Chicken soup recipes . . . or, rather, general approaches

Last time I made chicken soup I used a whole chicken, as the recipe specified, but the result was almost inedible – too much meat relative to the broth (I wanted a soup, not a stew!) and the flavor was somehow wrong. Overall it was, well, disgusting; I ended up throwing most of it away. I’ve heard that some people make chicken soup with just some parts – necks, feet – but can you get a strong enough broth that way?

Also, how do you make the broth yellow instead of greyish?

I’ve experimented over the years, and settled on a quick and easy chicken soup that we love.

I use a pre-roasted chicken. They’re $5 here, $4 when they’re on sale. They’re really juicy and have just enough meat.

My “stock” is water with a bunch of chicken boullion cubes, and some thyme and sage seasoning. You could add veggies but I don’t.

When the stock is boiling, I add a couple packages of frozen noodles. When the noodles are tender, I dump in the chicken (after taking the meat off the carcass and chunking it up some).

When I cook chickens I usually spatchcock them.
I save the backbones in a large zip lock bag in the freezer. When I get a bag full, I will add a carcass or two and make my broth from that.
After the broth is made, I will then add meat as necessary to make soup.

Grab a few chicken breasts and remove the skin. Add to a big stock pot with mirepoix - that is, a 2:1:1 ratio by volume of onions:carrots:celery. I’d say a big or a few medium onions, 2 good sized carrots, and 2 ribs of celery. You can add a few garlic cloves and a bouquet garni if you wish (I do). Simmer - don’t boil - for several hours. Essentially you are making stock but with meat. If you have some wing tips/necks/backs saved up, you can add to the pot for extra flavor and remove later. Skim off any scum that forms on top of the broth. The breast meat should boil quite quickly - you may wish to remove the meat and reserve for the final product.

When the broth has developed, remove all the bones. Depending on how you like your veggies, you may want to remove them as well and replace with fresh. If you do so, bring the broth up to a boil. Season as desired with salt, pepper, herbs (I put in some flat-leafed parsley for color). When I make chix soup I make a huge pot and prepare the noodles separately. This way I can eat leftovers for a while without big nasty bloated noodles. I wonder how well it would freeze, though…

The color should develop on its own. If not, add a little ground turmeric. Beware that turmeric has been used as not only a seasoning but also as a fabric/cosmetic dye; this isn’t the time to wear your favorite white shirt!

I have no problem with “too much meat relative to the broth.” How difficult is it to remove some of the meat afterwards? Also, if your broth isn’t yellow, it’s because you’re not using enough fat, especially skin (again, you can remove it afterwards). And you need some fresh veggies: onion, celery, carrot and parsley, and perhaps a little fresh dill. I usually wind up overcooking my soup, so don’t add the veggies right away.

But “simmer” means, “first boil, then reduce heat,” right?

(Once when I was a teenager my Mom left me in charge of making some chicken-liver pate for a dinner party. The recipe said to “simmer” the livers in water for 20 minutes and then put them in a blender. I simply left them on simmering heat, without boiling first; the result was inedible, as you may imagine.)

Simmer is probably a misnomer for what I am describing, now that you mention it. Put the pot over medium-low heat and never let it come to a boil. You should get a few errant bubbles, but not a rolling boil. ETA: you could do this all on the low setting on a Crock Pot. I often make stock that way.

I use breasts only, and make the stock from one of the products like Orrington Farms Chicken Flavored Soup Base or Better Than Bullion. The latter must be refrigerated, the former, not. I plop a couple of breasts in a large pot of water, add the base, plus black pepper, some marjoram and thyme, then cook for about an hour. I discard bones & skin,chop the meat, add chopped onions and celery, then immediately put into individual containers; some for freezing, some just for refrigeration. I don’t like mushy veggies, so the onions and celery stay relatively crisp.

If I am making it for myself only, I add 2 of those tiny, very very hot Thai peppers, chopped very fine to the pot, but this is too spicy for some people.

A variation is to put in some finely chopped green peppers and/or chives. Noodles or rice shouldn’t be added until just before you are ready to serve or they get mushy in the fridge.

I would respectfully disagree with this. Fat in soup is not a good thing. Fat is always skimmed off of the stock while it simmers and adds almost zero to the flavor. It also contributes to a greasy mouth feel if it is allowed to emulsify into the stock. Why would you want your broth to be yellow? Because Campbell’s soup is yellow? So add some food coloring, if that’s important to you, but stock is generally fairly clear. Queen Bruin has presented the real deal. The only thing you might do differently would be to roast your meat and vegetables before making your stock, but it’s not necessary.

Also, for a huge burst of flavor and aroma, I would add a bit of fresh herbs to the bowls just before ladling out the soup.

Hubby suggests . . .

