HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Homemade Stock Not "Gellied" and ?'s

I'm brand new here, so glad I stumbled across this site, I've found alot of useful information so far. This is my first post....
I made chicken stock for the first time and followed the basic recipe. I used everything that was left from several different chickens that had been roasted and eaten by my family. (I don't think I used skins and I know I didn't use giblets.) The rest was normal, carrots, celery, onions, spices, etc....I let it sit overnight in the fridge and in the morning scooped off the fat layer. I expected that to be thicker, but it was about an 1/8" to a 1/4" thick. Don't know if that is normal or not. Anyway, I know it's supposed to be a gel like substance that "melts" when you heat it, mine is just liquid. Is it still good? And why didn't it gel?
My second question is about reducing stock. I would assume that it needs to be "gelled" do it, but is that a good thing? I read somewhere that you could reduced it by half to save room in the freezer, then just add water when using. Is that true? Most recipes don't say anything about it, so I'm sure what to think.
My last question is probably a little stupid, but...When you use homemade stock that you haven't reduced or anything, do you use the actual amount called for in a soup repice, or do you add water?
Thanks so much

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have made plenty of batches of stock that didn't "gel" and they were perfectly fine. The amount of gelatin that leaches from the bones and cartilage will determine how well your stock gels. Personally, I don't think stock needs to gel in order to be good. I typically cover my chicken carcasses (plus veggies) with a couple inches of water and simmer away. After straining, I'll use the stock as called for in recipes.

    You can reduce stock (even non-gelled stock) to concentrate it - just boil it until the liquid is reduced by half. Make sure to note this on your packaging so you remember if it needs dilution when using it in recipes.

    If you didn't put chicken skin in the stockpot, that's probably why there wasn't a huge fat layer on top after chillling.

    Taste your stock. Does it taste good to you? Does it taste too watery? If you like it, use it with pride!

    1. The gel comes from gelatin in the bones. Next time, try cracking the bones so the marrow is more exposed. Also, I usually use chicken wings that I buy just for stock, so there are lots of bones, and also the meat adds extra flavor. SOmetimes I roast the wings first for extra color and flavor, and sometimes I just throw them, chopped, with onion, carrot, etc. The stock is still good without it, as long as it tastes good to you.

      I have not reduced my stock before, but I don't see why not. I use homemade stock one for one with canned, but again, if you have a very rich flavored stock, there is nothing wrong with adding water if you want a more subtle flavor for your dish. Congrats on your stock!

      with no flesh and no skin, that's probably why not much fat.

      1. How long did you cook it? After straining, how much stock was there?

        Using scraps from two chickens, a quart of stock sounds about right.

        The amount of fat that collects on top depends on how much chicken fat you put in - mostly from the skin and any roasting drippings.

        Since the strength of your stock can be quite variable, there is no fixed rule regarding its use in soup. I typically use stock from left over chicken straight in soup, without reducing or diluting it. But my soups tend to be chunky, often overloaded with vegetables etc. I adjust salt toward the end of making the soup, not while making the stock. If your soup is too salty the only thing you can do is dilute it (well there is that trick about potatoes ...); if not enough salt, add some.

        The strength and quality of the stock will be more important if it is central ingredient to the soup, such as a simple chicken-noodle.


        1. Whenever I've had chicken broth instead of stock (stock gels, broth doesn't) it's because I didn't simmer the chicken long enough. Well, that and you do have to have a certain amount of bones and cartilaginous tissue if you want to make stock instead of broth. The fact that you didn't have much chilled fat to skim off also says your simmering time may have been too short. But it's equally possible your chicken was just too lean. You said you didn't use the skin. Skin has a lot of collagen in it, and that contributes as much to making a stock that gels nicely as bones do.

          You can reduce chicken broth by boiling it down, which will intensify the flavor, but if you want it gelled for some reason such as consomme, then you'll have to add some unflavored gelatin.

          Welcome, and sounds like you're on a great learning track! Seriously! Broth is good!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caroline1

            Broth is made from meat, stock is made from bones.
            And the idea of adding unflavored gelatin to broth or stock is just...wierd.
            I agree the stock probably wasn't simmered long enough though.

