Get ready to be schooled.
Rule #1: If you want to make truly good soup, you will invest in a pressure cooker. There’s no better way to extract flavor and nutrients. I’m talking beef broth that tastes beefy and delicious, and chicken broth that will make you slap your mama it’s so good. Not only do they make the most out of tough cartilaginous cuts, they also reduce cooking time. Literally, anywhere from 20 to 90 mins depending on the cut. What’s that? You want broth that always gels? No more 24 to 48 hour simmers that stink up your home for days? Sorry, maybe I should say “perfume” your home for days? For the record, I use to do it the low and slow way. Now you couldn’t pay me to pull out my huge 13 quart Le Creuset.
Someone buy that beast off me. Please.
But which pressure cooker, Sarah? It took me a few months to decide on my current pressure cooker. I read every review, looked at warranty info, where it was made and what it was made of. It came down to two brands — WMF and Kuhn Rikon. The final tipping point for me was a recommendation from (food nerd alert) Nathan Myhrvold. If you aren’t familiar, he’s the former high up from Microsoft turned HUGE foodie and cookbook author. (By the way, his cookbook is beautiful and I highly recommend it.) He tested several brands and came to the conclusion that Kuhn Rikon was the best. I was sold. It’s not the cheapest but have been using it at least twice a week for a year so I think it’s paid for itself by now. If you don’t already have one, you should really get one. Here are the links to Kuhn Rikon, WMF and a good low end brand Fagor: best, good, and decent.
Edited to add: Size is important. Pressure cookers can only be filled to about 3/4 of it’s volume. I recommend you get a size big enough to hold a whole chicken- 7 quart. My 7 quart can also hold 2 whole oxtails. Your family may need a bit larger and Kuhn Rikon makes all the way to a 12 quart .
Rule #2: You will begin a freezer scrap saving program. Start today! When you prep for other meals and end up with leek tops, celery/carrot ends, parsley stems, onion skins, mushroom stems… ANY bits or pieces of aromatics, vegetables, or herbs! I keep them in the freezer in one-gallon freezer bags. I keep one for more Asian style broths with stuff like scallion trimmings, ginger peels, cilantro stems, hard bits of lemongrass, etc. and one for more generic broth use… your carrots, leeks, celery, and so on. I don’t recommend keeping scraps from broccoli or cauliflower to make broth. In my experience it makes the broth taste gross. It’s okay if you plan to use all the broth that day but if it sits in the fridge or freezer for future use it could affect the flavor.
I’m working on a few rhymes for my freezer scrap saving program:
“Waste not want not, add minerals…it’s so hot!”
“Waste not want not, add minerals…why not?”
“Waste not want not, add minerals…in your pot?”
I dunno, you guys. Just go with it.
Rule #3: You will always use cuts of meat on the bone. Think beef shank, oxtail, pork hocks, stewing hens, bone-in pork shoulder and leg of lamb, fish with the head (there are more rules about that but we will get there another time, no worries). I don’t recommend boiling or pressure cooking a huge pot of bare bones. It won’t taste that great. You’re only allowed to add bare bones to other meat-on-bone combos. For example, when we eat chicken wings I keep the bones and wing tips in the freezer and add them to my chicken broth made with a whole chicken. Same with ribs. I freeze and keep the ribs bones and add them to my next batch of beef or pork broth.
Rule #4: You will get over it and get into feet. Chicken feet, ox feet, pig trotters. Get them. They will turn your broth into a masterpiece thanks to the high connective tissue content. You want that stuff in your tummy. It’s the stuff of firm youthful skin, gliding healthy joints, pretty hair and nails and healthy digestion. And if you have access, why not get some chicken heads & necks, beef tendons & pig tails and ears too! BUY ALL THE GRISTLY COLLAGEN FILLED THINGS! I have found farmers markets and farm buyer’s clubs to be great resources for those hard to find parts. And if you have an Asian grocery store near by…yeah you can find everything there.
Rule #5: You will reuse the boney & gelatinous bits you strained out of that first batch of broth and start afresh. Say I make a broth with beef shank, beef tendon and a few bones from my freezer stash. Afterwards I will be left with very tender meat, a very tender chunk of tendon and some bones. You definitely want to remove the meat and add that to your soups or salads or eggs or whatever. For the tender chunk of tendon, you could cut it into bite-sized pieces and do the same as with the meat. Or say you don’t love the texture of soft tendon, you could keep it with the boney pieces and use them in your next broth batch. Or you could just toss them back in immediately (with some freezer vegetables?) and make a “second” broth that is perfect for cooking starches, vegetable side dishes or bathing in*.
That last rule had a lot of options. You’re welcome.
My whole system is a continuous cycle of getting the most nutrition out of your meats and vegetables. If you purchase organic vegetables and grassfed/pastured humanely raised meats then you really wanna get your money’s worth, amiriiight?
These are my basics. From time to time we’ll make a broth that doesn’t use freezer scraps or is a bit more specialized. But if you stick to these basics you will always have a great tasting broth ready to be turned in to soups, stews, risottos, sauces, and gravy, or as a flavorful liquid to cook starches and vegetables in, because plain water sucks.
In fact, it will taste great plain. Okay, maybe add some salt. I feel like the Broth Nazi right about now.
*I’m kidding about bathing in the stuff. I mean, if you wanna try it lemme know, I’d be open and stuff but dang I’m gonna think you’re weird.