🥇 The Best Pot For Soup: Soups Won’t Stick To The Bottom

What’s the “ideal” soup pot? The word ideal is subjective.

To some it refers to aa stock pot that just gets the work done. Others think of a multipurpose soup pot. One thing is certain though; you don’t need a pricey, high perfomance pot to make great soup.

Any pot is good to go if it has a base thick enough that you could brown vegetables without scorching them. Anything more than an 8-quart, $50 pot with a thick base that retains heat while your soup simmers would be an overkill.

You may consider spending a little more on an enameled cast iron pot as they’re used for more than making straight soups. With one, you c0uld make any stove-to-oven dish.

These are our picks for the best pot for soup and they are all multipurpose.

OUR TOP PICK

Calphalon Classic Nonstick Dutch Oven with Cover, 7 quart, Grey

When buying cookware, I opt for one that’s multipurpose as they save space and (money). This ne makes perfect rice, tasty stews and delicious soups.

The best soups are made slow and this is made possible on this Dutch oven pot as it has a bulky base that retains heat for a generous amount of time.

Even though you have a choice of getting this pan with a non stick coating, I would go for one without this layer for durability. Dutch oven pots are designed to last a lifetime but the non stick layer would compromise on this.

Cleaning up after cooking is a breeze too. If you accidentally end up with burnt food reside, let this pot soak overnight and the residue will come off easily after mild scrubbing. Ensure that you dry it well before storing as water may cause corrosion.

It’s conveniently placed measuring marks take the guess work out of recipes. This way, you get to accurately measure the amount of water you’re using for your soup ensuring that it won’t be too watery or too thick.

Pouring soup is easy and spill-proof thanks to the innovative pour spot on the pot’s rim. It comes with a straining lid too if you ever need to make pasta (see our picks on pasta pots with strainers)

A soup pot wouldn’t be fancy without a fancy tempered glass lid that lets you see how well the stew is simmering without opening the pot and letting all the steam out. This 7 quart pot is made from hard anodized aluminium which is somewhat more durable than regular aluminum.

The stainless-steel handles don’t have any coating in them either. Even though they never get uncomfortably hot when you’re cooking, don’t touch them without mitts when you finish off dishes in the oven or you will end up with burns. It’s both dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

EDITORS CHOICE

Cuisinart 77-412 Chef's Classic Stainless 4-Piece 12-Quart Pasta/Steamer Set,Stainless Steel

The secret to great soup is making it with love. I’m kidding. It’s letting it simmer under low heat for a generous amount of time.

This pot has an all aluminium base that facilitates for fast (and even) heat distribution to the soup you’re making. It heats up in seconds – quite literally. When choosing a soup pot, I would go for one without a non stick coating as they dint add foreign tastes and smells to the soup.

This stock pot from Cuisinart has a stainless steel inner surface which doesn’t react with foods, is immune to corrosion and restores the shiny glow with a light scrub.

The ‘ideal’ soup pot should balance on the stovetop and have comfortable handles for slip-free cooking. The stainless steel handles give it a sturdy grip when storing and it won’t slide.

The handles are bound to the pot with multiple rivets and this suggests that they won’t loosen up (or fall off) with time. Its lid sits tightly on the rim locking in all the moisture, steam, flavors and nutrients. This wide lid has a comfortable lid too at its center.

A soup pot wouldn’t be complete without a spot for drip free pouring. I doubt if a messy kitchen is the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking of making soup. It’s freezer safe, dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit saying something about its versatility.

Even without a colander, you can strain pasta from this pot with ease too. It comes with a steamer and you could make vegetables, shrimps and all the other fat free dishes you love too.

The shiny mirror surface it comes with will eventually lose its vigor with time. When the inevitable happens, gently scrub it and a new shiny layer will be revealed.

BEST VALUE

Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Stock Pot/Stockpot with Lid - 16 Quart, Silver

You may think getting a bigger pot would be an overkill until you get visitors and have to make soup in batches. A 16 quart stockpot will make enough soup, stews and even rice for a large family.

It’s innovative construction makes use of an aluminium base for its fast and even heat distribution and a shiny stainless steel exterior. It comes with a bulky lid that makes it effective at locking in steam and heat for even faster cook times.

With its sturdy stainless steel handles, you will comfortably hold this pot without risk of slipping even after finishing off dishes in the oven as its oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s dishwasher safe so cleaning up after coking will be a non-issue.

How do you make soup that isn’t “bland”?

Start by lightly roasting the bones before thoroughly sweating any vegetates you may be using. Using Fresh herbs makes all the difference

Soup Making Basics

The Well Equipped Soup Maker

The only equipment you really need to make soup is a large stockpot and a knife, but let’s face reality, we cooks love gadgets. Gadgets make our life easier and more fun. What’s a hobby (yes, that’s how I see my cooking passion) without the fun toys?

Listed below are some of the utensils you may find make your soup creating projects easier and more fun. You’ll most likely have most of these on hand.

Stock Pot

A stockpot is a tall narrow pot that minimizes the amount of evaporation that occurs when slow cooking soup. It can be made of stainless steel, aluminium, anodized aluminium, or enamelled steel or cast iron. A stainless steel pot with a layer of aluminium on the bottom layer is a good choice since this promotes even heat conduction.

If you are buying a pot, weight is important as you will be sautéing and browning ingredients when creating your soup and you don’t want the vegetables burning.

A good size for a stockpot is 10-12 quarts. This size pot is also good for cooking pasta.

Dutch oven

A Dutch oven is a must for making stews and is ideal for browning beef and chicken when making stock. A pot with a heavy bottom is needed for this procedure. It is possible to use a stockpot for this, but because of its height, it is difficult to work in when making stock.

The ideal Dutch oven is twice as wide as it is high. It should have handles for ease of moving it from stovetop to oven, as well as a lid. Because Dutch ovens are often used in the oven, be sure the handles are ovenproof.

Dutch ovens are usually cast iron or enamelled cast iron. Lighter weight ones are available. My favourite is the Le Creuset Dutch oven (but then I bought it fifty years ago when it was affordable).

Blender

A blender is a necessity for creating pureed soups. I personally prefer an immersion blender for this as I don’t like transferring hot soup into a blender. The immersion blender lets me puree the soup right in the pot. It does leave bits of food and the soup is not as smooth as it is when processed in a blender, but for me the trade-off is worth it.

Strainers and Colanders

Strainers and colanders are often used in soup making. When you only need to separate liquids from solids, a colander is usually adequate. When the clarity of the stock is important, a china cup would be the strainer of choice. This is a conical metal strainer with fine perforations. This is the perfect strainer for separating hot thin stock liquids from bones and vegetables.

Skimmer

When making stock, foam is released from the bones and will rise to the surface along with other impurities. It is necessary to remove this foam to present a pleasant appearance to your soup. This is where the skimmer comes in.

A skimmer is a long handled spoon with a mesh bowl. Choose a spoon with a fine mesh to catch the maximum amount of foam. A skimmer is also useful for removing fat from your stock as it cools.

Knives

A large chef knife and a small paring knife are essential to soup making. The chef knife is useful for chopping and slicing. An 8” blade is generally the most useful size. Molded plastic handles fit the hand well and are easier to keep clean.

Paring knife is used for peeling. A flexible steel blade is easier to use when peeling fruits and vegetables. As noted above, a molded plastic handle is easier to hold and clean.

Poultry Shears

Although you can use a chef’s knife for cutting up a chicken for stock, poultry shears make the job much easier. A knife will slip and slide through the job, but with poultry shears you can do the job easier and more precisely. Good shears will cut through the bones easily without tearing the skin.

If you are buying poultry shears, be sure to try them first. Poultry shears are coiled and some are so tightly wound, people with small hands will find them hard to close them easily.

Check to see if the handles are comfortable for your hand size. Because hands tend to get slippery when cutting poultry, avoid smooth stainless steel handles. Molded plastic handles tend to have a firmer grip when hands are slippery.

Cheese Grater

Often the perfect garnish for a perfect soup is a dusting of grated cheese. There are many types of cheese graters on the market. They run the gamut from tall, rectangular box graters, rotary graters, flat graters, and long rasp graters.

I’ve tried them all, and although they all get the job done, my particular favourite is the micro plane grater if you want a very fine dusting of cheese. If you are looking for more garnish, choose the rotary grater.

The micro plane grater is also great for creating citrus zest and grating chocolate or nutmeg.

So there you have it, my list of equipment useful in the art of soup making. As I stated earlier, all you really need is a stockpot and a good chef knife. This is just a listing of my favourite tools that I wouldn’t be without, but don’t feel these items are necessary to make a wide variety of tasty delectable soups.

Ingredients Used When Creating Soups

Almost every soup is made from the basic ingredients of:

  • Liquids
  • Vegetables/Fruits
  • Grains
  • Herbs/Spices/Flavor Enhancers

Liquids

  • Water
  • Stock: Beef, Chicken, Vegetable, Seafood
  • Bouillon: Canned, Cubes, Jarred
  • Milk Liquids
  • Juices

Stock

There’s no question the best soup is made from homemade stock. There is a mystique built up around making stock that is absolutely unfounded. Making stock is easy to do.

Never hesitate to make stock because you think it’s too much work or because you think you’ll end up with more stock than you can use. Yes, it takes time, but this is time you can spend doing other things while the stock is simmering. You can end up with a lot of stock, but that is a good thing, as stock can be frozen for future use.

