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Again with the Chicken Stock Questions...

I really enjoyed all of the good advice on the recent thread about chicken stocks. It was timely, as we'd just accumulated enough bones to make a new batch. I diligently simmered it for 7 hours and it came out very nicely. I refrigerated it as usual to get the fat off when it chills at the top.Thing is, this didn't happen with the new more unctuous stock. Does the fat somehow become emulsified in the more gelatinous stock?

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  1. i made a very good dark chicken stock recently. i chilled it and skimmed the fat as well. mine was very gelatinous and there was a clear layer of fat on top, so i don't think that would be the issue...

    1. Enough 'bones' to make a new batch? Any skin involved? Bones, by themselves aren't going to give you much fat.

      From the research that I've done, gelatin is a very weak emulsifier, so you might have some emulsified fat incorporated into the stock, but I doubt very much.

      1. I've never done it with chicken stock but over-reducing veal stock before you have removed the fat can cause some of the fat to emulsify.

        I guess the chemistry with chicken is similar.

        With my veal stock, the solution was to freeze it in small pots as usual and, when having partially defrosted it at the time of use, peel off and bin the emulsified layer on top.

        Elsewhere on the subject of chicken stock, there is far too much on this board and elsewhere suggesting that you can get a decent result using the carcases of roasting chickens. That is plainly wrong because you are using an immature animal that has not lived sufficiently long to develop much flavour. You are far better off using mature animals, known as boiling fowl in the UK, normally retired egg producers, and gently simmering them for a long time. Doing it overnight is the best use of time but you need to become expert in controlling temeperatures before doing so. Otherwise, there is some risk of boiling it dry which makes the most awful mess of your stockpot. And forget the stuff about adding any tomato product -its completely unnecessary. As is adding celery, carrots etc. Thats what you need for a vegetable stock, not a meat stock. If you want those flavours, add them after you have made the stock.

        6 Replies
        1. re: alexjames

          Yeah, I've reduced a stock too far in the pot and the fat I hadn't skimmed off did get emulsified into the resulting demi- when I decanted it, the demi was cloudy, but very tasty.

          I will have to disagree with you on the subject of the age of the carcasses- as discussed around here before, the primary flavor of a stock comes from the meat and the body of the stock comes from the collagen in the bones (joints). Therefore, to increase the meatiness (chickeny-ness) of a stock using intensly flavored meats from aged animals is a good choice- but to increase the body, using younger animals' bones is the key- think about arthritis- older animals have worn out joints- veal bones have significantly more collagen/gelatin than beef or ox bones (oxtail with its many joints is an exception).

          To respond to Procrastibaker's original question- if you skimmed well enough during your simmer, you just won't have that much fat left!- I'm particularly proud of my skimming, I rarely have to scrape more than a fine layer off of my stocks.

          1. re: lunchbox


            I'm interested in your point on the relative yields of collagen between younger and older animals.

            My most recent batch was made entirely from the carcases of old girls. Or was judging by the size of them. Despite being a triple stock, it does lack body but does taste wonderful. Methinks I'll chuck in a few younger animals in my next batch.
            Lack of body aint really a problem with me because I can always rectify by adding a small amount of veal stock or demi. But that is probably not the optimum use of such a valuable ingredient.

            Congratulations on being an indefatigable skimmer. I realise that I should do so but I'm far too lazy. And asleep most of the time anyway. What are your arrangements for doing a night shift of skimming around mine when the next batch of stock gets into production?

            1. re: alexjames

              Hi Alexjames-
              Yeah, I'm a skimming nerd- I ususally make stocks on lazy sundays or on days off so I can hover over the pot obsessively. If I'm making a stock I don't care about clarifying, I will let it go overnight unskimmed or while I'm at work. I am pretty good at making consumme if I MUST have clear-as-glass stock. I have a reletively small and reletively full freezer so I usually make stock, strain it and reduce it all in one day, or use a significant amount of it for a specific purpose on the same day I make it.

