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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Making Chicken Soup

Among other things, I bought a 10-lb bag of chicken leg quarters at Walmart to use in March. My primary thought was to use these for homemade chicken soup. A 10-lb bag contains between 8 and 9 chicken leg quarters, in my experience. 

I use 1 leg quarter per large pot of soup (about 1.25 gallons once everything is added). I prefer leg quarters for chicken soup because they are the least expensive chicken parts I can buy and dark meat poultry has more zinc than light meat. Zinc is often recommended for supporting the immune system. The extra fat in dark meat is a bonus, as I can use it to saute the vegetables as I put the soup together.

How I make chicken soup

For years, I hated making soup using bone-in meat. I disliked handling the slimy-feeling, warm poultry part just out of the hot broth, as I pulled meat off of the bones. Then I discovered that I could make chicken soup over 2 days and deal with the chicken meat, chilled, on day 2.

So, this is how I make it. I heat a large stockpot over Medium. I sprinkle a bit of salt  in the bottom of the pot (my mom always did this to prevent fatty meat, like burger patties or skin-on chicken parts from sticking to the pan). Then, I place the chicken leg quarter skin side down in the pot and brown on both sides. Once both sides are just barely golden, I cover with about a gallon of water, bring to a boil, cover, and allow to simmer for about 3 hours. 

After the stock has cooled for about 15 minutes, I remove the chicken from the stock, place in a glass dish, cover and refrigerate. Next, I pour the warm stock into a large container for the fridge and chill it over night, too.

The next day, I skim the fat off of the stock and use it to saute 2 diced onions, 3 to 5 diced large carrots, 2 or 3 chopped sticks of celery with leaves, and 1 clove of garlic, minced. If there wasn't much chicken fat, I add a little oil as well. While they saute, I pulled the chilled chicken meat off of the bones and chop. I add the chicken to the vegetables and pour all of the stock over it all. 

At this point, I decide if we want traditional chicken noodle soup, or a chicken, barley, and lentil soup, or an Italian minestrone type of soup. If chicken noodle, I add some crushed sage to the cooking soup, a bit of pepper, and salt to taste. In the last 6 or 7 minutes, I add broken spaghetti noodles to the soup.

If I'm making the barley and lentil version, I add a half cup each of dry barley and lentils to the soup just after adding the stock. I season it similarly to chicken noodle soup. The lentils add extra protein and the barley adds some carbs.

If I decide we want a minestrone-type soup, I substitute some crushed oregano for the sage, add some extra garlic, and some dry lentils. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, I add a cup of any shape pasta plus some diced canned tomatoes and their liquid.

The chicken soups have been pretty popular with my family these last 10 days. I plan on making a large pot at least once per week. I freeze a quart or two of each batch, so we can homemade soup most days of the week.

Making the soup over 2 days has made the job seem less of a chore for me. I think we all have to find ways to make our work a little easier. I just thought I'd share this about the chicken soup in case it helps anyone else.


  1. I have never made homemade chicken soup. My mom cooked a lot, but I can't remember her ever making that either. It's on my list of things to try, so thanks a bunch for the tutorial!

    I cook a lot of chicken ahead to use in meals, though, and my method is similar. I always boil the chicken, save the broth in the fridge, and put the chicken in the fridge. The next day I pull the cooked chicken, and shred it. I freeze the shredded chicken in two cup portions to use in casseroles, skillet meals, fajitas, chicken and rice, chicken and noodles, and chicken Alfredo. The broth I freeze to use as a starter of sorts for some of the above meals. For instance, I get frozen chicken broth out of the freezer to cook our noodles in for chicken Alfredo, or for chicken and noodles, or use it in place of water in stuffing.

    Enjoy your chicken soup! It sounds so good.


  2. Oh, and I will post my Sweet and Sour salad dressing recipe. I'm at work today, but I'll post it from home soon. :)


  3. Good technique, Lili! I occasionally will roast a whole chicken--we usually get enough leftovers for another meal (sometimes 2 meals although that isn't occurring nearly as often now that I have teenagers!) and that's the meat I will use in soups/casseroles/quesadillas. I also get chicken stock from doing that, which I save to use in my soups. I used to skim the fat off the top but now I use it to saute my veggies, thanks to suggestions from you and Kristen from Frugal Girl.

    We are starting to experience a little of what I imagine you have gone through, Lili. I'm glad to see that Michigan is taking COVID 19 seriously--most of the universities decided yesterday to do online-only courses for at least a couple of weeks, and big events are being postponed or canceled. I went to Meijer this morning (at 8:00 a.m.) to stock up even more on your suggested items (bleach, tissues, etc.) and even at that early hour, when it's usually pretty quiet, there were a fair amount of people there. Sadly, many were kinda rude to other customers and staff--my ornery side wanted to tell them that rudeness won't fix the problem but I tried to just smile and be polite. Probably the biggest lifestyle change we will be making will be to keep my mom as safe as possible. I stopped by her assisted living today and talked with the nurse--while I was there, they posted a "healthy visitors only" sign and now have a hand sanitizer placed by the front door. I think we will avoid taking her to church for a couple of weeks, at least, till we get a feel for what's going on--I did take her out for a drive today as I know she gets cabin fever, but I was the only person she had to come into contact with to do that. I also spoke with the nurse about mom's cat--she is allowed to have a cat in her room, but my siblings and I do the work (scooping poop .... ) and for now, we are good to go. I am trying to think of contingency plans should the need arise.

