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I made chicken and vegetable soup the other day using standard ingredients (small cubes of chicken breasts, onions, carrots, celery, leeks, garlic, and stock). I sauteed the veggies in butter and olive oil for a few minutes, then added the chicken until it was no longer pink. I then added the chicken stock, brought it to a rolling boil, and turned it down to simmer for about an hour.

The result was really tasty soup with really dry chicken pieces. It was even drier when reheated the next day. Is there a way to avoid this? I'm making another pot tonight using boneless skinless chicken thighs and want to make sure I don't make the same mistake (whatever that may be)!

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Don't cook the chicken pieces for so long. Add them ten or twenty minutes before serving. For that matter, I wouldn't simmer the aromatics for that long either.

Do the long simmer and cooking to make the chicken stock, then strain the now-tasteless and mushy expended bits from the flavorful stock. Heat the stock and add the sweated veggies, diced chicken, and any pasta/rice/dumplings desired but only cook briefly before serving.

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MgGee in his Keys To Good Cooking, recommends a couple of things that go straight to the problem you describe.

First, he recommends working with lower temperatures (his bolds, his italics).

Searing meat does not seal in its juices, and moist cooking methods do not make meats moist. Juiciness depends almost entirely on how hot you cook the center of the meat. If it gets much hotter than 150°F/65°C, it will be dry.

Secondly, he recommends brining as a means of ensuring lean poultry retains moisture.

Brining is the immersion of meat in a weak solution of salt and water, with or without other flavorings, for hours to days before cooking. Injecting brine into the meat interior speeds the process. The salt penetrates the meat, seasons it, and improves its ability to retain moisture and tenderness.

Brines of a certain strength, 5 to 10 percent salt by weight, also cause the meat proteins to absorb extra water from the brine, making the meat seem exceptionally juicy when cooked. Very lean poultry and pork can benefit from this extra moisture, especially when they’re overcooked.

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Don't BOIL, only ever a slow gentle simmer - Not just Chicken all Meat.

If you insist on putting your Chicken in there at the start of cooking you make be better off with boneless thighs as they contain slightly more fat and sinew (good for keeping meat moist).

Personally though I'd recommend buying a whole chicken. Shop's around me charge around the same for a whole Chicken as they do for 2 breasts. Buying a whole chicken means you'll have two (if not more) options to consider.

  1. Make a roast dinner with it, then use the left over's for your soup over the next days. Just pick the carcass clean of all it's good meat, and use the bones and 'nastier' bits for your stock. Then just stir the already cooked meat into your soup right at the end.

  2. Use the carcass for your stock, thighs for the soup, wings for the freezer (Kept till BBQ season marinaded in nice sticky BBQ sauce.. I digress) and the breasts for a different meal or for your soup near the end if you want lots of meat.

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