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Poll: How do you make chicken soup?

We all know how to make chicken soup.

What I want to know is how YOU make your chicken soup.

As I see it, there are essentially two basic, fundamental approaches:

1. The "Chicken Stock" method: Start with chicken stock, then add the other ingredients such as additional water, seasonings, vegetables, chicken meat, noodles, etc.

2. The "Whole Chicken" method. Start with a whole raw chicken, and cook it with the other ingredients such as water, seasonings, vegetables, noodles, etc.

Of course there are countless variations on each of the above two mentioned methods, but I think those are the two basic, fundamental approaches to making homemade chicken soup, right?

So, that being said, which method do you use and why?

Me, personally, I favor Method 2, or the "Whole Chicken" method.

Why? To me, cooking the raw chicken (with bones and meat all together) along with everything else, including the seasonings -- usu. for me it's salt, pepper, ginger, green onions, red dates, tangerine peel, gingseng, lady bell root, etc. -- allows for the chicken meat and bones to soak up the seasonings during the cooking process. The flavors all meld together to create a unique taste, and in many ways a different "chicken taste" if there's such a thing.

Using chicken stock as your starting point, on the other hand, creates sort of a flat taste. The chicken stock's taste is already set, no doubt from hours and hours at a low long simmer in your stockpot. Sure, you can add seasonings, but they just tend to -- for lack of a better word -- add to the chicken stock's original flavor. Nothing new is created.

I am not trying to stir up a debate as to the best method for making chicken soup, and I am by no means an expert on the subject -- although I do know what I like and how to make what I like.

I am just curious as to how you do it, and why.

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  1. Whole chicken with big pieces of celery (including leaves), carrots, an onion halved, two or three cloves, salt, pepper, a bay leaf, fresh parsley and thyme. Start everything in cold water, bring to a boil, turn down to simmer, skim off scum, then cook for a long time.

    Remove chicken and veggies, then strain. The vegetables have no flavor left, so if I want to serve some with the soup, I cut up new ones and cook in the broth or separately.

    That's the how; the why is this is similar to the way my mother makes it, except that she does not put in cloves, parsley or thyme, does not strain the broth and serves the used up veggies.

    2 Replies
    1. re: susans

      I start much as everyone else with cut up chicken and large pieces of onion carrot and celery cut from the whole stalk so that I get leaves and heart.. I allow this to simmer just untl the meat will pull from the bones. I remove the meat and debone it and return the bones to the pot to continue simmering and set the meat aside. Next I dice onions,carrots, celery, some green pepper and several mushrooms to total about 6 cups.
      SinceI cook for just two I plan to can must of this in pint jars. I cut the meat into spoon size and wilt the veggies with some of the stock, Just a couple of ladles. I skim the fat with my ladle and save that for making biscuits. I fill my jars will about a half to two thirds cup veggies and as much chicken and then fill the jars with stock leaving a generous inch of head space. The jars get process in a pressure cooker according to approved practice.
      The balance of the meat and veggies get combined with some of the stock and a generous handful of noodles is added. Seasoning as we like for that meal. Salt and black pepper of course sometimes rice instead of noodles sometimes diced sweet potato. I call it chicken soup starter.

      1. re: ssor

        OH, WAIT!! Splain about that chicken fat in the biscuits. Also, do you use it to make dumplings for the chicken soup?

    2. I do it the second method.

      4-5 chicken legs with back, a carrot, roughly chopped, bunch of celery with leaves, an onion, halved, two bay leaves, a couple slices of ginger, and a splash of shaoxing wine.

      Cook on med for 8-10 hours, adding water continuously.

      Then strain everything, toss it out, reserving liquid.