          2. I would suggest a slit pig's foot for gel, rather than a powder. Or chicken feet, and wing tips.
            Have a look at Michael Ruhlman's Elements, for a really good discussion on stock, salt, eggs, and sauces.
            If your chicken stock has good flavour and aroma, you might try clarifying it for a consomme. No one does this anymore, so it will grab a lot of attention if it is good.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jayt90

              With the chicken broth on hand and already made, it is much more direct and easier to simply add a predisolved unflavored gelatin to hot broth rather than adding a pig's and/or other chicken parts that may not be available and simmering another hour or two. It's an immediate answer to an immediate problem, *IF* gelling is critical.

              For a means of avoiding the problem in the future, if chicken flavored chicken stock is the goal, it's simpler and more direct to simply start with a whole chicken. A slit (or halved) pig's foot will change the flavor, and if kosher or halal is required, it will emphatically be out of the question.

              1. re: Caroline1

                ATK added some powdered gelatin to their all beef meatloaf, as a substitute for the gelatin that veal is supposed to provide in traditional mixes.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Caroline, thanks for the wisdom! I was searching because I boiled beef stock for about a day & didn't get a gel (only care about this because i'm frustrated that all the nutrients are still in the bones). I did use a half cup of vinegar. I should've left it longer, but since I didn't know this would happen, I was just eager to be DONE with my stove, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I suppose I'll just put it back on the stove with the bones back in until they're soft. I was searching to find out if this was even a feasible option & what I gathered from your post is that -I guess- it can't hurt :-) Thanks :-)

                  1. re: NatalieLawson

                    The substance that makes broths gel is found in connective tissue, knuckles, and some marrow bones. If your goal is to thicken a beef broth and have any sort of ethnic markets in your area, see if you can find some cheap ox tails or beef shanks. They will give you a stock that gels nicely. And they make a great meal to boot. Boil them in the stock, then when they are fall-off-the-bone tender, remove them to a casserole dish, add some chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, carrots, a sliced or choped onion, some herbs of choice (thyme, marjoram, parsley, oregano, whatever), and a little buerre manie (butter mixed with flour that makes the flour lump-proof) and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Pierce the foil in a couple of places to allow steam to escape. Bake/roast in a slow oven (maybe 325 or 350) for about 45 minutes and voila! A big pot of beef stock AND dinner! Serve with potatoes or orzo or rice. Enjoy!

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Even better, a cows foot. Stock from that will glue your lips together.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        And after dinner, if you are reducing the stock, return the bones to the stockpot in case they can still contribute.

                        Many recipes recommend first oiling the bones and roasting them at 400 degrees or more until they are deep brown, then adding the bones and fond to the stockpot. This contributes deeper flavor to the stock. It takes a lot more meat to make a good beef stock than a chicken stock.

                2. Agree with the other posters,but just a tip for the future--add a splash of vinegar (I like white for a standard stock, red wine or apple cider if I'm making a specific soup) to help leach more out of the bones. You'll get more of the calcium so it's a healthier stock, but it also adds more 'gel'.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: thursday

                    Huh. I never heard this before. How much is a 'splash'? Not enough to affect the taste very much, I would guess. I'm planning on making stock tonight; would a reasonably acidic wine work too (I'm guessing it's the acid that leaches the stuff out of the bones...)?

                    1. re: Bat Guano

                      The size of the splash depends on the size of the bones--for a roast chicken I'm turning into stock, it's often just a few tablespoons; for Thanksgiving turkey, I often add as much as half a cup or more. I've never noticed a difference in taste, but it's also the only way I've really ever made stock, so...=)

                      I assume it's the acid that leaches the calcium from the bones, so I guess an acidic wine might work--the bones after cooking will look a little on the gray side and be much more dried out and brittle than when you don't add vinegar, so if they are when you use the wine, I guess it worked!

                      1. re: thursday

                        A pressure cooker does a job of extracting calcium from bones.


                        1. re: thursday

                          Thanks! I ended up making a small batch of stock out of some lamb-chop bones, and added about a tablespoon of white vinegar; I don't know if it made any difference, to be honest, but the bones were definitely on the gray side. Tasted good, which is what counts.

                    2. Broth is a liquid resulting from cooking vegetables, meat, or fish in water. The term is sometimes used synonymously with bouillon. Stock, on the other hand, is made primarily with bones rather than meat, but still contains vegetables and aromatic ingredients like spices and herbs.

                      1. Thanks everyone!!!!! I tasted it and it tastes good, while perhaps more of a vegetable taste, than chicken, but still good. I guess I just need to add more skin and flesh next time to get a richer chicken taste. I did cook it all day, 8 hours, so I'm still not sure why it didn't gel, but like leaneabe said, if it tastes good, who cares. When would it be "necessary" for it to gel? Are stock and broth interchangeable?

