The #1 Piece of Advice You Need Before Making Your Next Batch of Chicken Soup

Bowl of chicken soup

It's soup season and there are few brothy recipes as iconic as chicken soup. The soothing, savory soup has long been a flu and cold-season staple. On a personal note, it's a year-round staple for me. If the temperature on the thermometer outside is 98 degrees and rising, I'll still order a piping-hot bowl of chicken noodle soup if I spot it on a menu.

And I'm far from the only person who's on team chicken soup all year long. "In the grand scope of all things culinary, chicken soup is one of the most basic, simple, heartwarming and delicious things to make," says Rodney Freidank, the corporate chef at Table 301 Restaurant Group in Greenville, S.C.

Another thing that's great about chicken soup is that it's an easy thing to make at home. If you really need to streamline things, you can open a can and heat up some chicken soup, but this time of year it's nice to have something bubbling on the stove. But if you're DIYing it, what type of chicken should you use in your soup? It's an important question to figure out before firing up the stove (or Crock-Pot or Instant Pot).

To get the answer for you, we quizzed Freidank and other soup experts to figure out the absolute best type of chicken for chicken soup.

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What's the Best Type of Chicken To Use in Chicken Soup?

"It is important to know what type of chicken to use in order to extract the most flavor for your broth," says Jose Celis, the head chef at Ben’s Kosher Deli on Long Island in New York. And both Celis and Freidank agree that a whole chicken is the best choice for the best chicken soup. "I suggest a whole chicken and bones to create a more robust soup," Celis says.

Although Freidank is team whole chicken, if a whole bird isn't the right choice for you he suggests using thigh quarters or just thighs. "They contain a fair amount of fat and a ton of flavor," he says. "For that reason, they are less likely to dry out or shred while cooking the soup."

Related: Patti LaBelle's Famous Fried Chicken Is Simple & Soulful

The Worst Type of Chicken to Use In Chicken Soup

Ok. So a whole chicken, thigh quarters or chicken thighs are your best bets. But what's the worst chicken choice for soup making?

"The worst type of chicken to use is the breast by itself," Celis says. "It tends to be dryer and less flavorful." Chicken breast is much leaner than legs or thighs, so the meat dries out more easily.

But if you're cooking a whole chicken, you're definitely going to have some breast meat. You can either shred that and add it to your soup or use it for a second meal, as Freidank likes to do. "I often remove the breasts after they’re cooked and make them into chicken salad," Freidank says. Cook one bird, get two meals. We like the sound of that!

Related: 27 Easy Rotisserie Chicken Dinner Recipes That Shred Meal Prep into a Million Pieces

One More Secret to Great Chicken Soup

Getting creative in the kitchen is fun. However, Adeena Sussman, food writer and author of Shabbat and Sababa and the recipe behind The Noom Kitchen cookbook, suggests keeping it simple with chicken soup. That's part of the appeal, after all.

"There are so many variations on chicken soup," Sussman says. "That said, I love to just stick with the basic chicken soup—and by basic, I don’t mean boring or bland in any way—to eat on a chilly day or when I’m a little under the weather."

Her basic but flavorful staples include carrots, onions and celery, plus something you likely have in your cabinet (maybe somewhere near the back). "Don’t skip the bay leaves," she says. "Bay leaves give your soup a background flavor.”

Another pro tip signed off by culinary pros like Ina Garten, Lidia Bastianich? Try adding a Parmesan rind.

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