Soup is terrible; any ideas how to salvage it?

ginjjMarch 5, 2014

I spent at least $15 making this beef soup recipe in the crockpot and it is terrible. The problems are:
too much tomato flavor, bad color-light brown, no beef flavor at all.

Here's the recipe. I even browned the bones in the oven for what I thought would be added flavor.

1 1/2 lb beef sirloin steak cut in to small cubes
28 oz home made beef broth (to eliminate salt in canned soups)
14oz can tomatoes
3 carrots cut into slices
2 small onions into wedges
1/2c barley
1/2c water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme crushed
2 cloves garlic minced.

Cooked in crockpot 10 hours on low.

Questions again are - how to add color; has to be low salt product, how to add flavor; has to be low salt,
why is it so bland!

Even though I'm trying to cook with much less salt, I don't even think adding salt would help this soup.

Thanks for your ideas,


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sugar, that's the secret ingredient to bring out the beefy flavor.

the beefiest beef soup i've ever had was a beet and cabbage borscht; seems that beet/daikon/radish/cabbage would lend itself well as an addition.

oh you might go the french onion route; onions have to be well caramelized first then use as the (added) base.

This post was edited by farm96744 on Wed, Mar 5, 14 at 0:35

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 12:30AM
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I think some of the problem is cutting the onions into wedges. I like them chopped somewhat finely so that I get some onion in every bite.

I like to saute the onion first. I also like to brown meat really well to give a good color and flavor to the broth. As a result, I cook the soup in the pot which I used for sauteing and browning. I would add a glug or two of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce too. Cabbage, celery sauteed with the onion and root vegetables would help too.

Maybe you could fish out the tomato chunks to reduce the amount of tomato flavor. Put them into something else.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:37AM
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Sirloin steak in a crockpot soup....... a bit of a waste! With 10 hours cooking, I think they should have suggested a much cheaper cut.
Was your stock REALLY tasty? It needs to be really strong and condensed for a good soup.
I agree about the onions.
I really think the main problem may just be a lack of beefiness!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 2:42AM
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"------Sirloin steak in a crockpot soup....... a bit of a waste! With 10 hours cooking, I think they should have suggested a much cheaper cut. ---"


In this case, add some mushrooms, especially dried mushrooms and cook again for one hour.

Next time, get cheaper cuts, cook in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes to an hour. Less wonderful beefy aroma will loss to air in a pressure cooker cooked in a shorter time.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 7:27AM
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I agree about the sirloin - I was surprised to see it suggested for stew. I thought chuck was the go to meat for that.

I'm reading Michael Pollan's book, Cooked, right now, and he has a whole unit devoted to "pot" cooking, or braising. He talks about the benefits of browning the meat, and the benefits of the mirepoix, which is the combination of onions, carrots, and celery, diced very small, and sautéed for quite a while till they give up their flavor. You'd add this to the pot underneath the browned meat. Or something like that. I'm in the middle of the unit.

Nothing like advice from a vegetarian about braising meat. lol

Maybe if you look at the soup as really good tomato soup instead of bad beef stew?


    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:03AM
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Thanks for all your ideas. I'll have to remember that even though I'm making soup in a crockpot (I love the ease of it) it is a basic soup and I should follow basic soup principles many of which you all have provided.

I'll try your ideas to redeem this.

Thank you!!


    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:13AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Can you add low salt worcestershire sauce? I'd also add more herbs to give it more flavor...basil for sure. Maybe some sage or marjoram.

Add some portobello mushrooms as they can be beefy. Slice the caps and put them in a pan of heated oil. Stir them around in the oil, sprinkle with a dash of salt if you can, and cover and let cook over medium low heat for about 10 min until the mushrooms are soft. It should generate a good amount of dark mushroom gravy in the pan. Add that to the soup and see if it helps.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 11:30AM
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You could add some garlic, parmesan cheese and Italian herbs and turn it into a minestrone soup.

And just a bit of salt, as it does bring out the flavors' One bullion cube would not hurt. Use the lower sodium version.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 11:43AM
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I like to grind dried mushrooms to add to soup. Maybe some tumeric or paprika for color. I have a HUGE quantity of the ground red pepper for kimchi - very mildly spicy nice color. I add it to stews and chili for flavor and color. Some fresh herbs added at serving for bright color and flavor.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:04PM
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have you tried the Kitchen Basics brand of no salt added stock (not broth)? The beef has only 200 of sodium in 32 oz.