Once you taste soup made from homemade stock, you’ll have a hard time going back to canned or boxed bouillon. 

Canned or Boxed Bouillon

It’s OK to use premade bouillon. I myself am not a fan because of the high sodium count, the addition of multiple flavour additives, and the preservatives used. There isn’t much flavour and as you may know, bouillon isn’t cheap.

If you purchase beef broth, you’d be hard pressed to find any beef flavour in the broth. It’s artificially colored and when you taste it, you may find yourself asking, “Where’s the beef?”

Chicken bouillon comes off better than beef in the flavour department. The negatives of salt and preservatives are the same, but you can taste the chicken.

Bouillon Cubes

Bouillon cubes fare a little bit better in the flavour test, but they are still very high in sodium.

Jarred Bouillon

If I use bouillon in cooking, I prefer the jarred version. “Better Than Bouillon” can be found in the same area as boxed bouillon and is a much better version compared to liquid and cubed bouillons.

Milk Liquids

  • Cream
  • Half and Half
  • Canned Evaporated Milk
  • Coconut Milk
  • Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • Yogurt

When making creamed soups or chowders there’s a wide variety of milk based liquids available. The milk products you use will depend on what you want to accomplish with your soup.

If you are looking for a rich, creamy soup or chowder, cream or canned evaporated milk may be your first choice. If healthy, low fat soup is what you are aiming for, you’ll be considering low fat versions of milk, soy milk, or even yogurt.

Coconut milk will give you a sweeter soup with a distinctive flavour. This is good used in tropical and dessert soups.

Juices

Canned juices are a useful item to have on hand when making soups. Both fruit and vegetable juices can often give your soup just the boost it needs when you feel it can use just a little something extra.

Vegetables

There is no limit to what vegetables can be used in soups. The harder root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, onions, and parsnips are often used in hardier soups and stews. The perennial favourites, peas and corn, and green beans are always a useful addition.

Beans are in a class of their own. They are a standard staple that should be in every soup maker’s cupboard. They can stand alone in bean soups or be used in hearty soups and stews.

The variety of beans available is amazing. They can be purchased dried or canned and come in many shapes, sizes and flavors. Navy beans, pinto beans, kidney, cannellini, red and black beans are just some of the many bean varieties available for soup making. Beans are available dried or canned. 

Softer vegetables such as squashes and potatoes are useful for making vegetable purees to use as thickeners.

Broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes make great creamed soups.

Green and Red peppers add flavour and color, while hot peppers add heat and spice to South-western and Asian soups.

Tomatoes are the most versatile vegetable used in soup making. Tomatoes are available in many ways:

  • Fresh
  • Stewed
  • Roasted
  • Canned sauces
  • Juice

Because of the easily available variety of this product, tomatoes are one of the most used vegetables when making soup.

Fruits

Fruit soups are easy to make. They are cool and refreshing in the summertime and often make the perfect dessert ending to a summer meal.

Tropical fruits make especially refreshing soups. Mangos, pineapples, kiwis and bananas are all perfect fruits for making soups. Melons and peaches mix well with tropical fruits. Apples are a mild fruit and fit in with just about anything.

Cherries and cranberries, blueberries and strawberries make colorful soups on their own and add color to other fruit soups.

Citrus fruits are great for making juices that add zing to a soup. Citrus peels and zest often add just the right flavor to a fruit soup.

Grains

Grains are a backbone of hearty soups. They are nutritious, fiber rich, and filling. You couldn’t find a better ingredient to add to your soup than the variety of grains listed below.

  • White/brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Wheat berries
  • Bulgur
  • Pasta

Rice

Rice is often added to soups to provide body and carbohydrates. Either brown or white rice can be added. It can be added raw at the beginning of the soup making process, or it can be precooked and added at the end of the process. If uncooked brown rice is added, be aware that brown rice takes at least an hour to cook properly.

Wild Rice

Wild Rice is really not rice at all, but a native North America wild marsh grass grown around the Great Lakes. Wild rice is a wonderful natural food. It is very nourishing with a delicious nutty taste. Wild rice is prepared the same as regular rice. It can be added cooked or raw to soup.

Quinoa

Quinoa is not technically a grain but is a type of edible seed native to South America. High in protein and fiber, quinoa can be used as a substitute for grain in soups. It is currently enjoying a reputation as a wonderful super food.

Barley

Whole grain barley is a healthy high-fiber and high-protein grain boasting numerous health benefits. Barley can be cooked separately and added at the end of the cooking time or it can be added at the beginning and cooked with the other ingredients. I personally find the barley that is added at the end is rather bland, whereas the barley cooked in the soup has a full robust flavor.

Wheat Berries

Wheat berries are the whole complete grain of wheat before it has undergone any processing. This is a high-fiber whole grain that can be used much like any other whole grain. Wheat berries take about an hour to cook. For a quicker cooking time, wheat berries can be pre-soaked overnight, or even just for an hour or two.

Bulgur

Bulgur is a Middle Eastern grain high in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories. It is a fast cooking grain has been parboiled, dried, and cracked into bits. Bulgur will cook in 10-15 minutes. A cup of cooked bulgur has only 150 calories, 8 grams of fiber, and nearly 6 grams of protein. This grain is a wonderful healthy addition to soups and stews.

Pasta

Everyone is familiar with pasta. All shapes and sizes can be added to soup to make a full, hardy meal.

Herbs, Spices, and Flavor Enhancers

Both herbs and spices can be used in soups. While both are used for flavoring many different items in cooking, there is a difference between them. Both are used for flavoring. Both come from plants. Are you wondering what the difference is?

The definition of an herb is a product that is obtained from the leaves of herbaceous (non-woody) plants. They are treasured for their use in culinary cooking and also for their medicinal purposes. Think parsley, mint, thyme, etc.

The definition of a spice is a product that is obtained from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds, or bark. Spices are native to warm tropical climates and are derived from woody or herbaceous plants. Think cloves, nutmeg, sesame seeds, and cinnamon.

In either case, both herbs and spices are invaluable for creating memorable soups, stews, and chowders. Listed below is a selection of herbs and spices you will find useful for flavoring a variety of soups, stews and chowders.

Herbs

If you love cooking and garnishing with fresh herbs, consider having a window garden with herbs you find yourself using the most.

When substituting fresh herbs for the dried variety or vice versa, the proportion is 3 to 1. One tablespoon of fresh herb would equal 1 teaspoon of the dried equivalent.

Basil

Basil brings out the flavor of tomatoes and this is what makes it so popular in Italian cooking. It also enhances the flavor of beef stew, potatoes, and carrots. It is good used in chicken and vegetable soups.

Chives

A pot of chives on a kitchen windowsill is invaluable. Chives make a terrific garnish and impart a subtle onion taste to your soups and also omelets and salads. They are super easy to grow and like the Ever Ready bunny, they just keep growing and growing and growing.

Cilantro

Cilantro is the parsley of the East. It is used in the same manner as parsley. It is a good seasoning for corn, bean and chicken soups.

Dill

Dill is a member of the parsley family. Dill is a good seasoning for soups that contain tomatoes, dairy products and potatoes. It is good for flavoring both chicken and seafood soups and stews.

Oregano

Oregano is another herb that is linked with tomatoes. Tomatoes, basil, and oregano combine to make a marriage made in heaven.

Parsley

Fresh parsley is excellent for adding color and garnish to any soup dishes.

Rosemary

Rosemary is excellent for flavoring vegetable soups and stocks, along with chicken and lamb stews.

Sage

Sage is well known for its use in all poultry dishes

Thyme

Thyme is used to enhance flavors in meat soups, stocks, and soups using wine.

This is just a very basic list of the most useful herbs used in soup cookery. There are hundreds of herbs and to list them all would be unwieldy. If you are interested in knowing more about how to cook with herbs, the Internet is an inexhaustible research center for this subject.

There are many ways to use herbs in soup cooking. Whole stems of thyme, rosemary or oregano can be put into the soup and fished out before serving. Chopped herbs are added for flavor, and fresh herbs provide a flavorful and aromatic garnish.

Along with individual herbs, you will see recipes calling for Bouquet Garni.

When making stock, the flavor of herbs is often needed, but the actual herb stems and leaves are undesirable. This is where a bouquet garni comes in.

A bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs tied together, or herbs tied in a cheesecloth bag for easy removal. You can use any herbs for a bouquet garni but stemmed ones work best when using fresh herbs — rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, oregano. Some cooks prefer to add it along with other ingredients while others insist it should only be added during the final simmering time, but in any case it is removed before serving. Here are some examples of bouquet garni:

With Fresh Herbs
  • 3 sprigs of parsley
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

Cut the sprigs as long as possible. Tie them together with kitchen string. Drop this into the soup. Remove before serving.

With Dried Herbs
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

For this method, cut a piece of cheesecloth into a square measuring about 6 inches across. Place the herbs in the center of the square and pull up each corner of the cheesecloth. Tie the corners together with string. 

This can also be made using a mesh tea ball to hold the dried herbs.

With Both Herbs and Spices

Traditionally only herbs were used in Bouquet Garni. Today chefs use citrus rind, garlic, peppercorn, and vegetable leaves such as celery and carrot stalks. They also often put in cloves or cinnamon. Experiment with this to see what a difference this makes with your soup creations.

Spices

Spices are used in soups, but are not as common as herbs. Here are a few good ones you can try:

Cinnamon

Cinnamon and apples just naturally go together. Cinnamon is also great with all the autumn veggies such as squash and pumpkin, turnip and carrots. It can also enhance any soups containing pork. It is also used in making dessert fruit soups.

