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My chicken broth is dark and flavorless

I've made 2 batches of chicken broth lately using the Joy of Cooking (mid-70's version) recipe. The first batch smelled exquisite but was taking too long to reduce so I turned up the heat and boiled it too high and ended up with a wonder smelling cloudy mess with fat that didn't rise to the top to skim once cooled. Sort of tuned out like chicken jello with trapped fat. So I learned (like to book says, not to boil a stock.

The second attempt I used chicken wings. I did not boil. I simmered it for about twice as long as the book said because it just never smelled or tasted "chickeny" like the first attempt. Finally it reduced to a point that I felt it wouldn't get any better. I froze it and am now making chicken noodle soup with it.

I defrosted the stock and slowly reheated it in a Dutch oven. It looks brown, not golden, and doesn't taste like chicken. Just kind 0f blah. Now that I think of it I can't remember if I roasted the chicken wings slightly before I added them to the stockpot. If I did, I only slightly browned them to get rid of some of the fat. Would this minimal roasting create such a dark stock? That still wouldn't explain why it tastes and smells "blah".

The first time I used the carcasses leftover form the Costco rotisserie chicken and that stock (before I boiled it and ruined it) smelled and tasted much better.

What is the key to good chicken stock? What did I do wrong?

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  1. Have you added any salt? You don't want much, especially if you plan to reduce further, but a little can really help bring out the flavor. Try experimenting with a small portion first.

    1. Well there are a couple of things that you can do...

      Start with a good quality organic chicken (i'm convinced they're younger and have more gelatin/collagen) which gives the broth a more velvety mouth feel.

      Start with a large pot, heat it up med/high, throw in your corsely chopped Carrots/onions/celery/ bay leaves, hand full of peppercorns, into some olive oil......cook 'em for a bit 10min....

      put your chik in fill above the chix with clean drinking water....and bring up to a boil....top on....once you've reached that, take the top off, turn it down to a simmer and skim foam as needed and don't stir.

      In about an hour or so the meat will be cooked. Take the chik out put in colllander...let cool, all the while continuing to simmer broth.

      Take off all of the meat, and put all of the bones back in. Simmer for another 4-7 hrs. depending to your time and the intensity you are looking for , as time passes tyou may need to add water in order for the bones to not get swamped.

      I'd throw in a bit of salt to allow the flavors to come out but not too much and at the end of the process.

      This is not brain surgery...do not make it complicated, and if that isn't what you're looking for I recommend buying and having in your kitchen The Professional Chef (the Culinary Institute of America's bible)....it will elucidate on any and all food preparation that you may have a question about. Once you have the basics you can riff off of them and start experimenting with different flavors and ideas.

      I hope that helps you. I don't brown the bones, some people do, it gives a different flavor that is excellent, but it is a different process. Also the yellow color comes from the skins of the onion which incidentially you should not throw away and cook those in your stock. It will lend a nice color to the stock (onion skins were used to dye clothing and make paint with in the Victorian era and before).

      keep cooking!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Lex

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I really like the idea about the onion skins, I believe that will make a big difference. That and some salt as you and the other poster recommended. I didn't put any salt in as I thought I'd do that once I used it in a recipe but I can see that I need to add a little to the stock at the end to help build the flavor.

        And yes, I will "keep on cooking!!"

        1. re: Pate

          Interesting about the onion skins. When I make chicken soup or broth from chicken carcases of past dinners, I use a spaghetti pot.

          Usually throw a whole onion the bottom of a stalk of celery and leaves, a few carrots and parsley stems ... cover it all with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for a few hours.

          Then I bring the pot to the sink and lift out the colander part with the bones and scrap vegetebles.

          I never use salt ... and I have various results. Usually it is deep yellow and very chickeny. There are a few things that can go wrong for me ...
          - not having enough carcass
          - not simmering long enough

          Maybe the second pot didn't have enough chicken wings or it didn't simmer long enough.

          That being said, my last pot just turned out like you described your second soup ... it tastes weak even though I used two and a half carcasses that had more than enough meat attached. Simmered a long time. Don't know why this batch went wrong.

      2. ...can anyone suggest a recipe to use up dark chicken stock, something other than gravy.. ?? I have a batch that turned out wonderful and don't want to give to the dogs quite yet. I have about a good 1/2 gallon.

        4 Replies
        1. re: MelissaCato

          use to add flavor to anything that chicken flavor would enhance-- when steam-frying veggies & chicken, for example. or you could just make a good chicken soup with the rest of the stock, or you can freeze it too. throw some stock into the rice pot instead of some of the water & be prepared to totally pig out on rice.

          1. re: MelissaCato

            Give it to the dogs? You can still use it and it'll be great. What's wrong w/making soup out of it?

            1. re: JaneRI

              Yes I cook for my dogs. Their on a "BARF" diet. I always make soups and noodles out of it. Just looking for something different yet filling. This time I fried it up with peas, broccoli, cauliflower, snow pea pods, carrots and baby corns, then put over steamed white rice. My son made the chocolate pudding for dessert. Thanks for the tips, this website is neat!@!

            2. In a hearty soup, along the ministrone line, does not require a beautiful looking broth. The use of well browned onions, herbs, mushrooms, beans, would mess up the color of a golden stock. I make stock from left over chicken bones, and rarely worry about the color - especially if I'm just cooking for my family.

              I thought old stewing hens were supposed to be more flavorful than young ones. I also suspect there is more callogen in old birds, though it may take longer to extract. If you really want more body in your broth, include the feet with the rest of the bird (or buy feet specifically for the purpose).


