Even though Abby Slutsky owns a bakery business, she likes to find a balance between nutritional foods, interesting side dishes, and sweets.
When I am not baking, soups are one of my favorite foods to make. They are economical, an excellent way to use up leftovers, and they can be eaten almost any time of the day. (Yes, I am one of those people who will have a cup of soup for breakfast—it is fast, healthy, and filling.) Best of all, I can microwave it in a mug and not have to clean a pot or pan when I am rushing out the door.
Another reason I love soup is that I can freeze it. If I want a quick, fuss-free light meal, I can pull it out of the freezer and throw together a salad or sandwich, and I am set. Although I have helpful soup-making tips throughout the soup recipes I have shared, I thought it would be convenient to put them together in one article because readers might want to use some of them when they make other soup recipes.
This article is not going to tackle bone broth, which takes about 12 hours to simmer. On the rare times I make it, I usually prepare it in a Crock-Pot because I do not like to leave a stove unattended for long periods of time. These tips will be helpful for making any soup, but I wrote them for soups that I make on the stove that take a maximum of two or three hours.
1. Use Multiple Colored Cutting Boards
I keep cutting boards that are different colors in my kitchen. One color is designated for meat and one for vegetables. Designating cutting boards for different ingredients helps avoid contamination, They are particularly convenient when you make soup because many soups contain meat and vegetables.
2. Prep the Soup Vegetables in Advance
It is easiest to have your vegetables, peeled, chopped and prepped, so they are ready when you need them. When I did my culinary internship, I prepped many of the vegetables in advance. You can clean off and dispose of scraps early to avoid a mess at the end of cooking.
3. Sweat the Vegetables First
You will need to sweat the vegetables by cooking them over a low flame with a tablespoon or two of oil or butter. Add garlic or other aromatic herbs. The purpose of sweating the vegetables helps break down the cell walls of the vegetables and soften them, so they start to get flavorful before cooking longer in the broth.
Save yourself cleaning an extra pan by preparing them in the soup pot. It is a little more effort to watch the vegetables in a pot with high sides, but I find the reduced cleanup worth the effort. (Plus, you will not have to worry about any of the aromatic spices not transferring to the soup pot, so this little soup tip helps maximize flavor.)
4. Add Vegetables in Order of How Long They Need to Cook
Keep in mind that some vegetables take longer than others to cook. If you are making a soup that uses potatoes, add them to the pot first unless you are cooking them before you add them. Add quick cooking vegetables to the soup last. By placing vegetables in the pot according to their expected cooking times, you help ensure that everything is fully cooked before you serve it. Do a taste test if you have any concerns.
5. Be Creative and Experimental
Think of your soup recipes as a base for experimenting, and this easy soup tip will help make your leftovers disappear. Use what you have on hand to create new variations. For example, a chicken soup recipe would work well with turkey. A vegetarian soup can be a base for a soup with meat. You do not need to stick firmly to a recipe if you have leftovers that you want to use.
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When you try a new ingredient, write it down so that you can recreate it if you develop a winning soup that you love.
6. Use a Healthy Thickener
Fortunately, there are many healthy ways to thicken soups. Here are some of my favorites:
- Use arrowroot in place of cornstarch.
- Puree cooked vegetables and return them to the soup as a thickener. They also impart a golden color if you use carrots.
- Try thickening soups with tomato paste.
7. Taste Before Adding Too Much Seasoning
Seasoning is a personal preference, and adding it gradually is likely to improve the taste of your soup. I do not like soups highly spiced, but if you try your soup, you can adjust the seasonings as you go. Remember, it is always better to start with less seasoning and add more.
8. Freeze a Poultry Carcass to Make Soup Later
There may be times when you have a chicken carcass, but do not have time to make soup. Fortunately, you can freeze a carcass for as long as three months. When you are ready to use your frozen chicken carcass, you do not need to defrost the carcass; instead, let it defrost as the broth cooks.
9. Refrigerate Soups to Skim Off the Fat With Ease
Even when you skim off the fat as you cook soup, it is difficult to eliminate all of it. After it cools, refrigerate the soup. The fat will rise to the top and become hard. It will be easy to remove, and you will enjoy a healthier, less fatty meal.
10. Freeze Soup in Single Servings
It may make sense to freeze soup in single serving containers. This way you will have as much as you need without wasting it. Remember to label and date the container.
Although the U.S. Department of Health and Agriculture indicates that it is safe to refreeze soup, I personally do not recommend refreezing soup once it has been defrosted because I do not think the flavor is as good.
11. Garnish for a Beautiful (and Tasty) Presentation
If you are serving soup, it is easy to garnish to make it look special. Try sprinkling chopped parsley, chives or dill on top right before serving. A little grated cheese can liven up onion or tomato soup. Chopped bacon can add a little crunch to potato soup. Texture and eye-appeal can add to your eating enjoyment.
© 2020 Abby Slutsky