Coriander

Coriander is the seed of the Cilantro plant.  This is another spice that enhances the taste of autumn vegetables.

Cumin

Cumin is a spice used in Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines. It is used in chilies and tortilla soup. Carrot and squash soups are enhanced with the addition of cumin.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is the seed of a tropical tree. It is really good used in squash, cauliflower, sweet potato and pumpkin soups. It also enhances flavors in chicken soups and beef stews. Often a dash of nutmeg works well in cold fruit soups.

If you use nutmeg, it’s worth using fresh nutmeg rather than the packaged version. Once you try fresh nutmeg, you’ll be hard pressed to return to prepared nutmeg.

Peppercorns

The most common of spices, pepper can be used in any soup to add flavor and spice.

As with herbs, there are many more spices I could list, but these I feel are the most useful when making soups and stews.

Flavor Enhancers

Along with herbs and spices, soup can be flavoured in many other ways. If you feel your soup is too bland and could use some brightening up, try some of these flavour enhancers:

  • Extracts and Liquid Flavorings
  • Hot sauce
  • Liquid Smoke
  • Sherry
  • Soy sauce
  • Vermouth
  • Vinegar
  • Wine
  • Worcestershire Sauce

Extracts and Liquid Flavourings

Extracts come in many flavors. The best known is Vanilla extract. However, you can also get coffee, mint, butterscotch, anise and a host of other flavors. Extracts are best used in cold dessert soups.

Hot Sauce

There are many varieties of hot sauce and they can be used to add heat to Mexican flavoured soups.

Liquid Smoke

Liquid smoke can be used in soups and stews that contain beef or pork. It can be used in chilies or Tex/Mex soups.

Sherry

To add variety to your soups, try a dash of sherry. It’s good in mushroom based, tomato based, and cream based soups. This also works in seafood soups and chowders.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce can be used to flavour soups with an Asian flair

Vermouth

If you are not a wine drinker but like to use wine to flavour soups, vermouth is a good substitute. It will keep forever in your pantry, where white wine will not.

Vinegar

Nothing is more useful to spark up flavours than vinegar. To say I have a dozen types of vinegar in my cupboards is not an exaggeration. I don’t have any white vinegar. In my estimation, that is only good for cleaning products.

I do have apple cider vinegar. However, if you buy this type of vinegar, see if you can get it in a health food store. I mention this because vinegar in the grocery store is clear. Good cider vinegar will contain a substance called mother. Some people looking at this may think it’s messy, but this is the ingredient that makes a smooth tasting cider vinegar. Once you buy a bottle that contains mother, you can buy cider vinegar in the grocery store and transfer it to the container with the mother. Taste a sample of cider vinegar without mother and compare it to vinegar that contains mother. You will immediately be able to tell the difference. Vinegars that are useful to have on hand are:

  • Apple Cider
  • Balsamic
  • Champagne
  • Malt
  • Rice, both seasoned and unseasoned
  • Sherry
  • Tarragon
  • White/Red  Wine

Vinegar is not only useful for brightening soups, but you can make your own salad dressings at half the cost and without food additives and preservatives.

Wine: Red and White

Wine can be a wonderful addition to soups. Red wines are used in more hearty meat soups while the white wine is used for chicken and cream soups. There will be no alcohol in your soups if you use wine. The alcohol will burn off and you will be left with the wonderful flavouring wine imparts to soups.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire Sauce is a great flavoring for adding to meat soups. It is especially suited to beef based soups and adds a new level of flavoring to your soup creation.

Thickeners

Sooner or later you’ll run across a soup that needs thickening. It could be a beef or an Irish stew or perhaps a fish or corn chowder. In any case, it helps to know various ways you can thicken a soup without destroying its flavour. Here are some ways you can thicken a thin soup:

  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Potatoes
  • Puree ingredients
  • Canned condensed soup
  • Yogurt or Evaporated Milk
  • Add additional ingredients

Flour

Method One

Flour is the age old way to thicken soups. First you have to make a roux. A roux is made by adding equal parts butter and flour. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add equal parts of flour (2 tablespoons) and stir until flour is dissolved and forms a paste. Slowly add 1 cup of liquid (milk, water, bouillon, stock, etc.) until you have a thick sauce similar to pancake batter. My stove cooks high even on reduced heat, so I sometimes take the skillet off the heat while I add the liquid. Then I return it to the heat to finish cooking). Add whatever amount you need to the soup to thicken it to your preference.

By the way, if you’ve tried to make decent gravy in the past and failed, this is a foolproof way to make great gravy and the way I taught my children to make gravy.

Follow this method exactly. But add additional liquid (bouillon, chicken, turkey or beef stock) until you have the gravy consistency you prefer. To this gravy you can add flavor enhancers such as garlic, onion powder, gravy master (a coloring product you can purchase in the spice aisle) poultry seasoning, etc.

All you have to remember are the proportions 2 to 1. Use equal tablespoons butter and flour and half the number of cups of liquid. Examples: 2 butter, 2 flour, 1 cup liquid or 4 butter, 4 flour, 2 cups liquid. Once you find how easy and inexpensive it is to make the perfect gravy with no food additives or preservatives, you won’t be tempted to buy expensive gravy packets ever again.

Method Two

 Mix 1 ½ teaspoon of flour with ½ teaspoon water, bouillon or any other liquid for every cup of soup you wish to thicken. Add the mixture to the soup and stir constantly until the soup thickens. Simmer another 15-20 minutes to cook the flour. Without this additional cooking time, the soup will have a floury taste. Additional cooking time is not necessary when using method one above because the flour has been precooked before adding to the soup.

Cornstarch

Put about a tablespoon of cornstarch into a container and add just enough cold water to make a thick paste. Stir this into the soup and bring to a boil. Be sure to add water to the cornstarch and not starch to water, otherwise your paste will be lumpy and not smooth. Cornstarch must be dissolved in cold water. Hot water will cook the starch. A paste of water and thickener such as flour or cornstarch is called slurry.

Directions for making and using slurry:

For each cup of liquid you need to thicken, start with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a bowl. Add an equal amount of cool liquid and stir until a smooth paste forms. This paste is your slurry.

Whisk the slurry into the hot liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer until any starchy taste has been cooked away and liquid has thickened.

Potatoes

Because potatoes contain a lot of starch, they are a standard item used for thickening soups. Grate a raw potato and add it to your soup immediately. Cook soup for another 10-15 minutes to allow the potato to cook and thicken the soup.

Instant potato flakes can also be used to thicken your soup to the correct consistency.

Pureed Vegetables

Remove cooked vegetables from the soup. Mash with a potato masher and return to pot to thicken soup. Beans make a healthy, nutritious puree for thickening soups. This is also a good way to get your family to eat beans without them realizing it.

Open a can of mild beans (cannellini, navy, butter beans, etc,). White beans are best for this process as the flavor of the darker beans can be overpowering. Drain and rinse the beans to remove excess salt. Using a blender or stick blender, puree the beans with a cup of soup stock and add to soup. Continue simmering the soup until the soup thickens.

Canned Condensed Soup

If you are not adverse to processed foods, cream of mushroom, cream of celery, or cream of shrimp for seafood soups make excellent easy thickeners for soup.

Yogurt or Evaporated Condensed Milk

If you are making a cream soup, Greek yogurt or evaporated condensed milk can be used to thicken your creation.

Add Additional Ingredients

If you like the consistency of the soup but just have too much liquid, just add more ingredients. Pasta and rice are my favorites for adding body and making the soup more substantial. Cook the soup an additional 15-20 minutes after the addition of these ingredients to the soup.

Garnishes

A beautiful presentation not only adds eye candy, it also makes everyone anxious to dip into your soup. A little garnish can bring an ingredient to the forefront, add texture and/or additional flavor, and bring a soup presentation up to the professional restaurant level. For some reason, garnished soups are perceived to have more flavor and therefor higher value. Below is listed a selection of garnishes for you to choose from.

  • Meats
  • Cheese
  • Croutons
  • Edible Flower Petal
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Sour Cream or Yogurt
  • Tortilla Strips
  • Veggie and Fruit  Ideas
  • Whole Herbs

Meats

Sliced hot dogs, strips of cold cuts, small circles of salami or pepperoni go well on bean soups.

Tiny meatballs look good floating in soup bowls.

Cooked bacon can be crumbled and scattered on top of your soup. This is good on cheese soups and creamed soups. Seafood chowders can also benefit with a sprinkling of bacon bits.

A combination of chopped bacon, chopped chives and croutons sprinkled on a creamed soup makes a beautiful picture.

Cheese

Shredded cheese is good on meat and vegetable soups. This is perfect on Tex/Mex South of the Border soups.

A layer of cheese can be added to many soups. It is expected with a good French Onion soup. Place a toasted sliced baguette topped with slices of Gruyere cheese in individual bowls of soup. Place bowls under the broiler or in the microwave until cheese melts. Be sure to use oven or microwave safe bowls for this technique.

Blue cheese crumbles and celery leaves also make an excellent garnish for spicy soups.

Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of slices of cheese to float on top of individual bowls of soup.

Croutons

A spreading of croutons on a pureed soup adds flavor and crunch along with making a picture perfect presentation. Squash, Pea, Cream of Broccoli; any creamed or pureed soup will be improved and even look elegant with a sprinkling of croutons.

