Eat Well, Spend Less: The Never-Ending Chicken Broth (Am I “Stocking Up” or Being Greedy?)

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People are often asking where to start: you know, when they’re first coming over to a real food lifestyle and feel overwhelmed at the laundry list of changes they’ll have to make to their standard American diet (read: processed foods).

Now that I’ve survived the last six months, moving twice, living with my in-laws (which was wonderful, but not my own kitchen), and having a baby, I can say with absolute certainty the procedures I won’t ever stop doing vs. those I let drop for a season.

The top three are those that embody the mission of Kitchen Stewardship best:

  1. saves money
  2. superb nutrition
  3. doesn’t take much time

The earth would be one thing I’d compromise on a bit if I had to (sorry, Earth), but even so, all of these practices are gentle on the environment as well.

My Top Three

1. homemade yogurt

I’m excited to be getting together with a few friends for a little yogurt tutorial this week, and I’ll be snapping photos for a more visual, user-friendly, "cliff’s notes" version of the famous Katie’s No Dishes Yogurt Method. I hear that post can be a bit overwhelming, and I’m looking forward to updating it!

black bean soup

2. cooking with dry beans

(although I admit I grabbed a can or two or ten during the craziest of times)

I’ve said all I can say about beans in the aptly titled The Everything Beans Book

leek soup

3. homemade chicken stock

This week we’re talking broth.

More specifically, how to make even more free broth from one lousy whole chicken.


Bones Once, Broth Thrice

I mentioned yesterday that I used to always run out of broth and have tons of shredded chicken left in the freezer, and I now have tons of broth in the freezer and am saying, "Where’s the chicken?"

What changed?

My mother would say I got greedy.

I say I’m just stocking up.

I credit Amanda Rose for my flowing rivers of broth, as she proved what I always secretly hoped: that you can reuse bones for multiple batches of stock, and there’s still good stuff in there. She and her mom achieved gelatin in TWELVE successive batches of beef bone broth with the same bones. Amanda does note in this great guest post that chicken bones won’t last more than 3-5 batches.

I’ve given it a go two or three times now, including a huge pot of turkey stock from a whole turkey.

In my experience, the first batch of stock is fabulously rich, the second is still great for many soups, especially those that might be blended or have heavy spices anyway, and the third is quite thin, used to augment rice dishes or creamy soups. I label them accordingly for storage: "chix broth 2nds" or "turk broth 3rds"

My freezer runneth over.

The Basics

If you’ve never even made your own stock before, period, here’s a refresher:

  1. Cover bones (cooked or uncooked) completely with cold water in a large pot. Add a glug of vinegar (this pulls out the minerals so they get into the stock). Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Bring to a boil, but just barely.
  3. Skim and discard any foam you see.
  4. Simmer for 4-24 hours, adding onion, garlic, carrots and celery for the last 30-60 minutes and a bunch of fresh parsley for the final 10. Salt to taste (or salt when you use the broth – just do the same thing every time so you remember!).
  5. Strain out solids and cool broth.

For more detailed instructions, view the full post on how to make homemade chicken stock.

Here’s where things change for the greedy broth users among you:

  1. Sort out the vegetables from the bones.
  2. Return the bones to the pot – you may break them or smash them with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to release even more bone marrow. (Or ask your husband to see if he’s tough enough to break the leg bones…that usually gets the job done!)
  3. Cover with cold water again; vinegar optional.
  4. Repeat steps 2 through 5 above.

How simple is that?

The only complicated bit about it is if you’re trying to make big huge batches on the stovetop. I started running out of places to PUT the broth as I was straining it. When I did a batch from split chicken breast bones in the slow cooker, it was a no brainer.

Sometimes I’d totally skip adding the vegetables and label the broth "unflavored broth," knowing I could still use it for thicker soups, rice, or other applications where the flavor isn’t important but a little boost of nutrition wouldn’t hurt. The process was even simpler because I didn’t have to sort out the bones:

Dump bones out into strainer with bowl underneath, dump back into slow cooker, fill with water. Lovely.

What to do with the Vegetables?