I have a family member who must watch sodium and this is what I use for soup. I do not purchase any canned soup for him, and only purchase one canned soup for myself.

I don't have any of the chicken stock on hand at the present time so I can't tell you how much sodium it has.

Incidentally, my deceased DH refused to eat any sauce or gravy that was 'white', therefore cream gravy at my house always had a bit of strongly brewed coffee (maybe 1/4 cup) so if you are a coffee drinker, maybe add a bit for better color.

I, too, would finely chop the garlic and onion, and the herbs listed are good, but I'd just add more and different herbs also.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 2:04PM
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Some ground up porcini mushrooms would also help give more flavor without added salt.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 10:41PM
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A bit late to the party but next time check the temp of your crock pot liquids after it gets going a hour in. Could be way too low to actually get all the flavors melding together. Even at such a long cooking time. May not be hot enough or safe enough.
Starting a mirepoix in a saute pan with celery including the leaves and parsley stems till soft, then adding your stock will get things going and up to a good temp. As mentioned above a mirepoix is very finely diced. You can add larger chopped veggies like in your recipe right into the crock pot for texture and a chunkier soup. (doubling the veggies in your recipe)
Diced squash or sweet potatoes or lentils will add some good flavor.
Some spices added to your mirepoix will also add flavor early on. Spices bloom in heat. Celery, mustard, cumin seeds, etc. toasted and ground fresh...and the mentioned mushrooms.

Some people/cultures just don't like spice and some seem to use 50% spice. I've had some curries out that seem like more spice than food. Your recipe creator probably uses the same herbal tea bag a dozen times.
We could all contribute to the unwritten book, "The Chef and the Salt Shaker". I have to eat out a bit because of work. A decent lunch spot has a good sweet potato fry. But the chef adds so much salt, cinnamon and sugar like kicked sand at the beach. I ask for it not to be used but the chef forgets. The waitress always says, "yeah, nobody likes it. I get allot of complaints." So we don't go there and found a little French place that makes wonderful soups and 1/2 sandwiches.

I don't use my crock pot that often. Just for caramelizing a big load of onions and chili when i'm home and need the extra cooktop and oven space. Chili means pasta sauce, lasagna, and a beef stew all going at the same time in sept/oct using up crates of garden harvest.
Mine is too unpredictable. Slow to heat up, then boils away. I start on high, then have to babysit it and turn down to low at some unknown time. I could never leave it on and walk away all day. Then we also have the odd random day where electronics are blinking when we get home meaning a power outage.

This past fall i started slow roasting my cheaper roast type meats, cut into 2inch cubes, pre-heating my oven to 350, then down to 225 when the meat goes in on a grid rack over a sheet pan for 45 min-1 hour. That way i can move on to prepping the mirepoix and chopping the rest of the veggies, without the daunting task of browning the meat in batches on the stovetop that always wants to steam and release liquids anyway. And the spatter mess. Still lots of flavor that way.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:52AM
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I suggest next time you sear the meat with the onions. For great flavor and color add a half cup of Merlot wine.I would also add celery next time.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 10:00AM
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Oh my gosh, I cannot believe all of you helping me out with this problem. I've been away from GW for a while but I see I've been missing a big group of friends!

Your ideas are wonderful and I will print them out and put them in the "Soup" section of one of my many cookbook binders. My favorite dinner throughout winter is salad and soup so figuring out how to make a great soup will be easier now.

I did salvage some last night by reducing down a small amount of stock I had left over, and checked for flavor (hadn't done that before!!) I removed the barley and meat from the original soup and it was ever so much better.

Thank you all so very much for your time and wonderful ideas!!


    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Adding acid (tomatoes or wine) to something is a good way to enhance the flavor without upping the salt content. I do that all the time. But I have come to realize that there is a certain point where the acid becomes counter productive and dominates too much. I don't always find that perfect point, lol! I would try and add some kind of concentrated beef broth type thing that won't add too much salt. Many good suggestions here! Just wanted to say I feel your pain. I like the style of pot roast with tomato sauce but it's hard to find a recipe that isn't "too tomatoey." I know "tomatoey" isn't a word Mr. Spell Check, but I like it anyway!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 5:42PM
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