Old Fashioned Chicken Boil

This is not a food blog.

I just want to clarify that.

It’s not that I don’t cook (I do) or can’t cook (I can)…it’s just that there are plenty of people who do it better. In posting recipes here, I fear that I would over-inflate my skills by trying to shove my recipes down your throat.

This post, however, is not a recipe; it is a way of life.

Plainly put, the power of chicken soup is not to be underestimated. And I’m not talking about some old Touched-By-An-Angel-Offshoot 1990’s self help book. No Ma’am. We are talking soup. Chicken soup. It’s important. Especially in winter, and double especially for someone like me who takes public transportation every day and comes in contact with every manner of residual filth. Seriously, y’all, one day, just one day, I would like to walk into a subway car in winter and not have it smell like hot dog water. One day I would like to gaze through a bus window and not find it smeared with ketchup and, Dude, wtf is that? Maple syrup?

I’m still waiting on that day. Until then, I supply my immune system every advantage I can give it; clean hands, ample tissues, lots of sleep and…*drum roll*… frequent rounds of old fashioned chicken boils.

I know what you are thinking:

What is an old fashioned chicken boil? Isn’t that just like chicken soup? Can’t you just get a can of chicken soup?

Comparing a can of chicken soup to an old fashioned chicken boil is like comparing a kitchen knife to a surgeon’s scalpel. They are not the same thing. And while anyone can make a great chicken stock by boiling up a carcass for a few hours, there is something scared in the act of making soup. Healing. Nurturing.

The recipe below comes from my father who got it from his mother, who got it from Big Alice, who probably got it off a cabbage farmer back in the old country or something. I don’t know. But I do know this: it’s good. If you grew up on homemade chicken soup, your recipe is probably 95% the same. The only thing different about mine is that the end result usually looks thick, silky, and opaque — as opposed to the golden brothy stuff.

Note: Like a lot of old family recipes, the ingredients are only approximate. Regardless, it always comes out tasting the same. You can’t mess this one up (believe me, I have tried!). Just boil as long as you can, run it through a blender, enjoy in good health.


  • One fryer whole chicken (or buy parts already quartered), wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with cotton twine
  • 6 yellow onions (or more), peeled and quartered
  • 1 whole celery, washed and chopped into 3″ lengths
  • 5 large carrots, washed and cut into 3″ lengths
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*If making this for medicinal purposes, triple the garlic and add a spoonful of red flaked paper (or, per Kelly’s comment below — fresh ginger.)

Stage One
Line the bottom of a stock pot with onions, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and lay chicken on top. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. After one hour, remove chicken and unwrap cheese cloth. Use a clean dishtowel to scrape off fatty skin from chicken– discard. Use fork and butter knife to remove the meat from the chicken — set aside for chicken salad, etc (be sure to set some aside for furry friends!).

Stage Two (you can do this in a slow cooker if you want)
Put the bones back in wet cheese cloth, rewrap, tie, and return to the pot with the onions, this time adding adding carrots, celery, and garlic. Fill up the rest of the pot with more water, 2″ short of the top. Simmer at least three hours, up to eight, adding a cup of water every hour or two. When ready, remove chicken carcass (discard or freeze to use again) and the remaining soup through a food mill (these days we would use an immersion blender or a high speed hand mixer). Results in a pea soup like consistency. Serve with toast points and enjoy!


Variation: Chicken Noodle Soup.

After removing the chicken carcass, strain* away broth and bring liquid to a second boil, adding noodles (or matzo balls), shredded chicken bits and carrot coins. Best served with grilled cheese sandwiches.

*Save the strained away carrots and celery — they won’t look very pretty but they are still rich with fiber and nutrients. Mash them up and use the pulp to thicken stews, enhance meat loaf, or as baby food.

Variation: Potato Leek Soup

Last hour on the stove, add in some chopped leeks and four or five potatoes with the skins still on. Just before serving, use a stick blender to combine it altogether. Serve with garlic bread.

Variation: Tortilla Soup
Last hour on the stove, add one large can of spicy diced tomatoes, 1 tsp cumin, 1 chopped jalapeno (seeds in or out depending on preference). Use a stick blender to combine. Serve topped with sour cream, shredded cheese, and cilantro.  

Variation on a variation: Same as above, but leave out the jalapeno and cumin and add a hefty cup of plain Greek yoghurt to make THE BEST tomato soup on the planet. You can also swap the can of tomatoes for a large can of black beans…or white beans…or lentils…. or a chopped up butternut squash…or…you get the point. Endless variations on this one. The chicken boil base creates a richness you will never replicate using an off-the shelf box of stock. You have to try it!    


  1. says

    I bought all the stuff to make this today, even the cheesecloth and string. I don’t know if I can mash it all up. I used my Immersion blender to mix Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint. But I am very interested in how this will turn out.

  2. gunnymom@gmail.com says

    Sounds so good and healthy and warming. I will make this recipe today. Colder than normal here in Southern Calif. Soup is on the menu. Thanks

  3. Nicki Soller says

    Hey, Peaches, not too shabby for a non-food blog! We call them s–t recipes, ’cause they really aren’t! But a friend asked me to put one up, back in 2010, and I did. But there are SO MANY derivatives, and we consume a vat’s worth a week, this time of year, using the ingredients in so many ways (love your ideas, too!). Mine is a “chicken simmer” and not a boil. These days, I add fresh ginger… A LOT of fresh ginger… yet another antioxidant. “Buon Appetito,” says my Italian half; and my Jewish half is remembering the feet floating in that Grandma’s vat! Love your entry. xo http://nickicarm.blogspot.com/2010/01/request.html

  4. PeachesFreund says

    Ahhha, looks delicious! I see you do the two- day method… That always gets the prettiest, clearest broth.

  5. michelle l says

    This is why I love you: you KNOW what’s important. Your recipe differs from mine in lots of little ways, sound incredible. Going to try it right away.

    p.s. unfortunately, it’s not maple syrup.

  6. PeachesFreund says

    Oh no, it’s not maple syrup?!

  7. miznelliebellie says

    mmmm…potato leek soup. Yum! Something about a chicken all tied up waiting for the pot is just soothing.

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