Now that I’ve started adding the veggies at the end instead of the beginning, I can even use them in chicken soup when possible. I used to just throw them away, every time, and you’ll probably find that you need to do some of that once you start getting a few gallons of stock from one bird. Just remember that you’ve sucked all the nutrients out of that carrot, so it’s really just packaging. Compost it if it would make you feel better. Smile

What to do with all that Stock?

First of all, hopefully you are able to incorporate a meal with stock in it once a week already. Now you can increase the frequency – make more soup, use stock to cook rice, use it in place of water in chili or veggie bean burritos, make gravy, add stock to creamy soups and dips, or even drink a cup of plain stock, flavored with herbs and salted well, before a meal to aid digestion.

Be sure to check out the many ideas to enhance your stock making process in yesterday’s Monday Mission. (Note: I’ve updated that post already with 3-4 new ideas – I write posts so often in my head, and apparently part of the file was lost when I was actually getting it to the computer… Winking smile )

As you incorporate stock into your meal plan, you’ll find that the process becomes second nature to you, just part of your routine.

Now that you have a new way to make food out of garbage – and what could be more frugal? – check out the rest of the Eat Well, Spend Less series, and say hello to the other ladies participating in this month’s theme of "food goals/resolutions":

What’s your favorite way to use homemade stock? Have you ever made multiple batches from one set of bones?

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68 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    I love making stock! Sometimes I make excuses to cook with whole chickens or bone -in beef JUST so I have bones to make stock with. I have also been known to come home from dinner at someone else’s house with a bag full of bones. I started keeping a large zip-top bag in my freezer to put odds and ends of veggies in – onion skins, potato peels, the ends of squash and carrots, etc. The next time I make stock, it’s everyone in the pool!

  2. says

    This is exactly how I do my chicken stock in the crock pot. The first and second batch I do about 12 hours each, the 3rd for about 24. 3rd batches get used for beans :) if I have them, I put chicken heads or feet in the 2nd batch and further.

  3. says

    I never use whole veggies anymore. If I don’t have any, I don’t use them. BUT. And you will like this. :) I save up celery ends, onion ends, carrot peels, etc. and I throw all those in! I was going to throw them out anyway, might as well use them for stock. I do throw in the last bits of floppy, not-good-for-anything celery too. It’s a great way to use kitchen waste and get even more out of it. I hated using 3 – 4 whole, good carrots and throwing them away! Now I don’t have to. :) You can save scraps in the freezer if you won’t be making stock soon enough for them to stay good.

    I need to do this with my beef bones. I let my beef stock go FOREVER but I’m sure there’s still more in them. They’re just so big. I’m about to start a huge pot of chicken stock, but in a day or two (or three! I have a really big bag of “chicken parts”) I will do beef stock and I will do a few batches. Better get on that, because I’m roasting a whole turkey next week. Oh! But I got a roaster for Christmas so I suppose I could do turkey stock in there and beef stock on the stove. Hmm….

    Yes, we love stock. :)

    • says

      I do the same thing with veg scraps. I have a big old jar in the freezer where I keep carrot peels and ends, the leafy part of celery, onion tops, etc :)

      • says

        I do the same, only I just keep a stock pot in my freezer. When ever I cut up an onion or trip carrots (including peelings) I throw in the parts I used to compost into the stock pot. Every time we chicken in any form with bones we throw the bones into the pot. And then at some point, when it is about half full, I make stock, but I had never heard of doing more than one batch before. I also can my stock (with a pressure canner) so it doesn’t take space in my freezer and it is really easy to just grab a jar when it is needed. I will have to try the multiple batch of stock then.

  4. Lauren Anderson says

    I made my first batch of chicken broth last night in my crock pot with a chicken we had roasted for dinner. The broth is amazing and I even picked up at least a cup of good meat to use in another recipe.

    I do have a question about storage. I live in an apartment with no secondary freezer and mine is quite full. How long can I keep broth in the fridge? I’m assuming two weeks is safe but not much after that, right?

    I’ll be trying to make room for some of the broth to freeze and the rest I’ll make a soup.

    • Lauren Anderson says

      Hi Jill,
      I experimented with this and it was really easy. I put the chicken carcass in the crock pot, added water to an inch from the top and added a few splashes of vinegar. Let sit for 45 minutes and then turned to high for a couple of hours (I don’t think this was even necessary, I could have just put it on low and forgot about it but I wanted to make sure it got hot enough before putting on low).