Croutons can be purchased, but they don’t come close to the flavor of the homemade version. Croutons are very simple to make and can be made ahead of time if you are making them for a special occasion. 

Edible Flower Petals

As a garnish for a fruit or dessert soup, nothing is more elegant than edible flower petals. Yes, some flowers are edible, and even if you don’t want to eat them, flower petals delight the eye. Some edible petals are roses, violets, nasturtiums, and pansies.

Nuts and Seeds

Slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pecans: nuts make an excellent garnish for autumn soups such as pumpkin, squash and carrot. Toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds also make excellent garnishes.

Popcorn

I know this sounds strange, but this is a fun and surprising garnish. If you have kids, they’ll love it and you’ll surprise adults and make them laugh. Besides, what tastes better than popcorn?

Sour Cream or Yogurt

A dollop of sour cream or yogurt looks wonderful floating on a bowl of homemade soup. It doesn’t have to be just plain flavored however.

Stir lime juice into the sour cream with a pinch of sugar for a South of the Border soup.

A little nutmeg or cinnamon stirred into sour cream or yogurt goes great with pumpkin and squash soups.

A spoonful of yogurt will help tone down a spicy soup.

Tortilla Strips

Tortilla strips are perfect for Tex/Mex soups used along with sour cream, or slices of avocado. Tortilla strips are easy to prepare:

Instructions:

Preheat toaster oven or oven to 350 degrees. Cut 2 corn tortillas into thin strips and arrange on baking tray. Bake until strips are crisp, about 10-15 minutes.

Veggies

Use a vegetable peeler to make thin carrot curls and zucchini curls. Cut celery into thin strips and soak these veggies in cold water to make them curl.

Use a melon baller to cut carrot circles from carrots or potato circles from potatoes. Slightly cook the vegetable circles and float them in the soup.

Shredded or thinly sliced vegetables such as green and red peppers can be floated on top of soup bowls.

Fresh diced tomatoes add color to a bowl of soup.

A variety of sliced mushrooms along with chopped chives are a good garnish for mushroom soup.

Peel a cucumber. Run the tines of a fork down the sides all around the cucumber. Slice thinly and use as a refreshing garnish on cold summer soups.

Waffle fries can be cooked and floated on hearty soups

Olives and pimentos make a colorful garnish on creamed soups

Fruits

Thinly sliced star fruit makes an easy garnish for a cold summer soup.

Whole berries can be sprinkled on top of fruit soups.

Firm tropical fruits such melons, mangos, and pineapple can be thinly sliced and cut with cookie cutters and floated on summer soups.

Use a melon baller to cut balls of tropical fruit to use as garnish.

Grapes and pitted cherries add color as a garnish for dessert soups.

Zest from citrus fruits can be floated in soups.

Thin slices of lemon and/or lime make refreshing garnishes.

Using a vegetable peeler and using an orange or lemon with a thick skin, make long strips of peel to float in soups as garnish.

Whole Fresh Herbs

You can never go wrong using whole fresh herbs for garnishment. Parsley, cilantro, celery leaves, bay leaves, basil; the list is endless.

Dill weed is very good to float in seafood soups.

Fresh mint floating in cold summer soups paints a refreshing picture.

So there you are. This is a long list of garnishes to get your creative juices flowing. Once you start garnishing soups, you’ll find you enjoy putting the finishing touch on your soup. You’ll be looking for new ways to complete your soup creations that will have family and friends raving about both your culinary prowess and your wonderfully creative soup presentations.

Prepared Items

As fun and easy as it is to make soup from scratch, there’s no denying it still takes time. More often than not in our busy lives, we just want something warm for lunch or dinner that can be made quickly and easily.

For those reasons, I’m putting together a list of prepared ingredients to have on hand for making quick and easy soups that will be ready to eat in 15-20 minutes.

  • Boxed or canned beef, chicken or vegetable stock
  • A selection of bouillon cubes or jarred bouillon such as “Better Than Bouillon”
  • A selection of dry soup mixes
  • Canned condensed soups
  • Gravy mixes
  • Alfredo Sauce
  • Cheese Sauce
  • Tomato Based Sauces such as Pizza and Spaghetti Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Frozen or canned vegetables
  • Frozen meats such as meatballs, grilled chicken, beef fajita strips
  • Frozen seafood
  • Canned chicken, tuna, salmon, etc.

With these ingredients in your pantry, you will have all you need to create quick and easy homemade soups to suit your family’s preferences. You can whip up a soup course to feed the kids and keep them happy while you cook the main meal, or paired with garlic bread and salad this can be the main meal by itself. 

Stock Making Basics

There’s no denying, homemade stock makes the soup. Homemade stocks are essential for rich, brothy soups. The taste and depth of color can never be duplicated with a store bought product, no matter how much it costs. Preparing your own stock is one of the best culinary investments you can make. There are four major stocks you can make and keep on hand in the freezer;

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Vegetable

I also like to make a mushroom stock that I find works well for many soups.

There is a mystique built up over the years around the stock making process. Many people feel it’s too difficult or time consuming. Yes, it does take time, but you can be doing other things while the stock is simmering. At the same time, the aromas wafting from the kitchen will bring you back to an earlier time when everything was made at home, and your mouth will water as you envision the perfect soups you are going to prepare.

Techniques used in making stock

There are three techniques you may or may not be familiar with. I’ll explain them before we start to make things easier. The techniques are:

  • Deglazing
  • Sweating
  • Defatting

Deglazing

Deglazing is used to remove the little bits and pieces of caramelized meat from the bottom of the pot after the meat is browned. These bits and pieces contain a lot of flavour and color and add tremendously to the flavour of your stock. You don’t want to skip this step.

Deglazing is usually done with wine or sometimes vinegar. It can also be done using water, but water doesn’t work as well as an acidic liquid. Raise the heat to high and bring about a ½ cup of liquid to a boil while you are scraping to loosen the bits from the bottom of the pan. This constant stirring and scraping is the key to a good deglazing job. These caramelized bits of food add fantastic body and flavour to your stock.

Sweating

Sweating is a process that allows the meat to slowly release its maximum juices. Sweating is an extra step that can be eliminated, but it truly adds to the flavour of your stock.

Sweating is done after deglazing when the meat and vegetables are returned to the stockpot. Reduce the heat to low, cover and sweat the meat about 20 minutes (cook on low heat), until the meat has released all of its juices.

Yes, this adds an extra step to your stock making and you can skip this step if you wish, but when you compare stock that has been sweated to stock that hasn’t been through this process, you’ll find a noticeable difference in flavour.

Defatting

Once the stock has chilled in the refrigerator, a hard yellow layer of fat will form on the top of the container. Remove the layer of fat that has accumulated on the top of the stock before using or freezing the stock. Discard this fat.

So now you are ready to get to making stock. Let’s start with beef stock, shall we?

Beef Stock

Beef stock is made of bones and vegetables, roasted and/or simmered in a pot for a long length of time. There are 2 kinds of bones used in making beef stock, marrow bones and meaty bones.

A second, quicker method is to start the stock with meat and vegetables. This stock is simmered for several hours on the stove top.

Stock from bones is far superior, but beef stock from meat far outweighs using boxed or canned stock.

There is a third method that is the easiest method for making stock that is not traditional but has become very popular. Since the advent of the crock pot in the 60’s this has become a standard appliance in most kitchens. Stock is very easy to make in a crockpot and is now a mainstream method for creating stock.

Directions for all three methods are given below.

Method One – Stock from Bones

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If the bones are really meaty, cut the meat from the bones in the largest pieces possible. Place 2 pounds of meaty bones and 2 pounds of marrow bones, plus whatever meat there is, in a large roasting pan and roast for 1 hour. The bones should cut into small sections to expose the marrow. Shanks, neck, and shin bones will work. Turn the bones halfway through the roasting process. If the bones start to burn, lower the heat. You are looking to have nicely browned bones when you are finished.

In the meantime prepare

  • 1-2 large carrots, unpeeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 1-2 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
  • 1-2 stalks of celery with leaves, chopped in large pieces
  • 1 6 ounce can of tomato paste

After 1 hour remove the bones from the oven and brush them with the tomato paste. Add the vegetables to the roasting pan and roast another 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place all ingredients in a stockpot. On the stovetop over low heat, deglaze the pan with vinegar, wine or vermouth (deglazing is adding liquid to pan and scraping to get all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan – see instructions above). These brown bits are loaded with flavour that you won’t want to leave behind.

Place the deglazed liquid into the pot with the bones and vegetables. Add to the stockpot:

  • 10-15 peppercorns
  • 5 cloves peeled garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is added to the stock because its acidic nature brings out the minerals and goodness from the bones. Fill the stockpot with water to about 1 inch above the vegetables and bones. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered 6-8 hours, the longer the better, as the longer a stock is simmered, the more flavor and goodness is extracted from the ingredients.

If you want a very clear stock for consommé, skim the foam from the soup as it rises during cooking. Foam is caused by impurities being released from the bones as they simmer. This does no harm to the stock but does cause the stock to become cloudy.

Liquid will boil away as the stock is simmering, so be sure to check the levels and replace the water as needed to keep the bones and vegetables covered. Some people prefer not to add liquid in order to get a more concentrated stock. This is a matter of personal preference.

Remove the stock from the heat, skim off any fat that has accumulated, and remove large bones and vegetable pieces with tongs. Then strain the stock to remove all smaller pieces left in the stock. Let the stock cool to room temperature. Ice cubes may be added to the stock at this time is you wish, Fat will adhere to the ice cubes and they can be removed and discarded. Refrigerate when cooled.

