≡ Menu

Ask The Chef: What is a Bisque?

Cup of Crab Bisque at Coastal Kitchen

Tina asks:
Jason – What makes a tomato bisque – a bisque? Why not just call it “Cream of Tomato?”


Great question. It seems like there are a thousand “bisques” these days. I’ve seen potato bisque, cauliflower bisque, a meat bisque, and even a bonafide crawfish bisque. All that in the 2 seconds the Google Gods delivered me my answers. The great ones never steer you wrong. Or something like that.

I remember learning about Bisques in my soups and stocks class in college. I was taught that a bisque is a liquid of concentrated flavor thickened with rice. (Or another starch other than a roux.) That’s important, because otherwise it’s just a fancy-shmancy name for a cream/puree soup. ‘Cause that never happens, right?

Let’s imagine a potato bisque. The thickening agent(s) in the soup are the starch in the potato, and the reduction of the liquid. Strictly speaking, the soup should be classified as a puree, but I believe it wouldn’t be so catchy on a menu. The question I would ask is – is this a soup that is going to knock me out with it’s potato flavor? Chances are good that it won’t wow me like a Lobster Bisque would.

When you eat-err… sample a Lobster Bisque, you should be blown away. There’s probably a trillion calories in a bite. (That’s what my butt keeps complaining of!) You will taste LOBSTER goddamn it! AND LIKE IT!

It’s hard to imagine that with a potato bisque. Perhaps a drizzle of white truffle oil or something to lift it up. Then it’s more like a truffle bisque. Oh look. As usual, I ‘m getting carried away. Where was I?

Oh yes – A traditional shrimp or lobster bisque starts off with the shells dry roasting in a pan, caramelizing the proteins in the carapace. Then you add a brandy, reduce and concentrate the flavor. After that, a fish stock is added with some rice, and the works is reduced. It’s passed through a food mill, (or these days it’s more likely to be a blender – this is the new millennia after all!) It would be strained out and concentrated even further. Finally, a bit of sherry or brandy is added with the meat – and then you would have a real bisque.

Tina – you’re spot on. We should just call it a Tomato soup.

Your Turn:

What do you all think? What kinds of bisques have you eaten? Did they blow your socks off? Let me know in the comments below!

Connect with the Well Done Chef

I am never far from that sucky string called the Interwebs. You can get a hold of me many ways:

Subscribe to the Well Done Chef by the RSS feed or subscribe to Well Done Chef! by email

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment