By this time of the year, I find myself craving meals with light and clean flavors. Chicken soup fills the bill perfectly.
While most years I like to experiment with those flavors, this year I think I’ll stick to the classic version, with tender chicken and vegetables swimming in a thyme-scented broth. Instead, I’ll experiment with the technique.
Making chicken soup should be an easy task. Sauté onions, along with carrots and celery. Add a whole chicken and fresh or dried herbs and cover with water and simmer slowly until the chicken is fall-apart tender and the broth has sapped all the flavor out of the meat, bones and skin. It’s not a difficult process, but it does take a few hours to do it properly.
I was later than most to see the benefits of the Instant Pot, but over the past few years, I find myself reaching for it often to tackle things like making my own yogurt, or perfectly cooked rice at the push of a button. One of the things I think it does best, though, is broth.
Its pressure-cooking ability makes deeply flavorful, homemade broth a breeze. Why? The pressure cooker works by creating a sealed chamber, which allows steam to build as the contents are heated. As the steam builds, the pressure in the cooker increases. This pressure extracts flavor from the chicken and vegetables much more rapidly, and quickly converts collagen-rich connective tissue into gelatin, which gives the broth more body and a nice mouthfeel.
While I often use it just to make chicken broth, a lovely chicken noodle soup is also easy to achieve. The process is essentially the same, except I use a whole chicken for the soup to ensure lots of tender shreds of meat, instead of the chicken wings and backs I typically use for broth.
If I’m serving all the soup right away, I will cook the noodles with the broth in the Instant Pot. If I know I’ll have leftovers, I cook the noodles in a separate pot on the stove and store them separately from the soup. This avoids the inevitably mushy noodles, which happens when they continue to soak up broth as soup sits in the fridge.
Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken soup is the perfect candidate for the Instant Pot because it extracts a lot of flavor from a whole chicken in a short amount of time. If you aren’t planning on serving all of the soup right away, cook the noodles according to their package directions, toss in a little oil and refrigerate separately from the soup. This will keep them from absorbing too much broth and getting mushy.
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ tsp. dried thyme
8 c. water
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced ½-in. thick
2 medium ribs celery, sliced ½-in. thick
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. turmeric, optional
1 (3- to 4-lb.) chicken, or an equivalent mix of bone-in thighs, legs, or breast meat
6 oz. uncooked extra-wide egg noodles
¼ c. finely chopped fresh parsley
On 6-quart Instant Pot, select SAUTE; set to high. Heat oil in insert. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Select CANCEL.
Add in water, carrots, celery, bay leaf, soy sauce, salt, pepper and turmeric, scraping up any browned bits. Place the chicken, breast side up, in pot.
Secure lid; set pressure valve to SEALING. Select PRESSURE COOK; cook on high for 20 minutes. Select CANCEL. Let stand 15 minutes; set pressure valve to VENTING to quick-release any remaining pressure.
Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred meat into bite-size pieces, discarding skin and bones. Meanwhile, using a large spoon, skim excess fat from surface of soup. Discard bay leaf. Select SAUTE; set to high. Bring soup to boil, stir in noodles, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Select CANCEL. Stir in shredded chicken and parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina, Minn. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.