, and a liquid.
Notwithstanding the similarities, there are some key differences between a stew and a casserole:
The cooking process
A casserole is cooked in the oven, which makes the heath circulate all around the dish. Additionally, when in the oven, the casserole is usually uncovered.
Stews, on the other hand, are cooked on the stove. This implies that heat is applied to the dish only from the bottom of the vessel.
When cooking a stew, the pot should be covered from the point when the liquid is added onto the solid ingredients. The stew simmers on a low heat for a few hours until the gravy thickens and the ingredients are nicely cooked.
When making a stew, it is a key step to fry the meat to get it crusty before adding the rest of the ingredients. If you are adding onions to the stew, they also need to be precooked.
As opposed to stews, casseroles not always require pre-cooked ingredients. If you are using meat, you may need to cook it a bit before mixing it with the vegetables and putting the dish into the oven. This will help you avoid overcooking the vegetables.
While both dishes have gravy, there is more of the delicious sauce in stews than in the casseroles.
Can You Make Stew and Casserole in a Slow Cooker?
Slow cooker, or a crock-pot, is an electrical kitchen appliance that cooks the meal for many hours at a very low temperature. While the dish simmers, the meat becomes tender and all the flavors come together to create one wholesome dish.
You can cook both a stew and a casserole in a slow cooker. It will take anywhere between 4 to 10 hours but the result will be worth it.
If you try cooking both a stew and a casserole in a slow cooker, you will not notice as much of a difference. The main noticeable difference will be the fact that casserole will have less gravy.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Stews and Casseroles
Being a one-pot dish, stews and casseroles are quite easy to make. In fact, it seems nothing can go wrong when making these dishes.
As easy as stews and casseroles may seem, there are a few common mistakes that may mess up your potentially perfect comfort-food.
Here is what you shouldn’t do when cooking a stew or a casserole:
- Choose an expensive cut of meat
- Cut the ingredients into big pieces
- Not allow the stew or the casserole to cook for the proper amount of time
- Forget to get the meat crusty on the outside before cooking it with the rest of the ingredients
- Not cook the stew or the casserole for the proper amount of time
- Skip adding a binder ingredient to help you get a thicker gravy or sauce
To learn more mistakes that you should avoid when making a casserole, watch this video by Allrecipes on YouTube.