I used to think homemade chicken stock was way outside my capabilities. You’re looking at a girl who once considered frozen black bean burgers topped with jarred salsa an advanced dinner recipe.
But one day I tried making my own chicken stock, and I’ve never looked back. I love whipping up stock on a lazy Sunday, and letting the scrumptious chickeny smells waft through my apartment. It’s cheaper and tastier than the store-bought stuff. And it’s a delicious way to actually use old chicken bones and vegetable scraps instead of just chucking them.
And, okay. I know what you’re thinking.
I don’t have time! Yes you do. Active cooking time is only about 5 minutes. Do you have 5 minutes? I thought so.
It’s really complicated! No it’s not. Seriously. If you can boil water, you can make chicken stock. And you already have most of the ingredients on hand.
But I like the stuff in the box! I bet you also like saving money. And trust me, once you try the homemade stuff, you won’t want to go back.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the recipe.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Ingredients (obvs)
- A large cooking pot
- Cheese cloth (here’s the kind I use)
- Fine mesh strainer
- Large bowl
Our cast of characters includes: chicken backs, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, a bay leaf, whole peppercorns, and anything you like out of your stock bag. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)
Any part of the bird would do, really. But these are super cheap and full of flavor. Plus, to my knowledge, they aren’t good for much else.
An onion, cut into quarters…
Leave the skin on! It adds a nice color and flavor to the stock.
A head of garlic, cut in half (same about the skins)…
The saddest, loneliest bay leaf you have.
And about a cup each of carrots and celery.
Side note: You don’t have to chop the carrots and celery like this. I just happened to have some in the freezer. (Every time I buy carrots or celery, I chop more than I need and freeze it. That way I always have frozen celery and carrots on hand for stock or sauces.)
When I’m using fresh, I chop them into big lazy chunks for the stock. I don’t bother peeling the carrot either. Who has time? This is 5-minute chicken stock, after all.
And this is optional, but I just happened to have it on hand: 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Fresh thyme is also a great addition, if you have it.
And finally, the contents of your stock bag.
Glad you asked. A stock bag is a hodgepodge of random odds and ends that you collect as you prep various veggies — the scraps you would typically throw away. Think:
- Onion peels
- Carrot tops
- Celery leaves
- The rough green ends of leeks
- Mushroom stems
Use as much of your stock bag contents as you like. I typically toss a handful of stuff into the stock, and save the rest for later.
It’s also a good idea to keep a separate meat stock bag (with carcasses from roasted chicken, trimmed fat, chicken wing bones, etc.). More bones = more flavor! I didn’t have any of that stuff on hand, though, so let’s just move forward.
Toss everything in a pot, then top if off with water.
Bring it to a boil, then partially cover and simmer for at least 6 hours. It will cook down and eventually look nice and disgusting.
Then it’s time to strain. First, use a strainer spoon to remove the big pieces from the stock.
Discard those – they’ve already given the best of themselves.
Then, place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl.
Line the strainer with cheese cloth.
Pour the stock through the strainer.
You’ll probably need to use a spoon to push the liquid through the strainer.
Now, you may be tempted to use the stock right away. And if you’re in a pinch, you totally can. But I will tell you, there’s a lot of fat in there. You will notice, and you will yell at me.
Go ahead and try skimming the layer of fat off with a spoon.
Personally, I find this irritating as all get-out. It’s next to impossible to scoop fat without also capturing some of your delicious stock. And it takes forever.
So I place the stock in the fridge overnight. Why? Here’s why.
See that nice layer at the top? That’s fat! And now you can easily use a spoon to scoop it up and discard it.
When cold, the stock will be a little gelatinous. Just zap it for a few seconds in the microwave, and this delicious substance is ready to be transformed into liquid flavor.
And remember, since this is unsalted chicken stock, you’ll need to add plenty of salt to bring out the flavor. I prefer it this way, though. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it out if there’s too much.
(And okay yes. I realize there is a lemon in this photo, but no lemon in this recipe. My bad. If it makes you feel better, you can definitely use lemon in your stock. It adds a nice zip.)
Chicken stock stays good in the fridge for a few days, and you can also freeze it up to 6 months. I like to freeze mine in ice cube trays…
…then pop them out and stash them in a large ziploc bag in the freezer.
Each block is about a tablespoon of stock (varies depending on the size of your ice trays, of course). So I just grab as many as I need, pop them in the microwave until melted, and I’m ready to go.
(PS: This recipe makes like 3 times more than this picture shows. I had already used quite a bit before I took these photos.)
By the way, what the heck is the difference between broth and stock? I’ve heard that stock has fewer seasonings — it’s the stuff you use in most recipes — while broth has been doctored up; it usually shines as the star in fabulous soups. But at this point, I think enough people use both terms interchangeably that it just doesn’t matter.
Either way, it’s scrumptious.
And hey, that wasn’t too hard, was it?
Here’s the quick-and-dirty!
- 1 package chicken backs
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 head garlic
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- (Optional) 2 sprigs rosemary
- (Optional) Contents of stock bag (ie., onion peels, carrot tops, celery leaves, rough ends of leeks)
- Place all ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover with water.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer at least 6 hours or up to 12 hours.
- Use a straining spoon to scoop out the large pieces of bone and vegetables. Discard. Pour the rest of the stock mixture through a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Refrigerate stock overnight.
- Skim fat off the top layer of fat, and discard. Remaining stock will be gelatinous. This is what you want!
- When ready to use broth, microwave or warm on stove top until broth is fully melted.
- Add any seasonings or flavors you want! Fresh thyme, dried oregano, lemons and parsnips are excellent additions.