I was surprised by the added stone in the soup of this question:

"Also, for irony, a large (cleaned) stone is always left in the pot"

What would be the reason for this? For the minerals in the stone? As far as I know, minerals do not infuse water directly out of a stone.

  • 15
    In Denmark we have a fairy tale/folklore telling the story of a woman being fooled by a salesman showing how to cook soup on a stone. My guess is that - it is - for the irony. Feb 8, 2012 at 9:25
  • 15
    Your education must have been lacking, the story of the stone soup is one the many classics young children are meant to have read to them by their parents so as to understand life. It appears in most cultures. A quick internet search will enlighten you!
    – TFD
    Feb 8, 2012 at 10:26
  • 4
    The 'for irony' bit suggests it's tradition, based on the children's story Henrik Hansen mentions. Feb 8, 2012 at 11:57
  • 7
    The answer is in the text of your question -- "for irony."
    – Sean Hart
    Feb 8, 2012 at 18:26
  • 3
    Everyone should try to include a healthy dose of irony in their diet. It helps fight anemia :P
    – Brian
    Feb 12, 2012 at 18:44

11 Answers 11


There's an old children's story about making Stone Soup. In it, a penniless begger offers to teach people how to make his favorite recipe: soup, made from a stone! He boils some water and drops a stone in, and while it's "cooking", keeps mentioning offhand things like "It'd go great with some carrots" or "Celery would be lovely in this". The townspeople rush off and get celery, carrots, potatoes, onions, and the like to add to the soup, until eventually, they've made proper soup in his pot along with the stone. So basically, the whole "stone soup" thing was a clever con game by which the begger can eat for free (or, in kinder versions than the one I recall, to trick the townspeople into learning a lesson about sharing).

The stone adds nothing to the soup.

  • I didn't know the story, so it's clear now. Feb 8, 2012 at 14:45
  • 5
    -1 Your summary is VERY wrong, it is not about a clever con, it about sharing and caring
    – TFD
    Feb 8, 2012 at 20:17
  • 5
    @TFD There are apparently many versions of the story. Feb 8, 2012 at 20:18
  • 2
    "The stone adds nothing to the soup." Unless it's rock salt! Feb 9, 2012 at 16:59
  • 10
    I also heard this story - but in that version the beggar only visited one house, eating soup, then selling the stone for its great soup-making properties and moving along. (So yes, it's definitely about a clever con. TFD is VERY wrong. :P )
    – ver
    Feb 14, 2012 at 6:25

The version of the story that many Americans know comes from the book Stone Soup, in which three weary soldiers enter a village and convince the suspicious villagers to share their supplies by showing them how to make soup from stones. A big pot, some water, and three smooth stones is all you need for the soup, but it's much better if you add vegetables, meat, some milk, salt and pepper, etc. In the book, the villagers end up putting on a great feast and having a wonderful time, and the implied lesson for children is that it's more fun to share what you have for everybody's benefit than to keep your cabbages and barley hidden in the cellar.


I learned this trick from an old friend of my Grandmother more than 50 years ago. She put three rounded stones in the pot when cooking soup so they would move about and stop the vegetables and grains from settling and burning on the bottom of the pot. Molly did all of her cooking on a wood/coal fired oven. Many people of my Mother's generation used to put glass marbles in the pan when making Jams or conserves for the same reason.

  • 1
    I've heard of people heating stones to put into the soup to heat the water. Thanks for the input Jerome. Feb 9, 2012 at 8:54
  • 2
    +1 for the only practical answer that doesn't involve a parable. Sep 7, 2012 at 19:33
  • but isn't it also so you can hear it is boiling? (like the thing you put in milk)
    – WendyG
    Feb 10, 2020 at 15:26

There is also a french dish called "potée" that take a stone in the pot, this is suppose to mash ingredients with the boiling movement and provide a particular texture. So maybe it's the original mixer


During the depression, they used to put a porous stone in the pot when they made soup. The stone would hold the flavor of the soup. Then, when soup ingredients were hard to find, they would boil water with the soup stone in it. Pulling the flavor from the stone into the water. My father who is 83 still has one. As kids, we would lick it and you can still taste the flavors from the soups.


I grew up being told a stone was used in the soup or stew while the food was being cooked. This was a method used to keep the food in the pot hot for a while longer.


I came to the question from trying to find the best kinds of soup stones to add minerals to stews etc. I know that Italians have a tradition of putting marble into their wells to add minerals to the water, and I know that cooking vegetables releases acids from the old habit of putting bicarbonate of soda in with peas etc. I have observed the disintegration of bones used to add body to stews. It is plausible that sea shells would perform this function, and I know that granite dust is used to provide trace elements in agriculture. So stones may do more than tell you when your pot has gone dry.


Have you ever heard of the trick to cook a potato faster by pushing a nail into the center of it before placing it in the oven? The nail gets hot and so the potato gets cooked from the inside while also being cooked from the outside..

I've never heard of using stones in soup, but it immediately reminded me of the nail trick so my reaction was "ohh, that's a really good idea." Lol.

Some stones (maybe all stones?) retain heat very very well. In fact, I once ate at a restaurant called"The Stone Grill" who's signature dish was bringing you a hot flat stone slab along with raw steak \ chicken \ pork and you would cook your own meat on the rock. I was full after I finished eating all the steak and pork so I threw my raw chicken on the stone to cook so I could take it home, and even after 40 minutes the stone was hot enough to cook the chicken..

Soo yes, old wives tales and stories aside, stones cooked in soup would most certainly keep the soup hot long after it was removed from the stove. And might even help it cook slightly faster..

  • Cool story. It will cook slightly slower as the mass of the stones will have to be brought up to temperature as well, but it will remain hot longer for the reason you indicated... Thanks for your answer and welcome to this site, Ant. Jun 4, 2018 at 16:13
  • Interesting.. I didn't even consider the fact that the rocks would steal the heat at first. I was only thinking about the extra heated surface area the rocks introduced, so I was thinking more hot surface area equals faster cooking. Thanks BaffledCook
    – Ant
    Jun 9, 2018 at 8:45

In Utah sometimes in elementary school teachers encourage students to bring stones for a soup. The teacher then shows the children how to identify what kinds they brought and adds all the stones that have a high mineral content. The result is a drink which is warm and tastes more like the water you get from the mountain springs and the teacher explains that the reason the mountain springs taste the way they do is the minerals from underground stones.

However I don't think this kind of stone soup is common elsewhere.


It could also be a way of raising the soup's temperature, like in Steinbier (stone beer): you heat the stones in a fire, then put them in the beer (or soup). This was used when you couldn't directly heat the beer (or soup) vessel, e.g., for wooden tubs.


I’d guess that a stone, being so much heavier than any other items in the pot, would somehow manage the heat burning and scorching the pot base, potentially preventing burning...? It’s possible, right guys? 🙃

  • 1
    Sorry, but it's better to keep answers short and to the point, and avoid asking more questions, would you mind editing it to remove the first paragraph entirely? Check How to Answer to learn more.
    – Luciano
    Dec 11, 2020 at 14:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.