Beef Barley Soup pt.2

Quick Look_______________

Here's my version of vegetable beef barley soup. We served 15 gallons at the a2f snow trip last year. This recipe is a quick and easy and mimics a long slow boiled soup by using gelatin.
  • Prep time: 10-15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1-1.5 hrs
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: You can do on your own very easily!
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.


  • 11lbs sirloin tip, sirloin, or tri tip (could use chuck or brisket -- add 45 minutes to boil time)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5 onions
  • 16 cubes beef bouillon cube(enough for 1 gallon broth) -- add more to taste if necessary
  • 8 cubes chicken bouillon cube (enough for 1/2 gallon broth) 
  • 2.5lbs frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 1/2 cup gelatin
  • 1.5 lbs dried barley
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Salt as needed.
  • 4 (28) ounces cans chopped stewed tomatoes


  • Start boiling 1.5 gallon water and add bullion cubes, reduce to low heat once it starts boiling.
  • Cut meat into 1/2 inch cubes (if necessary) and add to water
  • Fry onions until translucent and add to water.
  • Add celery, pepper, chopped stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, mixed vegetables, barley and bay leaves (everything but gelatin) to water
  • Boil until the meat is very tender (usually 1 hour on high).
  • Dissolve gelatin in some cold water and wait a few minutes and add to soup.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • (Pearl barley will absorb the liquid and expand a lot, so don’t add more than you need.)

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

This is as simple as it gets. Just toss everything into a stockpot, get it boiling (this takes the longest), reduce heat to a simmer --watch out so it doesn't flow over and burn, and let it simmer.

You could substitute beef broth, but bullion tends to be cheaper.

What's different about this recipe?
  • I changed the beef broth to a beef/chicken broth mixture. It lightens the flavor and compliments it very well. There's added depth to the soup in this ratio.
  • I used gelatin for the rich mouth feel (see prior entry). It really adds a nice richness to the soup- add more if desired.
  • I added soy sauce for a more savory soup.
  • I pan fried the onions to carmelize them instead of just throwing it into the water.
  • I used a more tender cut (which is more expensive, but saves an hour of time). You can use a cheaper cut on sale if you like and just boil it on it's own a little longer until tender.
[Possible side dish] Serve with french bread slices


One secret to good soup is gelatin. As the tough connective tissue in meat (collagen) denatures, it forms gelatin and becomes tender. This gelatin leaks out into the surrounding liquid and enhances it -- It contributes a mouthfeel of richness and is often used as a healthy fat substitute (gelatin is just denatured glycine-rich, triple-helix protein strands -- I know I'm nerding out).

A soup that has been slow cooked for a long time will have tender meat as well as a gelatin rich base. When you open a can of good soup, it may appear thick and gelatinous (like jello) but becomes thin once you heat it. Another example is the jelly found in the bottom of Spam. What if we want to mimic the quality of a good soup but not spend all day cooking? Why not just add unflavored gelatin to soup, gook, or jigae? -- Do NOT add flavored JELLO!

So what does it taste like? It doesn't really change the flavor, but makes it feel less water-y and more substantial. A gelatin rich soup sits well in your stomach and gives you that warm comfortable feeling. I debuted a recipe at the A2F snow trip last year and after playing in the snow, this beef barley soup was really popular (I made 15 gallons!)

You can purchase packets at Safeway or you can buy a 16oz can for about $10 at smart and final. I'll post recipes using gelatin in the future -- keep an eye out for them!

Knife Honing

Knife honing does 2 things: it keeps the blade flat and straight. A knife should be sharpened as needed (about every 6 months or so). Ideally, a knife should be honed before every use. Over time the blade dulls and becomes misaligned. Honing a knife is not the same as sharpening, which applies a new edge. Honing just maintains that edge. It appears sharper because a straight edge cuts better.

Some people say diamond dust coated and ceramic steels sharpen knives. My opinion on this -- yes and no. You use a coarse sandpaper to remove paint. Fine sandpaper will not take off much paint but rather smooth it out. Ceramic and diamond steels are so fine that they really just polish off the blade rather than take off enough steel to sharpen. It does sharpen technically, though very little. I personally think a rougher ceramic, like a coffee cup, will sharpen much more effectively.

Unfortunately a honing steel isn't always available. Another option is to use the spine of another knife as a steel. Basically, use the thick and blunt end of another knife and run your blade over it as a steel.