(How to make chicken stock, with variations)
Homemade chicken stock will always best, but stock from scratch can be substituted with a good-quality, low-sodium canned broth. Avoid bouillon cubes or granules if at all possible. These are sky high in sodium and don't have even a whisper of the flavor of homemade.
The main recipe here is for a basic European-style chicken stock. For tips on making chicken stock for other regions of the world, see the notes and variations below.
Makes about 2 quarts
- Chicken bones -- 3 to 4 pounds
- Water, cold or room temperature -- 3 quarts
- Onions, peeled and chopped -- 2
- Carrots, peeled and chopped -- 2
- Celery, chopped -- 2 stalks
- Parsley -- 1/2 bunch
- Fresh or dried thyme -- 2 sprigs or 2 teaspoons
- Bay leaf -- 1 or 2
- Peppercorns -- 8 to 10
- Salt -- to taste
- Place the chicken bones in a deep stockpot and add cold water to cover. Place the pot over medium flame and bring to a boil. As soon as the water begins to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer very slowly for 3 to 5 hours. Do not stir, and skim the scum and excess fat from top of the simmering stock periodically.
- Add the vegetables, herbs, peppercorns and salt, gently pressing the vegetables down into the pot. Do not stir them in. Simmer for one hour more.
- Remove the stock from the stovetop and strain through a fine-meshed sieve or several layers of moistened cheesecloth into another large pot or container. Set in the refrigerator and chill completely.
- Scrape the chilled fat off the top of the stock and discard. Use the chicken stock in recipes or transfer into storage containers and freeze for later use.
Chicken Stock Notes and Variations
- What is the difference between stock and broth?: Chicken stock is technically made with just chicken bones. The cartilage in the bones breaks down during the slow, long simmer and adds body to the liquid. This gelatinized cartilage is what makes a good stock solidify when it is refrigerated. A broth, on the other hand, is made mostly or only with meat. Chicken broth has little of the body of a stock, but it has much more flavor. Broth is especially good as a base for soups. Use the meat leftover from making broth in soups, stews or other dishes.
- Main Rules for How to Make a Good, Clear Chicken Stock:
- Start with cold water.
- Cook at the slowest possible simmer.
- Do not stir the stock while it is simmering.
- Skim the stock regularly to remove any scum.
- Do not cover the pot.
- Strain the stock with the finest mesh strainer possible. It is best to line the strainer with a couple layers of moistened cheesecloth.
- Bones add body. Meat adds flavor.
- Bones and meat for chicken stock: Fresh bones with some meat still on them are best to get both flavor and body. If you are using bones that have been frozen, blanch them first. To do this cover them with cold water, bring the water to a quick boil, and then drain and rinse the bones, tossing the blanching water out. Proceed with the recipe starting with fresh water. This procedure removes a large amount of scum that might otherwise cloud your stock.You can also use the bones and trimmings that are leftover from a chicken dinner. These should also be blanched briefly to remove any remnants of the meal. By all means add giblets — necks, gizzards, hearts — to a stock. But don't use the liver, as its flavor will overwhelm the broth. To give extra body to your stock, use a few chicken feet if you can find them. Chinese markets often sell them very cheap.
- Vegetables for flavor: Besides the usual onions, celery and carrots, other vegetables that can be added to a chicken stock to boost its flavor, including turnips, leeks, peppers and parsnips. Save and then up the scraps and peels of vegetables you use for other meals — onion skins, carrot peels, etc. Just be careful not to add too many vegetables to a stock. The taste of the poultry should be primary, with the vegetable flavors playing only a supporting role.
- Storing chicken stock: Chicken stock may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. It can be kept longer if it is brought to a boil every 3 days to kill any bacteria. Stock will keep for a few months if frozen.
- Brown Chicken Stock: The main recipe above is for white chicken stock and has a pale golden color. To make brown chicken stock, with deeper color and richer flavor, first roast the chicken bones in a 400°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes to develop their flavor and color.
- Turkey, Duck or Game Stock: Make turkey stock or duck stock with the same recipe using the appropriate type of bones. These stocks are especially popular around the winter holidays. Game birds also make good stock.
- Chinese Chicken Stock: Eliminate the onions, carrots, celery and herbs. Add 6 to 8 whole scallions, 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and a couple thick slices of fresh ginger.
- Indian Chicken Stock: Eliminate the carrots, celery and herbs. Add 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, a couple thick slices of fresh ginger, 1/2 bunch of cilantro and 1 or 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds.
- Thai Chicken Stock: Eliminate the onions, carrots, celery and herbs. Substitute 6 to 8 whole scallions, 1 stalk of lemongrass and a couple thick slices of fresh galangal or ginger.
- Mexican Chicken Stock: Eliminate the thyme. Add some fresh or dried oregano and 4 to 6 cloves of garlic. Add a cob of corn, with or without its kernels, for extra flavor.