Chicken Stock, 1 2 3

January 27, 2009 | By | COMMENTS

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It’s cheap and easy to have homemade chicken stock on hand: all you really need is time. And thyme. But mostly time.

Sure, it can be expensive–I still can’t get over The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe which calls for not one, not two, but THREE whole chickens that you boil for three hours and discard. That seems extraordinarily wasteful, don’t you think?

I’ve played around with lots of stock recipes, but my latest foray into stock making was a pretty happy one. The recipe comes from Molly Stevens and it’s simple and straightforward and cheap, cheap, cheap.

What makes it so cheap is that you use chicken backs. I bought 5 lbs of chicken backs from Key Food for less than $5. I was slightly hesitant, at first, because unlike the chickens I normally buy–which are either organic or free-range or both–they only had generic chicken backs (along with generic chicken feet, chicken necks, and gizzards.) Here’s how I rationalized my purchase: the economics of chicken production are such that companies don’t make their money from selling chicken backs, feet, etc. They make their money from whole chickens, chicken thighs, and–most definitely–chicken breasts. So buying generic chicken backs, while not ideal, most likely doesn’t affect much in the factory farmed chicken industry. In fact, if you want to put a positive spin on it, you’re ensuring that this chicken–which may have been a tortured, unhappy chicken–didn’t die just for its breast and thighs. You’re honoring the animal by using all of its parts.

Anyway, I got sidetracked. You’re here for a stock recipe, right? Ok, here’s what you do. When you buy your backs (4 lbs), also buy 1 medium onion, 1 medium carrot, 1 celery stalk, 5 thyme sprigs, 5 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf and 6 black peppercorns. (Ok, I doubt you can buy just 5 parsley sprigs, but you get the idea.)

Now the cooking.

1. Heat the oven to 400F; wash and pat very dry the chicken backs. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan…

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…and roast, turning hafway through, for 35 minutes until golden brown.

2. Now transfer the chicken pieces to a deep stockpot; pour off the excess fat from the roasting pan and put the pan on two burners on medium heat. Pour in 1/2 cup of water (enough to cover the bottom) and scrape up all the bits and drippings. Pour this seasoned water into the stock pot and add the chopped yellow onion, the chopped medium carrot, the chopped celery stalk, the peppercorns and all the herbs tied together (so you can fish them out later.) Now fill the pot with cold water to cover the bones by about 1 inch (it’s about 10 1/2 cups of cold water), GENTLY bring to a simmer over medium heat and let it simmer gently–GENTLY! (“Princess Bride,” anyone?)–for 3 hours. Skim the surface as it goes and never, EVER let it boil or you’ll have greasy cloudy stock. (Confession: mine boiled for a brief second, but I quickly took it off the heat to rescue it.)

3. Three hours later, you’re basically done. Strain the stock–get rid of all the solids–and refrigerate. The next morning, remove all the fat from the top and you’ve got stock, baby. I measured out 4 cup portions which I put in Tupperware and stored in the freezer. This recipe yielded 12 cups of stock; so I have 3 containers ready to go. Isn’t that pretty cool? $5 worth of chicken backs yielded 12 cups of golden chicken stock that’ll make my food taste restaurant quality.

And that’s chicken stock for ya, 1, 2, 3.

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Categories: Recipes, Soups

  • Carey

    I really adore Ina Garten’s stock recipe. The cooked chicken freezes beautifully, and if you wrap it in portioned packages, makes dinner at the last minute a breeze! No waste! And, you definitely don’t need to buy 3 chickens…1 works quite nicely. Adam, you shouldn’t rationalize buying factory farmed chickens. You have such a large sphere of influence with your blog. Supporting, in any fashion, brutality to animals makes a large impact. Whole foods might not have the backs out, but they have a ton in the back, and will sell them for next to nothing!

  • Matt

    I’ve always wanted to try making my own stock, but the

  • http://hungrybruno.blogspot.com Adrienne

    I’ve got to ask – can you tell the difference between the various methods? I usually freeze the carcasses from roast chickens until I have a few then just dump them in a pot with some veggies, water and herbs and simmer for a couple of hours. Is a ‘chef’s method’ really that much better?

