Soup is usually a slow-cooked dish, and one in which all the elements and flavors come together with time. There are some things, however, that should always be added to soup at the last minute to help maintain the integrity of those additions and to retain the texture of your soup. Here's a list of ten things that you shouldn't add to soups until the last minutes before serving.
Obviously, crunchy soup toppings like croutons, tortilla chips, bacon, or oyster crackers are added at the table so that they don't turn into a soggy mess, but here are ten more ingredients that should wait too!
- Fresh Herbs - Fresh herbs add bright herbal flavors that complement the slow-cooked flavors of soups. Depending on the herb, it can also add a fresh crunch, so sprinkle those on at the last minute. The exceptions are woody herbs like thyme and rosemary — cook these into the soup to extract their flavors, as they would be unpleasant to eat raw.
- Cheese - Cheese contains oil that separates out of it when heated, so it's best not to stir it in too early. If you're making a cheese-based soup, like broccoli cheddar, fully cook the soup, then stir in the cheese off the heat while the soup is still hot. Sprinkle hard cheeses like Parmesan when serving (although simmering a Parmesan rind in the soup is delicious for flavoring).
- Seafood - Most seafood turns tough and rubbery if cooked for too long, so get your soup base done before you add your shrimp, fish, or shellfish in to simmer a few minutes right before serving.
- Hot Sauce - The bright zing of hot sauce perks up earthy soups, but if you put it in too early, it won't be as powerful. Just put the hot sauce bottle on the table!
- Scallions - The spicy bite of scallions is great for flavoring milder-flavored soups, but it'll get lost if added too soon. Plus the vivid green color looks beautiful on top, so wait until serving.
- Pestos - Pestos and other herb sauces should be swirled in at the last minute or served on the side to preserve their color and fresh flavors, which help to contrast against the more muted flavors of soup.
- Vinegar - A touch of vinegar brings soups like lentil or split pea to life, but the vinegar works best at the end, and you won't need to as much then either.
- Yogurt, Sour Cream, and Crème Fraîche - Dairy like yogurt, sour cream, and crème fraîche can add a creamy acidity to soups, but can curdle and be unpleasant if cooked over heat for too long, so swirl these in last.
- Eggs - If you're doing an egg-drop soup or poached eggs in the soup, simmer the eggs in at the last minute or they'll turn rubbery, sulphurous and unpleasant.
- Citrus - Citrus zest, juice, and oils lose potency when heated, so add them in right before serving to balance out the flavors in your soup.
(Image credits: Christine Gallary; Emily Han; Emma Christensen)