CLEVELAND — It seems like every other recipe calls for chicken stock. From fortifying sauces and gravies to making risotto and stuffing, chicken stock is one of the most essential tools in a home cook’s arsenal.
As a cookbook author, I can tell you how much it pains a writer to utter the phrase “preferably homemade, but can substitute canned or boxed” after the called for amount of chicken stock in a recipe. The truth is there really is no substitute for homemade stock because every commercial product out there – be it labeled free-range, organic, gourmet or low-sodium – pales in comparison.
Here’s the good news: making your own from scratch could not be easier. Seriously, you literally toss some ingredients into a stock pot, add water and take a nap for a couple hours. The most difficult part of making stock is cooling, straining and packaging it up for the freezer, which is not exactly rocket science.
If you cook whole chickens with any frequency, as I do (see Spatchcocking 101), you will wind up with enough carcasses, necks, and meaty bones to make stock every couple of months or so. I like to supplement my stockpot with whole wings and, when I can get them, chicken feet, both of which add a ton of gelatin, flavor and body to the final product.
Add any combination of aromatics like onions, celery, carrots, turnips, parsnips along with fresh and/or dried herbs such as thyme, parsley and bay leaves. Add a small handful of peppercorns and maybe a garlic clove or three. Most stock recipes do not call for salt so that you can control those levels when using the stock in recipes down the road.
Some tips to making rich, clear and safe stock include starting with cold water, bringing it all up to a boil, reducing it do a very gentle simmer (like a bubble here and there), skimming once or twice, letting it go for as long as possible – at least two, preferably three hours – and quickly chilling down the strained broth before freezing.
*Instant Pots do an incredible job of making stock in a fraction of the time, so by all means employ one if you have one. The one downside is quantity. Unless you have one of the big-boy Instant Pots, there is not room for a lot of liquid once you fill the pot with chicken, bones, veggies and herbs. Just a caveat.
- 3 pounds chicken (meaty bones, wings, feet, carcass…)
- 3 carrots, split
- 3 ribs celery, split
- 1 large yellow onion, split
- 1-3 cloves garlic (optional)
- Handful of thyme sprigs
- Handful of fresh parsley with stems
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 whole peppercorns
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and cover by one inch with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for at least 2 hours. I leave the pot partially covered, but either way works.
About 30 minutes into the simmer, remove and discard the gray scum that rises to the top of the broth with a ladle or strainer.
When done, remove and discard the large solids such as the vegetables and chicken bones and strain the soup through a sieve into a second, smaller pot. Chill the stock down in an ice bath until cool. Remove and discard (or keep for another use) as much of the fat from the top as you can using a ladle.
Divide the stock into freezer-safe containers of various sizes, label them and freeze them for up to six months or longer.
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