  • Kathryn

    I have to agree with Carey re the rationalising of the “generic” chicken backs. I get mine from Hwole Foods – organic, free range, or from my local butcher, also organic and free-range and they are CHEAP. I found this out as this is how I feed my dogs and then started using them for stock.

    other than that though, a great cheap & easy stock recipe

  • http://www.mumblingsfromtroyohio.blogspot.com Emily

    Just one thing I tried with my last batch of stock – don’t peel the yellow onion. Leave the paper on, and it adds a beautiful saffron color to the stock. Try it!

  • RIch

    That’s a heckuva electric bill/carbon footprint.

  • http://whatilikenyc.blogspot.com Laura

    I agree about the Barefoot recipe. I do love her but good god…we don’t all have enough money to build ourselves a second house right next to our existing one! One thing I like to do when making stock is use one of those pasta pots with the built-in strainer. Then all you have to do is lift out the strainer (with the detritus in it) and there’s no need to splash yourself with chicken crap while attempting to wrangle a giant stockpot and a colander.

  • JB in San Diego

    Sorry in advance for the long post.

    I just (tried to) make chicken stock last night, starting from the carcass of a whole chicken that was roasted for dinner. The stock was looking absolutely beautiful as I added the onion, peppercorns and other aromatics. I allegedly set the timer to let it simmer for about another 20 minutes.

    This morning the alarm went off and my wife said, “What’s that smell? It’s not a bad smell exactly…” I ran downstairs and found, to my horror, a stock pot that had just given up its last bit of liquid and had started to burn all the nice veggies and herbs and bones inside.

    Doh! Talk about a large carbon footprint.

    Some other stock-making ideas… Tom Colicchio in “Think Like a Chef” recommends boiling the bones for two minutes then dumping out all the water and starting over. All the fat will have rendered and will go down the drain, while none of the goodness from the bones will have been extracted yet. Obviously don’t put your pan drippings in until the 2nd go-round.

    Michael Ruhlman suggests making stock in the oven instead of the stove top; I think he assumes that you can accurately get your oven to 180 degrees, but if you can, no need to worry about the boil problem. Rich, the oven method is probably a much lower carbon footprint than the stove top, since a pot of stock has a lot of thermal mass.

  • Dorothy

    Same question as Adrienne – how is this different from just using leftover bones?

  • http://www.foodrenegade.com FoodRenegade

    Aren’t you concerned about health issues, too?

    It’s my understanding that all the antibiotics/hormones/etc. that goes into the animal feed is mostly stored in the animal’s fat and bone marrow. If that’s the case, then chicken stock from industrial chicken bones could actually be harmful to your health.

  • Bob

    I wonder if you’ve tried the recent ‘Cooks Illustrated’ chicken broth using ground chicken – also very inexpensive. Pretty sensational, and reduced a bit, makes a terrific stock. My freezer too, is momentarily a chicken stock bonanza. I’ve only just started reading of your adventures – entirely real and delightful.

  • http://lesjoujou.blogspot.com Stephanei

    I really love the idea of making stuff like this that most people have just come to think of as grocery stables.

  • Milligan

    Whether you use complete chickens, chicken backs or carcasses, there’s lots of little bits of meat that can be easily stripped off, mixed with some mayonnaise, chopped celery and onions for a good chicken salad.

  • Sam

    I do Ruhlman’s method: Cold water over chicken parts/carcasses, pop it in a 180-200-degree oven and leave it for five hours. An hour or two before you pull it out, add the veg – carrots, onions, celery, parsley and whatever else you feel like adding – thyme, garlic, shallots, tomato paste. The veggies only need 1-2 hours to release their goodness. Any longer than that and they break down, sucking up a lot of that delicious liquid you’ve made.

    I’ve made stock many different ways and this one is absolutely the best. It’s so easy, too. Don’t ever buy canned stock.

