What is the secret to your chicken soup - and what is wrong with mine?

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Posted 3/11/2013 by *christine* in NSBR Board

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PeaNut 139,174
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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:15:03 AM
I used to make chicken soup with stock from the grocery store and it was blah. I've also tried boiling a chicken with onion, carrot and celery, straining and using that for broth...again blah.

Yesterday I tried a recipe for homemade stock and I had high hopes because it came out pretty dark. I browned the pieces of chicken a few at a time, then added onion to the grease/fat and softened, returned the chicken and covered for 20 minutes. Added boiling water, and less than it called for because it wouldn't all fit - salt, bay leaves, thyme. I had heavily salted and peppered the chicken before browning. Strained the stock, cut up the chicken, softened carrot, onion and celery in 2 tbs reserved fat skimmed from the stock. Then added everything back together and cooked the noodles in the stock. Blah.

Is there a secret that I'm missing? It's a pain in the neck to make and then for it to not be good is annoying.


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Harley Riding Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:18:50 AM
I love teh brothy chicken noodle soups. DH on the other hand, likes things that are intensely spiced. So a broth soup like chicken noodle doesn't do it for him...at all. Usually he adds siracha or Maggi or something to it. He's just used to foods that have intense flavor.

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:19:29 AM
It's the bones that make the stock, not the meat. Just a few pounds of backs and necks with veggies and herbs covered in water and cooked at a low simmer.

Jo Mama


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PeaNut 18,334
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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:23:18 AM
Stock flavor comes from bones. Buy necks and wings to boil for stock. Also use enough salt. Salting before browing probably isn't enough salt for a pot with 4-8 cups of liquid.

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Pretty In PeaNK

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:24:09 AM
I submerge and boil an entire chicken with an onion, and after the chicken is removed and cooling, I add several cubes of chicken bullion.

The trick, in my opinion, is to simmer the chicken slowly and add lots of bullion. I tried rushing the cooking process once, and instead of broth, I got chicken bathwater with no flavor.

ETA: to be more clear, simmer at least one hour or more.

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Pixie Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:25:43 AM
I use boneless, skinless chicken breast in a pressure cooker. That always makes great soup.

I like mine spicy, so I add a can of Rotel and chili peppers.

If you don't want it spicy, add your normal ingredients plus a touch of freshly ground nutmeg.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:25:44 AM
This is my chicken soup recipe, and my family loves it.

In a large stockpot, put chicken carcass, celery, carrots, onions (I use half a red onion), and cover with water (for mine, it was 14 cups of water). Add pepper, sea salt, kosher salt, and granulated garlic to your taste. I just eyeballed it. I also added 3 tablespoons of crushed garlic. Bring to a full rolling boil, and then continue cooking on a low boil for about an hour and a half. Strain broth and return broth to stockpot. Add 2 cans Swanson's Chicken broth. Continue simmering. Add chicken to broth. Add lightly steamed vegetables of your choice. In a separate pot, prepare your egg noodles. When egg noodles are cooked and drained add to soup. You're done! Enjoy!


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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:26:36 AM
The best stock comes from bone in chicken. I cut up a whole chicken, including back and neck, put it in a pot and cover with water. I do not add onion, carrot, celery or salt. Just the chicken and water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 45 min to an hour, skim off any foam. Remove chicken. It's just that easy.


PeaNut 407,137
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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:29:33 AM
I use a big package of legs and/or wings, onions, carrots, and celery. Brown it all then add a lot of water and bring it to a boil. Skim off the foamy crud several times, reduce to a simmer, add my herbs and let it cook for a couple of hours-- at least. I think your problem is that you're not letting it simmer long enough.



PeaNut 59,460
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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:34:39 AM
I use a whole, cut up chicken and boil with with bay leaf, salt and better than bouillon. It turns out fantastic.

Peaing From Podunk

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:41:30 AM
I use chicken carcass, carrots, onion, celery, garlic and bay leaves. Cover with water and simmer for about two hours. Strain and then season the broth well with salt and pepper. I think the secret is to make sure you use enough salt. There's a lot of flavorless water in there.
Once I have my broth, I dice onion, carrots and celery and cook it in the broth until tender and then add either noodles or dumplings.


