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Speaking of chicken stock

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How long do you cook yours for, and in what? I cook mine on the stove for a few (3-4) hours. However, I have a friend who cooks hers in a crockpot for three days, at which point everything is very soft. I wonder at what point do you start losing nutrients from cooking too long vs. cooking long enough to get enough/most into the stock?

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  1. Your friend must be making pet food. After 4 + hrs of simmer the full flavours of the chicken stock start to depleat.
    I make 2 types of stock.One is a brown stock which I start with browning the chicken parts on the BBQ until they are golden brown (low heat works well 250 deg. for about an hr)Then I add the gb chicken to my stock pot along with the carrots etc and simmer for 2 hours +/-. If I have time I will remove all the solid contents and continue to simmer the stock for another hour or so. this will reduce the stock slightly and intensify the flavours. Second is a light stock,done with-out browning the chicken. I will simmer the stock for about 2 hrs +/-. Hope this is useful

    2 Replies
    1. re: garlicer

      "After 4 + hrs of simmer the full flavours of the chicken stock start to depleat."

      This is definitely not the case. Maillard (browning) reactions create a more flavorful stock as it simmers. Taken to an extreme, these reactions can create a dull, somewhat metallic taste, but not at 4 hours. After 4 hours, a stock beginning with a raw chicken will still be quite white. A stock beginning with a roasted chicken won't be quite so white, but it won't be dull either. Short simmered stocks (5 hours or less) are only for chefs who require the whitest stocks possible for aesthetic reasons. For everyone else, simmering stocks for less than that is throwing potential liquid gold down the drain.

      Beyond increasing flavor, simmering stock extracts collagen from harder to melt components such as soft cartilage. 4 hours is no where NEAR enough time to reach maximum collagen extraction/maximum body/unctuous mouthfeel.

      Now as far as a 3 day stock goes... that's fairly ridiculous. Not only are you talking about a dulling of the flavor, the chicken fat is probably oxidizing/going rancid and emulsifying into the stock. If you took chicken fat, smeared it on a cast iron frying, tossed it in an oven at boiling temp (212) for 3 days... you'd have a well seasoned pan. Dry heat and wet heat make very little difference. Fat + heat + time = oxidation/rancidity. Not only is your friend creating a stock with impaired flavors, she is creating an incredibly unhealthy stock as well due to the transformation of the chicken fat.

      Although prolonged heat melts the collagen in connective tissue/soft cartilage, once the collagen is melted, heat will continue to break it down. Once maximum body is achieved, if you continue to simmer the stock, the body/viscosity will drop. From a perspective of body/texture/mouthfeel, an overcooked stock is just as impaired as an undercooked one.

      Lastly, excessively simmered stocks dissolve the bones. Disintegrating/dissolving the bones is NOT the goal of stockmaking. Once you've extracted the flavor and collagen from the bones, they have nothing left to add. Not only does the dissolved bone create cloudiness, it can also create a chalky taste as well. Nutritionally, it does add calcium, but the cost to appearance and flavor is too high. If you need calcium, drink more milk or take supplements rather than ruining your stock. The same recommendation applies to the addition of vinegar to stocks. Don't. Vinegar only hastens the break down of the bones creating the same chalky/cloudy effect in a shorter time.

      How long is long enough? The goal is maximum depth of flavor with maximum body. There are a lot of variables in the process. An older chicken will take quite a lot longer to extract the collagen than a younger one (a turkey even longer). A stock utilizing a previously roasted carcass takes less time than a stock that begins with a raw bird. The hardness of the water can impact stockmaking. Elevation. Simmering temp. All variables that prevent an ideal stockmaking time to be declared.

      If I were to give a range, though, I'd say between 7 and 12 hours. One thing I have found is that stocks simmered past the 12 mark, (14ish) seemed to suffer a LOT less than stocks simmered below 7 hours, so in my experience it seems that it's better to err on the side of excess than the side of caution.

      For instance, I have the skin/carcass of an 8 lb. previously roasted chicken simmering as I type this. I started it at 3:00 and I'll be taking it off the heat at 12:00 for a grand total of 9 hours. I would never say, 'always simmer your stock for 9 hours,' but in this instance/for this chicken, 9 hours should work perfectly.

      1. re: scott123

        Wow, I had no idea. I always thought 3-4 was plenty for a previously roasted bird. I can't wait to try a longer simmer, like maybe 7 hours.

    2. I make a light stock (not browning the chicken before simmering) and find that the best flavor requires about 6 hours of simmering. It is really a matter of your personal taste.

      1. I cook for 3-4 hours in a large stock pot, at the longer range if I exercise watchfulness (and patience) to let the stock just barely simmer -- trembling with an occasional bubble. I used to add my vegetables in with the chicken, but no longer per CIA -- I add them only for last hour. I read that the volatile components in the vegetables (and bay leaves, peppercorns, etc) do their thing in one hour, after that they take a turn for the worse (a non-culinary term). Note that vegetable stocks cook for no more than 1 hour, so this culinary direction to hold off on the vegetables and seasonings make sense to me. And my last batch of stock was great!

        1. I agree with the above post of 7-12 hours. When I worked in a restaurant kitchen, we put up stocks first thing in the morning and take them down in the evening. Then put up new batches in the evening to take down the next morning. The only exception is fish stock.
          Also for chicken stock, I use very little mirepoix. Even the amount called for in most cookbooks makes the finished stock tastes too vegetative.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PBSF

            I add nothing to my stock but a little salt to help preserve it. Stock is my blank slate. If I want mirepoix, I'll add it to the finished dish.