Once the stock has chilled, defat the stock and discard the fat. At this point the stock is ready to be used as is, or frozen for future use. Stock that is not used within 2-3 days should be frozen. It will keep well frozen for up to 6 months.

This method makes approximately 8 cups (2 quarts) of stock.

Method Two- Stock from Meat

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of chuck meat, cubed
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons of oliveoil

Directions:

Heat the oil in a stockpot. Add the beef and onion and slowly brown the meat to a rich brown color.  Remove meat and bones from the pot. Add ½ cup of red wine or vinegar and deglaze the pot (see deglazing instructions above).

Return meat to the pot, cover, and cook on low for about 20 minutes. This is called “sweating the meat”. This process allows the meat to slowly release its maximum juices. Sweating is an extra step that can be eliminated, but it truly adds to the flavour of your stock.

Return heat to medium high and add 3 quarts of boiling water along with

  • 1 peeled carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 4 springs of parsley

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the stock, partially covered for 2 ½ hours. Skim off foam several times during cooking. Strain the broth, cool, and chill. Refrigerate the stock. Remove the fat layer from the stock. Use within 2-3 days or freeze.

A third easier method that produces acceptable stock is to make stock in a slow cooker. This is a good way to go if you have limited time and are always on the go.

Method Three – Crock Pot Stock

 

Directions:

Set your crock pot to low temperature. You can either use bones or meat. Use the ingredients listed above and put all ingredients into the crock pot. Cover the ingredients with water and cook on low for 24 hours.

Once your slow cooker is heated, try not to lift the lid because it releases a lot of the heat that has built up. It takes approximately 20 extra minutes for the slow cooker to regain the temperature it had before you lifted the lid.

If using ground herbs and spices, consider adding these near the end of cooking since they tend to dissipate and can lose their flavors when you add them at the beginning. Whole herbs and spices can be added at the beginning of cooking time.

You may find making stock in a slow cooker will yield a larger amount of stock. Because the cover is always on the liquid is trapped inside and there is no evaporation.

Strain the stock, cool, and refrigerate. Defat the stock before using.

Freezing Stock

There are several ways you can freeze stock according to the amount of people you feed. If you cook for large groups, freeze your stock in bread pans. When the stock is frozen, remove it from the pans (place the pans in hot water if the stock won’t come out) and wrap it with aluminium foil. Label and date the stock. For medium sized family, stock can be frozen in quart freezer containers. If you are a couple, large sized muffin tins are a good option. Again, when frozen, remove the stock, wrap each portion in foil, and place in large freezer bags. Be sure to label and date the stock. I’ve actually found stock in my freezer that was 3 years old and I didn’t have a clue what it was.

Chicken Stock

There are three methods used to make chicken stock. One is to use leftover bones from a cooked chicken carcass. This process is most often used after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The second method uses fresh chicken backs and wings or even a whole fowl. The third method is to make your stock in a slow cooker (crock pot)

Method One – Making Stock from a Carcass

Directions:

Cut up the carcass into small pieces to fit into the stockpot. Add enough water to cover the bones by an inch of water. Bring to a boil and simmer the bones for about 2 hours. Add to the stockpot

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 peeled carrots, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 4-6 springs of parsley

The amount of vegetables doesn’t have to be exact. Just use whatever you may have in the refrigerator. Additional options are garlic, leeks, celery leaves, or whatever veggies and herbs that suits your taste. There is no right or wrong when making stock. Add more water if needed to cover the vegetables and bones.

Simmer the stock for another hour or two. Use a slotted spoon to remove the larger pieces of ingredients. Strain the stock, cool, and refrigerate. When fat forms on the top, remove the fat layer.

The stock should be used within 2-3 days. Freeze any remaining stock.

This method yields about 1-2 quarts of stock depending on the size of the carcass.

Method Two – Stock from Chicken Parts

This is a quick and easy way to prepare chicken stock.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 pounds of chicken backs, wings, and/or legs
  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 bay leaves

Chop chicken parts into small pieces. Heat the oil in stockpot. Add onions and cook until they are transparent. Remove onions, add more oil if necessary, and brown chicken parts. Remove chicken from the pot.

Lower heat to low and add ½ cup of white wine, vermouth, or water to the pot and deglaze the bottom.

Return meat and onions to the pot, cover, and cook on low for about 20 minutes. This is called “sweating the meat”. This process allows the meat to slowly release its maximum juices.

Return heat to medium high and add boiling water, salt and bay leaves. Water should just cover the chicken and vegetables.

Return stock to a simmer, cover and simmer the stock for 30 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the larger pieces of ingredients. Strain the stock, cool, and refrigerate. Defat the stock before using.

The stock should be used within 2-3 days. Freeze any remaining stock.

This method yields about 2 quarts of stock.

Method Three – Crock Pot Stock

Directions:

Set your crock pot to low temperature. You can either use the carcass or chicken parts. Use the ingredients listed above and put all ingredients into the crock pot. Cover the ingredients with water and cook on low for 24 hours.

Once your slow cooker is heated, try not to lift the lid because it releases a lot of the heat that has built up. It takes approximately 20 extra minutes for the slow cooker to regain the temperature it had before you lifted the lid.

If using ground herbs and spices, consider adding these near the end of cooking since they tend to dissipate and can lose their flavors when you add them at the beginning. Whole herbs and spices can be added at the beginning of cooking time.

You may find making stock in a slow cooker will yield a larger amount of stock. Because the cover is always on the liquid is trapped inside and there is no evaporation.

Strain the stock, cool, and refrigerate. Defat the stock before using.

Fish Stock

There are 2 types of fish stock. Technically, there is fish stock and seafood stock. Fish stock is made from fish heads and/or fish bones. Seafood stock is made from shells of crabs, lobsters, and shrimp. I’ll give directions for making both types of stock.

Fish Stock

Mild white fish such as cod, haddock, and skate make the best fish stock. Oily fish like mackerel, bluefish, and salmon have flavors that are much too strong and overpowering.

Directions:

Cleaning Fish for Stock

If using fish heads lift the gill cover and detach the gills with kitchen shears. Discard the gills. Wash bones thoroughly to remove any blood. Cut the fish bones into small pieces that will easily fit into the stock pot.

Ingredients for Fish Stock:

  • 4 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4 pounds of fish frames/bones
  • 1 cup white wine or vermouth
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

Heat the butter or oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the vegetable, garlic, and fish bones. Cover and sweat the ingredients, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, to give the bones a chance to release their flavor.

Add liquids, herbs and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Strain the stock, cool, and refrigerate. Defat the stock before using. Use within 2 days. Freeze remaining stock.

If you live on the coast and have easy access to shellfish as I do here in Maine, seafood stock is easy to make and affordable. I collect seafood shells and freeze them whenever I go to a lobster bake. Then I make seafood stock on dreary, rainy afternoons. This is a great stock to have on hand when making chowders and other fish dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cups of seafood shells (lobster, crab, or shrimp) crushed
  • 1 cup wine or vermouth
  • 1 large unpeeled sliced onion
  • 2 carrots cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped with leaves
  • Bouquet garni of thyme stems and parsley (see directions under the herb and spice listing)

Directions:

Place crushed shells in a roasting pan in a 400 degree oven. Roasting will bring out the flavor of the shells. Roast for 10 minutes.

Add the shells to the stockpot and add enough water to cover the shells for about an inch. Place over medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat so stock is barely simmering and cook shells for about an hour. Remove foam from stock as it forms. 

Add the wine, vegetables, and bouquet garni. Continue to simmer for another 2 hours.

Remove large pieces from stock and strain the stock. Cool the stock and then refrigerate. Defat the stock when film forms.  Use the stock within 2 days. Freeze the remaining stock for future use.

Vegetable Stock

This last stock is good for vegetarian soups and any other vegetarian dishes you might wish to make. Vegetable stock is the easiest stock to make. It’s as easy as putting a bunch of vegetables and spices in water and simmering them for 30 minutes. Strain the stock and it’s ready to use.

If you want a more robust vegetable stock and you enjoy cooking and spending time in the kitchen, you’ll find this recipe below will provide a very satisfying vegetable stock.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large leeks, (white and light green only), coarsely chopped1
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Directions:

Place the onions, carrots, and celery in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven. Spray the vegetables with Pam or other cooking spray. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently until a there is a light brown glaze on the bottom of the pan, about 20-30 minutes. Add the leeks and cook another 10-15 minutes until the leeks soften.

Add 1 ½ cups of boiling water and continue to cook the vegetables and cook another 30 minutes until the vegetables are very soft and glazed.

Add remaining ingredients and 6 cups of boiling water. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Strain the stock. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate stock. Use within 4 days. Freeze any unused stock.

Cooking Beans

Beans are a staple in many soup recipes. The variety of beans available, both canned and dried is amazing. Cooking dried beans takes more time than opening a can, but the superior flavor and texture of fresh beans can’t be beat. Along with superior taste, you’ll also get much more value for your money. 

Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber, full of nutrition, and an inexpensive source of food. One pound of dry beans yields 2-3 cups of cooked beans depending on the variety of bean.

Before you begin cooking your beans, it is important to sort them. Small pebbles may fall through the sieve in the factory sorting process. You also want to pick out any beans that are shriveled or broken.

Rinse the beans well in cold water. Now you are ready to soak the beans.

The easiest way to soak beans is to cover them with 2-3 inches of cold water and let them soak overnight.

The quickest way to soak beans is to cover them with 2-3 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil and let the beans boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove the beans from the heat and let them set for 1 hour.

Once the beans have been soaked they are ready to be cooked.

Drain the beans and place the beans in a large pot. Cover them with 2-3 inches of liquid (water or stock). Slowly bring beans to a boil. Watch the beans carefully as the bean liquid can easily foam and overflow the pot. Skim off the foam. It may be necessary to add additional liquid as the beans cook in order to keep them covered. Stir them occasionally.

Cooking time will vary, depending on the freshness of the dried beans. It will take about 1-2 hours to cook a pot of dried beans. Pierce the beans with a fork to check for doneness. You can also cut a bean in half to check doneness. The center of the bean will be opaque when the beans are fully cooked.

Freezing Beans

It’s worth cooking a pound or two of beans at a time, as beans are easily frozen. It’s best to slightly undercook beans that you plan to freeze as this helps them retain their shape when thawed. They can finish cooking in your soup, stews or casserole dishes.

Freeze beans in the portions you intend to use in your recipes. One or two cups is a good measure of beans to freeze. Place them in freezer containers and cover them with liquid so they don’t dry out. Make sure to allow one or two inches at the top of the container for expansion. Beans will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer without losing their flavor.

Thawing and Using Frozen Beans

Beans can be used thawed or frozen. I often put frozen beans in my soups and let them continue cooking with the rest of the ingredients. If you are mixing them into a casserole, let them thaw overnight. Beans hold their shape better if they are thawed slowly. Once beans are thawed, you may find they are too thick and more liquid can be added to the beans.

The Art of Freezing Soups

Regardless of what you may have heard, almost all soups can be frozen, even creamed soups. The texture may be a little softened when thawed, but its soup, and crispy vegetables are not expected to be found in soup anyway.

Here are a few tips to help you achieve the best results possible when freezing and reheating frozen soups:

When cooking soups to freeze:

  • If you are using pasta it’s best to undercook it in the soup, or if you are making the soup to freeze, leave it out altogether and add it when reheating the soup. The same goes for rice and potatoes.  Wild rice (which is not rice at all) freezes better than white or brown rice.
  • Bean soups freeze really well. Sometimes the beans break down, but this just makes the soup creamier.
  • If you are making seafood chowders with shellfish to freeze, it’s best not to add the shellfish to the chowder.  Shrimp and scallops can toughen with freezing, so add shellfish when reheating the chowder. Shellfish cooks really quickly so this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Dried herbs can be cooked with the soup, but fresh herbs should be added during the reheating process.
  • Cream soups can separate during the freezing process. If this happens, just whisk it back together when reheating. If you are making soup to freeze and the separation bothers you, don’t add the cream until you reheat the soup. You will save space in your freezer and your soup will also taste fresher when you reheat it.
  • Eggs get rubbery if frozen. If freezing egg drop soup, add the egg ribbons during the reheating stage.

When Freezing Soups:

  • Be sure to thoroughly chill the soup before putting it into freezer. Freezing hot soup takes longer and ice crystals develop on the soup. This results in soups of lower quality because the ice crystals may also develop flavors from the freezer.
  • After the soup is cooled to at least room temperature, place it into freezer containers. Be sure to use containers that are developed for use in the freezer, otherwise your containers may crack and your soups will not be protected in the freezer. Leave at least ½“of space at the top of the container to allow for expansion.
  • Cover the soup with a sheet of plastic wrap. This will prevent freezer crystals from forming on your soup and prevent freezer burn. This is easily removed when you thaw the soup.
  • To freeze soup in bags, set the bags in a large coffee mug. Fill bags but leave a small amount of room at the top to allow for expansion. Be sure to use freezer bags and not sandwich bags. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze in a single layer. When the soups are frozen solid, you can stack them in your freezer.
  • Freeze in portions that are good for your lifestyle. 1 cup of soup is a snack for one person, while 2 cups are considered a meal. If you are freezing soup for a family, consider purchasing the correct container size so that you won’t have to thaw out 3 or 4 containers. This will also save you freezer space.
  • Some people like to freeze soup in muffin tins, especially the super large ones. Once frozen, remove the soup from the tin and place them in freezer bags. Frozen this way, soup makes a quick snack or an easy lunch when paired with a sandwich to take to work.
  • Be sure to label containers with type of soup and freeze date. You may think you’ll remember this info, but believe me when I say, “You Won’t!”
  • The standard time for leaving soup in the freezer is 3 months. However, I’ve often forgotten soup for up to 6 months and it was still perfectly fine.

When Reheating Frozen Soups:

  • There are many methods for thawing and reheating soup. The best by far is to remove the container the day before you plan to use it and thaw the soup in the refrigerator. Reheat either on the stove or in the microwave.
  • Frozen soups can be thawed and reheated in the microwave or a toaster oven. Check and stir the soup often.
  • Soups can also be cooked from a frozen condition on the stovetop. Add a little liquid to the bottom of the pot to keep the soup from sticking and burning. Check and stir often.
  • If the soup is creamed or pureed, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator. Put soup in a pot when thawed and if it’s a cream soup, whisk ingredients to combine them. You may want to add more cream if necessary.
  • If it’s pureed, it may be redone in a blender or use an immersion blender to bring it to a smooth texture.
  • Be sure to use low heat to bring soups with dairy, cheese, or eggs to the right temperature. If heated too quickly, they are likely to separate.
  • Add fresh herbs when reheating your soup. You may also add pasta, rice, and potatoes at this point.
  • If you want to freshen your soup, add some fresh (non-frozen) cooked vegetables at this time.
  • It takes about 10 minutes to cook 2 cups of frozen soup on the stovetop.
  • Garnish your soup and enjoy!

Making Soup without Recipes

Finally we’ve come to the section you’ve been waiting for, Making Soup without Recipes. I realize we’ve been a long time getting here, but by now you’ve learned a lot about what goes into the soup making process and the many ways you can make a soup creation your own.

Directions below are for “No Recipe Soups”. There are master directions for each type of soup; meat, vegetable, chowder, cream based and cold/dessert soups and finishing up with making “souper” easy soups. Along with the directions, there are listed various ways you can change the directions to suit your families tastes.

If you are nervous about the amounts, following the directions I’ve given some recipes for these soups in order to get you started. Once you have an idea of how the ingredients work in the recipes, you should be able to branch out on your own.

The easiest way to get started creating your own soups is to simply substitute ingredients by eliminating one ingredient and using a similar ingredient in the same way and using the same quantities. For example, use a different fruit, vegetable, or meat. Swap out an herb you don’t like for one you prefer, use a different cheese, or a different liquid. Once you start, you’ll find it very easy to begin creating your own soups.

My hope for you is that once you realize the potential you have inside yourself, you’ll allow your confidence and creativity to shine through and create some really memorable soups for family and guests.

The one thing I would encourage you to do is to keep a soup log. When you develop a special soup worth remembering, write down the ingredients, any special directions and be sure to give your creation an original name that makes it your own. I speak from experience when I say I’ve created some great soups. I’ve also forgotten how I did it. I was sure I’d remember, but when someone said, “Why don’t you make —- again?” I realized I didn’t have a clue how I created it.

So if you make a soup that’s a hit with family and friends, be sure to write down the directions. You may be sure you’ll remember how you did it, but take it from one who’s been there, you won’t!

So if you’re ready, let’s get going—

Master Directions for Meat Soups – Beef/Chicken etc.

The amounts and exact ingredients that go into soups are not important. It will depend on what you have on hand, how much you want to make, and your taste preferences.

Instructions:

Decide what meat you want to use in your soup. The stock you use will depend on the type of meat soup you want to make.  Homemade stock, bouillon cubes, canned stock, you decide. Vegetable stock can be used in any meat combination.

Prep work: If you are using raw meat and/or vegetables, have them chopped and ready to sauté when you start your soup.  If you are using bouillon cubes, dissolve them in hot water. 

Add some oil to the stockpot. I always like to start with onions and garlic. Sauté sliced or chopped onions and garlic. If you are starting with raw meat, add the meat when onions are transparent. Brown the meat. When the meat is brown, you can either leave it in the pot or remove it, the choice is yours.

I like to sauté my raw vegetables in oil before I add the stock. If I’m using a lot of veggies, I remove the meat so that I have more room to sauté the vegetables without crowding them.

When sautéing vegetables, I start with the hardest ones, such as carrots, potatoes, and green beans first. Then I’ll add green and red peppers, mushrooms, and celery next. Sauté the vegetables for about 5-10 minutes to flavor the vegetables. If you are using cooked meat, add it now.

Return the meat to the pot and add the stock. Be sure the stock covers the ingredients. If you want tomato flavoured soup, add some canned tomatoes or other tomato product now. If you are going to add grains later on, you will need to have enough stock to cook the grains, as grains expand when cooked.

Don’t get hung up on the proportion of liquid to ingredients. As we all know, there are all kinds of soup. There are thick stews and soups as well as soupy soups with only a few ingredients that are begging for some great bread to dip into the tasty broth.

You can always adjust your soup to the desired consistency. Thick soups can be adjusted by adding more water. Thin soups can be thickened in a variety of ways.

OK, so we have the soup partly assembled. If I’m using rice or long cooking grains, I’ll add it at this point. If I’m using pasta, I don’t add it until the last half hour of cooking.

