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September 16, 2010

How (not) to make chicken stock

Bettert han bouillion

Two soup-related items came at me from different directions on the same day last week. I don't think it's a coincidence.

First, I discovered that the small market in my village now sells Better than Bouillon (for a whopping $4.99). It's a soup base made from chicken meat with natural chicken juices; the "better" comes from salt, sugar, corn syrup solids, chicken fat, hydrolyzed soy protein, dried whey, flavoring (unspecified), disodium inosinate and guanylate, and turmeric. In that order. Is this better, really, or just sweeter, fattier and saltier than homemade soup stock?

Second, in an article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Soup's Suffering Sales", the chief executive officers of Campbell's and Heinz speculate about why sales of canned soups are down.

"It would be nice," the article reads, "to think declining soup sales are a sign the economy is finally improving and people don't have to eat so much from a can. But declining soup sales may be a sign that consumers are now so strapped, they're re-learning how to make their own soup from scratch."

Do they really think this is why we make soup -- because we are too impoverished to buy it in a can? And that, when we do make soup, we start with "better" soup base scooped from a jar?

Soup Chick readers know better. Anyone can make soup; it's easy, economical, gratifying and creative. You don't need fancy equipment, just a pot, a spoon, a ladle, and the courage to toss a bunch of ingredients together to see what happens. The best soups are a magical alchemy of humble ingredients, often leftovers, transformed into something new, wonderful, nourishing and nutritious.

And, as Campbell's should know all too well, if they believe their own slogan, soup is good food.

Real soup, that is, made from real ingredients.


Posted by: Pauline | September 16, 2010 at 09:35 AM


Posted by: Ellicia Winkleman | September 16, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Soup sales are down because they taste bad. Canned soup is over priced, over salted, and peculiarly flavored. I especially resent the advertizing that claims the soups are MSG free. Yet they add hydrolized yeast protein which converts to glutamate in the body and if anyone gets the "Chinese restaurant" syndrome from MSG, they are just as likely to get it from the yeast.

Posted by: Shelley | September 16, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Agreed. Soup from a can just doesn't taste that good--even the "premium" ones. I am always amazed when people think they can't make soup.

Posted by: Sam Kimbrel | September 16, 2010 at 02:35 PM

I've been using Better than Bouillon's premium vegetable base for the longest time because it tastes so much better than dried bouillon cubes, but I never thought to look at the ingredients...

Thanks for pointing this out! I'll have to learn how to make veggie stock myself now.

Posted by: Kathy - Panini Happy | September 17, 2010 at 01:39 AM

I had the same reaction as Sam - I never thought to read the label on that jar of Better Than Bouillon I have in the fridge. I often make my own stock but I sometimes use the bouillon in a pinch. Definitely not as good as homemade, that's for sure.

Posted by: Jean Gogolin | September 17, 2010 at 07:55 AM

Amen, amen. I have Better Than Bouillion in my frig not because I don't know how to make chicken stock but because my freezer is always so full there's no room for it. Silly excuse. I think I'll find a way, now that you've pointed out that list of ingredients in BTB. As for soup in a can, yuck.

Posted by: Linda | September 17, 2010 at 08:08 AM

Organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base has these ingredients: chicken meat and natural juices, salt, cane sugar, maltodextrin, natural flavor, dried onion, potato starch, dried garlic, turmeric, and spice extractives. It costs $4.99 at my local grocery store. I use 1/2 tsp. per cup of broth, instead of the recommended 1 tsp. per cup. This is the best-tasting, easiest and most economical way I've found of keeping decent broth around.

Posted by: Colleen | September 17, 2010 at 08:36 AM

I love making soup...something about the process is therapeutic for me. It's a ritual that I love, right along with kneading and baking homemade bread. I consider both labors of love for my family. As the weather turns cooler, my husband and family are already talking about "soup season."

Posted by: Soupy Sue | September 17, 2010 at 09:40 AM

I've gone full circle -- thought it was a sign of success, buying chunky soup in a can. Plus so convenient when working full time. Now that I am part-time, I've found the joy and taste of homemade soup is wonderful. Maybe less soup is being bought because so many are unemployed and now have time to cook from scratch. Much healthier and cheaper but takes time.

Posted by: Anna | September 17, 2010 at 12:27 PM

LOVE the BTB organic chicken and agree that the ingredients are much more tolerable on the organic version. Our Costco sells the 16oz (76 serving) for $6.89. I'll probably keep using it because it is one of the few shortcuts I take in the kitchen. :)

Posted by: Amy O | September 17, 2010 at 02:03 PM

I read in a recent issue of Cooks Illustrated that College Inn made the best tasting stock according to testers. The organic brands ranked as some of the worst. I keep some stock in the pantry for emergencies, but I prefer to make it myself. That little bit of prep goes a long way, and I don't have to spend time deciphering mysterious ingredients that occur in store-bought concoctions.

Posted by: Ginger | November 23, 2011 at 01:19 AM

campbell's now makes muslim friendly soup. i guess they bless it with allah before it's done. whatever. i make my own.

Posted by: John | September 23, 2012 at 09:17 AM

"Do they really think this is why we make soup -- because we are too impoverished to buy it in a can?" Lol! this is great!

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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