Some tips to ensure you soup always comes out stellar is to be mindful of when you add certain veggies, add a tablespoon of cornstarch if its needs thickening, and don't forget to taste test it before serving.
Nothing warms the body or soul more than a hot bowl of homemade soup on a cold winter’s night. But making soup from scratch can be complicated, with people repeating the same common mistakes. Learning a few basic tips and tricks can quickly turn you into a soup master who avoids the canned soup aisle entirely.
As your grandmother may have taught you, making soup is a wonderful way to use up small amounts of ingredients lurking inside the fridge. Raw carrots that are slightly past their prime, one leftover pork chop, the remaining baked potato half left from your DoorDash delivery last night—all of it can meld together into the most delicious, comforting stew. Not only is this a healthy way to eat, but it’s also a great way to extend your food budget and cut down on contributing to America’s massive food waste problem.
However, making soup this way does require a bit of cooking knowledge. As long as you follow a recipe, you’ll probably do just fine crafting a hearty bisque or a broth-filled bowl of noodle-y goodness. But if you’re attempting the “clean out the fridge” scenario above, here are a few pro tips on making soup that you’ll be proud to serve to friends and family.
A common rookie mistake when making soup is just throwing everything into the soup pot at the same time. Experienced cooks know that you must sauté your aromatics first to release their amazing flavors. Aromatics include onion, garlic, herbs, and spices, all of which are maximized by being sauteed in a small amount of oil or butter before adding anything else to the pot.
When making soup, vegetables must be added at different times so you do not over- or under-cook them. Hard vegetables like potatoes and carrots should be added near the beginning, while more tender vegetables like green beans, corn, and peppers should be added 20 minutes before the soup is done. Soft vegetables, like summer squash and mushrooms, and leafy greens like spinach, should only be in the pot a few minutes before it’s served.
Proper timing is also key if your soup includes starchy grains like rice, barley or pasta. Putting them into the pot too soon can cause them to cook down into an odd mush. If you’re making soup with pre-cooked grains, simply add them to the soup long enough to warm through before serving.
For uncooked grains, look at the package to see how long they take to cook. For example, white rice takes 20 minutes to cook so add it to your soup 20 minutes before it’s done. Keep in mind that any starch will soak up a lot of liquid and thicken the texture, so add extra broth or water as needed.
If your soup is too thin, don’t just dump a spoonful of flour or cornstarch into the pot as it will cause unappealing starchy clumps to form. Making soup thicker requires mixing up a slurry from a few ounces of cooled soup broth and a tablespoon or two of flour or starch. Drizzle this thin paste into the hot soup pot, stirring constantly and repeat if it still appears too thin after simmering a few minutes.
Finally, be sure to make plenty because soup always tastes better the day after you make it. Time allows the flavors to meld together, so it may be even more delightful on day three. If your soup tastes less-than-impressive fresh out of the pot, give it a day or two and you just might wow yourself.