            The title of this thread is 'Speaking of Chicken Stock.' If you're going to bring beef into the conversation... I might alter my numbers a bit. Beef generally benefits from longer simmering. If I go 7-12 for chicken, I'd say my range for beef is closer to 10-14. Depending on the cut, a 7 hour beef stock still has a lot of undissolved collagen. I know Escoffier recommends 12 for beef.

          2. Long enough to cook my whole chicken, but not long enough that it's disintegrating into the liquid.

            TT

            8 Replies
            1. re: TexasToast

              If you're poaching a whole chicken, ideally, you'd want to cook the chicken until desired doneness, remove the meat from carcass and then return the carcass/skin to the stockpot for further cooking.

              1. re: scott123

                I've done that -- cooked for one hour, and then removed the breast meat and return rest of chicken to stock pot. However, I didn't really like the taste or flavor of the meat I rescued -- it seemed both waterlogged and well, not tasty, even in a curried chicken salad. So now I just leave the whole bird in the pot for the whole time. I guess if I want poached chicken, I'll poach some chicken breasts (in stock!) for a shorter time.

                1. re: NYchowcook

                  I'm not much of a fan of poaching whole chickens either. But there's no way I'm throwing out all that meat. I roast the chicken, separate the meat and use the carcass and skin for stock.

                  In the recently updated version of On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee puts forward the concept that out of all the parts of a chicken, the flesh provides the most flavor to stock and bones the least. Although I'm in complete agreement with him regarding the general lack of contribution from bones, I believe that the bulk of the flavor in stock comes from the collagen-rich skin. This is why skin-rich chicken parts like wings and feet make the best stock.

                  1. re: scott123

                    Not to nitpick-
                    Yup- meat definitely has more flavor than bone. Original brown sauce recipes- pre Escoffier- often had three reductions- and NONE of them had bones- just meat.

                    I just zipped a little flag to respond to your wing-tips and feet comment- SKIN contains almost no collagen whatsoever, but JOINTS contain a lot- tips and toes are useful because of their joints- like a cow or pigs' foot in a soup, they contibute a great deal of body.

                    1. re: lunchbox

                      From the Poultry Science Association:

                      http://www.poultryscience.org/ps/abs/...

                      "Chicken skin thus appears to be a good alternative source of high-quality collagen."

                      and

                      "Extraction yields varied with the solubilization process: 38.9% of the collagen content in the solid phase was extracted with pepsin..."

                      Cow's (especially calves) and pig feet provide an obscene amount of collagen. This thread concerns chicken stock/chicken physiology, though. Chicken skin is (at least) 38.9% collagen. If you compare that with other parts of the bird, there is no competition. Chicken skin has a greater proportion of collagen than any other part of the animal.

                      If you painstakingly extracted all of the soft cartilage from a chicken, the ratio of collagen would be greater than skin, but... the quantity of skin in a chicken far outweighs the quantity of soft cartilage. When you get into wings and feet, that difference is monumental.

                      Not to mention that soft cartilage yields zero flavor.

                      Skin is the answer to great stocks, not cartilage, not meat, not bones.

                      1. re: scott123

                        I went to go look that up right after I posted- you're absolutely right- skin does contain collagen- I had been focusing so hard on Joints- i do more butchering now than I used to- I tend to forget about skin's properties, other than flavor.
                        I had the joint/cartilige thing drilled into my head a lot in school and on the job- I usually have very little skin left over after I cut up a bird- I keep a lot on the meat and usually render whatever I can for the fat- especially from ducks!
                        I'd never been to poultryscience.org... thanks!

                2. re: scott123

                  But with a whole chicken, I'm typically making a chicken-noodle soup, so I wanna get my chicken out of there and the stock reduced, before straining and starting with new veg, adding the cooked chicken and stock, and then finishing with fresh noodles. I don't have time to faff about with the skin and bones!

                  TT

                  1. re: TexasToast

                    It can be a long process because that's what I do. I pull the chicken out when it's done, peel it apart (burning my fingers in process every time because I'm impatient). Then, I throw everything but the meat back into the pot. Boil away for a few hours (no set time, usually until dinner). Then strain, add the meat and whatever else I want. But, you know what--if you like your way, imo, then who cares what others do? It's not as if there is a "wrong" way.

              2. Thanks for all the replies everyone! FWIW, I asked my friend why she cooked the stock that long, and she said it was to make a deep, rich flavor. When asked about possible health risks, she said she skims off the fat, so at least that part can't go bad. She and her family all seem to happy and healthy, so I guess it works for them. I'm going to stick with hours vs days, however. I just have this idea in my mind that after days you're leaching things (the above-mentioned calcium but possibly other minerals) out of the chickens' bones, and even if they're happy chickens (i.e., organic, free-range) you don't necessarily want/need that in you.

                1. I'm fortunate to live near the Bell and Evans plant where I can buy backs for about $ .40 a pound. I usually make my stock with about 10# of the backs, and a few feet. The posts about "flesh" above make me wonder about the optimum percentages. Do you all use whole chickens for your stocks?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: UnConundrum

                    I do if I'm making something with the cooked chicken meat afterwards, like a soup, or enhiladas.

                    TT

                    1. re: UnConundrum

                      No, I have only used a whole chicken once, and was not impressed. I really like the flavor of stock made from carcasses best, I think, but usually I just save up backs, wings, other scraps and put them in the freezer until I have enough. Works for me!