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Dec 9, 2004 10:07 AM

Homemade chicken stock--fat-skimming problems

  • s

I made my own chicken stock for the first time yesterday, using several roasted-chicken carcasses that I had been collecting in the freezer, and following the instructions in *Joy*.

Had a blast; felt like a real cook; and the resulting stuff looks and smells wonderful, but it is also obviously very greasy.

I chilled it overnight and this morning I tried to scoop the fat off the top with paper towels and a tea strainer; got a lot of it, but the remaining stock is still cloudy and visibly glistening with fat. What can I do? Should I put it back on the stove and boil it, skim some more, then chill it again? Buy an extra-large gravy separator and try to separate it in batches?

Or are there uses for fatty stock? *Joy* says that a good stock should be very lean, but does it make a difference for the uses I want to put it to--e.g., in risotto, in couscous, etc?


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  1. Quickly,

    You might have cooked the stock at a hard boil. That is the liquid boiling very fast over a high heat.

    IMHO Stock is cooked at a simmer, over low heat with just a few bubbles breaking the surface.

    That being said I would gently bring your greasy stock to a simmer, cool, throw it in the ice box and see if the fax settles to the top.


    1. You are correct. Good stock should be nearly fat free, since it is all skimmed from the top...

      that is weird if after chilling that the not all the fat is at the top. Oil is less dense than water, so by chemistry, it should eventually come to the top. Maybe something you added has acted as a sort of emulsifier? but I can't imagine what you would add to stock that would do that. Are you sure it is fat?

      anyhow, try reheating - gently simmering - then chilling again. Good luck...

      2 Replies
      1. re: adamclyde
        Reared on Home Cookin

        oil is not just less dense than water, but also not miscible or "mixable" (because oil is non-polar while water is polar) so the two will generally separate... unless you've got alcohol in there (partially polar) which will serve to mix with both... doesn't apply here, but does anybody know of a food that relies on this for mixing? and of a restaurant that serves it? ;)

      2. I usually bring the carcasses to a boil, then dump the first batch of water out, then add water again to make stock. This reduces cloudiness. I also strain through cheesecloth before cooling to futher reduce cloudiness. You can still use it if it is cloudy. You took all the herbs, meat, bones and stuff out before cooling, correct?

        I'm not sure that what you are seeing is actually fat. If the finished stock doesn't have enough water, it will become gelatinous. That just means that you have a more concentrated stock.

        11 Replies
        1. re: rudeboy

          Thanks for all your ideas!

          I did strain it through cheesecloth before chilling, and I did cook the stock at a gentle simmer, not a full boil, but here are two things I may have done wrong:

          1) I didn't trim all the fat off the carcasses before simmering (missed this line in the directions);

          2) I didn't let the strained stock come to room temp, but instead stuck it in the fridge while still hot, because at that point, after three hours of simmering, it was 12:45am and I wanted to go to bed.

          Tonight I'll try simmering it again, then letting it cool gradually before refrigerating.

          1. re: Sarah W-R

            Be careful putting a pot of hot stock into the fridge...if the pot is large enough (more specifically, if the thermal mass of the stock is large enough), it can raise the temps in the fridge to a dangerous level.

            1. re: Sarah W-R

              I learned at cooking school that one should cool down stock IMMEDIATELY after taking off the stove. We did it by putting the pot in an ice bath. Leaving it at room temperature to cool can result in harmful bacteria forming. At home (not having access to a big ice machine) I simply put the stock -- after straining -- into a large bowl and pop it in the fridge.

              1. re: Susan Hope

                You should never put a hot stock in the fridge. The fridge actually keeps the stock warm longer, resulting in not only a spoiled stock, but a whole fridge of spoiled food as well.

                1. re: jvLin

                  The fridge keeps the stock warm longer than....what other method? Yes, perhaps the ideal is to put the pot into a sink full of ice water and continually swirl the water around, but that's just not realistic for many folks.

                  I've often heard folks say that a pot of hot stock can spoil a whole fridge, but that depends on the conditions. Pack the pot in in a full fridge? Maybe. Pot on it's own shelf with plenty of air circulation? Doubtful.

                  On point, I personally don't think it's a big deal to have a bit of fat in chicken stock. Any dish I make with stock will have fat in it anyway. As long as it's not a grease bomb, I personally wouldn't worry about it.

                  Why is there still fat in your stock? Are you sure there is? For it to be in the stock and not at the top after cooling it would have to be emulsfied, and it's unlikely you have an emulsifier in your stock. Maybe your stock is viscous because of collagen content? And that's a good thing.

