How to Make Good Soup

By Daniel Lucas

A guide on how to make stocks and broths from scratch

If there was just a single piece of advice I could give to someone on how to be a better cook, it would be to always make your own broths and stocks from scratch. Or, at the very least, purchase high-quality stock made from fresh ingredients. If you aren’t already doing this, it will change your life.

In the earlier days of my cooking journey, I would often find myself with more than a handful of boxed stocks and broths in my pantry and would routinely use them without a second thought in a soup or risotto. And to be honest, it seemed acceptable at the time. Though eventually I ventured into the realm of making my broths from scratch and I’ve never looked back. After tasting the real deal, I am now highly skeptical of what they put in those boxes. Besides, it tastes so much better when they are made from fresh ingredients, why would you want to use anything else?! I’ve come far enough that, if I don’t have homemade stock or broth on hand, I’ll gladly use water over boxed broth any day.

The Broth and Stock Queen

I’m sure I could write a whole book on this subject, but fortunately for me, I think this book has been written already, and quite well, I might add. Jennifer McGruther’s broth & stock perfectly captures everything I could possibly want to say about broths and stocks, and I’m not here to reinvent the wheel. I highly encourage you to give it a read.

It’s worth checking out Jennifer’s site, The Nourished Kitchen, if you haven’t before. It’s really well done!

With that recommendation aside, the following guide is the minimum amount of information I feel is needed to get started making great soup and risotto right away.


For the life of me, I can never seem to remember which is which—broth, stock, or bone-broth? I’ve had this conversation well over a dozen times. Let’s have it just once more.

Broth: Broths are the cooking liquid that remains after you’ve cooked meat, vegetables, or beans. They are thinner in body, and lighter and flavor, but still make an excellent base.

Stock: The base of stocks are generally bones, which are usually roasted in advance. Stocks are cooked longer than broths—chicken stock can be cooked for 4 hours, while pork, lamb, and beef stocks can be cooked for 6-8 hours. When I refer to broths or stocks in recipes, this is what I’m referring to most of the time, except when explicitly stated otherwise.

Bone Broth: From a culinary perspective, bone broths are the same as stocks but are cooked much longer—up to two days—which allows maximum nutrients and flavor to be extracted from the bone.


The stock setup should be pretty minimal:

  • 10-12 quart stock pot, preferably with a glass lid.
  • A large fine-mesh strainer
  • Mason jars, for refrigerating stocks.
  • Cooking twine, for tying herbs if desired. Optional
  • 1-quart BPA-free reusable plastic “deli” containers, for freezing broths. Optional

I don’t like to use a crock-pot in my kitchen, but if you choose to do so, using it to make stocks is 100% acceptable. I’m just too stubborn to do so. Though—I would still saute vegetables in a bit of olive oil where it calls for it, then transfer that mixture of par-cooked vegetables to the crock-pot. From there you can cover it with boiling water and cook on medium-high (depending on your pot) for the recommended time listed below.

How to Make Stocks and Broths

Below are the 3 basic recipes that I use to make all of my broths and stocks. Occasionally, I will make bone-broths for myself because they are nutritious and amazing, but most of the time a stock will do just fine, especially in a culinary sense. Though, if you desire to do so, you can long-cook either one of my stock recipes for a bone-broth, but if you really want to learn more about bone broth and it’s nutritional qualities, I recommend Jennifer’s broth & stock.

Scrap Broth (Vegetable Broth)

Scrap broth is a collection of select vegetable and meat scraps I keep in my freezer that, once enough is gathered, I defrost it and turn it into what I call scrap broth. Depending on which meat bone is selected, scrap broths can be substituted for either of the below stocks. Or if no meat is used, you can use it as vegetable broth. With scrap broth, the goal here is to use up as many scraps as you possibly can while still maintaining a reasonable flavor. There are a couple approaches to this. The first and most straightforward is to just add all your scraps, mixed in a single freezer bag and make stock when it’s full. This is the easiest and fastest approach, but you have the least amount of control of the final product, which can be fun if you don’t have a particular usage in mind for the broth. The approach I take is to have 2-3 bags going at once, so I can divvy up my scraps in a way that will create more balanced broth.

As a side note, you can also use the same recipe applied below to make “premium” vegetable broth, using whole, fresh vegetables instead of various scraps.

What to collect:

  • Onion: The outer layer, skins, and scraps
  • Garlic: skins and scraps
  • Leeks, shallots, scallions: Scraps
  • Carrots: scraps and tops
  • Celery: scraps and tops
  • Red / Yellow / Green pepper: Scraps only, no cores
  • Parsley stems
  • Tomatoes: scraps and skins—especially from canning
  • Winter Squash: unused flesh—no seeds or skins
  • Any leftover herbs
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
  • Any leftover chicken, lamb, or beef bones from any meals. Though, I try to keep each batch to single meat variety—i.g. don’t mix chicken and beef bones.

I usually like to top off my scrap broth with some mystery liquids. Brines will add acidity and salt, bean broths and starchy pasta water add body and meat juices will add flavor.

Mystery liquids:

  • Bean broths
  • Pickling / Lacto-Fermentation brines
  • Small amounts of remaining broth or various juices remaining from cooking meat
  • Starchy pasta water

What to avoid:

  • Brassicas and bitter greens
  • Pits, seeds, and inedible cores
  • Eggplant
  • Mixing different meat bones in a single batch
  • Citrus peels, or any other bitter fruit peel
  • Extra-fibrous vegetables such as asparagus or artichokes


  1. Add all the scraps to a large stock-pot and saute with olive oil for ~5-10 minutes until defrosted.
  2. Cover with water and simmer for 1-2 hours.
  3. Let cool, lightly salt to taste, then strain.

Basic Chicken Stock:

This is the unanimous choice of stock for chicken soup, and usually the stock I go to for most of my wild-foraged mushroom dishes. You cook a whole chicken in the process, so you will have cooked meat to eat as a result of making this stock.


  • 1 whole chicken
  • thyme
  • lemon
  • onion
  • carrot
  • celery
  • bay leaf
  • olive oil
  • white wine / white wine vinegar
  • 4-6 whole black peppercorn
  • salt


  1. Rinse the raw chicken, then pat dry with paper towels. Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then stuff with lemon and thyme.
  2. Roast the whole chicken in the oven at 350 ˚F—about 1 hour, or until the chicken has an even internal temperature of 170 ˚F
  3. Carve the chicken and remove the breast meat, which can be used for a basic chicken soup. You can either remove the meat from the legs and wings and use them now, or keep them whole and use them later in scrap broth.
  4. Take the carcass and other remaining scraps and set aside.
  5. Rough chop the vegetables and herbs, then add them to a large stock-pot with some olive oil and saute them for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken carcass and bones, then cover with water and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce to a simmer and cook ~3-4 hours.
  8. Let cool, lightly salt to taste, then strain.

Basic Red-Meat Stock

I follow more-or-less the same procedure for all of my red-meat stocks, which I use in my red-meat soups, risottos, stews and braises. I’ll let you explore your own meat-vegetable combinations. Or, if you rather, just omit the vegetables all together and make a pure meat stock.


  • 1 lb raw bones (beef, pork, lamb), ideally with some meat still attached.
  • onion
  • rotating vegetable and/ herbs, depending on the bone type
  • bay leaf
  • red wine / red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 4-6 whole black peppercorn


  1. Roast the bones in the oven for at 350 ˚F for 45 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. Rough chop the vegetables and herbs, then add them to a large stock-pot with some olive oil and saute them for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the roasted bones to the stock-pot, then cover with water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and cook ~4-6 hours.
  5. Let cool, lightly salt to taste, then strain.