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Pastafarian Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:50:22 AM
I make chicken stock in bulk and freeze it to use in soups and sauces. I only ever buy whole chickens and the guy I get them from always throws in bags of chicken feet for free which is the real secret to my stock. The connective tissue is what gives the stock so much richness and body.

I use maybe four chicken frames. These are always frames that I previously roasted and picked the meat off. I always have necks and heads because my chickens come with heads and neck attached so those are always raw. Four frames, four heads, four necks, and I add maybe ten clean chicken feet. I add rough chopped celery, onion, and carrots, cover the whole deal with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for about four hours. Strain the solids.

What's left is the base for my soup. If cools in the fridge to a solid gelatin, then you know it's good. When I make chicken soup I use the stock as a base and add fresh vegetables, chicken, noodles, salt, herbs, and chopped cooked chicken meat.

I don't think I'd get results as good if I started with a whole raw chicken and cooked it in water. Without the connective tissue and the flavor you get from roasted bones I think it would be bland. And don't undersalt!


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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:54:32 AM

remind me to never eat at your house!

Pastafarian Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 11:55:57 AM


remind me to never eat at your house!

No. I put heads in the stockpot when I make chicken stock. There are no floating noggins or feets in chicken soup we eat.


I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. --Susan B. Anthony

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PeaNut 138,670
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Posted: 3/11/2013 12:13:52 PM
I love a product called "Better than Bullion", it's in a jar next to the stocks and broths. It brings a great flavor to my soups - they have beef and chicken but my favorite is the veggie one - it just tastes good in everything!

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 11,642
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Posted: 3/11/2013 12:24:51 PM


My grocery store has a deal on rotisseries chickens ($1.99 using points we accumulate through purchases), so I buy them once in a while and found this recipe online when looking for something to do with it other than eat. It was very flavorful and you could customize it however you want.

I have never liked the results I get when making it by traditional methods, it's always really gelatiney, I think it's supposed to be but that grosses me out. This was like regular soup. I think the skin is part of what makes this good.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 497,090
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Posted: 3/11/2013 12:25:40 PM
For me it takes two days make chicken soup.

I buy enough chicken to fit into my largest pot. usually about 5 pounds.

fill the pot with the chicken and cover with water and salt.

bring to a full rolling boil, turn down to simmer

as the chicken cooks down add onions garlic carrots and celery. just chopped them up, no need to peel and dice.

as the water boils away keep adding water.

Just the chicken fall apart. The longer you boil the better. I boil the chicken all day and will put it in the frig for another boil the next day.

Now the fun part.

scoop the solids out of the pot and place them in a wire strainer(colander) let the solid drain.

pour the liquid in the pot through a strainer.

pour some hot water into pot swish around, pour that through stainer.

(now you can wash the pot)

In the pot soften a whole diced onion and pressed garlic.
pour all the liquid from your first boil back into the pot.

You can at this point hold the strainer of chicken parts over the pot and pot some hot water over it to get out all the flavor. Throw the chicken parts out because there will be no flavor in the meat.
Put the pot of liquid into the frig, so you can harden the fat and skim it off.
NOTE: You should have at least six to eight quarts of liquid in your pot.
Put the pot back on stove and bring liquid to boil
Now you can add a couple of bone-in chicken breasts. Let it come to a simmer. When the chicken is done pull it out of the pot and add the veggies you like.

When the veggies are done you can add the meat of the chicken back into the pot. I leave the meat separate because I don't like meat in my soup and it is easier to add the meat to bowls than to take it out. salt and pepper to taste.

Don't add noodles or rice to the broth, they will suck up the broth.

MORE NOTES. don't use skinless or boneless chicken for this. The flavor is in the skin and bones.

If you are making this because you have a cold, add a lot of garlic, some ginger and
DON'T skim off all the fat. There is something about the fat that helps in relieving cold symptoms.

You can freeze the broth before turning it into soup, or you can keep it in the frig for a couple of weeks if you keep the fat layer. as long as the fat stays intact, you can use the broth later. Make sure that when you go to use there is no off smell and bring the broth to a full boil for ten minutes.

I hope my novel helps!


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Posted: 3/11/2013 12:29:05 PM
Using the bones is how I get mine to be flavorful!

