Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kitchen Gold (Homemade Chicken Stock)

Simple but flavorful recipes – that’s what I’m always looking for. I can’t stand bland food, and I don’t believe you need a list of 20 ingredients to make a tasty meal. As long as you use quality ingredients, you can make awesome-tasting, simple food. So, one way to bump up the flavor in your recipes is by using home-made chicken stock as opposed to store-bought chicken broth. But first I have to say, there is nothing wrong with using store-bought chicken broth. There are some good organic ones out there, and it’s one of the staples in my pantry. I use it whenever I don’t have my home-made stock on hand. It adds good flavor to a dish…. BUT,  home-made chicken stock adds GREAT flavor to a dish. So if you have the time, it’s definitely worth the effort to cook up some home-made stock.

There are many opinions about how to make a good stock. Some recipes will have you cooking it for 6 to 8 hours. Some recipes call for only bones. Some recipes tell you to use several chicken carcasses and meaty bones. Some call for a whole fresh chicken, but then tell you to throw the meat away after it’s done. I’ve read dozens of variations over the years.

So practically-speaking, I don’t have 6 to 8 hours to spend on chicken stock (nor would I want to). I’m thinking you don’t either. The other thing I will tell you is that if you use only bones for your stock, it will taste like…… bones. (I’ve tried it; I know.) Even if you leave a little meat on them, it won’t be enough to give you that good, rich chickeny (new word) flavor. So then there is the option of using lots of meaty bones and carcasses that I’ve presumably collected over time and stored in the freezer. But I don’t go through so many chickens that I would have a big stockpile on a regular basis. So that’s not practical for me. The last option I mentioned is to use a whole fresh chicken, but after hours of cooking, you end up having to throw the meat away because it’s completely overcooked and inedible. So here’s the compromise I came up with....

You'll need:

  • 1 whole chicken (5 lbs. or more), cut up (If you’ve never cut up a whole chicken before, visit this site for instructions on how to do it: http://allrecipes.com/howto/cutting-up-a-whole-chicken/ .)
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large parsnip, cut in half
  • 3 carrots, cut in halves
  • 4 celery ribs, cut in halves
  • 6 – 8 sprigs of parsley with stems intact
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • 8 cups cold water
Put all the ingredients into a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Everything should be covered with water. If you have an extra-large chicken, you may need to add additional water to cover.

Put the pot over high heat and bring almost to a boil... (to the point when it's starting to bubble, but not to a full rolling boil), turn the heat down, and let it simmer, uncovered. Skim the foam off every 20 minutes or so throughout the first hour. After about 45 minutes of cooking, use tongs to lift out the breast pieces and any other meaty pieces you'd like to save. (I take the breast meat out and leave everything else.)

After 1 hour of cooking

The meat you've taken out should be perfectly poached, (check temp - it should be at least 165 degrees), and can be cut up or shredded to put back into a soup or other dish. The meat you've left in will continue to cook and add a nice flavor to the stock, but by the time the stock is finished, it will be cooked to smithereens and won't be edible, so keep that in mind. Our family doesn't care for dark meat, so that is the meat I sacrifice to give the stock its flavor.

Continue to simmer the stock, uncovered, for an additional 2 hours. Check it every half-hour and add cold water as necessary to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. Skim the foam each time you check on it.

Pour the stock through a strainer lined with cheesecloth (if you have a cheesecloth; if not, don't worry about it) with a large bowl or pot underneath.

The aftermath - 3 hours of cooking

Allow the stock to cool. I don't recommend putting a big bowl of hot stock in your refrigerator to cool - it will bring the temperature of your fridge up to an unhealthy level for several hours. You can cool it in an ice bath (fill a large bowl or pot with ice, and rest your bowl of stock inside it), until it gets to room temp - then transfer it to the fridge. (I cover my bowl and stick it outside in my screened-porch during the winter months.) Let it cool for several hours or overnight. Once cooled, all the fat will have congealed at the top. Skim it off, and your stock is ready to go. This recipe should yield about 6 to 7 cups. You can store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.



  1. Great post Adele. Really useful information. I call my stock liquid gold (great minds think alike?). We are a white meat family as well, and I don't mind sacrificing those tiny wings and thighs to the stock. I love having the stock in the freezer.

  2. Thanks Bonnie... it's good to know someone else does it the same way I do. : )


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