              1. I use chicken stock in baked beans, rissotto, and stuffing. It's also useful in any slow cooked recipe like a stew.

                I always make stock from an already cooked bird carcass. We have some lovely turkey stock made from our bird. Can you use turkey stock in place of chicken in recipes, or will it alter the flavor substantially?

                1 Reply
                1. re: lisaf

                  It does change the flavor, but I usually love the turkey version. I don't know if it's because I don't get to eat turkey as often as chicken, or if it's just better. For example, chicken rice porridge is fine, but turkey rice porridge? I could drink a gallon.

                2. i agree with lex that organic chickens are better for homemade stock, especially if you get chickens or carcasses from chickens that are truly free-range (not the ones that are given access to an outdoor pen for 2 weeks before slaughter). they are more flavorful, more muscular-- you will be able to tell this if you take whole birds from different stores, butchers & farmer's markets near you, then learn to finish butchering them yourself rather than just buying parts.

                  in my experience you must bring your stock with your carcass, veggie trimmings (yes definately use onion skins, not too many carrot trimmings or it gets carroty & weird, celery leaves & tops, optional parsley or rosemary stems, optional peppercorns, optional clove-traditionally stuck in the onion nonsense, UN-optional bay leaves) just to a light boil in order to release the collagen & all the chicken flavor-- but not to a rolling boil. turn the fire down and simmer for as long as you want/can but at least 1 1/2 hours. After about this time if you're going for longer i would fish out the spent veggies or they might make the stock taste like overbrewed tea. white & yellow onion skins for golden stock, red onion skins for dark brown stock. skim if you want while cooking, or seperate the fat later. don't stir.

                  a good stock won't have a knockout-punch taste unless you also add salt, which brings out the flavors, but i don't like to add salt until i use the stock in the finished dish or soup. you can tell the stock is good because it will start to smell like old-timey holiday roast dinners in your kitchen and people will start to drift around wondering what you are cooking. Then they're bummed because there isn't really anything they can eat yet but the smell is driving them nuts. They'll usually say something about having a mad craving for stuffing before they go. it is amazing how many people walk into my work kitchen when i'm making stock, turn around and a guy i don't know from adam is just standing there in sandals in a pro kitchen inhaling like he's in a steam bath. soupkitten will have a heart attack one of these days-- what are these people thinking?

                  oh and another thing-- if you can plan ahead at all use filtered water for your stock, NOT tap water you will not believe the difference it makes. we use reverse osmosis water and the stock tastes much richer, clearer with more food-enhancing properties.
                  sorry to rant. good luck with your stock.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    Filtered water? Reverse Osmosis takes out minerals. Whether this is helpful probably depends on the mineral content of your water. This can vary greatly from one area to another.

                    There are many kinds of filters...carbon filters take out organics and odor. If your tap water does not make good coffee, it probably doesn't make good stock. We have excellent tasting tap water in my area.

                    1. re: Rhee

                      you're right-- some municipalities have perfectly good tapwater, however mine does not, & we do use reverse oz for coffee, tea, & soup stock. it can be a good idea to make 2 batches-- one with tap, one with filtered & see which one tastes better. also i think it makes a difference to take out some of the potential chemical contaminants-- this would be a consideration if Pate lives in iowa but not if she lived in NYC

                    2. re: soupkitten

                      I find if you don't add salt at the beginning you have to add more when you eat the soup. Ie less salt needed up front. Is that possible?

                      1. re: sensi63

                        do you mean adding salt when you are first making the stock-- to the whole pot or do you mean adding salt when the stock is strained & done? i actually probably don't know the answer to this as i never use salt in the stock-- anyone else know?

                    3. Wings alone don't have enough ooooph to make a good stock, IMO.

                      Very good advice here.

                      In culinary school one of the first exercises they did was array maybe 8 containers of chicken stock with varying amounts of slat in them. From zero to WAAY to much. Point being to understand how integral salt is to bringing out the flavor of food and to better understand how to properly season.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        Wings (and feet) have the most collagen than any other part of the bird. Collagen = great stock.

                        1. re: scott123

                          Collegen yes, flavor no. IMO you need to use other parts in addition to wings/feet in order to get flavorful stock.

                      2. I love to use my mother's old trick of shredding a yam into the stock towards the end of the simmering process. Adds beautiful color and a bit of flavor, and a velvety texture, and the yam itself disolves into nothing.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gaiadi

                          That's a great idea - nutritionally helpful too! Thanks!

                        2. I agree with S&P, whole onions, carrots, celery, meaty chicken with bones and a couple of glugs of white wine in the pot as well, along with tap water...ours tastes fine.

                          1. I always rely on The Barefoot Contessa - her recipes never fail me!

                            Chicken Stock Copyright
                            Barefoot Contessa Family Style,

                            3 (5-pound) roasting chickens
                            3 large yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
                            6 carrots, unpeeled and halved
                            4 stalks celery with leaves, cut into thirds
                            4 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in half, optional
                            20 sprigs fresh parsley
                            15 sprigs fresh thyme
                            20 sprigs fresh dill
                            1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise
                            2 tablespoons kosher salt
                            2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

                            Place the chickens, onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, and seasonings in a 16 to 20-quart stockpot. Add 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours. Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids. Chill the stock overnight. The next day, remove the surface fat. Use immediately or pack in containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

                            1. Pate, you need to post the recipe. Without the recipe, there's no way to know for certain what the problem is.

                              1. older chickens should be a lot more flavorful. Try those really big birds.