The One Ingredient Ina Garten Says Will Save Chicken Soup From Blandness

Before she started hosting "Barefoot Contessa" and publishing cookbooks like "Barefoot in Paris" and "Cooking for Jeffrey," Ina Garten worked for the White House and owned a food store in the Hamptons, per Food Network, where she whipped up baguettes and chicken salad for customers (via her official website).

Nowadays, she's busy making everything from weeknight dinners and modern comfort food to old-fashioned desserts. Her versatility also shines when it comes to soups, as each recipe, like chicken ramen noodle soup and Italian wedding soup, couldn't be more different and unique.

Take her tomato soup, for instance. Garten's genius guides the readers on how to make cubes of croutons from grilled cheese sandwiches. In other words, instead of eating a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, her recipe suggests slicing it into small cubes as a garnish for the soup. Or, if you're not too keen on wasting soup stock, Garten tells Food & Wine you can stash some away in the freezer to use it for another recipe in the future.

Speaking of soups and stocks, Garten certainly knows a thing or two about chicken soups and how to make them flavorful.

A common pantry ingredient

In a clip from "Barefoot Contessa" shared on YouTube, Ina Garten is seen making a large pot of chicken noodle soup. She uses homemade chicken stock, roasts some chicken, and simmers celery, carrots, and noodles, which, theoretically, should be enough to make chicken noodle soup taste good. But upon tasting the soup, she realizes that it needs a beloved seasoning: salt. She adds two large pinches of salt to the soup, gives it a good stir, and smiles at how flavorful it has become.

So what's the deal with adding salt to chicken soup, anyhow? Well, as BBC Science Focus explains, salt is a great way to make umami flavors shine, and that goes for both sweet and savory dishes. For sweet dishes, a lower concentration of salt is needed, but for savory ones, a high concentration of salt is optimal, which is probably why Garten used two large pinches for her chicken soup. The National Library of Medicine adds that salt may also help to make foods taste more concentrated and smell better.

So next time you make a batch of chicken noodle soup, don't forget to add some much-needed salt to boost those umami flavors. Garten usually doesn't specify how much salt to add to her recipes, but it's probably best to start small, taste the soup, and add more if needed.