              Scott123- You're right- there just isn't that much collagen in bird bones- I, too usually make a 2x or 3x strength stock out of as many different birds as I can get my hands on (usually 1/2 chix, 1/3 duck, and whatever pheasant, quail, or guinea hen bones I've gathered)- I know the skin has some collagen, too, but I just can't NOT eat the skin- whenever I buy a duck, whatever skin isn't on the plate is being fried up for cracklings. Big fan of tossing a few feet in as needed, I ususally shy away from extra packaged gelatin unless I'm doing real chaudfroid work (wow- haven't done that in AGES). My Poultry stock reductions are usually strong enough to bouce quarters off of!

            2. re: lunchbox

              Lunchbox, as I have mentioned in previous threads, poultry bones are not a good source of collagen, regardless of the age of the animal. At least not when compared to poultry skin.

              Alex, if you you want the best of both worlds, body and flavor, stick with your old birds but add some chicken feet. Also, rather than using precious veal stock to supplement the body of your chicken stock, try adding some gelatin. Gelatin, depending on what form you use, has some taste issues, but as long as you have a nice, strong tasting stock and you use a small amount of gelatin, the taste of the gelatin will not be discernible. I've done this successfully on a few occasions.

              In addition to supplementing weakly bodied stocks with gelatin, I've also successfully taken dark roast chicken drippings, added gelatin to them, and created stock from those as well.

              And, speaking of collagen extraction, you are simmering your stocks for longer than 9 hours, correct? For an older animal, I would even go as long as 12.

              1. re: scott123


                I'm getting a tad confused on the collagen thing.

                I use the whole bird minus head, neck and feet. So a few square yards of skin would have gone into my latest triple - about 45lb of animals. So is it feet/skin or younger animals. Seeing as it is probably impossible to specify young boiling fowl (I do not wish to waste a roaster or two) methinks I'll try the feet idea. I'm aware that it works with calves feet so why not chicken.

                Subbing in gelatin is a good idea but I would count that as cheating thus a no go for me.

                My simmering times are compliant. Generally late afternoon until I get my arse out of bed the next morning. That would be 12 or 14 hours.

                1. re: alexjames

                  Yes, use the chicken feet. It has the most collagen than another other part of the chicken.

          2. I did include skin in the stock and I think you are probably right about the partial emlusification. I will try to remove the layer when I defrost. As for using older chickens, while I can see your point, for me buying a separate chicken for stock defeats the purpose of using as much of the animal I buy as possible. I'll trade the perhaps less full flavor for the economic benefit of making my chicken do double duty.

            1. Congrats on your successful stock, but I hope that you didn't throw the disk of congealed chicken fat away. That is very close to what Jewish cooks call schmaltz, and highly valued for sautéing veggies and other tasks.

              1. No--I never throw the fat away. As you suggest, it's great for matzo ball soup. Not the same exactly as rendering it I guess, but close enough for me.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Procrastibaker

                  Hi Procrastibaker! Sorry I just can't shut up in this thread, but I just made a good chicken stock yesterday (for a great batch of potato leeksoup).
                  As long as you have skimmed off the scum that forms when bringing the stock to the boil before the simmer, most of the stuff that floats to the top is pretty pure rendered fat. If you skim it off while its warm and liquid, safe that, then scrape off the stuff that congeals on the top of your cold stock, you can simmer that oily fatty stuff in a pot to evaporate all the the water/liquids/stock away- the resulting fat will be quite pure- a little chicken proteins will only enhance the flavor.
                  As I was saying to Scot123 above, I make cracklings from every bird I cut up- this results in 2 things: 1) I'm fat! 2) I have a large resevoir of duck and chicken fat to play with in my freezer (alas, I'm now out of chicken fat- I used it to sweat my veg for the soup I made last night).

