Rock the Stock: How to make Chicken Stock
Whenever I go into one of my homemade chicken stock frenzies, I feel like I’ve really lost it. Like more than normal. Maybe I have. Why am I going through all this trouble for something that’s super-cheap in stores? Do I like making extra work for myself? Do I enjoy giving other shoppers a smirking head shake when I see stock in their carts while muttering amateurs under my breath?
Well, maybe. But there are other good, valid, non-snarky reasons to make your own chicken stock.
First, like the benefit to anything homemade, you control what’s in it. You can make it low salt, no-salt, rosemary-infused, lemon-scented, whatever. It’s nice being in control of something, right? Take a sec to ponder that feeling in this out-of-control world.
Second, and again like most homemade things, it tastes better. Now before you get too excited, it’s chicken stock, okay, not filet mignon with a wine reduction cooked by Gordon Ramsey. It won’t freaking blow your mind. But, since stock comprises the base of many dishes, it’ll subtly improve all your yummy and delicious masterpieces.
Third, and this may be most important, making your own stock will make you feel like a culinary badass, and who doesn’t need that?
Now, let’s rock the stock. Put on some upbeat music and get cooking.
What You Need:
2-3 Whole Chicken Carcasses. Whenever you fix a whole chicken (like say, spatchcocking *wink) or buy a juicy rotisserie from Costco, simply freeze the leftover bones. Isn’t recycling fun?
A Large Pot
Freezable containers; we use round quart-sized Ziploc containers with screw-top lids
A strainer with a tight mesh (I use a large tea strainer) or cheesecloth
A few hours on, let’s say, a rainy Saturday
A variety of aromatics… whatever you like. It’s your stock. Remember what I said about control? In my best stocks so far, I’ve used:
3-4 stalks of celery (I use the leafy, inner parts of the stalk that no one eats for some reason)
1-2 onions depending on the size of my batch, chopped quartered,
2-3 quartered carrots,
a couple bay leaves,
a sprinkle of peppercorns,
two sprigs each of rosemary and thyme,
a couple sage leaves
I leave out the salt because we’re going low-salt in our house these days, but you do you. If you’re a salt-head, I suggest waiting until your stock is done, then add salt to taste. Garlic’s also nice, if you have it.
This recipe usually earns me 6-7 quarts of stock, which lasts a month or two depending on how many soups we make.
What You Do:
Place your fresh and/or frozen carcasses into your large pot.
Throw in your veg and herbs.
Fill the pot with COLD water (It MUST be COLD) until everything is comfortably covered in the cold bath. Why cold, the studious readers might ask? Well, I’m no scientist, but what I understand is that the key to a good stock is a LOW AND SLOW cook, therefore it’s best to start cold and raise the temp gradually. Starting warm and the water getting too hot leads to a cloudy, not-so-yummy-looking result. If cloudy stock happens to you (don’t be sad; it really happens to all of us), don’t throw it away. It’s still edible. It simply may require a second strain, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Heat on a LOW simmer for 2-3 hours. YOU DO NOT WANT A ROLLING BOIL, ever, but a baby simmer, like slightly bubbling. Like… you’ll look at the water and see that it’s hardly moving at all and wonder… should I turn it up? NO! On my stovetop, the ideal setting is 4 on an Induction cooktop.
After a few hours, the stock will reduce, that is, the water level will start to go down. That’s when I know it’s done. But, if you have raw chicken in there, you can take the water’s temperature to ensure it’s at least 165 F. But really if it has been simmering at even 140 F for at least an hour then it'll still be safe. This according to hubs (But really thanks to Sous Vide Ways and their handy little Time & Temp Guide). Joe fancies himself a poor man's Alton Brown. Silly Billy (SMH). He's still cute though, I think I'll keep him.
Give it a taste. Do a little chicken dance. But, don’t get too comfortable yet.
Here comes the labor-intensive part… Once the stock cools, scoop out as much of the bones and aromatics as you can—this is all garbage now. Then strain your stock into their storage containers via your tight-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. I’ve never used cheesecloth, but others do. You’ll have to play with how this process works best for you. I ladle the broth through my tea strainer into the plastic container. Yes, this takes for evs. But, there’s something satisfying and zen about it, too. Remember to leave a little room in your containers if you plan to freeze them.
Put your mostly full storage containers into the fridge for an overnight rest. Nighty-night, stock.
In the morning, you’ll find a layer of fat at the top of each container. Skim this. Don't you wish you could take it off your thighs this easy?
IF your broth is cloudy, you can go through the straining process again to rid it of excess fat or other undesirables. Don’t fret, though. A second strain is rarely needed.
Now, relax. Your stock is ready for freezing or cooking or guzzling or for taking a nice, long chicken stock bath.
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking… that’s a helluva lot of work to save a couple bucks at Walmart. Yes. That’s true. This is a painstaking endeavor that should be reserved only for brave souls who:
ENJOY kitchen work,
Have time on their hands,
Want to micromanage what they’re eating,
Or maybe LIKE playing with chicken carcasses. That could be a thing, right?
BUT, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it’s hella-satisfying. I mean, it’s not like win-the-lottery satisfying, but come on. It’s chicken stock.
Ah, golden and delicious.
Got any rocking stock tips? Share below. But please, no chicken stock bath pics. I'm talking to you, Barry.