If you are new to soup making, start with just a small amount of rice or pasta, as it expands much more than you think it will. One fourth cup of rice will about double when cooked. Pasta expands to the same proportions, so ¼ cup of raw pasta will cook to equal ½ cup of cooked pasta. It will take some experimenting to get the rice or pasta amount you are looking for. This is a case where less is better.

How to “Season to Taste”

Next it’s time to add the seasonings. When I started to cook, the directions often stated: “Season to taste”. Believe me, that doesn’t help a new cook at all!

It took me quite a while to learn that seasoning is not some mysterious process that only a blessed few could ever hope to conquer. Yes, it does take some practice and the process gets easier over time. Seasoning food correctly is only a matter of tasting and adjusting. The term “season” usually refers to adding salt and pepper to taste. However, the same process can be used when adding herbs and spices to your soups.

Salt is almost always needed in soup. Salt should always be added at the beginning of the soup making process in order to give the salt time to spread throughout the soup. Start with one to two teaspoons of salt. I find about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart works for me, but everyone is different. Adjust the salt as the soup simmers to get a taste you like. At this time, I also add dried herbs. Start with about ½ – 1 teaspoon of herb seasonings. It’s easy to overdo and almost impossible to overcome too much seasoning. Just like salt, start with a little and add more if you want more herb taste.

If I’m adding pasta or cooked vegetables, I add them for the last half hour of cooking.

If all the ingredients were raw, I let the soup simmer for about an hour. I find slow simmered soups have the best, deepest flavour. Once again, cooking time is a matter of preference.

I taste occasionally and adjust the seasonings. Is the soup a little flat? I find a splash of vinegar goes a long way toward brightening a soup. My favorites are balsamic, apple cider, and malt vinegar for hearty soups, and white wine and rice vinegar for poultry soups. 

Can you taste the herbs you added? Did you add enough basil, thyme, chili powder, or whatever you are aiming for? Just remember that your taste buds can get overused. Allow some time between tastings for your taste buds to clear. Another option is to get a second opinion from someone else in the kitchen.

When you get close to the end of the cooking time, this is the time to add fresh herbs if you are using them. Dried herbs are best added early to give them time to rehydrate, but fresh herbs are best added at the end. If they are added too early, they lose their beautiful green color and become a gray, slimy mess.

When the vegetables are cooked and the soup is finished, this is the time to adjust the seasonings. If you think it could use more salt, but aren’t sure, put a small amount in a separate dish and add some salt. Does is make a difference? Does it make it too salty or just right? Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Are you happy with the consistency of your soup? If it’s too thick, add a little more broth or water. If you’d like it thicker, use an immersion blender and pulse it a few times to puree some of the vegetables and this will thicken your soup. 

Serve in bowls and be sure to add a garnish that complements the flavour of the soup. A beautiful presentation adds to the enjoyment of your creation. 

Master Directions for Vegetable Soups

Nothing hits the spot on a cold, dreary winter day like a cup of soup and nothing is easier to make than vegetable soup. Some liquid, some vegetables and some seasonings, and you are good to go.

Instructions:

Method One

Prep work: (This is the same for all methods) If you are using fresh vegetables, have them chopped and ready to sauté when you start your soup.  If you are using bouillon cubes, dissolve them in hot water. 

The easiest way to make vegetable soup is to start with some canned vegetable broth and some tomato product; juice, canned diced tomatoes, or tomato soup. To this liquid add any fresh vegetables you may have in the refrigerator; celery, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions, etc. You may also add canned or frozen veggies to your soup.

Season your soup with salt and pepper. Add herbs such as garlic powder, parsley, thyme. Try an Italian theme or go with a Southwestern taste. Try some flavor enhancers like Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, or vinegar.  

The best direction I can give you for making your own soups is Taste, Taste, and Taste some more. Then Tweak, Tweak, Tweak until your creation tastes great! (Taste means a sip, not a cup. You want to have some soup left for the meal.) If you’re not sure whether or not to add flavoring, put a small amount of soup in a bowl and add a pinch of the seasoning of flavor enhancer you are considering adding. Does it improve the taste? If not, forget about it.

Simmer the soup for about an hour to allow all the flavors to meld. While soup is simmering, continue tasting and tweaking the flavors until you’re happy with it. Be sure not to overcook the soup until the vegetables are mush.

Method Two

When I have the time and the inclination I prefer to spend a little more time and create a more flavorful vegetable soup. This is accomplished by taking the time to sauté the vegetables separately. Prepare your chosen vegetables. For example: chop carrots, celery, onions and potatoes, tomatoes, etc. Slice mushrooms. Shred cabbage, mince garlic etc.

Once the vegetables are prepared, heat olive oil with a tablespoon of butter in the stock pot. (Heating oil and butter together prevents butter from burning and adds additional flavor). Saute onions and garlic until onions are transparent. Add harder vegetables like carrots, turnip and potatoes and sauté another 5-6 minutes. Add softer veggies like celery, zucchini, mushrooms, and tomatoes and saute for about 5 minutes.

Once all the vegetables have been sautéed, continue following directions as given above.

You will find your soup will have a more robust flavor if you have the time to follow this additional step.

Veggie Bean Soups

Beans soups are created in a similar method with the difference being there are more beans than vegetables and often, there are no vegetables at all. Saute onions, celery and garlic in olive oil. Add beans of your choice. This can be one bean or a combination of beans such as pinto, kidney and/or cannellini beans. If using canned beans, but sure to rinse them thoroughly as they contain large amounts of sodium. Simmer soup for about 30 minutes if you are using canned beans. You want to beans to keep their shape and not turn to mush.

If you are using fresh beans, soak the beans according to instructions before adding to soup. Simmer the soup for about an hour or until all the beans are tender.

Master Directions for Chowders – Fish, Seafood, Clam

Because I live in Maine, I’ve had a lot of experience in making chowders from all types of fish and seafood. There are many ways of making chowder. The directions below describe how to make true Maine fish chowder without a recipe.

Directions:

Prep work: Dice salt pork, onions, and potatoes.

In Maine we start chowders with salt pork. You can also use bacon or butter if you prefer. In a stockpot, saute some sliced or diced salt pork until the pork is golden and the fat is rendered. Remove salt pork and add diced onion and cook until transparent. Add diced potatoes and sauté with the onions. Sautéing the potatoes adds an extra dimension of flavor to the chowder.

Add water to nearly cover the potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and lay the fish on top of the potatoes. The fish should not be in the water. You want the fish to steam, not boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are tender and the fish flakes.

Pour in a can of evaporated milk and 1-2 cups of half and half cream. Heat thoroughly but do not allow the chowder to boil. Stir the chowder gently as you want fish to remain in large chunks. If you prefer thicker chowder, remove and mash some of the potatoes and return them to the pot.

Adjust the salt and pepper and melt some butter on top of chowder. Garnish with the salt pork or crumbled bacon.

Master Directions for Seafood Chowder

Prep Work: Dice salt pork, onions, and potatoes. Shell seafood if needed. If using clams, see directions for cleaning clams below in the recipe for clam chowder.

Follow the general directions above. When you lay the fish atop the potatoes, also add other seafood (shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops, etc.) at the same time. Just as mentioned above, the object is to steam the seafood, not boil it.

If you are using fresh clams, add them at the same time as other seafood. If the clams are canned, add them at the end of the cooking time. If you are adding clams to the chowder, add extra flavor to your chowder by adding a bottle of clam juice to the water when cooking the potatoes. Thicken if desired as mentioned above. Carefully stir in milk or half and half cream. Adjust seasonings and melt butter on top of chowder.

Master Directions for Clam Chowder

Here in Maine I have easy access to fresh clams. If you are so lucky, nothing rivals the taste of clam chowder prepared with fresh clams. If you are making chowder with fresh clams:

How to Clean Clams

First clean the clams thoroughly as soon as you get them home. Since clams live at the bottom of the ocean, it stands to reason they are usually full of sand.

Make a mixture of salty brine. This should closely resemble ocean water. Cover the clams with this water and place them in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The clams will siphon out the sand as they soak. Check the water once or twice. If the clams are really dirty and there is a lot of sand on the bottom of the bowl, change the water.

Drain the clams. Place them in a strainer and scrub them thoroughly. Put them in a Dutch oven with ½ cup of water for every pound of clams. Cover and steam over medium heat until the clams are open. This will take anywhere from 2-3 minutes to 5-10 minutes, depending on the type of clams. Discard any clams that don’t open as they are not suitable to eat.

Remove the clams from the shells and place in another bowl. Let the clam juice settle for a while to allow the grit to fall to the bottom of the pot. Add clam juice to the clams, being careful not to pick up any grit from the bottom of the pot. At this point, some people like to chop the clams while others prefer to leave them in larger pieces or even whole. You are now ready to assemble the chowder.

Directions:

Prep work: Dice salt pork, onions, and potatoes

Saute the salt pork and onions as above. If you prefer a thicker clam chowder, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of flour when you sauté the onions. Cook the flour for an additional minute or two. Add the clam juice and whisk until the roux (flour mixture) is dissolved. Add the potatoes. Add more water if needed to barely cover the potatoes. At this time, you can add some marjoram, thyme, a bay leaf or some Old Bay seasoning to flavor the chowder if you wish.

Cook over low heat until the potatoes are tender. Remove the bay leaf and add the clams to the pot. Add milk, half and half, or canned evaporated milk (your preference) to the chowder. Taste before adding salt, as clams have their own salty flavor. Melt some butter on top and you have a perfect clam chowder.

