A Cheater’s Guide to Chicken Soup


Have: A store-bought roasted chicken that needs finishing, spinach that’s wilting, carrots lying limp and fresh thyme to use up. Need: A warm lunch for my Mom who’s putting in overtime helping me out with nine-week old, Finn.  I have to admit to being intimidated in the past by chicken soup as I figured I had know what I was doing with a whole raw chicken (what to put in the soup, what to leave out etc) but when I realized I could cheat and use roasted chicken, I went for it and ended up with one fine meal.

So this is a guide for the cheaters …  Buy a roast chicken (Whole Foods has excellent ones, hot and ready for eating. I prefer the “herbed” which has even more flavor than “regular”.)  In my case, I’d already eaten about 2/3 of the chicken off the bones but you don’t need a huge amount of meat as the flavor for the soup comes from the fat drippings and herbs lying in the bottom of the plastic chicken case, as well as the skin, the bones and all the other “reject” bits.

Take all remaining meat off the carcass and set aside. Once you’re done with the first part of the soup and you’ve added the broth (see link to the full recipe at end of post), then add all chicken parts to the broth EXCEPT the meat. Be sure not to miss any of the fat and sauce thats pooled and congealed under the chicken.  By cooking all the chicken bits you’re getting 80% of the benefits/flavor of starting with a raw chicken with 80% less time.

You don’t need to cook the soup for long to get maximum flavor.  I used a homemade stock (which helps since the flavor was excellent), but cooking time for the soup was no more than about 30 mins.

Once the soup’s cooked, fish out all the bits you don’t want to eat (bones and skin) and add back the meat (its already cooked, hence the late addition).  The spinach too should be added at the very end, since it doesn’t add flavor to the broth and will lose its color if boiled. (Its really only there for vibrant green color and nutrients anyway.) In fact if you’re not going to be eating the soup for a little while or are making it for later, don’t add the spinach, store the soup without it and add it when you’re ready to eat (it takes about 2 minutes to wilt in hot soup.)

So there you have it, the easiest chicken soup out there.  Oh and forget about not having hot soup when it’s hot out, sometimes even in the summer the comfort of soup is a welcome change from cold salad.

Get the recipe for Chicken Soup for Cheaters.

Any shortcuts you want to share for either chicken soup or other soups?  Favorite summer soups?

And the winner of the “Win Chilean olive oil!” contest was John Courtright of Ohio. Congrats and happy cooking!

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  • Nicci

    Just what the doctor ordered! Needed a quick recipe – having slaved away at my first chicken broth/soup attempt this past Passover… Thank Michelle!

  • http://www.mommysnest.com MommyLisa

    http://www.mommysnest.com/2011/02/more-sandra-lee-than-ellie-kreeger.html <–That is what I do for quick weeknight dinner with pantry items and whatever else I have on hand.

  • Grumpity

    All right, so I did it. I finally boiled my garbage (came out tasting great!), used the stock for cooking everything, and then made soup with the rest (actually, some more is still in the freezer).  
    For the soup, i used leftover chicken, peeled a few tomatoes, and added cooked french lentils and broccoli at the end. Ate it with some creme fraiche and it was excellent.  Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Grumpity

      forgot to say, since i already had chopped onions and carrots and tomatoes in the soup, i didn’t feel like fishing for the chicken carcass in there, so i wrapped it in some cheesecloth and then fished it out at the end.