      Reduce to 1/3 volume

      1. Brown onions, leeks, garlic, and shallot in the soup pot in some olive oil. Hope you didn't add too much garlic.
        Consider adding a few tablespoons of tomato paste. Reconsider, then add just a little.
        Add a cut up whole chicken( a stewing hen is best, you can also add a few extra chicken wings), then cover with cold water.
        Bring to a boil, turn down heat, skim scum, simmer for at least 3 hours, or until the cartilage becomes loose from the bones (an alternative is to put the pot in the oven at 200 degrees overnight which works well, but requires a few nervous moments in the morning when you wake up and realize your oven has been on all night and you have no idea what the soup will look like inside).
        Remove chicken.
        Add celery, parsnip, carrot, a very small piece of ginger, whole peppercorns, bay leaf, sage, thyme, and parsley. Taste a few dozen times to make sure you can't pick out the ginger flavor. Get scared that there is too much ginger and attempt to fish it out of the pot. Burn your left thumb (you are left-handed). Decide there isn't too much ginger and leave it in the pot.
        Cook for another hour or two. 45 min or so before finishing, add the rind from a piece of Parmesan (adding it any earlier can make the broth overly salty). Taste a few more dozen times to make sure the broth isn't too salty. Put a ladle-full in a mug and enjoy while waiting for the broth to be "finished."
        Strain. Skim off fat and save for other uses or leave it congealed in a glass in the back of your refrigerator until you move out of your apartment and have to clean out the kitchen.
        Sift through the soup detritus for the parmesan rind and eat while still soft and spongy. Feel slightly odd about eating the rind, but reassure yourself it probably won't kill you.
        Add back the now cut up chicken meat and carrots. If you are serving the soup to company, consider adding fresh carrots and cooking a fresh chicken breast in the stock so it looks pretty.
        Add noodles or matzo balls.
        Serve with freshly ground pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh parsley, and grated parm.

        This is not at all how my mom does it - she has much more confidence with her soup-making skills. This is a mish-mosh of many different recipes learned over the years. I know its good if it wiggles like a bowl of jell-o after i refrigerate it. I never start with any liquid but water. To use anything else would be cheating, right?

        1 Reply
        1. I prefer #1 method to #2.
          Using the whole chicken the meat may absorb the flavors and seasoning, but the meat itself has been exhausted of it's flavor which has gone into the soup. You bite into a piece of that chicken and you get the flavorings of the soup, but the original flavor of the chicken has been lost.
          I'd like to say I can almost tell when a home made chicken soup has been made using method #2.

          #1 (my method)
          I wouldn't normally use a whole fresh chicken to make chicken soup. Usually the chicken is leftover from something like a roasted chicken. Strip the chicken of the meat, then make the stock with the carcass and bones. Dice up the leftover cooked chicken meat and add it to the finished stock to just heat it up.

          Conclusion:
          #1 Method=You bite into a piece of chicken(w/no soup), it's going to taste like a piece of chicken and the flavor of the stock.

          #2 Method=You bite into just a piece of chicken and it tastes like nothing except for the flavor of the soup.

          24 Replies
          1. re: monku

            I never eat the chicken meat when I make chicken soup ... I think it must be more of a Chinese (or Chinese mom) thing, than anything else.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Oh....
              You didn't mention Chinese style. Then maybe I'd considerethod #2.
              I was figuring chicken noodle soup or matzo ball soup.

              1. re: monku

                Do you think there really is a difference between eastern and western versions of how chicken soup is made? If there is, I wonder why ...

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Yeah, I think so. The Chinese soups I make (I'm Chinese) focuses more on the soup liquid itself, and less on what's in the soup. In the soups I've made elsewhere, it's a lot about what's in the soup, as well as the broth.

                  e.g Chicken and tender veggies in chicken noodle soup, freshly roasted garlic in cream of garlic, etc...

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I'm making chicken soup to use say for won ton soup, I'm only going to use chicken, water and soy sauce. If I were going to make chicken soup for say kreplach soup(Jewish won ton soup), then I'd use the standard mirapoix and salt and pepper.
                    Maybe eastern tastes don't want a complexity of flavors or those western ingredient weren't readily available, so their taste for chicken soup remained the same.

                    1. re: monku

                      But you can use the chicken meat as a filling for any kind of stuffed pasta or dumpling such as wonton, ravioli, or tortollini. Also it can be used to make chicken meatballs for Italian Wedding Soup.

                      1. re: yayadave

                        If you're talking about using the chicken meat that's been simmering to make stock, it doesn't taste like anything...it's been exhausted of all flavor and fat. It's like eating cardboard.

