I’m still tinkering with my Instant Pot settings, but I think there’s a wide margin of error when making chicken soup. Add chicken, water, and salt; hit the Poultry or Soup button, and as long as the chicken’s not undercooked when you take it out, it’s fine. But here’s what I’m figuring out so far:
Amount of Chicken: Half a chicken seems to be about the correct amount for my preferred broth-to-meat ratio. I cut the chicken in half, freeze the other half, and put it in with as much water as I am allowed per Instant Pot instructions (2/3 of the pot).
Timing: Letting the meat cook longer makes it easier to get it off the bone. 20 minutes seems to be an acceptable compromise between convenience and a longer cook time.
Bone Broth: The broth is much improved if I freeze the bones from one batch, and then use them again in the next. By the second cooking, the bones are soft and snap easily. It’s very easy to separate them out from the fresh bones because the former are so soft, and the latter are still attached to the chicken flesh. So I throw away the brittle bones, keep the hard ones, and the cycle continues.
Flavorings: My favorite batch is the one where I added sliced ginger to the chicken as it was cooking (about 8 slices the width of a coin, but I could have done more). My second best batch was the one where I added previously-frozen cauliflower stems. I’ve read that the Instant Pot concentrates the flavors of vegetables, so it isn’t necessary to use as much. I think this is true. Next time, I’ll try a single carrot and stalk of celery. I usually hate using vegetables to make broth and then throwing them away, but I can live with having a few turn to mush. If I had peppercorns, I’d use them in this step, but I’m out of peppercorns so I skipped it.
Vegetables: I’ve been in the habit of removing the chicken chicken carcass after it’s done, adding chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, shredded cabbage, cubed potatoes) to the broth, and letting them cook in “Soup” mode for another 10 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, I separate the chicken meat from the bones over a colander so as not to lose any of the broth. Then I freeze the bones (or throw them away if they’ve already been cooked twice), and add the chicken back to the soup. The result is tender but not overcooked vegetables, though they don’t contribute nearly as much flavor to the broth as those added at the beginning. This is labor-intensive, however, and can be skipped if there are time constraints.
In short – Instant Pot chicken soup is very easy, but I am still experimenting with different variations!