I’ve been making homemade soup for over a decade and it’s still one of my all-time favorite things to make in the kitchen. Soup always hits the spot and it’s so versatile. Over the years I’ve put a lot of work in to perfecting my recipes and I wanted to share all of my advice, tips, and tricks here in one place. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments!
Tip #1: Always make your own stock. I know it seems like a ton of work but it really couldn’t be easier. Plus, the boxed/canned stock will never taste the same or as good. Trust me; there is absolutely nothing as delicious as homemade stock.
I typically make chicken stock but have made turkey stock and veggie stock, and the method is the same no matter the base. More on veggie stock below under #2.
To make a classic stock, place all of your meat carcass parts in a deep dutch oven (I like to use a big sauce pot or my 5.5 quart Le Creuset). Cover with cold water, put the lid on, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Then literally walk away for 3-4 hours. I find 3-4 hours is the sweet spot. One hour will do if you’re in a pinch but I don’t recommend it. Any time over 4 hours will certainly be fine, but 3-4 hours is a good ballpark. When the stock is done, strain into a big bowl and cool to room temperature. Be sure to also cool the bones before tossing in the trash. At this point you could put the stock in tupperware and freeze or refrigerate for future uses. Stock stays in the freezer pretty much indefinitely. I would use refrigerated stock within 1 week. See pictures below for each step.
Tip #2: Use rotisserie chicken and veggie leftovers as your stock base. Making homemade stock can seem overwhelming if you’re unsure where to start, but it’s super easy with a little pre-planning. When I plan to make homemade stock and soup, I start by buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It’s the secret ingredient to all homemade soup successes, in my opinion. You simply trim off all of the meat cuts and then use the bones for your stock base. Be sure to use the main carcass, thigh bones, wings, drumstick bones – everything! Heck, I even throw the skin in the stock pot.
Another trick is whenever you use veggies at home, keep the trimmings in a bag in the freezer. Think celery bulbs, onion peels, carrot tops, old garlic cloves, scallion bottoms, pepper butts, etc. Once they accumulate, you’ll have everything you need to make veggie stock. Just follow the method above and, voila, veggie stock!
Tip #3: The only veggies you really need in soup are a mirepoix (onion, carrots, and celery). Sure, you can use whatever you want in your soup – peas, corn, squash, peppers, diced tomato, mushrooms, spinach – but for the most classic flavor profile, you just need the trifecta of onion, carrots, and celery. I like to add a few garlic cloves too if I have them on hand but, again, not essential. I give the cloves a good smash, throw them in whole, and fish them out later.
Tip #4: Soup veggies can start raw. I used to think you needed to spend a ton of time sauteing all of the soup’s vegetables before getting started, but I’ve dabbled a lot with this over the years and, it turns out, it’s not true. However, if you’re making something like bolognese, you absolutely must cook the veggies first and never use raw veggies as your base. But soup is different because of the liquid base and the cooking time. Stock liquid will tenderize and break down the fibers of the veggies; the tomato base of a bolognese won’t do the same.
So go ahead and try it – start with a base of raw veggies, pour on your stock, add any meat you like, and simmer for 3-4 hours. I can promise the veggies will be soft, sweet, and still full of flavor.
Tip #5: Don’t forget to season your soup! Under-seasoned soup is one of life’s biggest bummers. Salt and pepper are the holy grail for me in soup. But I also love to add italian seasoning, red pepper flake, onion powder, thyme, oregano…just to name a few.
Tip #6: Rotisserie chicken is your best friend. I know I said it above with respect to making the stock, but the uses of rotisserie chicken in soup go way beyond that. Rotisserie chicken is my favorite, first of all, because it’s super affordable and it’s a workhorse – it can be used for its meat and its bones; more bang for your buck.
It also has a flavor you just can’t get cooking chicken, whole bird or in parts, in your home kitchen. The cooking method of having the chicken marinate in its own juices can only come from a rotisserie and I know I don’t have one of those at home!
The variety of meat cuts in a rotisserie chicken score big. You’re not just dealing with the breast, which can be bland, but the thigh, wing, and drumstick – all with unique and delicious flavor portfolios.
Finally, you can really use every last inch of a rotisserie chicken, even if it’s a tiny piece of meat or it’s a weird shape. I trim the whole bird, removing the larger pieces to eat for lunch or dinner, and then I take all the weird little pieces and chop up to go in the soup. They taste great and their shape/size really don’t matter at all!
Tip #7: Try this recipe – my go-to, easiest-ever Chicken & Veggie Soup recipe.
64 oz. homemade chicken stock
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
2 cups rotisserie chicken, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp. italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
Toss all of the ingredients into a big pot, simmer on low heat with the lid on for 3-4 hours, taste and adjust seasonings if you need to, serve up right away and enjoy!
Those are my favorite homemade soup tips and tricks for you. Let me know what your favorite soup tips are!