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I usually enjoy my chicken noodle soup right after cooking it to perfect noodle doneness. Most of what I cooked goes into the fridge. My problem is that while I'm waiting for the left-over soup to cool off, the noodles get overcooked. How could I prevent that?

I don't want to put the warm soup in the fridge or freezer, and eating the just-done portion more al-dente isn't an option.

The noodles are wide egg noodles, and there's about 2-3 l water in the soup.

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6  
What about the other way round? Stop cooking the big soup pot earlier, put a single portion of undercooked soup into a small pot, cook to doneness, eat immediately, then freeze the now fully cooked big pot? –  rumtscho Sep 24 '11 at 19:10
    
@rumtscho you should put that as an answer –  rfusca Sep 25 '11 at 4:25

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

rfusca already gave very good suggestions for the literal question from the title. However, you can also address your problem the other way round.

First, cook the soup until your noodles are al dente (but will become just right while cooling at a normal speed). Take the big pot of soup off the heat.

Second, take a small pot, and fill it with just one portion of soup per eater. Put it on the heat, and cook until the noodles are done. (Alternatively, put the single portions into porcelain bowls and microwave until the noodles are ready - it spares you washing an additional pot, but I wouldn't nuke a good soup for no reason).

Third, eat your cooked soup portions and let the big pot of soup slowly cool on its own.

Fourth, freeze the soup from the big pot. Finis.

Note that from a food safety point of view, you are better off with flash cooling the soup. But what I outlined here is probably much simple and hassle-free. Plus, 2-3 liters of soup minus a portion or two should spend less than the magical 4 hours in the danger zone while cooling. If you are doing this with a very big pot of soup and feeding lots of people, you should probably prefer a rapid cooling.

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Depends on how extreme you want to go. I've used all the following methods for cooling stuff down depending on how rapidly it needed to cool down.

  • Standard for cooling down that is a ice water bath in the sink. Fill your sink with ice and water and then put the pot in the sink with the lid off. Stir to distribute the coolness. I'm not sure if this is going to cool down fast enough to prevent your noodles from further cooking though.

  • Dish it out into individual sized servings in small containers and put those in a ice water bath. The wider the top of the container and the less soup in each, the faster it will cool.

  • Get some large aluminum sheets and pour the soup onto the sheets. Set the sheets on ice and a fan blowing over the top. Stuff cools down quick like this, but it sounds like a pain in the butt for soup - I don't think I'd do it for soup.

Those are options for quick cool down. For alternative methods otherwise - you could cook the noodles separately or try to strain the noodles out at the end (that sounds like a pain the butt).

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Try making your soup without the noodles and save those portions. Then when you are ready to serve, make a fresh batch of noodles and add them to the soup while reheating.

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The noodles down cook in the delicious soup then :( less flavor –  rfusca Sep 25 '11 at 4:07
    
If you follow the suggestion @BaffledCook added (only cook the noodles 'al-dente', thx BC) and add those noodles to the soup before you re-head the rest of the soup the reaction of the hot noddles in the cool soup as well as the warming of the soup to serving temperature (even in a 'gulp' microwave...) will allow for the fresh noodles to absorb a fair bit of flavor from the broth. If you also don't rinse the noodles you will leave a starchy coating on them. This will, when mixed with the cold broth, create a 'gravy zone' around the noodle that will carry even more flavor to your buds. –  Cos Callis Sep 25 '11 at 4:48

Like Cos already wrote, you could cook without the noodles. But if that is not an option, you could take the al-dente noodles out of the soup and cool them like rfusca writes.

As a fourth cooling option (on rfusca's list), you could put these noodles (without soup) onto a tray onto a container with ice and put that into the fridge. The ice+noodles will not elevate the temperature of your fridge in such a way that it will endanger the other food in the fridge and it will cool down rapidly.

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I would precook your noodles until they are al dente. You want to cook them in fairly heavily salted water (I like to make it as salty as seawater). Once the noodles are al dente, rinse them in cold water to arrest the cooking and toss them in a little bit of oil. The reason the water was so salty is because of the cold water rinsing. If you won't be rinsing them, decrease the salt level. When the soup is ready, put the noodles in the bottom of the bowl, ladle the boiling soup into the bowl, and let the noodles finish just prior to service.

If you are worried about the flavor not soaking into the noodles, don't be. If you feel like something is missing, you can always use something really flavorful for your noodles like clarified butter, truffle oil, or bacon fat. Then they add their own element to the soup.

That method of parcooking the pasta is pretty ubiquitous in the restaurant world. One other trick that works very well is to portion the unused noodles into single-serving sized sandwich baggies. You can microwave those little baggies to have the same high-quality soup at work the next day.

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