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Don't Throw Away That Carcass!

Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Food & Drink Expertise:
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Making chicken or turkey noodle soup after it looks like all the meat is already taken off a bird carcass extends the food budget for a couple more meals. And it’s easy!

This is for a turkey carcass, but it would all be the same for a chicken, it just won’t make quite as much soup.

After all the meat that is easy to cut off the bones is removed, break or cut the carcass into pieces that will fit into a soup pot and be able to be covered by an appropriate amount of water. For a turkey, that would be about 1 to 1.5 gallons. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Since the bird was already cooked some other way, all this step has to do is loosen the rest of the meat from the bones.

Turn off the heat and let it cool until you can handle the pieces without burning your hands. Sometimes I put it in the refrigerator until the next day. If you do this you’ll need to heat it up just a little because the liquid will become gelled.

I put out three pans -

one to receive bones to be discarded

one for things the dog can have like skin and cartilage

one for meat that can be saved to put back in the soup

Then using your hands slip the rest of the meat off the bones. You’ll be surprised how much there is, especially on the back where there are lots of little hollows in the bones.

When I’ve pulled all the obvious stuff out of the pot I pour the liquid through a strainer. This removes all the rest of the solids. There may be remains of stuffing, which would be fine to put back in the soup if you want, but be sure to check for small bones. If it’s not very much, I usually just discard it.

Now you need to put the liquid in the refrigerator until it cools completely. (Put the saved meat in a separate container and refrigerate it too, because this will take at least several hours). When the liquid is cooled and gelled the fat will have risen to the top and you can just skim it off with a metal spoon.

Separately cook some very fine noodles. I used 4 ounces for the turkey. Drain.

Finally combine the liquid, the reserved meat, and the cooked noodles. I ended up with about a gallon of soup from a turkey.

I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Maybe next time I make some I can add one!