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Mar 21, 2007 12:34 PM

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.


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,

                  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
                          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
                          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.