                        My "broth" isn't the clearest, but I'm going to use it in soups that it doesn't matter anyway.

                        I'll experiment with different things next time I make some, that's the fun of cooking anyway.

                        thanks for all the tips.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: reneec83

                          Gelatin comes from skin, bones, and connective tissue. At 8 hrs you extracted all that was present. Unless you take extra steps like adding chicken feet (mostly skin) chicken stock never gets stiff. But it usually is a bit 'jiggly' when cold.

                          Why is it important? When hot, the gelatin adds 'body', mouth feel. Perhaps the easiest way of identifying this is to make a stock that is quite rich, and taste this. Or check pan drippings of meat cooked without flour; they often are quite stiff when cold (under the layer of fat).

                          Careful use of cornstarch thickener adds body to a soup that is similar if not quite the same.


                          1. re: paulj

                            I simply use a whole chicken when I want a gelatinous stock, sometimes without any seasonings at all. I simply take those blobs of fat that hang at the intrail opening and toss them, then put the chicken in a pot, cover completely with water, bring it to a boil, cover the pot and reduce to a simmer and let it do its thing for at least a couple of hours.

                            I know it's done if I grasp a protruding leg bone and it comes out of the carcass when I pull. Done!

                            It's a very rich but unseasoned stock, and if being clear is important, it can be clarified with the "meringue hat" with a few egg shells dropped in the pot first and/or filtered through fine cheese cloth. But I only bother with this when I want to use it for aspic or masqueing decorations "au gelee" as on the top of a ham for buffet presentation. (Haven't done that in a while! Getting lazy.) Refrigerate, remove solidified fat, transfer into containers for short term storage or freeze for the future. I find this "pure chicken" method has a lot of flexibility, as I can use it as a base for tortilla soup, stock in a white gravy, the base for avgolemono, or even as an aspic, it gets that solid when cold. (But I do prefer agar agar for aspics that are going to be sitting out for a while.)

                            As for the chicken, it makes GREAT enchiladas Suisa! Cool the beast until you can put your hands in comfortably, sort out ALL of the bones. Put the shredded chicken in a mixing bown, add some very finely diced raw onion, a little garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and a can of diced Ortega green chilis. Stir well. Soften corn tortillas in hot oil, dip in green enchilada sauce, fill with chicken mixture, place enchiladas in a casserole dish seam side down. Repeat until either the casserole is full or the chicken mixture is all used up. Pour the remaining green enchilada sauce over the top, top that with a good queso de enchilada (Mexican cheese) if you can find it or shredded Monterey jack will do. Top that with some sour cream down the center of the rows of enchiladas and bake in a medium hot oven until all bubbly and the cheese is melted. I love leaving the very ends of the tortillas almost bare of sauce, cheese, or sour cream so they get crispy crunchy. Good to go...! Got chicken stock AND dinner...!!!

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              I have been leaving vegs and herbs out, too, and I like the results. I can adapt the stock with flavourings as needed, and the soup, stew or sauce will be better for it.
                              I've also tried Ruhlman's idea of salting just enough to bring out the flavour and this seems to help.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                I like mine salt free, then I can use whatever type of salt I prefer in whatever I use the stock for. I also like to low temp poach a chicken breast in the stock (me, who hates white meat!) and then sprinkleit with Maldon's sea salt. I love the little salt pyramids! It's probably my imagination, but I think it tastes better than other sea salt or kosher salt on the poached chicken breast. A mind is a terrible thing to waste! '-)

                          2. re: reneec83

                            I think the only time it would be *necessary* for the stock to gel is if you are using it in an aspic or other cold, gelled preparation. If it is to be served hot, it will melt anyhow and be in liquid form.

                            A gelatinous stock has the benefit of having a richer "mouth feel," but it doesn't really say anything about the flavor.

                            Clearness to the stock is more a matter of aesthetics than flavor as well.

                            1. re: DanaB

                              Clearness might also be an issue when it comes to shelf life. I've read the floating particles / impurities will cause the stock to become sour more quickly.

                              Thorough skimming and straining will also improve taste and mouthfeel IMHO.

                              1. re: Ze German

                                I don't think homemade stock should have a "shelf life" component. Once made, I freeze it in one, two and 4 cup measures.

