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My Chicken Stock: Spectacularly right or horrifically wrong?

I haven't made a lot of stock in my time, maybe a half dozen batches. It's never once been clear like the store bought boxes, but this time it seemed to be off-the-charts gelatinous.

To make, I used a good amount of vegetable scraps (frozen before use) including leeks, onion skins, herb stems and also some fresh vegetables including a quartered onion, baby carrots, a fistfull of garlic, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, more leeks, a bunch of parsley, some bay leaves, whole peppercorns and a fair amount of salt ... and and a lot of water and the carcass of a rotisserie chicken including the wings and skin, but picked over reasonably well.

Neither the vegetables nor the chicken were roasted before dumping into the pot.

After bringing it to a boil, I brought it down to a simmer and let it go for 3-4 hours. After straining it of solids, I stuck it in the refrigerator overnight. 18 hours later, I pull it out of the and some of the chicken grease has solidified on the surface.

But a LOT of it integrated with the stock. So much so it looks like Lake Erie sludge from the early 70's. (For the record, I stuck my wooden spatula in the stock and lost sight of it about a half an inch to an inch in.

What am I doing wrong? Am I overreacting? When my fellow home cooks make their own stock, does it end up so think and murky?

Is there, perhaps, a clarification process I'm unaware of?

For now, after running it thru a sieve, it's back in the fridge but I fear it may be heading out to the trash.

I should note that it was dark but hardly cloudy before I removed the solids and stuck it in the fridge.

Thanks for your help.

Christopher

REVISED: It's actually less gelatinous than I thought ... though it still looks like the gravy for the Thanksgiving turkey.

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  1. DON'T throw it out. It's fine, just not clarified. Personally, I think clarifying is a pain the *ss and I never bother with it (I'm referring to the whole egg-white-raft traditional french clarifying method).

    I just re-read your post...too many onion skins can make it really dark, and if your rotisserie chicken was a commercially produced one, it may have had caramel color rubbed onto its skin as part of the "spice blend" before cooking. That could be another source for your dark color. Anyway, it's purely a visual aesthetic thing...if it tastes good, don't waste it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hungry Celeste

      I agree not to throw it out, but while the eggwhite and shell clarification takes some time and attention, I never skip this step to get the floaties out of my stock.

    2. First - before you throw it out, I'd heat some up and taste it. That said, I usually put in some uncooked chicken parts along with a carcass - feet/wings - and don't put in any cooked skin. I'm not sure I'd put rosemary in either - not sure what that would do to the flavor. There are somewhat complicated clarification rituals involving egg whites etc. - I never use them. I'm not sure what would make your stock dark though. The best ones I make do end up solidifying when I refrigerate them. Hopefully others will chime in.

      1. YOU DONE GOOD!

        after cooking and chilling, you should have a fairly solid layer of fat, which you can scoop off, over a pot of nice wobbly stuff. the gelatinous quality is a natural process of cooking down the bones for so many hours. that gives the stock great flavor and mouthfeel.

        you can always thin it with water if tastes too strong. store-bought stock is much weaker, thus more clear. consommes go through a fining process with egg whites, but that's unnecessary for stock.

        1. Don't throw it away. It may not be perfect, but it's still usable as long as it tastes good. Gelatinous is great.

          You did not mention skimming the stock as it cooked. If you didn't, that's the reason why it's murky. You bring everything to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and then skim the hell out of it for a good few minutes. You want to skim off all the foam and junky stuff that rises to the top. I do this several times during the cooking process.

          If you skim well, all you need to do is pour the resulting stock through a sieve to remove the little solids before you refrigerate. That's enough to give me decent - if not restaurant quality - clarity. The egg white raft is for maniacal perfectionists.

          8 Replies
          1. re: CathleenH

            Also, the JC recipe that I use calls for boiling the chicken bones/parts in the water first, skimming along the way, and when you don't get anymore of that gray foamy gunk, then add the vegetables. Makes it much easier to skim b/c the vegetables/herbs don't float to the top and get in the way.

            1. re: MMRuth

              You know, that's just common sense.

              Which explains why I didn't do it. ;-)

              Next time ...

              1. re: MMRuth

                Great tip MMR! There's nothing more irritating than attempting to skim foam without picking up all the celery leaves, onion bits, etc.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  It's JC's tip - and I swear the first xx times I made it, I kept missing that step - makes a world of difference.

                2. re: MMRuth

                  Wow, all those hours of fighting to skim the gunk and leave the veggies are passing before my eyes in a blurr. So simple, so obvious, never ever would have thought of it!!

                3. re: CathleenH

                  You can save a lot of time skimming if you use the Chinese "chuet sui" method,
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/28237...

