Originally Posted by Naia
What is the difference between a beef stew and a pot roast? Curious. =)
How much information would you like?
A stew is made with bite sized pieces of beef/lamb/pork etc. These may be placed into the pot with vegetables without browning, as in a Lancashire Hot Pot and cooked on top of the stove in liquid such as stock. This is known as a cold stew as the meat and vegetables are not subjected to any heat prior to any liquid being added and heat applied.
Alternatively, they may be browned and then placed with other vegetables and seasonings etc., covered and cooked on top of the stove. As the meat and vegetables are subjected to heat and browned (meat) or sautéed (vegetables), this is known as a brown stew. The result is that on each plate there will be discrete mouthfuls of meat and you could eat a stew with a fork.
If the dish is cooked in an oven it should be called a casserole.
A pot roast involves using a single piece of meat - say 2 lbs/1 kilo of brisket which will serve about 4-6 people. The meat is browned all over in hot oil or oil and butter and placed on a bed of sautéed vegetables, typically sliced onions, carrots, celery. The meat in question should be placed on top of this generous bed of sautéed vegetables and liquid should be added to cover the vegetables and reach about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the vegetables. Thus the base of the meat may be in liquid at the start of the cooking but the length of time during which the joint is cooked will lead to a reduction of the liquid. Any additional seasonings herbs etc should be added when the joint is placed on the bed of vegetables. The pot covered and cooked slowly on top of the stove. (If it is cooked in the oven it is a braise.)
Following this, the meat is sliced (unlike a stew when the meat is cut prior to cooking into bite-sized pieces. The vegetables may/may not be used to garnish the dish or fresh vegetables may be cooked to accompany the pot roast. The juices (and perhaps) vegetables will be used to create a sauce which will be thickened either by puréeing the vegetables or straining the liquid and thickening with cornstarch.
In short, a stew/casserole requires you to use a spoon to portion on each plate whilst a pot roast requires you to carve slices and place slices on each plate
Hope this helps,