Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chicken Stock Obsession

One of my favorite activities in the kitchen is preparing chicken stock. I like to make beef stock, too, but that one is more labor intensive. With chicken stock, you just throw it all in the pot and you're good to go. The most labor intensive part of making chicken stock is the end when you strain it and cool it. Well, you do need to skim some junk off of the top during cooking once in a while--but that's easy.

If you're in a pinch and you need stock quickly, you can simply throw in some chicken parts and cook for a short time. For classic stock, though, you want to simmer for a longer time in order to achieve maximum flavor.

Here's my personal procedure:

I never buy chicken parts anymore. I haven't for many years. Well, I take that back--if there is a good sale on chicken breasts, legs, thighs, etc. and they are of exceptional quality and not "Franken-chicken," I may buy some from time to time. Otherwise, forget it.

It's much more economical to cut your chicken at home. Not only can you cut it the way you like, (and not have to worry about bone splinters that occur so often in pre-cut chicken because pre-cut is usually done with a machine), you can use the extra parts that no one will eat to make chicken stock.

In the photo above, there are two sets of chicken remnants. The one on top is from a free-range, organic fryer. This brand had the giblets and the neck. You generally don't see that too often these days, unless you buy a hen instead of a fryer. The chicken on the bottom is from a local company, no giblets and neck for that one. It's a lot smaller, too.

When I cut up a chicken, I usually take the breasts off sans bones, so these chickens have the breastbones intact. The legs, thighs and wings are removed and the wingtips are saved for stock. Why not? No one eats those.

This chicken is frozen. You don't need to defrost before you make stock. Just toss it in there.

Add water, leaving about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of space at the top. You aren't going to be boiling the hell out of it, so you won't have any problems with it boiling over. Oh, and by the way, it's an 8-quart stockpot.

Next, add your veggies. You don't have to get fancy about those, just make sure they're washed. You can snap the carrots and celery in half and throw it in there, celery leaves and all. Don't even bother cutting it. Maybe cut the onion half in half, that's about it. You can use whatever odds and ends you have in your fridge as far as vegetables go. Just avoid using any strong vegetables, like broccoli.

Ingredients for classic chicken stock are: onion, celery, carrots, fresh parsley (leaves & stems but you can also use stems only), a bay leave and a handful of peppercorns (about 1-1/2 teaspoons for this recipe).

For this batch, I had a couple of chunks of red onion so I threw those in, too. Turn on the heat to medium high or so, but don't let it get to a rolling boil. You want a slow simmer for stock. Once it starts to simmer pretty good, reduce the heat to low or medium low (Depending on your stove--this varies).

Here's the whole shebang in the pot. it's already accumulating foam on top. This is the stuff you want to skim from the top, along with fat when it rises. Oh, and repeat after me three times: NO STIRRING!! Never stir stock. You want all of the impurities to sink or rise so you can remove them easily.

Here's some "chicken skim" that came up. You'll get this early on in the "chicken stock journey." 

Here we are, almost at the end of the journey. (The stock was simmered for over 2 hours, probably closer to 3). Your stock is ready to be strained and cooled. Unless you have one of those really cool stockpots that have a faucet on the bottom, you'll have to do this by hand. Dip out as much as you can. Use tongs to carefully remove the chicken and vegetables. Then you can easily pour the rest through your strainer.

Here is the rich, gorgeous result. I only strained this stock through a standard strainer. If you want even more purity, use a strainer with smaller mesh lined with cheesecloth.

Cool and refrigerate. Or you can freeze it, it keeps for a long time. If you do a lot of cooking, though, it won't be in your freezer for long. Any fat you may have missed with your earlier skimming can be removed easily after refrigeration.

I got about 1-1/2 gallons or out of this batch. It could have been a few ounces more or less--I didn't measure it. Let's just say it was A LOT, ha ha! 

What you end up with is a much healthier stock than what's available in grocery stores. It's really economical, too. A quart of stock in a regular grocery store usually runs about $2.99. It's even more in specialty food stores.

So you get cheap stock that is of great value. There's no salt added so you can use it however you like. Use it to cook your rice, pasta or vegetables for extra added flavor. That way, you don't need to use a lot of butter or extra salt. Use it for soup, for poaching, or in a sauce. Whatever you do, use it in good health!

Important things to remember when making stock:

  • Never, ever stir it!!
  • Always start your stock with cold water, (if you don't, it will be cloudy) 
  • Never allow stock to come to a full, rolling boil. (you'll end up with cloudy stock for sure) 

Until next time....Happy Eating!!! :)


  1. Congratulations on starting a blog! I'm glad you wrote a post about the chicken stock.

  2. Thank you! I had a lot of fun writing it. It's probably a little "wordy" and overblown, but hey--we are talkin' chicken stock! :)