Homemade chicken stock

I made a cryptic allusion in my last post to the fact that I had some odd things in my freezer.  And you already know I roasted the bones and meat scraps of the leftover Christmas turkey to make soup stock.  Well, there’s also a collection of chicken backs and gizzards in the freezer.  I try to always buy a whole chicken and cut it up just to save these parts.  I don’t buy the cheapest of chickens–especially since I know I use the carcass for stock, I don’t like the idea of an overly-industrially processed chicken.  Plus, if I do make stock I think it works itself out (I haven’t really done the math, but I’m sure it comes close).  Plus, every good cookbook SWEARS up and down that homemade stock is the only way to go.  I don’t know how many people listen to them, but they certainly are insistent.

It really just came down to getting around to make the stock.  It’s not hard at all, and hardly requires any attention.   Depending on the recipe you should simmer from 2 hours to 10, so the only consideration appears to be making sure you will be around the house long enough to let it simmer away.  I was recently listening to the Splendid Table, which was interviewing Michael Ruhlman–he discussed various types of stock, but named two general rules in making stock.  First, he says, keep the temperature around 180F, and no higher (many stock recipes say to bring to a boil and then simmer–can’t recall why he said that but whatever reason he gave seemed to make sense.  He said you could just set the oven to 180 and forget about it which sounded like a good idea, but I haven’t tried it).  Secondly, he suggested not adding vegetables until the very end–they apparently soak up flavor rather quickly, and given that his suggestion is to simmer for 10-12 hours, they would have ample time to do so.

There’s not so much to tell other than that.  I put in three chicken carcasses and the giblets and covered with water.  I simmered for about 6 hours (“only’).  The trick was getting the flame adjusted just right so that it held steady, but there’s so much water in the pot that you have a little time to catch it if it starts to overheat.  You don’t add salt since it doesn’t boil away, so when you taste the stock at first it’s awfully bland.  But just fix it when you make your recipe and you’re fine.  I think not using the vegetables until the end (or in my case not at all, I forgot) did help somewhat–this is only the second time I’ve made chicken stock and I  think it tasted better this time. 

Simmering Chicken Stock

Simmering away...


Straining the stock

Straining the stock

I strained out the broth and measured out 2 cup portions for freezing.  I think I got about a gallon’s worth.  I recently looked at the liquid chicken stock you can buy in stores, which is what i would buy rather than bouillon cube.  One quart of that costs about $3, so this would save me about $12 total.  Considering I already had several meals out of the chicken already, not bad, and certainly makes me feel even more justified in the cost ($2.50 – $3.00 per pound) that I pay for my organic free range all natural vegetarian chicken or whatever it is. 

That's  $1.50 saved!

That's $1.50 saved!

Oh, and I have a growing collection of chicken livers too in the freezer (you shouldn’t use liver in stock, so they say).  I have some interesting looking frenchy-italiany appetizers that call for these so hopefully soon I’ll get a chance to make these.  My husband is not so keen on the idea so I have to be sure there are other victims.  (Oh, and another reason to use organic chicken–who wants to eat the body organ that is the detoxification system when god knows what chemicals and so forth has been going through it?  Liver is a hard enough sell already!!!)


9 thoughts on “Homemade chicken stock

  1. I’m so glad you posted this. I actually roasted a chicken this weekend and felt sure I should be saving all the extra parts for stock but had no idea how to make it so I just threw them away and felt guilty. Am glad to know that you can freeze the parts for awhiel until you have enough to make stock — and also that you can freeze stock after it’s made. My problem: (1) not enough room in freezer of half-sized fridge (Mark Bittman would scold me for this excuse, I know) and (2) what would I use chicken stock for? I guess i’d have to get more creative and start making soups and risottos and the like. Oh, it’s a slippery slope, no?

  2. Great topic. A few thoughts…
    Don’t forget to put a lid on the pot and turn that burner down further saving energy. (lid allows same temp with less “flame” underneath)

    Don’t have 2-10 hours? Try a pressure cooker. Less than one hour same results. Wonderful!

    While I completely agree that veggies should be saved ’til the end, spices do go in at the beginning. Poke 6 cloves into an onion. Maybe 10 whole peppercorns and two or three bay leaves to “fill” the flavor. Ooo, and all the leafy tops from any celery in you have. Scrumptious!

  3. Kathryn–If you’ve already roasted the Chicken, Mark Bittman (in “The Minimalist Cooks at Home”) says you can put the cooked chicken back in the oven with any meat scraps and roast it to caramelize the bones. Then you can make a stock in 2 hours. (Maybe Mark Bittman thinks you can make a stock in 2 hours with raw chicken too–easy enough to check–but I wonder if the fact that it’s already cooked and then you caramelize it gives it a lot more flavor so you don’t have to simmer as long?)

    They seem to say you need 2 chickens but I don’t see why you can’t just use less water. Just break up the chicken so that it’s easier to cover. I just freeze until later so I can make a bigger batch.

    It would be perfect for risotto! I take it you are not a big soup maker…

    Kitewrite–that makes sense that spices could go in at the beginning–they are meant to lend flavor as a general matter, after all.

  4. Being the vegetarian in the family, I don’t have a whole lot to contribute here, but I agree with the free range/organic chicken liver conclusion. You really should be extra careful when consuming any body organ whose purpose is to clean and detoxify. For some reason, reading this, all I could think about was James Joyce’s Ulysses. He loves organ meat. The first few chapters always have some discussion about him digging into a kidney or liver, or something. Maybe I should try to make my own vegetable stock… I know one of my 9 vegetarian cookbooks have a recipe.

  5. Yes, organ meats, or “variety meats”–People have been eating these for all of human history, and they are consumed much more in other countries. What I like too is the idea of not wasting anything about the animal. So while I’m partially weirded out by this (can’t get myself to go so far as eating brains, not that I’ve had opportunity anyway, but I have eaten tripe several times), I am very fascinated by the discussions of this in Julia Child, etc. I don’t have issue with eating the animal, but I do think there’s a humane way to go about it and part of it is not being wasteful (which goes for plants too of course). (You know the native american use every part of the buffalo thing). It was done out of necessity of course, since meat was scarcer, but I think since people maybe were raising these animals themselves too they appreciated it more.

  6. Oh Karen, Michael Ruhlman said that vegetable stocks have the benefit over meat stocks in that you only need an hour or two. However, the disadvantage is that they are more “volatile” and can’t really be made ahead of time–hence no making a bunch of stock and freezing it.

    I have to try to make vegetable stock sometime. Apparently rinds of parmesan cheese are good to throw in to stocks too. I’m saving those as well though not quite sure about what to throw them into.

  7. It’s too bad that you couldn’t send some of the chicken stock to your mother. She bought some cans of it at the grocery store today!

  8. Hee hee! It grives me batty, to see people buy it.
    You think, ” do you just burn money to heat your house, too?”

    “Pssst, hey lady, I’ll sell you some stock.”

    I could carrying canning jars of it in a creepy trench coat and just kinda linger outside the store.

  9. Pingback: White Bean Puree with Sage Brown Butter and Walnuts | Three Clever Sisters

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