    Anyway, all to say, thank you for your good suggestions in regards to this, Lili. I have referred to it often!

  4. Great instructions, Lili. We don't make much chicken soup, per se, but do make chicken broth all the time as a restorative beverage. I know what you mean about dealing with the slimy hot chicken. Yuck! For broth, I just pull the chicken pieces out with tongs (as much as I can find/grab) as soon as I turn the heat off, and put it in a steel bowl to deal with when it's chilled. Then it's easier to strain the rest, too.

    Last week, I think it was Alice who was asking about flavoring chicken soup. (My apologies if it was someone else here!) I just wanted to mention that we make three basic flavors of chicken broth, in case any of the seasoning ideas are inspiring to anyone else. If we use onion, carrot, and celery, I season it with dried rosemary and whole peppercorns. If we use beets with the onion and celery, I add whole allspice and peppercorns. And we do a version with Asian vegetables, garlic and ginger. Of course, we salt them later, too. (Chicken broth doesn't taste like much without some salt or sea vegetables or something like that, even with herbs or spices.)

    I'm praying for everyone here for safety and endurance through this difficult time.

  5. Hi Kris,
    I thought about your mom and how this virus could impact her. I have prayed that God will keep her safe through this. Nursing homes in Washington state have been hit hard this month. I anticipate some sweeping changes in the US for visitation to nursing homes during this period. Many of our local nursing homes are now banning person-to-person visitors. They're using smartphones and tablets to facilitate visitation without physical contact with family members.

    Our church just today canceled in-person services and is moving online. Almost all of the schools in the greater Seattle area have announced plans to close for an extended period. Everyone is taking this very seriously, as they should. We all need to do whatever it takes to protect those who are most vulnerable. I pray that this doesn't reach your town.

  6. Hi Angie,
    Your method for cooking a lot of chicken to freeze sounds terrific! I bet this makes nightly meal prep so much easier. Chicken and noodles sounds so yummy right now!

  7. Hi Sara,
    Thanks for sharing your suggestions for flavoring chicken soup. Sara, you always have such good suggestions! I do have allspice berries and peppercorns, so I'll have to try that combo. I also make a garlic and ginger chicken soup. I'd forgotten about that one. I add some soy sauce and a beaten egg to that broth. It's pretty yummy.
    Praying for safety and good spirits for all of us here, too!

  8. I didn't know about the trick of putting salt in the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. How much do you use?

  9. We make our chicken soup from the Costco rotisserie chicken carcass (what is left after several meals of dark chicken leg parts and breast). We make our own noodles (makes the soup more special and interesting to eat since it doesn't have any choice pieces of meat). Since we're rationing our supplies, we're being selective in which ingredients to use. We have more flour than pasta, so we save the pasta for a meal that requires a lot of pasta. Thank goodness, we are not dependent on prepared foods and can make a great deal of what we eat from scratch. We've been eating beans everyday starting now, so we won't end up with only beans at the end of our semi self isolation. Now I hear the recommended stock up is 3 months of supplies. So far so good, but 3 months is going to stretch it. We will do necessary errands with caution, but not shopping. We're going to not be picky and make do.


  10. Hi Live and Learn,
    It's a sprinkling of salt over the bottom of the pan where the meat will lay, with particles about 1/8 to 1/4-inch apart, I'd guess. It's something about "rough up" the smooth surface of a stainless pan that the salt helps with. But then again, maybe this is just all in my (and my mom's) mind. I don't know. Try it and see if it works for you.

  11. Hi YHF,
    When I've had whole chickens, I turn the carcass into soup as you do.
    That's a great idea to make yourselves eat some of the less-desirable foods now, too. I'm trying to do the same, here.

    I've been thinking beyond the 2-month mark, too, and wondering just how long we can stretch what we have now. With our garden, I think we can stretch this out for a while. It may be a lot of rice, beans and produce without much of the other foods, but that's okay. We'll do what we have to do.

  12. Live and Learn,
    I just started another pot of chicken soup and I should adjust the salt amount to about 1/3 to 1/2 of a teaspoon over a 4-inch patch in a hot pot. Then add the meat, fat side down.

  13. As long as I've been making chicken stock and soup, I've never browned the meat before, though I use left over roasted carcasses as a base. I will try this next go round. I imagine it adds flavor to the broth as well with the roasted skin. And, I too, will start using the leftover skimmed fat for veggies. Never have thought to do this. Thanks, Lili for all of your great suggestions. Y'all stay safe. Lynn

  14. Hi Lynn,
    I think browning the meat does add flavor to the broth. Another one that's improved by roasting is ham bones. Roast the bone in the oven for about 25 minutes, then transfer to a stockpot and cover with water to simmer. Makes a rich broth.


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