Master Directions for Pureed/Cream Soups

Pureed soups are often just the thing for a light first course meal or a satisfying supper dish. Pureed soups are put through a blender or pureed with a hand held stick blender. They are usually made with one vegetable and some potato for thickening. There are many variations to making pureed soups, but the basic procedure is the same.

If you haven’t made pureed soups up until now, give it a try. You’ll find them fast, easy and a very tasty addition to your family meals.

Directions:

Prep work: Dice some onion, leeks, garlic, etc. Chop your main vegetable, and peel and chop the potato.

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Saute diced onion until transparent. Add minced garlic if desired and saute another minute. Add the main, fresh, chopped vegetable such as tomato, broccoli, asparagus, etc. Saute the vegetable until it is soft.

At this point you can add some white wine, sherry or vermouth if desired. About a ½ cup per quart of stock will suffice. Add chicken or vegetable stock to ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are tender and can be pierced with a fork.

Working in batches, run the soup through a blender. If you prefer, use a hand held stick blender and puree the soup right in the pot. The downside of this method is your soup will not be as smooth and creamy as the blender soup. The upside is the method is easier and you don’t run the risk of burning yourself with hot soup. (I myself prefer the stick blender, but if I’m cooking for company, I’ll go the extra mile and use the blender.)

After the soup is pureed, return the soup to the pot. Make adjustments to the consistency be adding more liquid if needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings. This is the time to add fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, thyme, etc.

  • Thyme works well in potato soup
  • Ginger goes with carrot soup
  • Curry goes well in cauliflower soup
  • Parsley and chives work with any flavor
  • Nutmeg works with autumn veggies (pumpkin, squashes)

Return the soup to a simmer. If you wish to make this a cream soup, now is the time to add cream. Grated cheese can be used as a garnish.

Note that even though most pureed and cream soups use only one vegetable, you can make cream of vegetable soup. Just follow directions above using any vegetable combination you prefer.

Master Directions for Chilled/Dessert Soups

Chilled soups are the summertime version of a familiar comfort food, soup. Chilled and dessert soups are the ideal food for those long lazy summer days. With some chilled soups there is no cooking involved so one can stay away from hot stoves. All you need to make chilled soups is a blender and a few minutes. Place the soup in the refrigerator and you have a ready to eat meal at any time.

Chilled soups can be created with either vegetables or fruits. Chilled fruit soups are generally considered dessert soups because of the sweetness of the dish.

If you’ve never tried cold soups and find the idea to be a contradiction of all you know, don’t automatically discard this idea. Summer with its bountiful availability of fruits and produce is the perfect time to experiment with this wonderful food. Because there is often no cooking involved, the flavor of fresh produce is packed into every spoonful of soup.

A beneficial side effect of cold soup is the fact that because the soup is blended, no one knows what is exactly in the soup. This is a perfect way to get people (especially children) to eat their veggies and actually like them.

There are two methods for making chilled soups. When using the first method, the fruits or vegetables are sautéed and simmered a few minutes, then strained and puréed. Chill the soup.

In the second method, fresh fruits and/or vegetables are cut up raw and pureed in a blender. Spices and seasonings are added and the soup is chilled in the refrigerator. What could be easier than that?

The variety of cold soup recipes on the Internet is amazing and you can find soup to suit any taste and preference. Cold soups can be blended to a smooth texture or left chunky. They can be creamy or they can be sweet.

Because there is such variety of fruits and vegetables available for making these soups, I’ve given a few recipes of cold soups in my recipe listing. Once you try cold soups, you’ll be hooked for life.

Method One – Cooked Chilled Soups

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 1 pound vegetables (carrots, asparagus, broccoli, etc.) peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups water or stock
  • Herbs or spices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish

Directions:

Sauté vegetable of your choice along with 1 peeled and diced onion about 5 minutes, until onions are transparent and vegetables start to soften. Add 4 cups stock or water. Add herbs and spices. Start with ½ tsp. and taste. Add more spices and seasonings if desired. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low heat until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Cool slightly. Using a hand held blender or blender puree the soup mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Garnish with fresh herbs, fresh fruit slices, a dollop of whipped cream, slivered nuts, or any other garnish that is appropriate for the soup.

Method Two – No Cook Fresh Ingredients Soup

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups fresh or frozen berries (any combination) or any fruit
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Directions:

Place the frozen berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until smooth and liquefied, about 1 minute. Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Serve immediately.

Note: If you prefer a thinner soup, you can use fruit juice to thin the soup down.

Master Directions for Making Soup with Prepared Items

Some days are just too busy to take the time to prepare a long simmering soup. You’ve had a long day at work, the kids are tired and cranky, or you have to get dinner on the table quickly in order to run out to yet another sports game.

Don’t despair; there are many ways to get a quick soup on the table that will be satisfying to everyone in the family. Sit the kids down with a quick bowl of homemade soup and their mood will improve immediately. Have a cup of soup before heading out to the next kid’s sporting activity to satisfy those hunger pains and this will help avoid a stop at a fast food drive in.

Yes, the purists out there will complain that this isn’t the healthiest way to make soup, but it sure beats fast food, canned soup, and fried foods. Besides, by keeping your cupboard and freezer stocked with healthy prepared items, it is possible to make a healthy soup on the run. It all depends on family preferences, and everyone should be free to make those choices.

Directions:

On the way home, run over the contents of your cupboards and freezer in your mind. What’s quickly available?

Refrigerator:

  • Leftovers – Anything in your refrigerator is fair game. Yesterday’s meatloaf, stir fry or casseroles are all fair game for your soup pot.
  • Meat – Processed or cooked meats; kielbasa, Italian sausage, bacon, any cooked meat or seafood
  • Vegetables – Consider any and all vegetables
  • Cheese or Dairy Products
  • Eggs

Freezer:

  • Frozen vegetables, Pasta and vegetable combinations
  • Precooked meats; grilled chicken breasts, beef fajita strips, frozen shrimp, frozen meatballs

Cupboard:

  • Stock; bouillon – cubes, canned, boxed or jarred
  • Instant soup or salad dressing mixes
  • Jarred sauces; pesto, cheese, pizza, alfredo sauce
  • Any tomato product; juices, canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce
  • Instant rice
  • Canned beans or vegetables
  • Small dried pasta

As you see, there are unlimited ingredient choices in your home to quickly create easy soups. So now, onto the process:

Decide what type of soup you will make depending on what ingredients are available. Collect your ingredients.

Heat oil in a pot and saute some onions and garlic. Saute meat if needed. Add liquid of your choice. Add veggies or leftovers. If there is not enough liquid in the pot, add liquid to cover ingredients.

Season your soup with herbs and spices, dried soups, or dried salad dressings.

Since the ingredients are already prepared, it only takes about 15 minutes of simmering to finish the soup. If you want a thicker soup, add a jar of cheese sauce, Alfredo sauce, or canned or dried gravy mix.

As you can see, there is no limit to the variety of quick and easy soups you can create.

Master Directions for Creating Crockpot Soup

Another option for “souper” easy soups is making use of a slow cooker (crockpot). Assemble your ingredients in the crockpot before you head out the door in the morning and arrive home to the delicious aroma of a slow simmering soup in the evening. This is also a good way to create soup on a relaxed weekend day.

Prep work:

The prep work can be done the evening before if you aren’t a morning person or have a household that is just crazy in the morning. Follow this prep routine the night before for assembling soup in the morning:

  • Brown meat with onions and garlic on the stovetop. Place in a plastic container in refrigerator. This is not a necessary step as all ingredients can just be assembled in the crockpot without any precooking. However, this step adds a lot of body and flavor to your finished soup.
  • Cut up veggies. Be sure to cut them into equal size pieces so that all veggies will cook evenly. Store the prepped veggies in plastic bags. If potatoes are peeled and cubed, cover them with cold water before placing them in the fridge.
  • If you are going to be gone all day and wish to have pasta or rice in your soup, precook these ingredients. Add them to your soup when you get home as they will be nothing but mush if they cook all day in a slow cooker.

In the morning:

Turn your slow cooker to high while you assemble your soup. Place the densest ingredients on the bottom layer. Carrots, turnip, winter squash should be on the bottom as they take longer to cook.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Add the liquid. This can be stock you’ve removed from the freezer the night before or any other type of liquid. Since soup made in a crockpot remains tightly covered, the liquid does not evaporate as it does on the stovetop. In fact, crockpot cooking will add liquid, so just barely cover the ingredients with liquid. You can always add more stock later if it is needed.

If using dried herbs or other seasonings, add them now. If the herbs are fresh, wait until the end of cooking time to add them.

Cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Done!

A few caveats:

  • If fresh herbs are cooked too long, they lose their fresh flavor and turn into a gray mush. Add them at the end of the cooking time.
  • Don’t add any milk or dairy products until the end of the cooking period. They may separate and curdle during the long cooking period.
  • Seafood should also be added at the end or it will overcook with long cooking.
  • If you want to eat the soup immediately when you get home, forget about adding raw pasta. In order to keep pasta from getting soggy, only add it at the last 30 minutes of cooking time. You may find you have to add more water to the soup because the pasta will absorb some of the liquid.
  • Follow the same procedure with rice. It takes about 2 -2 ½ hours for rice to cook in a slow cooker.
  • See note above for adding cooked pasta and rice.