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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    One thing I learned from a bread book I bought [I think it was a book called "Beard On Bread". The author told about an experience he had once. He lived beside a Jewish lady whose chicken soup always had a rich flavor and a golden appearance. She would nover tell him how she achieved the "golden" richness until one day he just happened to drop in just as she threw in a couple of the chicken feet. Such a thing would be practically impossible today unless you live near a farm which raises chickens.
    – Robert
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 2:24
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    Chinese groc stores often carry chicken feet. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 1:46

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 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? Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 19:48
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    @MargeGunderson : actually, they're more flavorful, as they've had a chance to develop over time. They're just tough.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 20:15
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    @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
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 7:37
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    It would be interesting to see if brining might restore the bird to all its youthful glory?
    – user36802
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 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!!


A "soup chicken" used to be called a "stewing chicken." This just means that it is an older, tougher bird that should be cooked using a slow-cooking or stewing method in order to soften up the meat. Stewing chicken tends to have more flavor than young chicken, so it is ideal for soups and stews (obviously), but also for dishes that include small pieces of marinated chicken, minced chicken, or chicken that is cooked down and then used as a cooking ingredient in itself. An example of the latter is when finely diced chicken and its stock is used to make flavored fried rice dishes, sautéed or pan-fried noodle dishes, pilafs or paellas.


They are our old laying hens & rosters. To tough to eat. Feet & often head all go in the broth. Slow cook overnight or 24 hours for old rosters. Remove meat from bones. Cut up add back to broth. Spice as you like. Freeze. For soup or stew. Pluck& gut birds first.

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