                        1. re: monku

                          I've heard people say this before, but never understand it - maybe we're making stock differently. In fact, probably we're making stock differently, because I just throw a whole chicken into my slow cooker for anywhere from 8-10 hours, whichever is more convenient. At that point, the meat is still fine for any application where it doesn't have to stand on its own: chicken salad, casserole, chicken pot pie, etc. Better than roasting a chicken specifically for that purpose? Probably not, but less wasteful.

                          In response to the OP: I use the first method, because I usually have homemade stock on hand, and using stock and adding whatever is faster than starting from scratch. Normally if I'm making chicken soup, it's because somebody is sick, which means I'm operating under a pretty severe energy deficit. (I have learned to take the time to cook the noodles separately, though.)

                          1. re: darklyglimmer

                            I think some people might just have different tolerances for boiled chicken meat.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Yeah, that's why I poach my chicken and then remove it. Stringy is never good when it comes to chicken.

                              1. re: chowser

                                How can it not be stringy and tasteless of you boil it to death?

                                1. re: monku

                                  Who me? I said I poach it because I'm picky and don't like it stringy.

                                  I poach my chicken (thighs usually) about 25 minutes, at most, until they're just barely cooked through. I remove the meat, toss the bones, plus any frozen treasures I have, or chicken neck, wings, roasted veggies back into the poaching liquid and finish making stock. At that point, if I want chicken soup, I add the chicken back in. If not, I have great poached chicken.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I'm agreeing with you.
                                    Poach the chicken....then bones, carcass etc. to make stock.

                                    1. re: monku

                                      >How can it not be stringy and tasteless of you boil it to death?

                                      Don't know about you, Monku, but my chicken is dead when I start. Less splashing that way. ;)

                                      Maybe it's the method. The slow cooker doesn't exactly boil the meat, just brings it to a very gentle simmer over a long period of time - even at the the end, I only see small bubbles breaking the surface eventually. But hey, maybe Ipse is right: different strokes, different folks.

                                      1. re: darklyglimmer

                                        I often make slow cooker chicken or turkey stock, usually over night when I want to cool and store in the fridge to collect the top layer of fat when making soup or a sauce for dinner. The result is perfect.

                                        My latest stock was made after roasting chicken or turkey pieces in the oven a la Michael Ruhlman's method for making gravy.

                                        http://ruhlman.com/2010/11/how-to-mak...

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          AFter you mentioned this on another thread, I bought some turkey legs and wings for just this purpose. Sitting in the freezer til after the new year.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Turkey necks work great, too, and are much cheaper but harder to find.

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              Thanks. I've been having great luck at a Latino market since they seem to mostly start with the whole animal(s). Will check it out. Once the freezer isn't quite so full :)

                                          2. re: Gio

                                            That's how I made the stock for my Thanksgiving gravy, only I roasted the vegetables, too, and scraped everything into the pot to simmer.

                                            For the gravy, I make it, very close to that, only left it on the thin side. When the turkey came out of the oven, I scraped the pan w/ dripping into a saucier, added flour and the thin gravy, cooked until thickened. It was so easy and great w/ all the scrapings. The scrapings are where the flavor is.

                                          3. re: darklyglimmer

                                            Cooking in a slow cooker isn't the same as making stock in a stock pot with several quarts of water which will over a couple hours "exhaust" the meat of the chicken of all flavor and fat. Try it.

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      I use the chicken meat to make my husband's beloved chicken croquets.

                      1. re: silkenpaw

                        You must put ALOT of seasonings and things in them to make up for the lack of chicken taste.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          "... make up for the lack of chicken taste."
                          ___________________________

                          Is that to suggest that there is "chicken taste" to begin with? :-)

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            There must be because everything taste like it.;-)

                  2. It depends on what I have but if I wanted chicken soup, I'd:

                    1) poach thighs in seasoned water
                    2) remove thighs, debone, put bones back into water
                    3) add neck, wings, whatever parts I might have w/ collagen into water, and any additional seasoning/vegetables/spices and make stock
                    4) Add chicken from step 2 back in and whatever else I want in soup

                    I start w/ thighs because they're easier/faster to poach than whole chicken and the dark meats works best for repeated reheatings which I do.