      Before I went to bed I turned it to low and left it like that until the next evening (I get home late from work so it was brewing for almost 24 hours) and turned it off. I let it cool for a bit so it’s still hot but not so hot that I’m scared to lift the ceramic crock pot dish.

      In the sink I put my strainer in a large bowl to catch the broth. I poured the crock pot broth into that and actually not much went into the strainer, most of the solids stayed in the crock pot.

      After that, I ladled the broth into containers and let them cool. I picked any extra meat out to use in another dish and discarded the bones, fat, and skin that was still present.

      I was actually amazed with how easy clean up was. The broth looks fantastic and tastes just like the broth that I’ve bought so I am pretty confident it will work well with any recipe.

      Good luck!

        • Lauren Anderson says

          My crock pot holds 6 quarts. I got 3.25 quarts (or 13 cups) of stock out of it.

          A six-cup crock pot sounds like it would barely fit a chicken in it. Did you mean six quarts?

        • says

          That’s exactly what I do too, and then freeze the broth in ice cube trays like someone mentioned above. SO easy, it practically makes itself, and it’s awesome to be able to just throw a few cubes of stock into a recipe for more flavor, or to deglaze a pan or whatever. I can’t imagine having to watch a pan simmering on the stove now that I know my trusty crock pot can do the job!

  5. says

    This post is almost exactly what I was thinking after my accomplishments yesterday & today; I did the things that in our quest for a healthier, self sustainable and frugal lifestyle. I started beans soaking with whey yesterday morning, they are in the crockpot now. Preped my (other) crockpot of yogurt last night so it would be ready this morning, 1/3 is hanging for cheese, 1/3 was made into ranch dressing and the other 1/3 is available to eat or use in other ways. And the stock is on the stove as I type. I too save all the veggie left overs in the freezer until I make my stock and then toss them in. I did not know that you could use the same carcass successfully to make multiple batches of stock. Thank your for sharing that helpful info. I love your site, it is so informative; what a blessing it has been to me and my family. God bless and keep you.

  6. says

    It’s funny you posted this today because I had to move around twenty packets of homemade chicken stock around in the freezer to make room for the leftover broth from a brisket. We’re stocked on stock.

  7. waggie says

    I’ve been using the same bones for three batches of stock for a while and LOVE that with chicken I think it keeps it’s flavor better than beef. One thing that I have started doing is combine all three batches together. I keep them in jars in the fridge and then when I’m done with all three batches I pour all the jars back into one big pot warms slightly until liquid again and then pour back into jars (or freezer containers). This then distributes the richness.

    • waggie says

      Oh…. and I also use the neck and organs you find hidden in the chicken to make stock. I don’t know if the organs increase the nutritional value of the stock or not, but I’m not to a point where I can stomach eating organ meat so I feel better that I’m not throwing them away.

  8. Beth via Facebook says

    Just wondering. If you pulled out the bones prior to putting in the veggies for broth would that work? Then you wouldn’t have to sort through the veggies for the bones. I haven’t tried double using the bones yet (but I will next time, since I am out of broth again!). I love the tip about putting veggie wastes (onion skins, carrot ends, etc) in a bag in the freezer because now I don’t feel like I am wasting yummy (expensive at times) veggies just to make stock.

  9. says

    We don’t use chicken stock…but the same could be true for veggie stock. And using dried beans is amazing–such a money saver and a sodium saver, as well!

    • says

      Yes it can be canned, but you must use a pressure canner and not a water bath. You will need to check the guidelines for processing at your specific altitude. Here in CO at high altitude I have to process it much longer than someone who is at sea level. I would google it.

  10. Lori says

    Hm… I wish I had read this post this afternoon. I literally just strained my cooled stock and threw away the bones as well as the extra chicken (cause I that I wasn’t supposed to use that after being boiled for so long. Apparently I was wrong there since so many have commented on saving their chicken). I wish I didn’t have a bunch of dirty diapers in my garbage can or I would be tempted to get those bones back out haha. Next time I will know better. Love all the comments about saving veggie scraps too. I threw l those away as I made my stock into potato sausage and kale soup. I don’t ever peal my veggies or potatoes but i could have saved the onion skins and carrot and celery ends and tips .

  11. says

    i have yet to make 2 batches from the same bones, but i plan to now that i just got more jars to store it in! i personally have to add the veggies at the beginning because otherwise the smell of the stock makes me feel nauseated. the veggies really do help the smell.

    my recent post: still waters

  12. says

    Not only do I use ice cube trays to freeze the broth, but I also froze some of my last batch in a muffin tin – for those recipes that I need a little more than ice cube tray, but not nearly as much as a jar or more.

    And I made yogurt for the first time! Thanks Katie. I can’t say that it turned out perfect, but it is pretty tasty. I’ll definitely be making more (probably this weekend since I made such a small test batch, and it is almost gone).

    • Sarah says

      I love the muffin tin idea! I would love to have broth measured out in, say, half cup portions that can be pulled out when needed.

    • Beth says

      I use muffin tins, ice cube trays, and yogurt containers to freeze mine! Muffin tins hold 1/3 cup, ice cube trays about 1- 1/2 to 2 tbsp, and then I put 1 cup portions in the yogurt containers. I just pop them all out and into a freezer bag afterwards! I don’t eat a lot of meat because we buy organic and it is so freakin expensive, but not wasting any of the bi-products certainly saves us a tonne of money!

  13. Stacey says

    I’ve made stock two or three times before. I followed all the directions and the broth LOOKED perfect. There was the prized gelatin and there was very little of anything that needed to be skimmed. But there was very little flavor! I added salt and all I got was a curiously salty blandness. What did I do wrong? No umami at all!

    • Katie says

      Hmmm, I don’t often taste my stock plain anyway, but it DOES take a lot of salt to taste good in soups. Did you add the parsley? All the veggies? I’m bamboozled! :( Katie

      • Stacey says

        I didn’t have your recipe with all the veggies, so maybe that’s the problem? I’ve tried other recipes which basically just included large pieces of onion, celery and carrot. I guess I’m just afraid of being disappointed again (and having lots of chicken stock in the freezer that my kids dislike). I’ll try again!

        • Katie says

          Those simple vegs will make all the difference! I like the parsley and usually add thyme to my chicken soup, too. Good luck! :) Katie

          • Stacey says

            This is a follow-up to my chicken stock issues. Every week, my husband buys a rotisserie chicken (for one of those nights when my children have sports or other obligations). I have been saving the bones and, finally, making delicious stock! I follow your instructions to the letter. Thanks, Katie, for all your help.

  14. Caitlin says

    Hi Katie,

    I’m working on making stock more, and loving it. This time I shredded the chicken when I took it off the bones and put it in the freezer, but now I’m puzzled about how to thaw the cooked chicken. Should I put it in the fridge over night?


    • Katie says

      That will work just fine, or if you have bags that are the right amount (I always freeze in 2-cup portions) you can just throw it in your soup frozen. :) Katie

  15. says

    Katie, you have really simplified the whole broth-making procedure! I have very much come to rely on my crockpot for smaller batches of broth and the slow simmer produces a very nice broth. Can’t wait to try the fresh parsley that you suggested!

    Regarding how long broth will keep in the fridge, if the broth has a very nice layer of fat on the top that seals the broth, I have found that it easily keeps more than a week in a tightly capped mason jar in the fridge. The key is to fill the jars as full as possible with the broth/stock, then cool completely in the fridge before capping with 2-piece lids.

  16. Marta says

    This may be a whole new subject, but can you tell me what you think about the issue of lead in slowcookers? I love using it for broth making as I’m never home long enough, but the lead scares me a bit.

    • Katie says

      I actually have a few articles on that issue saved for a future post…to be honest, I haven’t looked into it deeply enough to say anything, but I hope what I find doesn’t make me get rid of my slow cooker! Yikes… Katie

  17. Rebecca C says

    So what is the difference between stock and broth? My understanding is when making broth you put in more meat than bones, and when making stock you put in more bones than meat. I guess it doesn’t really matter if you are able to use bones, meat, organs or whatever, in most cooking it will work the same way.

    I love the idea of using the bones more than once. I just want to add that you can also put in the back bone and skin of the chicken. I used to find myself wondering what to do with the skin from the whole chickens I bought. Besides making schmaltz, this works too.

    • Katie says

      People used them interchangably so I sort of do too, but you’re right – broth is not necessarily with bones, whereas stock must be. :) Katie

  18. Sarah says

    A few weeks ago, it was my turn to make dinner for our evening church service, and decided to make soup. After weighing the cost (and lower quality) of store-bought broth, I made broth for the first time! I used two whole chickens and veggies in my big water bath canning pot – filled it up! Per the recipe I used, I deboned the chicken after it was cooked, added the bones back in and simmered for several more hours. The broth and soup turned out great. I used up all the broth in the soup, so I wish I had known that I could re-use the bones! Definitely need to do this soon. Thank so much for sharing all of this info, Katie!
    I was wondering: How much water can you add to the carcass of one chicken and not make the broth too weak? Just to cover the bones? How much broth can you get from each batch?

    • Katie says

      I think the official “recipe” I use says 4 qts water to 2-3 pounds of bones (1-2 chickens I would guess). You probably were at the outer limit with a canning pot and two chickens, so since your broth was good, I’m sure you’ll be happy every time! I get lots and lots of broth…different every time though! :) Katie

  19. meredith says

    I have been making chicken stock in my crockpot for about a year now. Never knew you could use the bones more than once. I am also thrilled about the comments of saving veggie scraps, peels to put in the crockpot. I will start saving those tomorrow!!

  20. says

    I always make my stock in the crock pot too. I make most of my chickens/roasts in the crock pot, so after dinner I clean the meat off the bones, and then return the bones to the crock with the remaining juices and drippings. Sometimes I add in the veggies and typical stock ingredients, but if I am feeling lazy I just let the flavor come from the dinner juices (usually I cook veggies in with my chickens/roasts for dinner). I let this cook on low over night and the next morning (when I get around to it) I turn it off, let it cool a bit, strain, and then pour into jars for the fridge and freezer. It is so easy! The best part is two meals and I only have to clean the crock once! 😉 Of course now that I know I can use the bones over again I may be stretching that even further too. Thanks!

  21. rachael says

    I’ve been re-reading a lot of these posts as I’m experimenting with different stock-making methods, and i wanted to pose a question to any who has used the crock pot method: did you feel your broth tasted “bitter”? Husband has been complaining of this, and we have not liked a single crockpot meal we’ve made since we’ve been using this newer crockpot that we received as a wedding gift. Wondering if perhaps the ‘newer’ models get too hot? Any suggestions/advice?

    • Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship says

      I can smell the difference in a crock pot meal/broth. I bet you’re right, maybe about being too hot, but for sure there’s something going on. I prefer meals in a regular pot, cooked slowly. :) Katie

  22. Anita says

    Love this idea!! I make stock at least once every couple of months, and love the idea of re-using the bones. In order not to have to strain my veggies, though, I think I’ll sew a bag of cheesecloth to put them in and drop that into the pot. I also normally put a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce in my stock/broth for that extra punch of umami, as well as fresh herbs and a few peppercorns. Yum!

  23. says

    This is exactly the info I was looking for! SO very glad to know I can re-use my bones (well, the chicken’s bones) to make more broth! I keep running out of broth and was sure there was a way to make more….

    Thanks a bunch.

  24. Eric Rodgers says

    One thing I’ve discovered in my poultry stock making — usually with turkey, today with chicken — is that I really like adding an apple in with the veggies. It’s not so much to make the stock sweet, but it makes for a rounder, fuller flavor. That, and apples bring health benefits of their own to the party.

  25. Davina Spafford Stuart says

    I do this all the time now.. multiple consecutive batches in my slow cooker.. each day’s batch goes into the fridge to chill and the fat is removed (and saved) the next day once it has chilled and becomes a nice solid block. Once I am done (3-4 days later) and it is all cooled and skimmed, I recombine all the batches and reheat it for bottling. I don’t have the freezer space, but I do have a nice big pantry. I didn’t know I could reuse the bones until a little over a year ago and it has been wonderful. We have been dealing with food allergies/sensitivities for about 2.5 years and I had to relearn and brush up a lot of old skills and it is so nice to have jars and jars of good stock at the ready.

  26. Nicki says

    When making beef bone broth, how do you know when your bones are done? I’m on my sixth batch with the same marrow bones. I’m still getting good gel, but I an also cooking them for 48 hours.

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