Also, if you can find an older hen, you will get a more flavorful broth. Those are not always easy to come by though.

I like the chicken that is grain fed and "air chilled" when processed - it isn't thrown in a vat of water. Around here the brand is "Smart Chicken", but it is available under other brands. The flavor is SO much better in those chickens.

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Posted: 3/11/2013 12:55:55 PM
Thanks for all the advice. As much as I love ya, Compwalla, I think I have to draw the line at heads and feet.

Another problem with yesterday's soup was that the chicken was tough, and I felt like that was from the boil/simmer while it was in the soup. I had put what I thought was a LOT of salt, but DH was adding salt at the table. In addition to salting the chicken pieces, the recipe called for 2tsp of salt. That's more than I add to anything when I'm cooking!!

We do pick up rotisserie chickens from time to time, maybe I will try to make the stock with that the next time.

Makes sense that a previously roasted chicken would have more flavor, but I've done that before and not had much luck.


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Pastafarian Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 1:02:15 PM
You have tough chicken meat because it's overcooked. That's why I make the chicken stock separate from the actual soup. The chicken in my soup is roasted for a previous bird, diced, and added at the same time I add the noodles, right near the end of cooking. And two tsp of salt is a tiny amount for a whole pot of soup. You are WAY under salting if you're using barely more than two tsp.

And if you really can't handle heads and feet, then use chicken backs and thighs which are the next best as far as connective tissue. Or stewing hens if you can find them.


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PeaNut 173,756
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Posted: 3/11/2013 1:21:14 PM
I use the carcass of a roast chicken or the turkey, cover with water and boil. I season with salt and pepper, but don't season beyond that while making broth. It simmers for about 60-90 minutes. It usually reduces to about 1/2 to 2/3 of what I started with. I strain and pick any remaining meat (bits from the wing etc). I return the naked broth to the pot, add celery, onions, carrot, bay leave, garlic cloves, granulated garlic, salt (usually sea salt) and let simmer. I taste it several times and continue to adjust my seasonings until I get the flavor I am looking for. I add my chicken (usually leftovers from roast) and my noodles at the same time. We use wide egg noodles for a stew consistency. I don't like over cooked chicken, so once the noodles are tender, I shut it off and let it cool. We usually have one meal of it and the rest is portioned out for the freezer!

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PeaNut 96,097
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Posted: 3/11/2013 1:30:41 PM
I just made chicken and rice soup the other day and it turned out delicious. For me, lots of cracked black pepper and a handfull of chopped fresh parsley makes all the difference in homemade chicken soup.

I use a carcass from a previously roasted chicken - sometimes I make the stock right away, other times, I freeze the carcass until it's stock making day. If you want a richer stock, you can roast the bones in the oven first. I always break the small bones (wings/ribs) up a little and add a TBS of vinegar to the stock because it leaches extra calcium from the bones. Simmer your stock for 2-3 hours. Refrigerate and skim the fat off the top. Then ladel 2 cups of stock into a quart sized zipper bags and freeze flat.

ETA: I noticed you said your chicken was tough. I once bought a chicken that was labeled as some type of "hen" and the meat from it was really tough/stringy. Now I only buy broiler/fryers (I think they are younger therefore more tender).


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Posted: 3/11/2013 3:25:51 PM
My mom told me the secret to her chicken soup is using a roasting chicken instead of a fryer chicken.


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Posted: 3/11/2013 3:28:10 PM
I also roast my chicken first, get the meat off then boil the bones with veg.

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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 3:37:50 PM
I like to add a couple whole cloves while I'm cooking the stock. I love the smell of them.

I also toss whatever meat was in with the thighs/backs/necks. The meat is pretty flavorless and tough once it's been cooked that long. I use separate meat for the soup than what I used for the stock.

I use the Better than Bouillon also -- it's really good. They must use cloves in it, because it smells great. If your soup is flavorless, add a couple teaspoons and it'll perk up.


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Posted: 3/11/2013 3:53:28 PM
I went to a soup class at my library taught by a naturopath. She uses two small chickens and removes the breast meat after an hour for another use. She also said it takes a minimum of 6 hrs of simmering to extract the marrow from the bones and that's where the flavor and healthy glucosamine come from.

