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 your own stock is nothing to be afraid of! You’ll save money – LOTS of it – and nourish your family.
Homemade chicken stock is not only powerful help for healthy hair, skin, nails and joints because of all theand it packs in, but it’s even a natural immune booster – the old wives’ tale about it being helpful for beating colds is TRUE, especially if you leave the fat in.
I’ve been making homemade chicken stock since before I was even 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. Since my first post explaining how to make it, I’ve picked up some new tips and tricks along the way, 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 today!
Thanks so much to Vital Proteins for sponsoring this post so I had a good excuse to make such a valuable resource for you!! Use the code VPKS10 for 10% off any order!
- Cover the chicken/bones with cold water and add a few tablespoons of vinegar. I never measure but just pour in “a glug.” Allow to sit for 30-60 minutes to give the vinegar time to soften the bones, beginning the process of leaching the minerals, like calcium, magnesium (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!), and potassium, from the bones and cartilage out into the stock.
- 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 gelatin (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!). 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 Vital Proteins 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 collagen (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) to everything from casseroles to smoothies lately!
- 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 stock pot. 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.
- You can use other veggies too but should stay away from the cruciferous family – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale – because they will impart potentially harmful substances called goitrogens into the stock. Other greens are also a poor choice, both because of the bitter taste and oxalates, which are irritating to the digestive tract.
- 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 salt 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 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 choose to leave it in as chicken fat offers helpful immune building properties, but if I have a storebought, 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. I like to store in glass whenever possible since you’re often transferring hot liquid, and the fat content can be somewhat high if using pastured, healthy birds. That hits pretty much all the risk factors for leaching chemicals out of plastic. Here are some tips for freezing food in glass. It’s also nice to freeze a few ice cube trays full of broth; you can thaw just a little if you need a small amount for a recipe, stir fry glaze, or a sick child.
* 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!
Katie’s Tips for Stock Success
- If starting with raw chicken: It’s absolutely possible to leave the meat on the bones for 24
hours. 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 roast bird: You can either add them right to your stock pot with the carcass – great flavor! – or save them and distribute evenly between the jars of finished stock. If you let the “drippings” cool – that’s whatever is at the bottom of your roasting pan or baking dish after baking a whole bird – 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 our sponsor for 10% off with the code VPKS10!
- 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!
- Get free chicken stock: This “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! (The only reason to remove the veggies is because they can make the stock taste “off,” but if you leave them in and still enjoy the flavor, you’ve saved yourself some time.) 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.
- How to condense stock: 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. It will boil down to a much smaller volume, which takes up less space in the freezer and tastes much more rich. 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 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! I’ve never done it, but I was fascinated to read about it.
- What if I 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.
- Gluten-free? Remember that white vinegar isn’t gluten-free, but apple cider vinegar is fine.
Tips to achieve a nice “gel” in your stock:
- Use only as much water as barely covers the bird, and always allow the 30-minute rest with
cold water and vinegar.
- Cook twelve hours or less (although I’ve gelled at 24, so this is debatable).
- Try smashing the bones, especially for second or third batches. A meat tenderizer is a nice
tool, but watch for splashing on your clothes/walls/etc.
- Some say that you should never let the stock come to a full boil (bubbling), even at the very
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!!
All right folks – how did I do? I truly tried to go through all the FAQs and comments in all my stock posts, but did I miss anything? If you have any other questions about how chicken stock works, hit me with them so I can update the post.
Chicken Stock Resources
- 10 tips for perfect chicken stock
- Stock not gelling? This could be why.
- Excellent ideas for making and getting the most of your gelatin
- Making multiple batches of stock with the same bones
- Two ways to upgrade your current stock system
- Incorporating stock regularly into your meal plan
- Why I now add the veggies later
- 10 reasons to drink more broth
- The real reasons why we make broth in the first place
Some Recipes using Chicken Stock
- White Chicken Chili
- Chicken Rice-a-Roni
- Three Bean Soup
- California Chicken Wraps
- 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
Chicken Stir Fry(Link no longer available)
- Cream of Potato (or any vegetable, really) Soup
- Refried Beans
- Veggie Bean Burritos
- Mexican Rice & Beans
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Image used from GraphicStock with permission.