                  1. re: foreverhungry

                    The fridge supposedly keeps the stock warmer longer than leaving it out. As you said, it really depends on the conditions. If you're cooking a big pot of stock for a restaurant, it'll take forever to cool down. If it's just a tiny pot of homemade stock, it might not be a big deal to put it in the fridge.

                    Science has shown that the reason you blow soup to cool it is not to chill the soup itself, it's to blow away the heat above the soup, which is what keeps the soup warm. If you put a big pot of stock in the fridge with no air circulation, the heat will be trapped within the fridge, actually keeping the soup warm longer than it would be in the open.

                    At any rate, this is not from personal experience, so it might not be entirely accurate. I do a lot of research both online and in cooking textbooks before I try something. I learned that you aren't supposed to fridge stocks a long time ago, so I've never taken the risk to try it.

                    1. re: jvLin

                      This is why it depends on the conditions in the fridge. A refridgerator has more air movement than your kitchen counter, unless you have a fan blowing on it. Basic physics says that moving cold air around a hot vessel will cool it faster than not moving room temp air around that same vessel. If the vessel in the fridge is packed with other goods, then sure, cooling won't be as quick.

                      Unless you're cooking in an industrial kitchen and have access to a walk in fridge/freezer, cooling large quantities of stock is difficult. During the winter, I put the pot outside with a brick on top. Minnesota winters work great for chilling large volumes of liquid. During the summer, when I'm done cooking it, I'll make sure there's a simmer, put the lid on, and take it off heat. That way, it's been (almost all) sterilized from the simmering, and then a lid goes on to protect it. I'll cool it for an hour or a couple that way, then pour it into individual quart containers that get lidded immediately. Most go into a chest freezer, some into the fridge. Using this method, I've kept stock straight from the pot into a container in the fridge for up to four weeks just fine.

              2. re: Sarah W-R

                To cool the stock really quickly, I saw on Alton Brown's show that he takes small plastic water bottles (like the 500 ML size, about 16 oz) and fills them up about halfway with water, then freezes. Putting a few of these in your strained stock will get it to a cool temperature fast, especially if you put the pot in a sinkful of ice water as well. Avoids that danger zone, keeps your fridge from warming up too much and gets you to a cooler temp so you can get the stock in the fridge and COLD to get that fat off the top!

                1. re: farmersdaughter

                  Here are the details from that episode. It's full of great info on stock making; it's worth reading the transcript.


                  1. re: nja

                    Thanks for the link to this great transcript. I've successfully made chicken stock for years, but learned a lot of things from this Alton Brown transcript and look forward to applying them next time the stock pot comes out.

                  2. re: farmersdaughter

                    Those bottles are also useful for de-fatting room-temp stock - anything frozen will catch the fat as it congeals on the icy surface. I've also read of using chilled lettuce leaves to congeal and collect the fat on a tepid stock.

                    In my experience, chicken stock made from cooked carcasses is grayer and more opaque than that made with raw parts.

              3. Are you sure that what you are seeing is fat (unusual) and not just gelatinous, congealed stock?

                2 Replies
                1. re: JudiAU

                  Hmm, not completely sure, though I do think this is golden, shimmering oiliness distinct from the main liquid of the stock.

                  I'm going to try re-simmering and re-chilling tonight and will report back.

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    This was my initial thought too. This happens all the time when I make stock. Gelatin comes from bones, as you probably know. It's completely normal. Fat should rise to the top and solidify to a hard, cream-colored mass (about as hard as butter). The cloudy, gelatious stock remains on the bottom. When reheated, it should liquefy right away and you'll know immediately that it's stock, not fat, by its consistency.

                  2. I don't fully understand what the problem is. I'm sure you have some fat in your stock. What I do, after boiling the bones for several hours (with some onion, celery, carrot), is to refrigerate that overnight. Next morning there is usually either a fairly solid plug of fat on top, or a kind of thick-ish fat--I imagine there might be 2 different kinds of fat, with different viscosities. IAC, the solid plug of fat lifts out, and you can spoon off the top 1/4 inch or so under that, and then you have your chicken stock.

                    BTW, one thing I do with chickn stock is to make a roux, using EVOO, then pour in the stock, so as to make a thickened chicken soup. You can then add all sorts of stuff to that--herbs, vegetables, bean crud, etc.

                    Oh, and be SURE to add enough salt! There are few things in this world worse than under-salted chicken stock!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Howard-2

                      I don't ususally salt my stock. The reason is whatever application I'm going to use the stock in, I want to be able to control the salt in that dish. I figure it's kind of like unsalted butter, just gives you more options later on. You can always add but not remove.