Why You Should Use Deep Bowls for French Onion Soup

published Jan 22, 2015
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(Image credit: cobraphotography)

If I’m thinking about ordering French onion soup at a restaurant, I take a look around and see if anyone else is eating it. While how the soup tastes is the most important factor, what the soup is served in is almost as important to me, so I try to scope it out before making my decision. Here’s why I’m so picky!

What makes French onion soup so delicious? Is it the sweet, rich, deeply onion-y broth? Or is it the crunchy, toasted bread covered with molten, bubbly cheese?

Balance Is the Key to a Good Bowl of French Onion Soup

To me, it’s the balance of all these things and the way they complement and contrast each other that makes French onion soup really special. This is why the bowl that it’s served in matters.

Too many times I’ve been served French onion soup in a shallow bowl. The thin layer of soup is topped with the bread and cheese, but the proportions just aren’t right — the bread on top quickly sops up any broth and turns the whole thing into more of a bread-and-onion stew. Or worse yet, there are just tiny pieces of toast floating in a wide bowl of soup and there isn’t enough bread and cheese to try to allocate into each bite.

(Image credit: Danie Nel)

You’ve Got to Go Deep

French onion soup is traditionally served in lionhead bowls, which are deep but not very wide porcelain bowls. Here are four reasons why these bowls are perfect:

  1. Plenty of soup. Even as the bread on top starts to soak up some of the soup, there’s still plenty left underneath.
  2. You don’t need much bread to cover the top. The not-too-wide top of the bowl means that one or two small slices of bread will suffice to cover it.
  3. The soup stays hot. The whole soup stays piping hot since there’s less surface area that can cool off quickly, and piping hot is how I love my French onion soup served.
  4. Bonus handles. If your soup bowls have those cute little handles, bonus for you! A handle makes it easy to hold onto the bowl with one hand while you’re digging deep to get the perfect bite of soup, onion, bread, and cheese.

Don’t fret if you don’t have actual lionhead bowls, though. Just make sure the bowl is deep and ovensafe if you plan to run the whole thing under the broiler to melt the cheese. Even a big mug can do the trick!