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Say I'm preparing a stew that calls for various ingredients such as celery, carrots, leek, onions...

Is there any rule of thumb in which order to add these ingredients to the pan, taking into account they will cook later in the pot as well, with the rest of the stew? In recipes, I usually see the onions being added first. However my intuition is telling me that because diced onions are smaller than for example carrot disks, they are done faster (as in, slightly browned) and thus should be added later?

Currently, I'm going about roughly as this:

  1. carrots first because they take longest until done
  2. onions alongside other veggies
  3. wait until they're "just short of being done"
  4. add rest of the stew, e.g. salça (tomato paste), strained tomatoes, beans, and stand by helplessly as I hope the vegetables don't overcook

How do you take into account that the vegetables that were added on their own at first continue to cook with the rest of the soup?


What's the worst thing that can happen when not taking these times into account properly, other than your vegetables becoming a little mushy?

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Typically in a soup or stew, aromatics (onion, celery, bell pepper, carrot, garlic...etc) are cooked first, and slowly in some type of fat. You can put them all in at once, though sometimes I hold off on the garlic, because it tends to brown more quickly than the rest. Other than that, it is not necessary to sequence these base ingredients. Then add tomato paste (if using) cook a bit...then liquid. Other, ingredients (like the tomato and beans you mention), can be added after the aromatics are translucent (or browned, if that is the flavor profile you are going for).

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    In the case of potatoes, which aren't mentioned, many recipes have you put them later - typically x minutes before ending cooking - so that they retain some firmness and don't get overly mushy. And good reminder on the garlic, which can get bitter rather quickly. I typically "pre-sweat" onions, carrots, leeks and the like in a microwave, so that the browning phase in the fat need less oversight and I can get aggressive with the heat right away. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 19:58

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