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    I almost always have some stock lying around the house (freezer). Whenever I make any kind of chicken, I save his/her little bones in the freezer. When I have a bunch of them, I toss them in a pot w/aromatics and let them go for hours.

    Stock making is more about technique than ingredients, so, as long as what you add won’t get bitter through long cooking (broccoli stock, anyone?) you can toss in whatever you have or whatever sounds good. That’s the way cooking should be–learn a technique and you’re free to improvise on the ingredients.

    Nothing compares to the mouth feel of homemade stock. And it’s so easy and cheap (you can even go minimal and just use chicken bones, adding the veggies and stuff when you make your soup) that I can’t imagine that anyone with a freezer wouldn’t make their own:)

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    I almost always have some stock lying around the house (freezer). Whenever I make any kind of chicken, I save his/her little bones in the freezer. When I have a bunch of them, I toss them in a pot w/aromatics and let them go for hours.

    Stock making is more about technique than ingredients, so, as long as what you add won’t get bitter through long cooking (broccoli stock, anyone?) you can toss in whatever you have or whatever sounds good. That’s the way cooking should be–learn a technique and you’re free to improvise on the ingredients.

    Nothing compares to the mouth feel of homemade stock. And it’s so easy and cheap (you can even go minimal and just use chicken bones, adding the veggies and stuff when you make your soup) that I can’t imagine that anyone with a freezer wouldn’t make their own:)

  • Scott Kozeny

    I have become a big fan of making homemade stocks. I have tried several different recipes and techniques for both beef and chicken stock. This recipe for chicken stock sounds interesting using the roasted chicken backs. I have always used the left over carcass from roasted chickens. I do plan to make one modification, I will not add the fresh herbs until the last hour. I also plan to maintain a 180 F temperature to avoid the boil.

  • Scott Kozeny

    I have become a big fan of making homemade stocks. I have tried several different recipes and techniques for both beef and chicken stock. This recipe for chicken stock sounds interesting using the roasted chicken backs. I have always used the left over carcass from roasted chickens. I do plan to make one modification, I will not add the fresh herbs until the last hour. I also plan to maintain a 180 F temperature to avoid the boil.

  • http://kitchengraffiti.blogspot.com/ margaux

    I’m actually going to try making some chicken stock tonight! I’m using a leftover chicken carcass though (from roast chicken I made Saturday) and following a recipe I found in the Gourmet Cookbook. It suggests, as Emily does, not to peel the onion, which I found strange, but now that I know it’s for the colour, it makes more sense! The recipe calls for cloves, though, and I think I’m going to leave them out.

  • http://smallkitchenbigideas.wordpress.com sara

    This sounds like a pretty good method (discounting the organic chicken issue).

    The Rhulman method sounds like a good one, too.

  • Cary

    I usually make stock very similarly….simple abd cheap. However, I have been usuing my large crockpot. Any idea how this rates “carbon footprint” wise? It is so simple this way….

  • http://sweetamandine.blogspot.com Sweet Amandine

    What a great idea to post a stock recipe! You’ve made a seemingly intimidating process look easy and worthwhile. But what’s all this about pouring off the excess fat? My mamma taught me to freeze the stock so that the fat rises to the top. Then, you chip off the fat and *save* it. (It keeps well in the freezer.) A little lard can go a long way in creating some outrageously delicious dishes: potatoes and carrots roasted in lard, wild mushrooms sauteed in lard… Pretty much ANYthing cooked in lard. You get the idea.

  • Joel

    I recently acquired Schwartz’s cookbook on Yiddish cooking (published last year I think), and essentially followed his recipe (but without the parsley root).

    I used one 5 pound chicken and 2 pounds of wings, plus carrot, celery, onion and parsnip, and a tablespoon of salt. After 3-4 hours of simmering, I removed the solids and then let the stock sit in the refrigerator over night–skimmed the fat off the next day; and filtered the stock twice through a fine strainer. Discarded the original veggies, then made a massive pot of chicken vegetable soup with celery root, parsnips, leeks, carrots, turnips, a rutabaga, chard, celery, and a small savoy cabbage.

