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Cooking Tips

7 Tips for Successful Soup Making

Follow our kitchen-tested tips for flavorful and hearty soup, every time.
By Published Oct. 10, 2022

To make sure that every spoonful of soup is richly flavored, with juicy meat and/or tender vegetables, follow these kitchen-tested tips.

1. Use a Sturdy Pot

It is worth investing in a heavy pot with a thick bottom to use for making soup. It will transfer heat evenly and prevent scorching, which can impart a burnt flavor to your soup.

2. Sauté the Aromatics

The first step in making many soups is to sauté aromatic vegetables such as onions and garlic. Sautéing not only softens their texture so that there is no unwelcome crunch in the soup but also tames any harsh flavors and develops more-complex flavors in the process. Medium heat is usually a good temperature for sautéing.

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3. Start with Good Broth

A soup tastes like what you put into it. In minimally seasoned soups where the broth takes center stage, we almost always use homemade—you can use your Instant Pot to make broth in record time. However, in most cases, good store-bought broth (and even broth concentrate) is a fine and convenient option. Please note: Differences among packaged broths are significant.

4. Cut Vegetables to the Right Size

Most soups call for chunks of vegetables. Haphazardly cut vegetables will cook unevenly—some pieces will be underdone and crunchy while others will be mushy. Cutting the vegetables to the size specified ensures that all the pieces will be perfectly cooked.

5. Stagger the Addition of Vegetables

When a soup contains a variety of vegetables, their addition to the pot must often be staggered to account for their varying cooking times. Dense vegetables such as potatoes and winter squash can withstand much more cooking than delicate asparagus or spinach.

6. Keep Liquid at a Simmer

The fine line between simmering and boiling makes a big difference. A simmer is a restrained boil; fewer bubbles break the surface, and they do so with less vigor. Simmering heats food more gently and more evenly; boiling causes vegetables such as potatoes to break apart or fray at the edges, and it can toughen meat, too.

7. Season Just Before Serving

The saltiness of the broth and other ingredients, such as canned tomatoes and canned beans, can vary greatly, so it's always best to taste and adjust the seasoning (salt as well as pepper, delicate herbs, and fresh citrus) just before ladling the soup into bowls for serving.

Photo: Kathrin Ziegler, Getty Images