                  Be sure to turn down the simmer as low as you can, just the occasional bubble, and the stock will be less cloudy.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Thanks Melanie. I'm sure I did it at too high a boil. At present, I have the luxury of being able to do thing verrrry slowly, so net time I shall ... and I'll try to remember to pick off the excess fat next time, too.

                  2. re: CathleenH

                    Also, when simmering the stock, make sure it's just barely simmering...never let it boil or even simmer more than a few bubbles from time to time breaking the surface. Even without much skimming and no clarifying, this will result in a clear stock. And yes, gelatinous is very good. Not sure why the fat was partially dissolved in the chilled stock tho...

                  3. Hey! First of all, I totally resent the Lake Erie remark ;-) You should get out of NY and head west to our beautiful body of water!

                    As to the matter at hand, my chicken stock usually ends up very gelatinous, but clear. You could try re-boiling and straining through cheesecloth. Did you skim that grey scum that appears when you initially bring it to a boil?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: gourmanda

                      You'll note I did say Lake Erie from the 70's (for those who remember the old Saturday Night Live skit of bottled water from Lake Erie, you'll get the joke). For the record, I lived in Erie, PA for six months back in the early 90's ... I know Erie to be a beautiful lake today.

                      All in good fun of course. :-)

                      1. re: NYChristopher

                        With some darn fine perch! Now, what will you make with your non-toxic chicken stock?

                        1. re: gourmanda

                          my variation on
                          FRENCH LENTILS WITH CARROTS AND PEARL ONIONS
                          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...
                          I add bacon, use stock not water, and use equal measures pearl and yellow onion

                          Coq au Vin

                          Boeuf Bourguignon

                          Maybe some braised short ribs
                          http://www.chefscatalog.com/Recipe/re...
                          though I've been making these a lot lately

                          And of course risotto.

                        2. re: NYChristopher

                          I grew up in Erie; when I was a kid in the 1960s the lake was pretty cruddy but last time I went to the beach there I could stand in water up to my shoulders and still see my feet! Those pesky zebra mussels seem to have cleared it up totally (along with the Clean Water act, of course.)

                          I wonder whatever happened to all the lamprey eels? They were supposed to destroy Life As We Knew It. Then the zebra mussels were supposed to ....

                          As to your stock, It may not be clear but if it tastes great don't sweat it. When I make stock, though, I use fewer vegetables and herbs - no more than onions or leeks, a carrot, and maybe some parsley stems. They can make it taste more like them and less like chicken. And I keep wing tips, necks, and so on in the freezer to supplement a carcass... also you could add a turkey wing. I bless the person who decided to cut up turkeys and sell the parts; the wings are SO handy.

                      2. As I understand it, your question is about the FAT, a significant amount of which you believe has emulsified into the stock?

                        You may have boiled it too long or simmered it to vigorously or stirred it too much -- riling up the ingredients incorporates the fat into the stock via emulsification just like whisking oil into vinegar for a salad dressing does.

                        I'm not sure if clarification with a raft will work when the problem is fat rather than protein and other impurities.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Boiled too long? Perhaps.
                          Simmered too vigorously? Perhaps.
                          Stirred it too much? Bingo. I'm sure I did this and I'm sure it didn't help. It's the impatient male in me.

                          old joke from my much better cook ex-girlfriend:
                          men always ask: why cook for an hour at 325 when I can cook for five minutes at 500?

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            The cloudiness probably is not emulsified fat, more likely the albumin and such that was not skimmed off. I also recall reading that using precooked chicken (i.e. a carcass) is more likely to produce cloudy stock.

                            The cloudiness shouldn't harm flavor. But if clarity is important, than then straining through a fine mesh or cloth, followed by the egg white clarification process is what you need.

                            I often make stock with chicken left overs, and don't worry about clarity, since I use the stock in gravy or hearty soups.

                            paulj

                          2. I agree with Celeste - it's fine and usable as-is. Whenever I've made stock that way (stovetop) I could never get the simmer low enough (damned electric stovetops!) and it would always get a bit cloudy.

                            However, the last batch of stock I made, I did it in a large crockpot - and voila! I have almost clear stock, and at a much deeper depth of flavor then I have ever gotten via the stovetop method.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              I never thought of using a crockpot! I have a small one but the ease of doing a little batch of stock in the crockpot is very appealing - I could do that.

                              1. re: sheiladeedee

                                It really is SO easy. I have a round 5-quart slow cooker (and older model, so it doesn't heat at ass high a temperature as the newer ones do) with a Low/High switch, and then I have a smaller (newer) 1.5 qt. one that has one temperature - ON. :-) But even the smaller one could be used if you use wings, thigh bones, leg bones, which should easily fit. Set it up in the morning before going to work, it'll be done when you get home from work.

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  Thanks! I am going to do this next week...

