I have so many favorites, I did a side-by-side taste test.
The three stews were of vastly different thicknesses. The Dinty Moore had so little liquid that it splorted out of the can with an unsavory dog-food noise. Progresso was at the other end of the spectrum, with so much broth that it was possible (though unlikely) to scoop up a solid-free spoonful. If I believed in calling anything beef soup, I would call the Progresso beef soup. Campbell's Chunky most closely toed the imaginary line separating stew and soup. But on with the taste test.
The sentimental favorite from Hormel was almost brothless straight out of the can, but once heated on the stovetop a light but sufficient dose of liquid emerged. The broth is starkly salty, with undertones of beef, tomato water, and carrot. The egregiously mushy carrot rounds themselves are almost devoid of flavor. Fortunately, potato chunks outnumber carrots by about three to one; the potatoes are firm by any definition and flavorful as canned potatoes go. Toothsome taters are all well and good, but in the end it brings me no pleasure to report that the Dinty Moore beef was terrible. Large, irregular hunks of grainy, bland, crumbly beef resembled shoddily designed Salisbury steak and left me hating my tongue and doubting my past.
Progresso Rich and Hearty Steak and Roasted Russet Potatoes
The broth tasted pleasantly of canned gravy, with light onion and garlic powder complementing the beef stock, but the texture was a bit too slick for comfort. The diced carrots were even worse than Dinty Moore's, and the unpeeled potatoes were acceptable but also inferior to the competition; they had a firm but false texture that invoked reconstituted potato flakes. The small pieces of smoky, jerky-tasting beef were few and far between, and they were marred by a crumbly texture reminiscent of soy-based ground beef substitute.
Campbell's Chunky Beef with Country Vegetables
This had the best broth by far, with some borderline fresh notes of tomato and celery amid the beef. Chunky was also the only stew in the lineup to make a decent go of the carrots. They're not laughably squishy (though far from firm) and they retain a bit of their original flavor, which is good since this is the only entrant to boast more carrots than potatoes. The potatoes felt good but tasted like nothing at all. Chunky was the only one to deviate by from the beef-potato-carrot plan, with the inclusion of predictably terrible peas and a few stray bits of inconsequential celery.