Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Aug 17, 2007 12:08 AM

Chicken Soup: How important is the meat?

I made some chicken broth the other day. Started out with a whole chicken (head and feet included--okay, I lopped off the head) from a good Asian supermarket. Sauteed garlic and onion, added the chicken and enough water to cover, salt, and pepper. I simmered the chicken for around 40 minutes, and tasted the broth. Disappointingly bland. I then took the chicken out, removed most of the meat , set it aside, and put the bones back into the broth. After another 30 minutes, the broth had a lot more flavor. After a total of 2 hours simmering, the soup was pretty good. And it seemed like almost all of the flavor came from the carcass, not the meat. Was I imagining things? Is the meat really not necessary for a good chicken broth?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. No, you werent imagining things at all. Getting the majority of meat off the bones is wise. The meat will have no flavor if you cook it much longer than that. It helps if (after youve removed the meat) you add some raw cider vinegar to the pot too. That pulls all the good minerals from the bones & marrow (2T to 4 qts of filtered unchlorinated water). Then go ahead and let it simmer for 24 hours. Stir it and crack the bones as you can. I make chicken stock from my own chickens at least twice a month and freeze it in 1qt sized freezer containers. NOTHING is more healing than a good soup stock. Its what I call a REAL convenience food. Without the collagen from these bones & feet our bodies cant even function correctly. I know thats not what the media would have you believe, but its TRUE none the less. Good stocks actually HEAL. Finding good ingredients is the biggest challenge for most however.

    This summer I was noticing the difference between a neighbors pastured poultry and my own free range poultry. My birds are a heritage breed and not a inbred variety like his. Mine eat only bugs and grass and his still require 80% of their diet be commercial GMO/Soy laden feed. I may have to cook a few more of mine, but I feel better knowing what theyre eating and that they havnt been genetically designed to grow at an enormously unnatural rate.

    I watched my geese in the yard the other day and noticed they spend MOST of the day walking around eating grass. Youd think they were cows. They really do almost constantly eat grass. I have 2 ganders that will go in the freezer about 3 months. Our goose laid eggs fr to weeks last spring and all of a sudden one day she came struttin through the front yard with 6 goslings behind her. I have been watching them grow all summer. Ive never fed them a thing. Gonna be yummy. Naturally, preditors got two of the six. But next season (with 3 geese on nests) we should have atleast 18 goslings to watch all summer and them process for our freezer and for neighbors that want to trade produce Dec 1. I haven't cooked a goose yet, but I know I will make stock of the carcass after each meal. Its just what you do, when your feeding a family with what God Himself provides. ~ TTFN, Dona

    7 Replies
    1. re: FarmSchooler

      Thank you, FarmSchooler! The cider vinegar sounds like a good idea, as well as cracking the bones.

      You're lucky you have those heritage birds. There's really nothing like them. My own experience with them, back in the Philippines, is that they were tougher, thinner, but so much more flavorful! In fact, this chicken soup project started when I got a craving for my grandmother's chicken and corn soup with horseradish leaves. I just couldn't bear the idea of using cans or cubes with HER soup. I used to see her do everything from scratch (with our equivalent of a heritage bird), including grating lots of white corn by hand.

      1. re: pilinut

        You might try using Loong Kong chickens, readily available at Ranch 99 in the SF Bay Area. Here's a thread about them,

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thanks, Melanie! That chicken sounds really good. I'll check my local Ranch 99 for the Loong Kong chickens. I'll try to make more stock before the next round of visiting relations makes it impossible to fill the fridge with bulky things like soup.

          By the way, what's "chuet sui"? I have to confess that I didn't skim the broth, but it did strain it when it was done, an it is now fairly clear.

          1. re: pilinut

            Roughly it means "out with the water", that is, disposing of the first boiling to coagulate the proteins. Here's a link to my earlier post about "chuet sui", which links to yimster's comments on the same method,
            When you do this initial parboiling, it also makes it easy to pull off excess fat instead of having to trim it from raw meat. I made oxtail and lotus root soup for my dad this week starting this way and the stock has very nice clarity with little effort. If you keep the fire low at a simmer, you don't need to skim the fat either as it won't emulsify and cloud the liquid. I refrigerate overnight and zip it off in solid form. Again, minimum of effort.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks, Melanie! I didn't know what the technique was called, but that's what we always do with oxtail and beef tongue--wash, quick boil, throw away the water, and start over. Now I'll try it with chicken. I don't like bringing meats to a boil after that. I prefer to simmer away. You're right, it yields a clearer stock

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Will you share your oxtail soup recipe please? Always looking for good oxtail recipes.

