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The 10 Rules for Making Chicken Soup

Grandmothers the world over make it -- really, what is better when it’s cold or you’re feeling under the weather? Chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food. Start with the basics, and from there, so many variations are possible -- and delicious. Follow these rules to soup success from Everyday Food host Sarah Carey:

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1. Start with the Best

The soup starts with chicken. Sarah says, “Get a 4-pound chicken, the best you can, and cut it into pieces. We’ve told you this before, but it’s worth repeating: Buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself gives you more control over the quality and is cheaper than buying parts.

2. Go Liquid

What you use as liquid will create flavor for the soup. You’ll need about 9 cups water or chicken stock, or a combination of both. Sarah’s mantra is: “If you start with more flavor, you end up with more flavor.” Using homemade chicken stock will give you more, but Sarah also uses a half-and-half combination of water and store-bought broth when she doesn't have stock.

3. Essential Add-ins

Add carrots (about 2 large ones, sliced), onions (about 2 medium, sliced), a stalk of celery, a few sprigs of parsley, and some salt and peppercorns. Adding these vegetables is vital:  "They are aromatics and build the basic flavor profile for a classic chicken soup." Sarah explains.

4.  Skimming Is Important

As the soup cooks, skim early and often. This produces the clearest broth. Sarah's favorite tool for skimming: "a metal spoon!"

5. Keep It Juicy

Remove the chicken just as it is cooked -- that will take about 25 minutes -- otherwise it will be dry and cardboardlike. Let it cool and take the meat off the bones. Return the bones to the pot and simmer the broth for another 35 minutes.

6. Them Bones

Adding the bones back to the soup pot is especially important if you started with water. "The bones will add depth and richness, to create a rich stock." says Sarah.

7. It Takes Time

Simmer until the broth is intense and flavorful, at least 35 minutes after you remove the chicken. Don’t be impatient; this is what makes great soup. When the meat is cool, tear it into bite-size pieces.

8. Veg in or Out?

Once the broth is ready, you can either strain it, removing the bones and the cooked vegetables, or remove the bones and leave the vegetables in. It all depends on how you like your soup. If you prefer super-soft, almost-falling-apart veggies, leave as is. If you prefer them just cooked through in soup, then strain the broth, cut up some vegetables, add to the broth, and simmer until they are just cooked.

9. Add Noodles

Chicken soup can feature plenty of vegetables, potatoes, or rice; but for many of us, the classic chicken soup always has noodles. Wide egg noodles or vermicelli work best -- and they cook right in the broth.

10. Ladle It Out

Stir some or all of the chicken back into the soup and heat through. (Any chicken not used in the soup can be used for pot pie, salad, enchiladas, and more). Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs, Sarah’s favorites are dill or parsley. She also likes to add a squeeze of lemon juice, "the brightness of the lemon heightens the flavors of the soup."


Get the Basic Chicken Soup Recipe

And if you fancy a spicy chicken soup, try this: