Don’t be a Chicken…
…in the kitchen. Just USE the chicken. Yes, every part of it.
Let’s face it. Picking up a box of chicken broth at the store is easy. A no-brainer. Until you start to think about added salt, lack of flavor, and especially the fact that it might not even be made with bones – which have all the good nourishment in them!
Making homemade chicken stock is nothing to be afraid of! You’ll save money – LOTS of it – and nourish your family. (Here’s more reasons why I drink chicken broth.)
I’ve been making homemade chicken stock since before I was interested in real food at all because it’s something my mom always did (yay, mom!!) and it’s a habit I’ll never ever drop.
I’ve picked up some new tips and tricks along the way since I first started making homemade stock, and I realized I wanted a “one-stop-shop” resource with all the information in one place.
Because even though I feel like everyone should be making bone broth, I realize that there are still rookies out there – let’s change that!
Why Chicken Stock?
There are so many reasons to make and consume chicken stock – frugality, nourishment, comfort, health benefits. I could go on and on…and I did in this post – 10 Reasons Reasons I Drink Bone Broth.
I cover it all – the good, bad, and disappointing, so be sure to check it out.
Chicken Broth vs Chicken Stock
Bone Broth, Chicken Broth, Chicken Stock…is there a difference? Technically yes, though the terms are used pretty much interchangeably.
The difference comes down to one sort of fuzzy distinction. Stock is always cooked with bones and may or may not contain meat, while broth is always cooked with meat and may or may not contain bones.
Another slight distinction is in the use. Some say that broth is something you sip on or drink, while stock is what you cook with.
I think for the sake of ease I’ll keep using all the terms to mean the same thing – a liquid I cooked with bones and sometimes veggies and/or meat to make a warm, nourishing liquid.
Making Chicken Stock at Home
There is absolutely no need to buy chicken stock when you can easily make it at home – and for a fraction of the price!
There are several different methods for making homemade chicken stock. Let’s start with the traditional method –Print
- Cover the chicken/bones with cold water and add a few tablespoons of vinegar. I never measure but just pour in “a glug.” The vinegar is optional, but I think it improves the taste and many say it helps extract nutrients and minerals from the bones and veggies.
- Cook over high heat until a gentle boil is reached (attempt, of course, not to boil over the liquid like I often do, but don’t despair if that happens). Turn stove to low, then skim off any foam that has risen to the top. (That’s just impurities and questionable stuff – if there’s foam, always try to skim, no matter what you’re cooking.)
- Allow the stock to simmer for anywhere from 4-24 hours. Some say don’t dare go over 12; the same folks say boiling will break down the Perfect Supplements gelatin to your stock at the end to further boost the immunity and skin/hair/joint health benefits of your stock. I’ve been adding gelatin and to everything from casseroles to smoothies lately! . Do what works for you, makes a good-tasting broth, and demonstrates gelatin (like Jell-o consistency) at the end. Note: You can also add
- One or two hours before you stop cooking the stock, prepare some vegetables. I save carrot, celery and onion ends in the freezer and dump the whole bag into the stockpot. Otherwise, grab the following for each whole chicken or equivalent bones: 1-2 onions, 2 carrots, 3 stalks celery, 4 garlic cloves
- All the vegetables are technically optional; great stock can be made from bones alone. The veggies add a lot of flavor and color, but you don’t have to be perfect about how much you put in. I find that onion skins add gorgeous color.
- Wash the carrots and celery and cut them into 3-inch chunks. Quarter the onion – you can leave the skins and ends on if they’re not dirty. Garlic cloves can be whole and unpeeled, but I prefer to crush them or chop them into a few pieces first to release the flavor more. The vegetables will add both nutrients and flavor to the stock.
- After adding your desired veggies, bring the stock back to a boil, gently, and then reduce to a simmer again for the last few hours. You can add at this time or during the next step, using about ½-1 teaspoon per quart (4 cups) of stock. Otherwise, always remember to add plenty of salt when using your homemade stock to make soup or any other recipe, or it will likely fall flat. If you’re worried this is too much, add less and season to taste. It’s easy to add more salt when needed, but trust me – you need salt, and lots of it.
- Ten minutes before finishing the stock, rinse and add a bunch of parsley (again, don’t stress about exact measurements). Fresh is best, for sure, and you don’t need to cut anything off. I use about half of what a store offers as “a bunch” for one chicken, and if I don’t have fresh parsley, I shake a tablespoon or two dried parsley in (it has to be better than nothing). The short cook time imparts mineral ions from the greens and ensures that the flavor added is just right, not bitter.
- At this point, if you have it on hand, add a strip of kombu (seaweed). It also adds minerals and salt to the stock and increases digestibility. If using kombu, cut the amount of salt you’re adding in half until you’ve tasted the finished product.
- To strain the stock: pour the hot stock carefully through a stainless steel colander with a large bowl or pot underneath. I recommend setting the bowl in the sink in case you splash. You may need to remove some stock from the bowl to jars (I use a liquid measuring cup to scoop and pour through a funnel) and strain more stock through the colander.
- You can use the stock immediately at this point. I like to make a big batch of soup the moment my stock is finished, in the same pot.
- Once completely cooled, the fat will rise to the top and congeal. I often choose to leave it in, but if I have a store-bought, conventionally raised bird, I’d opt to skim it off. Once cooled, the fat will be a thick, hard layer of white or yellow that you can crack off easily. The “gel” goes throughout all the liquid part of the stock and you can’t see it at all until cool.
- Homemade chicken stock will last in the refrigerator at least 5-7 days and in the freezer for over a year.
Stock can be made from bones left after roasting a chicken and picking off the meat, raw whole chickens or pieces (e.g. split breasts are an option), or even bones left on plates after eating baked bone-in chicken. The long cook time obliterates any germs.
You can mix raw and cooked chicken in the same pot.
You can freeze the bones or the chicken, or both, before making stock.
These instructions are exactly the same when starting with any poultry, including turkey. Grab those bones at Thanksgiving every year!
Where to Find High Quality Meat
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How to Make Chicken Stock in the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot has become my go-to method for making homemade chicken stock.
It can be done quickly, gets consistent results, and can even be used as a slow cooker if you prefer to make your stock with the ‘low and slow’ method.
Plus, I really hate the idea of leaving my gas range on overnight or when I leave the house and this method ensures I never have to!
It’s as simple as adding bones, water, and vinegar if desired, setting the pressure to high, and coming back in 30 to 90 minutes. For all the details and the step by step instructions check out my post on making bone broth in the Instant Pot.
Making Chicken Stock with Serious Gel
Much of the nourishing aspect of chicken stock comes from the gelatin and collagen present in the broth. Therefore, we should try to ensure our bone broth gets a good gel every time we make it. It’s easier than you think, but there are a couple of extra things to consider.
The first is to use only as much water as barely covers the bird. If you’re using a single carcass, shoot for a 1.5:2 bone to water ratio. If you have access to chicken feet and can add those to the stockpot you can cut that ratio back to 1:2 bones to water.
Other things to consider are temperature and cooking time. If you opt for a low and slow method you may need to cook the broth for 24+ hours to get a good gel. A higher temp, faster method (like the Instant Pot) will likely get you a good gel in a much, much shorter time.
You can also try smashing the bones, especially for second or third batches. A meat tenderizer is a nice tool for this, but you’ll need to contain splashing somehow.
Does This Work for Beef Bones Too?
Use the exact same process for beef bones (and follow these instructions for fish broth). There are only two optional changes to make:
- You can roast the bones first on a cookie sheet at 400F for 30-60 minutes until sizzling for added flavor, but it’s not necessary.
- You can reuse the bones far more! I’ve made 6 batches of broth with the same beef bones and I’ve read about people going up to 12!!
Never-Ending Chicken Broth
Free stock — who doesn’t love that?
The “Never-Ending Chicken Stock Method” is one of my favorite tricks yet – after you strain the first batch of stock, pick out the veggies and put the bones BACK into the pot. Cover with fresh water and a glug of vinegar and start the process all over again!
I’ve made up to three batches of chicken stock from the same bones, sometimes adding a few new bones or a couple chicken feet (for real) for each new batch.
Talk about frugality!
The “seconds” aren’t quite as rich or flavorful as the first batch, but still good for creamy soups or spicy things like white chicken chili where the flavor of the broth isn’t going to be the star of the recipe anyway.
The “thirds” are fine to mix with other first batches, to cook rice, and to add in place of water in bean dishes or chili.
Making Chicken Stock from Chicken Breast
Never cook bone-in chicken? Honestly, I never bought chicken with bones either, except to make stock and soup in the winter.
You still don’t have to serve chicken on the bone, just buy it that way.
You can chop out the breast meat on a whole bird or split chicken breasts and use them for chicken nuggets or stir fry, and then make stock from the bones.
You’ll usually be able to pick off a few more cups of shredded meat for soups and casseroles after boiling the bones for the stock.
How to Make Condensed Chicken Stock
Condensing stock is a great trick for getting more flavor packed into a smaller volume!
After you strain the stock and remove all the bones and veggies, you can return the stock to the pot and boil it, uncovered, for a few hours. As the stock boils it will reduce.
If you’re going to condense, don’t add salt until after you’ve boiled it down so the saltiness doesn’t get too concentrated. Be sure to use your stove fan and/or open some windows so your house doesn’t get too moist.
Also, don’t leave the house during the process – if you have to go somewhere, turn the pot off or down to low. A pot boiled dry is a bad, bad thing!
Use condensed stock as you would broth in any recipe OR add more water to thin it out back to where you started. If you really, really boil it down, you can actually cut it into cubes and it’s shelf stable – homemade bouillon!
Additional Tips for Chicken Stock Success
Chicken stock is almost fool-proof, but here are a few other things to keep in mind.
Starting with Raw Chicken
If you’ve got an uncooked bird, It’s absolutely possible to leave the meat cooking on the bones for up to 24 hours in the stockpot. The resulting cooked chicken will literally fall off the bones and be incredibly soft.
It’s pretty easy to pick a chicken once it’s cooled. However, the chicken may taste a little bland. Some also notice a difference in the flavor of the stock if the meat is present the entire time and prefer bones only for the majority of the time.
To avoid this, pull the chicken out of the pot about 2-4 hours into the process. Allow it to cool enough to handle, pick off most of the chicken (don’t seek perfection; you’ll get another chance), then return the bones to the pot.
Why Not Add Veggies at the Beginning?
The longer the vegetables cook in the stock, the more bitter the stock will taste.
Besides, I consider it an added bonus that the carrots aren’t totally mushy and devoid of nutrition and flavor because I quickly chop them up and add them to the night’s soup after stock-making is finished!
What to do With the Drippings from a Roasted Bird
If you roasted your chicken before deciding to make stock you may be wondering what you can do with all the lovely juices at the bottom of the roasting pan.
Simple – you can either add them right to your stockpot with the carcass – great flavor! – or save them and distribute evenly between the jars of finished stock.
If you let the “drippings” cool you’ll notice they solidify pretty darn well. That’s gelatin, and gelatin is an incredibly nutritious digestive aid, one of the best parts of stock making.
Some people find that the long cook time – or a high boil – will break down gelatin once it’s been leached from the bones, so I choose to save the drippings and distribute them among my jars just in case.
Cool note: That broken-down gelatin is STILL packed with health benefits, and in fact, it’s exactly what “collagen” is if you buy it separately. Because it doesn’t gel, you can add it to your smoothies or other cold things without killing your blender, for example. Grab some from Perfect Supplements for 10% off with the code KS10!
Cool Extension Trick
After the 5-7 days is up in the fridge, you can simply boil homemade stock rapidly for a few minutes and “reset” the clock – it will be good for another 5 days!
Have you tried batch cooking? It’s one of my favorite kitchen hacks to save time while cooking real food, but my take may be slightly different than the ones you’ve seen before.
Instead of making large batches of food and saving them for later, I batch together kitchen tasks and link one night’s dinner to the next. Think of it as getting a head start on your next meal. The net result is time savings AND fresh dinners every night.
The current trend in meal prep seems to be focused on taking several hours on a weekend day to chop and prep veggies, cook meats, and then assemble the leftovers into a multitude of containers.
This is great if it works for you, but my family gets sick of eating leftovers all the time and I get tired of keeping track of all the containers in the fridge! Plus, spending 3-4 hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is usually the last thing I want to do.
My Real Food Head Start 7 Day Dinner Plan provides a framework for incorporating my technique each day to save time on future meals and even start stocking your freezer if you want, while still making and serving a fresh dinner. The best part is, you use the time you are already in the kitchen – no extra prep day needed!
Several ways to incorporate bone broth, too!
Storing Bone Broth
If you are going to be using your bone broth within about a week, the easiest way to store it is in mason jars in the refrigerator.
However, if you find you make more than you can consume at one time or just want to stock up you are going to need to make use of your freezer for a long-term storage option.
You can freeze bone broth in several different ways.
Mason jars, also known as canning jars, are a great way to store bone broth in the freezer. It’s important to remember to leave enough ‘head room’ at the top of the jar to allow for expanding in the freezer.
All this means is you need to leave about a 1-2 inch space between the top of the liquid and the top of the jar. That way, when the broth freezes and expands against the glass, it has somewhere to go (up) and doesn’t explode (out). Ask me how I know… #facepalm
Note that some sizes/styles of mason jars are freezer safe and some are not, so make sure you know what you have!
These stainless steel reusable lids (available in regular and wide mouth) are great to use for storing broth in the freezer. They also make storing leftover soups, homemade mayo, homemade ranch dressing, or any other liquid or semi-liquid foodstuffs a breeze in the fridge or freezer.
Stainless Steel or other BPA Free Storage Container
These stainless steel, glass, or other BPA free storage containers have the edge over mason jars in my book because of their stackability! Several different designs are available for purchase on Amazon.
Remember to leave some extra space in the container, especially if you are using glass, to allow for expansion.
Reusable Storage Bags
This is an excellent solution if you don’t have a ton of extra room. These BPA free reusable storage bags come in various sizes (I think quart size is best for freezing broth) and, once frozen, can be stacked neatly in the freezer.
Frozen as Ice Cubes
Frozen broth cubes are great to have on hand if you want just a little pop of extra flavor in your rice, to saute some leafy greens, or to add to some leftovers to aid in reheating.
Just pour cooled broth into ice cube molds. Once frozen, remove the bone broth cubes and store in a BPA free reusable store bag or other freezer-safe containers, as mentioned above.
Where to Buy High-Quality Chicken Stock
I debated on whether to include this, because I truly believe anyone can make their own homemade chicken stock, but I know there may be times where you need to source a high-quality stock and you just don’t have time to make it yourself.
For those times you can’t make your own, it can be hard to find a commercial stock that actually uses bones, the key to a proper stock. Pacific Organic is one, found here at Thrive Market.
As bone broth and properly made stock is becoming more in demand it’s possible to find high quality stock in many grocery stores as well. Look for the words ‘bone broth’ on the label and grab an organic product when possible.
If you aren’t ready to do it yourself, check out my bone broth protein powder review.
Recipes That Use Chicken Stock
- White Chicken Chili
- Chicken Rice-a-Roni
- Three Bean Soup
- Chicken Barley Leek Soup
- Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup Casserole
- Slow Cooker Lentil Brown Rice Casserole
- Garlic Soup
- Black Bean Soup
- Simple Cabbage Soup
- Veggie Laden Shepherd’s Pie
- Cream of Potato (or any vegetable, really) Soup
- Refried Beans
- Mexican Rice & Beans
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Image used from GraphicStock with permission.