The Basics Of Soup

Feb 14, 2018 | Cooking Tips, Soups

There are few things better when you are feeling down than a bowl of homemade soup. Be it pureed, cream based, or broth based, soup has a unique ability to lighten the spirit and lift your health. It can be quite simple like chicken noodle, or relatively complex like bisque or consomme.

No matter how simple or complex your soup may be, there are a few universal truths that will help guide you and improve the overall quality. These are simple things that anyone can do. There is nothing here that is going to totally blow your mind or anything like that. However, I can guarantee that if you make these subtle yet important changes to your soup making process your soup will be better than it is now.

The quality of the pot you use matters. If you use a thin aluminum pot you risk buring heavier ingredients to the bottom. This happens because the heat from the burner is not evenly distributed causing hot spots on the surface of the pot. A heavy bottom pot will allow the heat to evenly distribute and will be much less likely to burn. Of course, no matter what type of pot you are using you want to make sure to stir your soup every once in a while to prevent sticking which will lead to burning. This is especially important when making a cream based soup.

A common mistake made when making soup is that all of the ingredients are added at the same time. The problem is that not all of your ingredients will cook at the same time. It takes much longer to cook a piece of carrot or potato than it does to cook peas. You must be aware of the cooking times of your ingredients when making soup or you run the risk of having some ingredients way overcooked and some way undercooked. Think of your starches as well. Things like rice are much better cooked separately and then added right before the soup is served. If the rice is cooked in the soup and aloud to sit it will continue to absorb liquid which will not only make for mushy rice but you will have to added more liquid to your soup diluting the flavour.

The only thing worse than an under seasoned soup is an over seasoned soup. Seasoning with salt and pepper throughout the cooking process, and tasting as you go, will help to prevent over or under seasoning. Generally, a soup should be seasoned at least three times. Once in the very beginning, once in the middle of cooking, and once just prior to it being served. This will allow the seasoning to evenly distribute throughout the soup and will give it a more uniform flavour. This will also allow the ingredients being cooked in the soup to absorb some of that seasoning and find an equilibrium. Bare in mind that ingredients like potatoes will absorb a lot of salt. Because of this you may think that you have added enough seasoning, taste your soup a few minutes later and it now tastes slightly bland.  Also, things bacon or corned beef will add to the salt content of a soup so be careful when using ingredients like these not to over season.

The simpler your soup is, the higher quality your ingredients need to be. If you are making a soup that has fifteen ingredients it is easy to use up some of the vegetables in your fridge that may not be the freshest. However, when making a soup that has two or three ingredients, those ingredients must be the best then can be. The reason for this should be obvious, those ingredients are all your are going to taste. If they taste even slightly off, your entire soup will taste off.

Get the most flavour out of your ingredients by roasting or sauteing prior to adding them to your soup. This is especially helpful for pureed vegetable soups like tomato or squash. Roasting will develop a deeper, sweeter flavour. When making a stock to use as the base of your soup vegetable and bones may be roasted to intensify the flavour as well.

Another common mistake made when preparing soup is to over cook it. Some people believe that a soup should be simmered all day and all night. This is not true. There is an ideal amount of time to cook your soup, generally between one and two hours. Any longer than this and you are actually cooking the flavour out of it. It is however true that a soup generally tastes better the next day when all of the flavours have had time to settle into the ingredients.

Making soup is generally a pretty simple process. These guideline are meant to maintain that simplicity while yielding the best quality soup possible. Follow them and you will make better soups. The improvements may be subtle but you will definitely notice them and so will the people that you choose to share your soup with.

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