How To: Make Your Own Chicken Stock
I feel like chicken stock (or chicken broth) is one of those things that scare people. The whole business of a DIY process for something you can buy very easily in a can at the store is, I am sure, absurd to some people. Like making your own corn flakes or churning your own butter. It just isn’t necessary. I would like to convince you otherwise.
Why? Because it is just so darn easy. There is MUCH less of a science to it than say, baking, and the payoff is tenfold. It takes so very little effort and can be simmering away while you do something else. No babysitting. Also, as my Mother would say, its good for what ails you. Seriously good eats when the sniffles set in.
Technically, stock like we are talking about today, tends to be made from the bones of an animal; chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, pork. Often, the flavor is much richer. Chicken broth, which I confess is really the only kind I ever make (lamb broth is SO not my specialty), usually is much more subtle in taste and made with the whole bird, meat and all. Ultimately, I make them the same and have never noticed much of a difference in flavor. I am sure there are some chefs somewhere shaking their heads and emphatically disagreeing with me, but I am willing to risk that as I doubt many of them are spending their spare time reading this blog. 🙂
For purposes of ease and the fact that I am just not that fancy, you can call this broth or stock-whatever floats your boat. K? K.
Now. This post is really more about the tips of making good chicken stock than a recipe. No rocket science involved. Ultimately, you should know that stock can-and should-be made from the leftover ingredients that you don’t want to throw away. Waste not, want not. So read on and be confident!
Today I used the leftover carcass of a rotisserie chicken from the local deli. You can use the bones of any chicken you eat, or use a whole, raw chicken. The process is the same, you would just add more water. I have a hard time tossing our perfectly good chicken so when I am separating a whole chicken into parts, I usually cut out the back and neck pieces and then toss them in a freezer bag in the freezer. Over time, I keep adding miscellaneous raw chicken pieces to it and when I have a good sized amount, I make chicken stock. If I know that I am going to roast a chicken or be picking up a roasted chicken, I usually plan for soup later in the week because I will have a carcass to use to make the stock. If soup isn’t on the agenda, I just freeze the stock after I make it.
In general, I like to keep things simple when making stock and broth. I stick to the items that give great flavor, but that I am most likely to have on hand. That means carrots, celery, and onions. Garlic if you are feeling fancy. They are basics that are always around so I never have to worry about making sure I have the ingredients available. What I suggest (because I do this and it works well 🙂 ) is that when you have some carrots or celery that you didn’t use up and are about to go kinda rubbery on you, is to toss them in a gallon zip top bag. Just like the chicken parts, they can sit in the freezer until you are ready for them. Then you have veggies that are maybe a smidge past their prime for munching on, but perfect to add flavor to your stock.
3. Herbs & Spices
Here is where you can go crazy if you like. Me? I add a pinch of whole peppercorns, a few dried bay leaves, and a large clump of fresh thyme. If I don’t have fresh thyme, I add 1 tsp of dried, mainly because thyme and chicken just go so darn well together. And that is it! If I have parsley stems leftover, I will add those, but generally, I like the flavor to be simple and true. You want your chicken stock (broth) to be flavorful, but multipurpose and not overpowering. If I am immediately turning the broth into soup, I may add something specific to that recipe. Otherwise, I keep it simple. If you are a major fan of sage, add a clump of fresh or a pinch of dried. A bit of dill would be yummy too. As long as you have some base flavors, you can jazz it up to your liking.
Ummm…thats it. Add water. Fancy, huh?
If you have the bones of one chicken, use:
1 chicken carcass, picked clean of meat
2 carrots, or the equivalent, rinsed (peeling is unnecessary)
2-3 stalks of celery, or the equivalent, rinsed of any dirt
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
5 whole pepper corns
2 dried bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 large pinch dried
two big pinches of salt-Don’t overdo this because you can’t take it back out again.
4-6 quarts of water
Ok. Put what you are using in a large pot and pour in 4-6 quarts of water. I always just fill up the pot until the ingredients are covered and it always comes out about the same. If you have an extra big carcass from something like a turkey or maybe even from two chickens, you will need to add more water and more veggies. If you are using a whole raw chicken, add more water to allow for the extra volume.
Put the pot, uncovered, over medium heat and let the stock simmer. DO NOT LET IT BOIL! When it bubbles vigorously, it tosses the ingredients around and makes for a rather cloudy, and not as nice looking broth. Simmer for an hour, hour and half or so, until the ingredients are all cooked, and it smells AMAZING! Cool slightly and use a tongs to remove and discard the large pieces of bone and vegetables. Being VERY careful, pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve. If you want a very clear broth, line the sieve with cheesecloth. Let the stock cool, preferably overnight in the fridge, and skim the solidified fat off the top and either discard, or save to use for frying! Freeze the broth in airtight containers labeled well, or use within the week!
A few quick tips:
If I have some store-bought broth leftover from something, I mix it in before I freeze it.
I go light on the salt. Depending on your chicken carcass, it can add a lot of salt already to the broth if you aren’t careful. You can always add it to the recipe you are using the broth for, but salty chicken stock is NOT good eats.
You do NOT have to strain the broth through anything finer than a colander. Sometimes the bits of veggie and meat in there is what you want in your soup and that rustic look is just fine. Its up to you.
Freeze your stock in quart containers, but maybe a few 1 c containers as well. Its nice to have a smaller quantity when you need just a bit to deglaze a pan.
TASTE IT! Be sure to taste your broth so that you know what it is you like in your recipe. Adjust accordingly.
Don’t fret about the color. The shade and clarity of your stock will depend on your chicken, your bones, your veggies, etc. Just check the taste. That is most important!