          2. re: pilinut

            I know what you mean about a grandmothers recipes being precious and nothing to be messed with. In all my seeking regarding what is REALLY good for my families health, I cant bring myself to change HER brownie recipe. It and my kombucha are the only things I keep white sugar for now days - lol.

            My kitchen journey began at age 10 when I would call my granny (d. 1993) long distance (my parents were divorced and mom worked all the time), tell her what was in the cupboards and while she was making my grandfathers dinner, she would help me make dinner for my mom, my brother and myself. She gradually helped me learn to collect recipes and to keep a list of staples to shop for when mom would drop me off at the market to do the weeks shopping. I loved it then and I love it now. Feeding people is a special thing. All of my children know how to cook a full repitoire of good meals, even my 9 yr old. My husband cant cook a stitch and doesnt want to - lol. My sons will be very special husbands. Actually one 13 yr old son is currently reading Jacques Pepin's "The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen"

            Our nation is coming in to some precarious times I think. I hear about our fragile economy all the time it seems. Someone pointed out the other day that we are at a place not at all unlike the Soviet Union just before their collapse and we are in just as much denial as those folks were too. About 2 years ago now I went searching for an accurate understanding of how foods have been preserved & prepared before all the modern disease became so rampant.. Combine both those thoughts and a friend expressed my sentiment just this morning...."learning to cope with whatever comes in the way of land
            stewardship, hard times, and putting food on the table. My own approach
            isn't about "weathering the storm" but adapting to permanent decline in
            corporate groceries, health care, and work. Growing our own means less
            vulnerable to food inflation and less need for ripoff medicine. Growing for
            market means more buying local, less fossil fuel burning, and more income
            independence from the system. Count me in."

            Boy (at age 47) I miss my grandma.

        2. Did you cut up the chicken? That's an important step as the other poster says. I also don't saute the onion first, nor do I add garlic. I usually put the chicken pieces in a stock pot, cover with cold water, simmer and remove the gray gunk on top - 15 minutes or so, then add some chopped onion, celery, carrot, parsley stems and some black pepper corns. I don't put in meat per se, though I do throw in some wings/feet to supplement the carcasses that I've cut up. You do need some salt at some point as well. Good luck!

          1. My secret? I throw in a Knorrs boulion cube-shhhhhhhhhhhhh -don't tell anyone but it makes the broth taste ever so tasty.

            13 Replies
            1. re: UES Mayor

              I've been known to do that as well - or a spoon or so of that jarred stuff.

              1. re: UES Mayor

                If you're adding chicken base with that much MSG to get a flavor boost, doesn't that tell you that there's something wrong with your recipe?

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  What I've found is that sometimes, despite my best efforts, the stock has not come out as flavorful as I'd like, so I cheat at the end of needed. Particularly if I'm using up the carcasses from the freezer. I usually throw in some wings and feet, but sometimes I guess I don't have enough of them to impart the flavor.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    You would be better off using pure MSG rather than bullion cubes or powders. You'd get the same boost to the flavour of your broth without adding the chemical taste of artificial chicken flavouring. It wouldn't take much MSG, start with 1/8 of a teaspoon per quart, to see an improvement.

                    1. re: inuksuk

                      Better Than Boullon has no artificial chicken flavoring, and (as far as I know) no MSG either.

                      1. re: ozhead

                        Sorry to burst your bubble, but looking at the ingredient listings for Better than Bouillon, I see that all the ones I checked apart from the organic chicken contain autolyzed yeast extract and / or hydrolyzed proteins, which are both very high in MSG.