    Unlike Ina Garten, I saved the chicken meat and made a quick chicken salad.

  • Cali

    I just made stock yesterday (ham) and have a couple of suggestions. First, deglaze the pan using white wine (red wine for beef or duck,) and it will make your stock richer and more complex. Also, I never cook chicken stock less than six hours. It is much richer and allows time for all of the collagen to end up in the stock, not the trash. I use the carcasses from roasted chickens, like some of the other commenters.

    I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer and put all the trimmings from onions, carrots and celery in it. Then I throw whatever is in that bag into my stock pot.

    Some of the comments got a little strange. For example, once you’ve made stock, you can’t really use the meat because it’s given all its flavor to the stock. It also has a really mealy, icky texture. That’s why I only use the carcasses.

    Another thing, chickens don’t have lard. Lard comes from pork. Chicken fat is known by its Yiddish name, “schmaltz.”

  • http://nightstirrings.blogspot.com Christine

    I am going to differ with all of you. I love the method espoused by the late great Edna Lewis, in several of her books. I first saw this methot in her book, In Pursuit of Flavor. And then it was modified in the book she did with Scott Peacock: The Gift of Southern Cooking.

    Basically, you either gently cook chicken parts with a bit of butter, chopped celery or onion (I use both) til they are very lightly colored. Then you cover the pot they are in, and turn the heat down low. Cook like this, til enough juices are extracted to come about halfway up the sides of teh chicken, or even more. THEN, add water, and simmer slowly for about an hour or so. This produces the richest most flavorful chicken stock, the very essence of chicken.

    In Pursuit of Flavor, she advocates searing the chicken parts over high heat, without any fat, til they start to become golden. Then proceed as above.

    Either way, it is superlative. I know add aromatics later, as Ruhlman does..and that adds to it.

  • http://nightstirrings.blogspot.com Christine

    I am going to differ with all of you. I love the method espoused by the late great Edna Lewis, in several of her books. I first saw this methot in her book, In Pursuit of Flavor. And then it was modified in the book she did with Scott Peacock: The Gift of Southern Cooking.

    Basically, you either gently cook chicken parts with a bit of butter, chopped celery or onion (I use both) til they are very lightly colored. Then you cover the pot they are in, and turn the heat down low. Cook like this, til enough juices are extracted to come about halfway up the sides of teh chicken, or even more. THEN, add water, and simmer slowly for about an hour or so. This produces the richest most flavorful chicken stock, the very essence of chicken.

    In Pursuit of Flavor, she advocates searing the chicken parts over high heat, without any fat, til they start to become golden. Then proceed as above.

    Either way, it is superlative. I know add aromatics later, as Ruhlman does..and that adds to it.

  • http://nightstirrings.blogspot.com Christine

    I am going to differ with all of you. I love the method espoused by the late great Edna Lewis, in several of her books. I first saw this methot in her book, In Pursuit of Flavor. And then it was modified in the book she did with Scott Peacock: The Gift of Southern Cooking.

    Basically, you either gently cook chicken parts with a bit of butter, chopped celery or onion (I use both) til they are very lightly colored. Then you cover the pot they are in, and turn the heat down low. Cook like this, til enough juices are extracted to come about halfway up the sides of teh chicken, or even more. THEN, add water, and simmer slowly for about an hour or so. This produces the richest most flavorful chicken stock, the very essence of chicken.

    In Pursuit of Flavor, she advocates searing the chicken parts over high heat, without any fat, til they start to become golden. Then proceed as above.

    Either way, it is superlative. I know add aromatics later, as Ruhlman does..and that adds to it.

  • http://nightstirrings.blogspot.com Christine

    I am going to differ with all of you. I love the method espoused by the late great Edna Lewis, in several of her books. I first saw this methot in her book, In Pursuit of Flavor. And then it was modified in the book she did with Scott Peacock: The Gift of Southern Cooking.