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pearl-clutching nitpicker

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Posted: 3/11/2013 4:32:38 PM
There are different ways to make chicken stock. One is to start with a raw chicken and boiling for a couple of hours (plus veg/seasoning). Pull the meat out after 45 minutes or so ... you can add it back in to the finished soup later on. You'll end up with a mild-flavored, clear yellow broth.

Another way, what I usually do, is start with a couple of cooked chicken carcasses. Boil forever. Literally, sometimes I leave this on the stove for a couple of DAYS. The stock will be richer and darker.

Either way, you need lots of skin and bones, vegetables and seasonings. A fair amount of salt, either while it cooks or when you make the final soup.

When you're done, toss out the remaining bones, skin, veggies, etc. Not worth eating anymore. Strain out remaining gunk. Refrigerate stock overnight and skim off the fat. Cook the broth down further if need be. You can always add packaged broth or boullion or Better Than Boullion if you need to "beef up" (ha ha) the flavor.

To make soup from your homemade broth: I buy really good European soup noodles and cook them right in the soup. If you're using grocery store noodles, cook them separately. Add leftover cooked chicken (not from the soup pot) and fresh chopped veggies, and add salt and pepper if needed.

My chicken noodle soup is to die for.

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PeaNut 56,220
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Posted: 3/11/2013 4:38:04 PM
I make mine from a raw, whole chicken. When I make the stock, I add an onion, celery stalks (just broken in half), whole peppercorns (like 10 maybe?), bay leaves (a few), and whole garlic cloves. (I don't salt my soup until later). After the chicken is cooked and the broth looks good (about 2 hours), I strain it all into a separate container and set the carcass aside to cool a little before I pull the meat off.

Then when I add the veg, I add tons. I dice onion, carrot, celery and cook it a bit in the bit pot without the broth (or with just a little) to release the flavors a bit. Then I add the broth back in and add the chicken. I might add some diced tomatoes at this point, or other vegetables (peas, etc.). I also will add a bunch of escarole for some green goodness. Usually at this point I'll salt/pepper the soup to taste.

Slow Poke Pea

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Posted: 3/11/2013 8:33:35 PM
I use a chicken carcass, cover with water, then I fill the pot with water. I add enough of the bullion powder for the approximate amount of water I'm using- I think 1/2 and 1/2 chicken and vegetable bullion is best. I add whole carrots, crushed garlic cloves, onion, and celery tops and let it simmer all day, adding water as needed. I strain out all the solids, cool in the fridge and skim the fat.

To assemble the soup, I add cut up carrots, and frozen peas. I let that simmer for 1/2 an hour or until the carrots are done. Next I add cooked and cut up or shredded chicken and noodles. I check the seasoning at this point and if it needs salt I add it now. Cook for about 10 minutes or until noodles are done.


Ms. GreenGenes

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Posted: 3/11/2013 8:45:37 PM
Compwalla is right that a gelatinous result means you have extracted the best nutrients from the chicken.

Two hours is the minimum to simmer to get good flavor. Use the stuff you normally would discard: the carcass after you debone it, celery leaves, carrot peels, etc. As you are peeling and chopping them for use in other things, save those discards and freeze them. When you've got a bag full, throw it all in a big stock pot, cover it with water and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for two hours. FYI, 2tsp of salt for a big batch of broth will be very bland. Taste as you go; you'll figure out how much you need to bring that flavor out.

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Posted: 3/11/2013 8:50:28 PM
juice of 3 lemons in a big pot of soup

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Posted: 3/11/2013 9:13:32 PM
Soup flavour comes from the bones and it MUST be allowed to simmer for 2-3 hours, longer if possible. When you're only simmering for 60 minutes you're not letting the full flavour come out.

I often use just the carcass of a turkey after Thanksgiving dinner or if I buy a precooked chicken to make my soup. I figure I get two meals out of it vs just the one.

After your bones have simmered for 3+ hours add your seasonings, I use peppercorn, star anise, bay leaves, parsley and cloves. But my soup is also a Mennonite noodle soup so the seasonings might be slightly different but the cook time should be the same.

Noodles should be cooked before adding to the soup at the end. Now I'm hungry for soup.
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