                          3. I just want to add that a gelatinous stock is nutritious, too. The mineral content increases from cracking the bones and softening the cartilage as is done for a gelled stock. Plus, it makes any application that much more pleasurable to eat, as has been mentioned. My vote, reneec83, would be to crack the bones with a heavy knife next time you make stock. Nothing wrong with what you've got now for lots of applications, though. You just might have to tweak the flavor.

                            1. I make stock from cachama, an Amazon fish. Just 25 minutes of cooking heads and bones; and after clarification (straining and rafting) and cooling I get a very solid gelatin (turn container upside-down and nothing comes out). For stronger flavored--especially Asian and Mexican--dishes, I use the fish rather than chicken stock. Cachama being very lightly flavored, any fish flavor is not discernable.

                              1. Everyone's given some great advice here, but just to emphasize one thing:

                                don't salt the stock if you don't know what you'll be using it for, and ESPECIALLY if there's a chance you'll be reducing it. It's horrid to make gorgeous chicken stock, only to have salt be the overwhelming flavour in your finished dish.

                                Which is ironic, since even the best chicken stock tastes flat and boring without salt. So when it comes to taste testing, I just sprinkle a couple grains of salt onto the teaspoon of stock, then sip, in order to check how it will taste once salted.

                                1. I'd like a little advice/clarification. I made stock today in the slow cooker. I removed the breast meat when it reached 160 but the rest of the whole chicken went 8-10 hours. I have two quarts plus of stock that tastes intensely wonderful. When, if ever, should that be diluted? If making a chicken, veg, noodle soup, I'd leave as is but if I want, say, an Asian soup of some sort, should the stock be less intensely flavored. I know that's rather vague since no one else has tasted this but I'm curious if anyone has any guidelines they use. (I'm happy just spooning it straight out of the pot into my mouth!)

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Unsalted stock is one of the only ingredients where, generally speaking, if some is good, more is better. Limitations are rarely based upon potential 'damage' from excess, but are more a concerted effort to stretch this liquid gold across as many recipes as possible.

                                    If I had an unlimited supply of stock at my disposal... I'd probably use exponentially more.

                                    Generally speaking, of course :) Stock does contain naturally occurring sodium and glutamates (which magnify the perceived saltiness in dishes), so in dishes with other salty ingredients I might either scale back the stock or dilute it. I make a broccoli and cheese soup that begins with chicken stock and I'm very careful not to use too much because of the salt in the cheese. I also dilute stock when making risotto. I've made risotto without diluting it, and, between the concentrated stock and the reggiano, very little of the rice flavor was coming through.

                                    This salt/perceived salt thing is why I never salt stock. Ever. Salt can always be added, but it can never be taken away. Salt, in theory, could buy me a little extra refrigerator longevity, but since I freeze my stocks straight away, the preservation that salt would give me is not a concern.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Stock made in a pressure cooker has probably reduced very little and can and should be used as is. I reduce (and clarify) my stocks to a gelatinous concentrate that is then diluted about two to three to one upon use.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        I always add white wine to my chicken stock to help bring out the gelatin and use best quality chooks.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          Stock made in a PC is so gelatinous if a fair amount of bones are used. It can certainly be reduced further but after being chilled in the fridge it will look like Jello

                                      2. Thanks for the recs. When I DO make it, I DO tend to want to hoard it or stretch it, the latter probably taking away some of what I'm wanting to hoard (that richness). Thanks for the feedback re different dishes using more or less; I'd had that thought also. Someone, I believe on this thread, said s/he makes stock every ten days or so. That's probably what I should do. Then I wouldn't need to be so parsimonious. I did pick up another chicken yesterday. I really wish I had room for a separate freezer. Thanks all.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          If your homemade stock is unsalted and has a lot of gelatin, you can "dilute" it with storebought stock, or base plus water, and still have very good flavor and unctuousness. I had to force myself not to hoard, since I have too often "saved" my good homemade stuff in the freezer until it's freezer-burned and the fat cap is rancid.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I remove most of the fat but leave a little on the theory that it protects the stock from ice crystals and freezer burn but I may be whistling out my backside on that one.

                                            2. re: greygarious

                                              "Ah, so you leave the fat on?"

                                              And if so... why?

                                              If you chill the stock in a fairly compact bowl/cup, clean off all the fat and freeze it in an airtight form fitting plastic bag, You can successfully store it for years. The trick, though, is to take the frozen stock out of the bag and rinse off a bit of the outer crust- that's the only part of the stock cursed with freezer burn. The core will be as fresh as the day you froze it. I've taken a quarter inch off of 4 year old stock and what was remaining was flawless.