                  1. re: lunchbox

                    Hi Lunchbox,
                    Thanks for validating my fat saving ways. A friend once chided me for referring to what I save off the chicken stock as schmalz since it's not rendered from skin in a frying pan, I guess. Seems like the difference is minor. I have heard that chicken cracklings are delicious (don't they have a different name?). And one can never have too much fat poultry fat in reserve. Never know when a confit emergency might arise.

                    1. re: Procrastibaker

                      I'm sure my spelling is wrong, but I think the chicken "cracklings" are called something like gribbennes

                2. And thanks for the congrats-- I still think I may simmer longer next time!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Procrastibaker

                    One last remark, don't ever let it boil. That can cause some of the fat to emulsify, or at least that's what I was told.

                    1. re: prunefeet

                      eeeehhhh...... sort of. boiling can break up the solids enough so that they end up absorbing the liquid and affecting your yeild. If you let it sit, any fat will un-emulsify. but the whole thing depends on your goal. if you want it clear, than yes, keep it under boiling. but for a really flavorful stock, I boil it hard for hours, adding more water whenever it needs it. My chef would probably think I was crazy, but it seems to work. you then have to squeeze the stock out of the solids, though. It ends up very cloudy and brown, but works well for intense flavor. Not something that flies in traditional cuisine, but something I enjoy.

                      1. re: ashwood

                        Really? Well, I always do press all teh liquids out of the solids, can't waste a drop. Sometimes I care about clear, sometimes I don't.

                  2. I come from several thousand years of chicken soup making and never heard of boiling chicken soup for 7-9 hours. Understand this would help for beef soup, but not chicken. Perhaps that is why the fat wouldn't congeal? You need to be careful to use chicken meat and bones, too many bones make the soup gelatinous, not flavorful. While I agree that older fowl would give good flavor, I get perfectly acceptable results using supermarket fryers.The flavor issue can be mitigated by using dark meat (legs, thighs), backs, and wings. I cut up my own whole chickens and package breasts for the freezer. My soup turns out very delicious after 3-4 hours, even when made in 16 quart quanitities. Another important item is to use the right amounts of the right vegetables. Leeks add a great quality in addition to onions, both carrots and parsnips give the soup a sweet quality. Don't forget celery leaves and parsley too.

                    1. Hello everyone, this looked like a good place for my stock question too. I made a huge batch of chicken stock yesterday. It didn't turn out like it should. I used 2 X the water and mirepoix for the amount of bones that I had. It taste pretty weak and is still liquid when chilled. I reduced a cup of it by half and it seems alot better bodied and actually firmed up in the fridge. The only problem is that it taste more like mirepoix than chicken. Any tips? How could I boost the chicken flavour? I have about 3+ gallons and I don't want it to go to waste. Or do I say fudge it and call it veg stock now!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bbqbob


                        My understanding is that you should start your stock with only enough water to cover 3 quarters of your meat. This will give you a stock that does not have a watery weak flavour.

                        While reducing a stock will increase its taste it will decrease the complexity of the taste of the stock. After the reduction you have half the liquid. Better to add another batch of meat to your existing stock.

                        1. re: bbqbob

                          Don't really have a recipe for chicken stock, more like a rule of thumb - I cut up whole chickens, freeze breasts for another recipe and use everything else (backs, wings, thighs, legs) in stock making. I use 1 quart cold water to 1 lb. chicken (bones & meat). Veggies are a little trickier. I usuallly use a 16 qt stock pot, with 10 quarts water, 10 lb. chicken. I put in 2 large yellow onions, 2 leeks, some parsley, 2-3 parsnips, 3-4 pieces celery (esp leaves), and 3-4 pieces whole carrots. I add some kosher salt, whole peppercorns and 1/2 bunch fresh dill. Let it come to boil uncovered, skim off scum, lower to simmer and let it go partially covered for 3-4 hours. Never had any problems, always jells. I strain very well, let cool, freeze with fat layer on (for protection).