You want a small bubble or two to rise to the surface of the liquid every few seconds. More than that and your meat and vegetables will come out dry and overcooked.
1. Not using enough salt
Nothing is as crucial as seasoning correctly. Taste as you go. While you can use a recipe as a guideline, learn to trust your own tastebuds.
2. Ignoring water
Think you can’t make a delicious soup because you don’t have broth? Just use water instead. Trust us on this one. In fact, you’re better off using water than an inferior broth. Before you dump in a can or container of broth, taste it. If you wouldn’t eat it as is, why would you want to add it your soup? You may even find you prefer soups made with water, which really let the ingredients shine. Just be aware that when you use water, it’s particularly important to add the right amount of salt. A personal trick: Throw in a rind of Parmesan cheese to help flavor the soup as it simmers.
3. Overcooking the vegetables
Let’s say you’re making white bean soup. Start by sautéing onions, garlic, maybe celery, then adding the water and beans, and simmering. Add the carrots in the last half hour or so or when the beans are close to tender. That way the carrots will come out cooked but not mushy. Ditto, for other veggies…add them according to how much time they need to cook.
4. Adding tomatoes at the beginning
The acid in tomatoes can keep beans and vegetables crunchy. Don’t add the tomatoes until the final 20 minutes when all of the other ingredients are close to tender.
5. Neglecting to garnish
A handful of fresh herbs, freshly-ground pepper, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and crunchy croutons add the finishing touches in terms of both flavor and texture. When I make lentil or split pea soup, I like to add a splash of balsamic vinegar or squirt of fresh lemon juice to each bowl to brighten the flavor. Other good last minute add-ins: a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, toasted pumpkin seeds, or a spoonful of pesto.
6. Not trying a pressure cooker
If you’re afraid of using a pressure cooker, it’s time to get over it. With multiple safety features, today’s models are fail-proof. Why use one, you ask? When your hubby calls to tell you he’s coming down with a cold, if you pick up a chicken, you can have homemade soup on the table in under an hour. Check out our review of both stovetop and electric models before you make a purchase.