    Basically, you either gently cook chicken parts with a bit of butter, chopped celery or onion (I use both) til they are very lightly colored. Then you cover the pot they are in, and turn the heat down low. Cook like this, til enough juices are extracted to come about halfway up the sides of teh chicken, or even more. THEN, add water, and simmer slowly for about an hour or so. This produces the richest most flavorful chicken stock, the very essence of chicken.

    In Pursuit of Flavor, she advocates searing the chicken parts over high heat, without any fat, til they start to become golden. Then proceed as above.

    Either way, it is superlative. I know add aromatics later, as Ruhlman does..and that adds to it.

  • Julie

    Adam – Thanks so much for the inspiration to make my own chicken stock. I’d been contemplating the idea for a few weeks, and then today (Saturday), I had nothing to do all afternoon and figured it’d be the perfect stock-making day. I took Carey’s advice and used some organic chicken backs from Whole Foods – they were less than $1 a pound!

  • http://www.sweatermuffin.com Eva

    Like Cali (above) and Deb (of Smitten Kitchen), I keep a stock bag in the fridge. Any time I cut the top off an onion, peel a carrot, or trim the dark green top off a leek: into the bag! Any time I cook a chicken: bones/unlikely-to-be-eaten leftovers into the bag! I usually quickly sautée large chunks of onion and carrot before dumping in all the frozen stuff and covering with water, bring to a simmer, skim the foam, and then cover and simmer for 3-5 hours. The stock bag method is fantastic — less kitchen waste, more flavour. I don’t really understand why you’d go to the trouble of buying chicken backs and roasting them first… it seems like you’re essentially trying to reproduce the effect of using the carcass of a roasted bird, without the benefit of the roast chicken beforehand.

    Occasionally, I produce a lighter broth in a way that sounds similar to Ina Garten’s, though not wasteful. The method is described in this Culinate article, which has the bonus of describing all the different labels/classifications under which chickens are sold (natural vs. organic vs. free-range, etc.). Awesome!

    The broth produced by poaching the chicken is light and delicate, much like the chicken breasts themselves, which are insanely silky and moist. I usually shred them as soon as they come out, using some of the meat in a noodle soup made with the broth, storing the rest in some chicken stock/broth, which keeps chicken moist even for a few days in the fridge.

  • Gully

    I believe a Sam above pointed out that the veg should only be added 1-2 hours before the stock is complete. I wanted to clarify that the herbs should wait as well, since they will become bitter, until about 45 minutes before the stock is done. Otherwise, this sounds like a perfectly good recipe if you just want stock as opposed to making stock from leftovers.

  • Gully

    I believe a Sam above pointed out that the veg should only be added 1-2 hours before the stock is complete. I wanted to clarify that the herbs should wait as well, since they will become bitter, until about 45 minutes before the stock is done. Otherwise, this sounds like a perfectly good recipe if you just want stock as opposed to making stock from leftovers.

  • http://www.missbhavens.com missbhavens

    Well, now, this is really something! I never make chicken stock on purpose, it’s just something I make if I happen to have made a roast chicken that week.

    Horrifying sizzling-chicken-spines-photo aside, I really dig this idea and the idea. I’m going to pair it with the “freezer stock bag” idea and never be without stock again!

  • Charlie Wilson

    Ina Gartens recipe shows up several places on the web and I have looked at several of them and no where did I see a comment to discard the chicken. I saw “discard the solids” which to me says discard the vegetables and herbs-anything solid to separate the stock from the seasonings. Common sense would tell you to save the chicken to use later or add some to the stock for chicken noodle soup or whatever. Maybe Ina should have added a statement to save the chicken, but maybe to her that was self explanatory. As is stated in some other reviews you can make as little or as much as you want. Use one chicken or a dozen, whatever suits you.

  • Anonymous

    I see there are a number of methods I can use in making my first batch of chicken stock. I will be using backs only since that is what I asked for when they were butchered last night. My friends had their own chickens and we processed them ourselves, so I know what they were fed, where they have been, and how they were handled (since I helped). They were grain-fed and spent most of their time in an outdoor enclosure. Processing chickens was a new experience for me, but so will be making the stock! Thanks!