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Maybe there is good reason buffets seem to have the same short list of soups: they hold well ie flavor and color; do not separate or split; heavy ingredients do not sink to bottom.

What should I avoid in soup recipes that they can be held hot for up to 4hrs?

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    I feel the limited range is tradition and expected customer expectations rather than how the soup reacts. For example in the Netherlands in winter there has to be a split pea soup, in summer it will never be there. The soup is as easy or hard to hold on a buffet in winter as in summer.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 8:33
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    Hi Pat, I reworded your question title somewhat. The question as formulated in the body is fine, but the earlier title could have been misunderstood as asking for a list of soups (which is a type of question we don't permit) or as inviting a food safety debate. I tried to be as accurate as possible to the intention I saw in the text body, you can edit further if you wish.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 8:51
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    Willeke: if I get the question correctly, though, OP is asking about soups that physically hold well, regardless of season.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 16:27
  • I think with the containers used at buffets, almost any soup can hold really well.
    – xuq01
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 19:44

1 Answer 1

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I was really hoping that someone still in professional food service would answer this, but they haven't, so here's my list of rules based on memory from when I was:

Soups that are no good for holding:

  • Egg-drop soups and seafood soups are risky because of rapid spoilage
  • Miso soup settles out
  • Soups that are thickened with a butter or heavy cream emulsion; these tend to separate after being heated for hours
  • Pasta, barley and rice soups are problematic because the grains both absorb liquid while sitting and sink to the bottom.
  • Bread-thickened soups tend to turn to porrige
  • gazpacho actually does not do well; even though it is cold, after a few hours out it can ferment unless you keep it well-chilled

Soups that are good for holding:

  • Just about any pureed vegetable soup
  • Cheese-and-emulsifier thickened soups, like broccoli-cheese soup, do well
  • Bean soups with a moderate amount of beans do well (thick bean soups tend to solidify though), like vegetable/lentil, or brunswick stew
  • Chicken/noodle soup is a good standby if the noodles are very small and less than the chicken (see above)|
  • Thin dal, like a classic South Indian sambar, is designed for long sitting
  • Tomato/vegetable soup
  • "Chowders", including corn chowder, hold well from a suspension/serving standpoint, but see above for the risks of holding seafood
  • Any clear broth, such as bone broth, consomme, pomegranate soup, etc.

That's all I have; hopefully someone with current buffet-running experience will speak up.

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    For soup with noodles, depending on the situation you might be able to have cooked noodles next to the soup for people to add once they've poured their portion, to prevent them getting too soft.
    – dbmag9
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 8:33

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