Once you've mastered our classic recipe, you'll never go back to canned soup.
Photo: Iain Bagwell
Chicken Soup

When done right, a bowl of chicken soup is one of the homiest, most comforting dishes you can eat. But there are also a lot of subpar chicken soups—bland chicken, overly salty stock, mushy vegetables. Like a lot of classic recipes, there is some technique involved in making a great pot of chicken soup. We'll help you get it right with these pointers.

Use a Whole Chicken

Homemade chicken stock will take your soup from good to great. And if you're going to make it from scratch, you should use a whole chicken. Chicken stock that is made with a whole bird—bones and all—has the most flavor and richness. Plus, you'll have plenty of tender meat to use in your soup. Trim excess fatty bits from the chicken before adding it to a large stockpot, then cover the chicken with enough cold water so that it is submerged.

Add Flavor—But Not Too Much

Even if you like fresh ginger, or hot sauce, or loads of garlic in your chicken soup, don't add those ingredients right away. Keep the stock simple—it is the foundation of your soup. The classic ingredients for chicken stock are chicken, onions, celery, carrots, and fresh parsley sprigs. Cut the vegetables into large chunks (they don't have to be perfect because you'll strain them out later.) and toss them into the pot with the chicken. You can also add black peppercorns and kosher salt, but I prefer to season my stock later.

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Skim and Strain the Broth

Bring the stock to a boil, then lower the heat so that it remains at a gentle simmer. Cover the pot with a lid. After about 30 minutes, lift the lid and use a slotted spoon to skim off and discard any foam or bits of chicken skin that have floated to the top. After about an hour, the chicken should fall off the bone and the vegetables should be very tender. Strain the chicken, vegetables, and stock through a fine-mesh strainer into another stockpot. Set the chicken aside to cool, and discard the vegetables. The stock should be nice and clear, but you can re-strain it to remove any impurities, if necessary.

Turn Your Stock into Soup

Once the chicken has cooled enough to shred, remove the meat from the bones; discard the skin and bones. Chop more celery, carrots, and onions and add them to the stockpot with the strained stock. Now's the time to add any extra ingredients like garlic, ginger, rice, lemon juice, green chiles, etc. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Cook until the vegetables are tender, but still have a slight bite. Add the shredded chicken to the pot and noodles, if using. Once the noodles are cooked, season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.