Bones. Mostly bones. You want the gelatin from them. Meat gives you broth, bones give you stock. The gelatin is what provides the “mouth feel”, not the fat.

Your mirepoix should be celery, onion/leeks, parsnips (not carrots). You don’t need to simmer more than an hour or two.

Strain your stock, and refrigerate it. Skim the fat, and REDUCE!!!

You should (according to him) end up with about 1/4 the liquid you started with.

Use the stock to make the soup, with whatever you want - chicken breasts/parts, vegetables, pasta.

He says it’s important NOT to salt the stock while it’s cooking. Correct the seasonings before you serve.

He says, practice, and you’ll figure it out :slight_smile:


Ginger Of The North needs to post to this thread. Her chicken soup is out of this world.

First of all, make sure you’re using chicken pieces and not a whole chicken. It makes a difference. (Your first sentence was kind of vague on that point.)

When I make chicken soup, I generally use dark meat, not breasts, and I leave the fat and skin on. It’s true that leaving all the fat on will make the soup taste and feel greasy, but you still need some fat. Before serving, put the soup in the fridge, let the fat congeal on the top like a skin; it’s easier to skim off that way.

If you want to take the easy way out (which is what I do), here you go:

Add chicken to 2 quarts of pre-made chicken broth. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked (if using raw) or heated through (if using cooked). When the chicken is about three-quarters done, add vegetables. I usually use carrots, celery (leave the leaves on!) and onions, but knock yourself out. Diced potato will add some body if you think you want it. Toward the end, add noodles. If the liquid level gets low, add more broth. Throw the pot into the fridge to let the fat congeal, skim, and re-heat.

You shouldn’t need to salt the resulting soup, but you can add other herbs and such if you want.

I will say this much. Soup is a bitch to learn from a recipe. It’s never going to be consistent; there are too many variables from batch to batch. The best way to learn is to experiment and decide what works and what doesn’t. I myself learned by watching my father and grandmother. There is also no shame in using shortcuts like pre-made chicken broth.

Have fun!


The difference being what? I’ve never noticed any difference between using whole chicken or chicken parts. My preference, for making broth/stock at any rate, is to use an entire chicken (I do usually cut it up so it fits, though) or cornish game hens (whole).

Or you reserve the breasts, make your broth out of the remaining parts, and use the breasts for when you assemble the actual soup later.

Carrots in the mirepoix will also help you get that golden yellow color, although it’s not going to look as golden as Campbell’s. Also, keeping the skins on your onions will contribute to the color in a positive manner. Parsnips are good in the mirepoix, but there’s nothing wrong with carrots. Using parsnips is traditional for keeping a very pale color in the stock, but that’s not what the OP wants. I personally use a combination of carrots, parsnips, and celery root (which is more common in Eastern European cooking) in my broth or stocks.

Rule of 4s
4 lbs of chicken
4 quarts of water
4 carrots, chopped into chunks
4 stalks of celery, chopped into chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into 4
4 cloves of garlic, whole or cut in half

  • a palmful of black peppercorns and 2 bay leaves
    Simmer 4 hours

You get the yellow color from the carrots. Parsnips optional, but I like ‘em (2-3 per pot o’ soup).

At the end, strain the broth, and discard all vegetables (they will be cooked into pulp; I hate squishy vegetables). Sometimes I mash some of the onion in for richness. Remove meat from bones if desired and return to soup (some people feel the meat is “cooked out” and stringy at this point).

My grocery store sells 5 lb bags of “chicken bones”, which is perfect for soup. There’s actually quite a bit of meat still on dem bones. Add some chopped up carrots, celery and onion, cover with water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at about 4 hours (covered). You have to “skim the scum” for about the first 15 minutes of the simmering process. You’ll know what this is when you see it. You can also add a boquet garni for flavor (some herbs rolled up in cheesecloth).

When done, pour it through a sieve or colander-- you want just the broth-- and let it sit in the fridge overnight. I usually keep it in a 1-gallon pitcher for this process. You want something tall and skinny, which makes the next step easier. The next day, scoop off the fat that collects at the top. The broth should be gelatinous, but will liquify easily even at room temp.

I should add… if you’re dividing the broth up into smaller servings from the pitcher, be sure to stir it up first as there is settling and sedimentation in the gelatinous broth. I usually find that the process of stirring it makes it liquid again, although it’s still quite thick. But you can pour it just fine. When you heat it up, it won’t be thick at all, just flavorful.

On the chicken front-is that 4 lb of chicken meat, chicken bones, or chicken parts on the bone?

What’s the difference?

Semantics, in part, but stock is a much richer brew, simmered for hours or even days, depending on how far you want to reduce the liquid. Stock is either white or brown, depending on whether or not you roast the bones prior to using (it has nothing to do with the color of the stock). You can make chicken broth with a boullion cube.