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How is "soup chicken" different from "cooking chicken". Is it a different breed or just old chicken? Can I eat its meat?

I have always made soup from the bones of boneless chicken I cook. Today I got a chicken specifically for soup, whose packing said "ideal for broth". So I broke its bones and put the entire thing to boil for an hour. Now my normal chicken's flesh just fells apart after boiling for an hour. This one was still firm and a bit hard and leathery. It was actually hard to remove the flesh from the bone after all this boiling. And the flesh itself was kinda unappetizing. I still cut it up in cubes and put it in the soup(because, protein!).

So is it a different kind of chicken, or just old chicken (I know the meat of old cows becomes leathery). Is it safe to eat the meat?

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2 Answers 2

You've already guessed it correctly, soup chickens are basically old codgers that are too tough to roast or fry up. They may get tender enough to eat if you cook them slow for 2-3 hours but often even that won't make them palatable. The only reason I'd ever use them is if I wanted to make loads of chicken stock and didn't plan to use the meat.

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If the rest of the chicken is old and tough and flavorless, does that also impact the quality of stock and/or broth you can make from it? – MargeGunderson Oct 22 '12 at 19:48
@MargeGunderson : actually, they're more flavorful, as they've had a chance to develop over time. They're just tough. – Joe Oct 22 '12 at 20:15
@Joe: Thanks for clarifying that! :^D – MargeGunderson Oct 23 '12 at 4:38
@MargeGunderson, that's a good point. In general the tougher meat is the more flavorful. It's why dark meat has more flavor than white on a chicken, or beef shin tastes so much more "beefy" than filet. The more work a piece of meat has done, the more flavor it has. – GdD Oct 23 '12 at 7:37
It would be interesting to see if brining might restore the bird to all its youthful glory? – user36802 Sep 18 at 8:19

I come from a long line of chicken soup makers and I can tell you that a soup chicken is the absolute cadillac for making soup. Yes, it takes long and yes it is more rubbery but this is how you make a real traditional soup.

I take a soup chicken and typically cut it up - this will speed the cooking and make it easier to maneuver in a pot - but not necessary. Keep the gizzard and neck in the soup but leave the liver out of the soup.

Put in a big stock pot and cover with water. Cooking is approx 3 or 4 hours but you want to look for the dark meet to begin to shred or loosen from bone. Towards the end you throw in a couple of cups of diced onion, a few diced carrots and celery stalks.

When done you can separate the meat from the bone and return the meat to the pot in sizes you prefer. Skim any scum and oil off the top (some oil is good for the soup but just a little). We normally fridge the soup over night to remove the hardened oil.

The stock will make a killer chicken soup which will need salt and pepper only but no bouillon. There is no comparison to a soup made with new chicken.

Some other tips I've learned - a french friend puts a full onion in the beginning stating the skin keeps the broth more clear. I sometimes make the stock first and throw more veggies in whole - then drain the whole thing and fridge the meat and liquid overnight. The next day I turn it into soup, adding the celery, carrot, onion and shredding the meat. The meat is so sturdy that you can make this a two meal dinner.

My mouth is watering....I'm going to have to go out and buy an old bird!!

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