                                  1. re: sheiladeedee

                                    just reporting back to say that I got the BEST stock from my crockpot, using roasted veal bones with a little carrot and onion - it set into a firm dark jelly with a coating of white fat to protect it after I poured it into little glass jars for storing. It made super gravy, sauce and soup base. I now plan to make it whenever I find veal bones at the market...

                                    1. re: sheiladeedee

                                      Good for you.

                                      Nothing beats home made stock.

                                      DT

                            2. For those who have helped allay my fears, thank you.

                              I should own up to not skimming while cooking (honestly, I had a hard time identifying that which I might normally skim).

                              If memory serves, I did run it thru a sieve before sticking it in the fridge.

                              Finally, as to the dark color, I guess I wouldn't have worried about the color so much if it hadn't been so opaque. (A tip I read long ago discussed adding things like onion skins to enhance color).

                              1. Leave out the skin and fat when making stock. Try to barely simmer, not boil. Skimming is important. I'm not sure why people think an egg white raft is too fussy: just whip up some egg whites, spread over the surface of the stock; small bits will cling to the whites, which you lift off. Simple. Straining with a cheesecloth is a good idea. Be careful with the fresh rosemary and thyme--easy for these to end up too strong.

                                1. If you don't want to make the same mistake next time don't cook it for more than 1 1/2 hours for a fresh clean clear broth. Also never let it come to a full boil and skim as much fat off as you can and save it for Matzah Balls.

                                  1. YAY YOU! Congratulations, Christopher. If your stock tastes good (chicken-y, bright, vs cabbagey, dank) you've got both flavour AND body. Sell me some... :-)
                                    I suppose the colour and sludginess of it could affect some dishes, but how many of us intend to use our stocks for ... say... consomme anyway? If you're planning on making a beautiful soup, or maybe an unorthodox risotto (I know, I know... veal stock is what you're supposed to use), you'll get more than you normally would. Taste, though. And if it seems bland, add a little salt to a bowlful of it and then taste again.

                                    I suspect strongly, though, that you did great. So again, CONGRATS!

                                    1. I know someone already mentioned this, but I'll say it again to highlight, if you used onions skins in the broth you definitely darkened the shade of the stock, but in a good way, it shouldn't affect the opacity (which you've got for all the reasons mentioned above). My grandmother used to use the onion skin trick to make her chicken soup a rich golden color. And since Easter is coming up I'll share this tip, if you save a whole bag of onion skins and boil a big pot full of them in some water, you can color Easter Eggs with the liquid. They turn out to be a gorgeous chestnut brown color.

                                      And gelatinous is definitely a good thing when it comes to stock!

                                      1. Skim often for the first hour or so, and at least every 40 minutes after that. Skimming around all the stuff can be a pain. Here's my trick- thanks Alton.

                                        Put a vegetable steamer upside down over the ingredients (I usually go vegetables, then chicken- the bones/scraps make a nice web that all the other floaters have trouble getting through) the steamer should hold down the whole mess, and you'll be able to skim without much hassle.

                                        Just made a batch last night. Delicious.

                                        Happy Eats.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Paul Maipork

                                          That sounds like some good eats, and a great idea. I'm sure you would get much more flavor adding them from the beginning instead of waiting until after skimming to put in fresh herbs and veggies!

                                          1. re: rookcook1

                                            Although I think Alton Brown's idea is a good one, in my experience I don't think I've lost flavor by simmering the chicken only for 15 minutes and skimming and then adding the vegetables/herbs. In fact my best stock to date was using this method.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              You wouldn't lose flavor, but I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to have them in there the full time... Esp. if you can use a method such as Alton's, because you can add everything at once, and when it is time to skim, you can do so w/ out grabbing any of the flavor (veggies, herbs, etc.)

                                          2. re: Paul Maipork

                                            Another good trick. Thanks Alton, thanks Paul!

                                          3. perhaps since it's so gelatinous, you can use it to make xiao long bao!

                                            1. I haven't done it with chicken yet, but the idea from another thread of making stock in a crock pot worked really well for my crab stock.

                                              DT

                                              1. the reason the stock is gelatinous is that it is full of protein. that's why it's so good for you!

                                                1. I think people are giving advise on stocks and consommes interchangably. A chicken stock doesn't need to be perfectly clear. A consomme does and uses an egg-white raft to achieve that. To get a stock that isn't cloudy you need to cook over a low temperature. You might also try starting from cold water. As long as it tastes good it sounds fine to me though.

                                                  1. One tip that I haven't seen here.

                                                    The easiest way to get clear stock is:

                                                    1. Make it.
                                                    2. Freeze it.
                                                    3. Allow it to defrost in a cheesecloth (or coffee filter, even kitchen paper) over a sieve and bowl.
                                                    4. Leave it alone to defrost. Don't try to speed the process up.

                                                    I tried this for 1st time last night with very cloudy ham-stock and it worked a treat.