                2. re: UES Mayor

                  Right on, Boulion cubes or chicken is a must, otherwise it will taste like dish water. i use chicken breasts...................boil the breasts first, remove the chicken and take off the skin (this will eliminate most of the fat). Use soup greens, parsnips parsely, carrots, turnips and dill. Put the soup greens and skinless chicken into the water with boulion cubes and bring to a boil, simmer for a few hours. Taste and add more boullion if needed. When finished, I remove the chicken and take all the meat from the bones. I then add the boneless chicken back into the soup. It is really yummy

                  1. re: Raisel

                    Raisel, the reason your broth doesn't taste good "straight" is because you use chicken breasts. You need dark meat of chicken, wings, or backs to give the soup good flavor. If you are worried about fat, chix soup is easy to skim off fat, when chilled.

                    1. re: Raisel

                      "Right on, Boulion cubes or chicken is a must, otherwise it will taste like dish water"

                      If you're using breasts and removing the skin, no wonder it tastes like dishwater! How do you think the makers of canned chicken broth get their product to taste so flavorful? Using skin, bones, and various other icky things. You have to, or you get some blah "chicken water".

                      1. re: JaneRI

                        I think we may be talking about different things on this thread - the way the original poster described what he is doing sounded to me like making a chicken stock, and then doing what was needed to make it into chicken soup, which is what I do (albeit with adding of a purchased concentrated chicken whatever if I think the stock needs it). Sounds like what Raisel is doing is really making chicken soup subbing the purchased stock/cubes for stock.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          I think you might be right.

                          I keep forgetting to add....I also sometimes add to my homemade stock (using a bit of Better than Boullion paste) but I feel I've "failed" when I need to do that. But I'll certainly do it when nec.

                          1. re: JaneRI

                            Yes - that is exactly the one I use - and I share your pain about feeling as if I've failed, but it's not worth throwing the chicken out with the chicken water, so I "cheat" as well!

                      2. re: Raisel

                        jfood has made numerous batches of chix soup over the last few months. 1/2 chicken, one onion, one carrot in water, simmer for 120 minutes, no boiullion cubes EVER.

                        just the way jfood makes chix soup.

                    2. Minimum cooking time for chicken soup in casa jfood is 90 minutes of simmer. Barely look at it before that.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jfood

                        I make chicken stock all the time with just the carcass from a roasted chicken. Occasionally I also make it from assorted chicken pieces. It is slightly richer when it has been made with the meat, but not necessary. (If I want to use the meat in the soup I usually pull it off the bones once it is cooked through and continue to simmer the bones.

                        What is necessary is a really long simmer (I usually simmer for at least 4 hours). You want to make sure that you extract all the yummy-ness from the bones. I cook the stock until the bones crumble when I apply gentle pressure.

                      2. I think it's critical to set the meat aside. I see so many people who boil the meat w/the bones for hours, and use that meat as the meat for the soup. Bad move, all of the flavor is now OUT of the meat and into the broth (although I've never encountered the problem you described). When I'm making soup as a project (rather than leftovers) I start w/two whole chickens, roast them the standard way (and seasoned, maybe just S&P, maybe Montreal Chicken Seasoning, always lots of garlic, whole cloves). I pull the white meat off the bones and set it aside, then boil up what's left, including pan juices. Then once I've made my stock and am ready to actually make soup, I add the reserved meat back in.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: JaneRI

                          I rather like the mushy meat that's been cooking in the soup all day, but I agree that the bones are the key!

                          1. re: jzerocsk

                            I usually poach breasts in the stock when it's done, then shred or chop up the meat and put back in, to make the soup.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I do this too: I make the stock with a whole chicken (cut up into pieces) along with carrot, onion, celery, aromatics, then I discard ALL of that stuff, remove the fat, let everything settle, ladle off the clear stock, and store it. Then when it's time to make the soup I poach boneless chicken breast in some of the stock, lightly steam some vegetables (slices of carrot and parsnip, say, and maybe some snow peas), slice the chicken, put the chicken and vegs in the bowls and ladle hot stock over them. A little dill is good too. Oh, and matzoh balls. Definitely matzoh balls.

                            2. re: jzerocsk

                              But if it's truly been going all day, that meat has no flavor left. I like it soft too, but I find it doesn't take all that much cooking (since it's in liquid) to make it soft.

                              Yes, I agree w/the poster below....skins are important....that is one reason I roast first, the cooked skin has a lot more flavor than raw.

                              1. re: JaneRI

                                I'll have to give it whirl next time putting the meat in later to see the difference.