Friday, January 16, 2015

How to: Make Chicken Stock (Clean - Free - Healthy!)

Ok - question one. What the heck is the difference between stock and broth? 

We tend to use the terms interchangeably, but they are definitely not the same thing. Stock is made from the bones and cartilage of the animal, while broth is typically made from the meat. Both have their uses, and only in certain recipes would you really tell a difference. I personally appreciate stock a bit more - especially where it takes center stage like in a chicken soup. For me, taste-wise the flavor is deeper, and health-wise the benefits are immense. Just do an internet search on the health benefits of "bone broth" and there you go.

The big difference you will note is that stock will generally be darker, richer, and thicker. Because of all the gelatin released by the bones, it can also turn into a jelly-like consistency when cooled. 

Now, there are many ways to make stock, and it is a recipe that is truly ageless as humans have been making stock from the bones of animals for thousands of years. This method is what I call "Garbage Stock". I didn't put that in the title because you might have gone ewwww and not have clicked on it. But I call it garbage stock because I make it from the unwanted or inedible leftovers and scraps in my kitchen. This is great for those of us on a budget, because it costs little to no money to make.

Take this chicken carcass, for example. We ate a roast chicken, and I tossed the picked-clean carcass in a freezer bag and left it in my freezer. I also made roasted bone-in chicken thighs for dinner one night and saved all the bones. Sometimes we're lazy and buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. And guess what... that carcass goes into the freezer as well!

I also save vegetable scraps - onion ends, bases or tops of celery, etc. Sometimes there's a bag of carrots in the fridge that has seen better days and rather than throw it away, I add it to my stash in the freezer. Same thing if you have some veggies getting a little droopy or leftover fresh herbs that are about to turn bad. Don't ever throw food away! In this way we can reduce our waste and save ourselves money. You'll be cobbling together the future building blocks of this delicious and healthy stock essentially for free.
Onion ends, celery base - better to go
in the stock pot than the garbage!
Just keep a stash in the freezer, and toss it
in the pot when you're ready to make stock.
If you don't have enough, just supplement with some fresh veggies.
So what goes into the stock? Generally I get 2-3 carcasses at a time, toss in my frozen veggie pieces I've squirreled away and supplement with some fresh veggies/herbs as needed. Then I cover it all with cold water and simmer the crap out of it all day. I choose not to add salt and pepper to the pot as I'll add them to whatever recipe later on that the stock is used for.

  • 2-3 chicken carcasses (or bones, or chicken feet!)
  • 1TBSP white or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves and other assorted fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, rosemary, etc.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 ribs of celery, cut in large pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut in large pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole

  1. Add the carcasses/bones to the pot and toss in the veggies and herbs. Add the vinegar. This will help draw the nutrients out of the bones. There is no exact science to how many veggies you need versus bones. And you can add whatever veggies you have lying about in your fridge. Just be mindful of using anything with too strong of a taste in large quantities (e.g. fennel, sundried tomatoes, etc). You don't want it to overpower your stock.
  2. Cover everything in the pot with cold water and bring it to a boil on the stove. Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and let it go for at least 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Fat and yucky stuff will float to the top. You can skim it off, if desired.
  4. Once done simmering, strain the contents through a colander or mesh sieve covered with cheesecloth. Discard the solids.
  5. Place the stock in a container(s) in the fridge overnight. Skim the congealed fat off the top in the morning. 
  6. Store by refrigerating, freezing, or canning.

Sometimes I like to use chicken feet for my bones.
They're super cheap and you get the BEST stock out of them.

Scrub 'em well, and if there are any yucky patches, cut that
part off  with your kitchen shears.

To get all that gelatin to come out of the feet,
snip off the toes at the first knuckle with your shears.

Luckily, my feet come pre-prepped with that yucky
yellow outer membrane already blanched off.
I also buy a pack of chicken backs and cut off the fat,
then add in whatever carcasses I have sitting in the freezer.
Then I'll add all the veggies and stuff.
Grammie's big aluminum saucepot makes another appearance...

While simmering, fat and other yucky stuff will accumulate along the top. You can
skim it off as you simmer, or much of it will come out when strained
through cheesecloth Otherwise, the fat will congeal on the top when
refrigerated and you can scrape it off the next day.
You could also leave this in the slow cooker on low overnight!

Skimming off the congealed fat - YUCK!
Getting down to that beautiful gelatinous stock.
You can freeze this stock, refrigerate it, can it, etc. You could also
freeze some in an ice cube tray in approximate 1 Tbsp proportions.
Once the cubes freeze, pop them in a freezer bag and take them out
to flavor your recipes when only a small amount of stock is needed.
On the left is homemade stock, middle is my favorite store-bought brand,
and on the right is one of the most popular brands of chicken broth in the US.
You can see the stocks are a much deeper/richer color. I prefer stock to broth.

You could heat up a mug of stock on a brisk day and
season lightly with some salt, pepper, maybe some
dried herbs. Delicious and healthy!


  1. I am currently on a diet to heal stomach inflammation and stock is #1 on my diet. I make it much the same as you, but I've never put in chicken feet or apple cider vinegar, though I have heard people use chicken feet. Do you know why it makes the best stock? And do you throw away the toenails or drop them in too?

    1. Hi there!

      First of all, let me reiterate when I say it makes the best stock, that's my own layman's opinion. I'm definitely not an expert, but this is why I think so:

      - I get the most gelatin when I make stock from feet vs. just chicken bones

      - Being mainly bone, cartilage, and tendons, they are rich in glucosamine chondroitin, collagen and trace minerals

      - And if just hearing "glucosamine chondroitin" doesn't get your mouth watering, at least know it is excellent for joint health (mmmm joints)

      - And we all think "yummy treat" when we hear "collagen", but this is the substance that breaks down into the gelatin when you boil the feet, and collagen has been lauded for helping with digestive issues, and some claim, with joint pain and skin rejuvenation (though I'm not sure I believe the latter)

      - Chicken feet cost anywhere from 1-2 dollars per pound making it INCREDIBLY cost-effective for making stock if you don't have enough chicken carcasses saved up

      When I buy chicken feet, I get them nicely pre-packaged in the grocery store. Luckily, this means my feet are already prepped with the outer membrane being removed (see how nice and clean and white they look?) If your feet look yellow and like the chicken just ran a marathon in dirt, you should probably blanch them in a pot of boiling water first, dip them in ice water, and peel off the yellow membrane.

      Regarding the toes, provided the claws are clean you can leave them in the pot as they will get strained out later. Every little bit of nutrients help! If it looks like the hen was scratching around in something gross, better to play it safe and toss your toes.