HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Chicken Stock - Where'd the flavor go??

I made some chicken stock on Sunday. I used one carcass from a chicken that I had butterflied and grilled the week before, and the bones from some breasts that I had deboned.

I refrigerated the stock last night so that I could remove the fat, then after doing so, I reboiled it this afternoon, in hopes of reducing it a bit.

Last night, and today when I first put it on the stove, it smelled wonderful, now, It has no smell, and very little flavor.

What happened? Did I somehow boil the flavor out of it?

Keep in mind, I'm fairly new to making stock, as this is only the 3rd attempt, and my first attempt at reducing it.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. So is a quick boil ok? because according to both Cooking, by James Peterson, and How to Cook Everything, stock can be kept indefinitely if boiled every 5 days

    1 Reply
    1. re: JBethell

      Yes, quick boil is ok, but I wouldn't re-boil and then start to simmer.

      Also, when you refrigerate, keep the layer off fat until you decide to use the stock. The fat keeps it from spoiling prematurely.

    2. You shouldn't reboil stock once you've finished making it the first time. It ends to break down the protein and strip away the flavor.

      If you want to reduce, just keep the stock at a low simmer and add water as necessary.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I don't follow this bit about 'breaking down the protein' and 'stripping away the flavor'. Could you give some references? How about a stock made in a pressure cooker?

        1. re: paulj

          I also don't understand the idea that boiling a stock takes away the flavor (?)
          I boil stock all the time when using it in the final product of a soup or a pan sauce or whatever, and the flavor is still there... if not intensified by concentrating the stock.
          I also have boiled stock just to reduce it down and its flavor is great.

          The only factor, to my knowledge, that boiling affects is the clarity of the stock (boiling when making will definitely turn the stock cloudy). But the flavor is still delcious.

          1. re: Mellicita

            I'm thinking there was too much water and not enough bones/slash meat in the stock and it required more reduction, or at least a second reduction with the bones..

      2. There is a terrific thread on stock making here somewhere if you do a search. IMHO, the light flavor could be a lack of salt which I lake to add during the simmer to help extract the bones, I also like to add some veggie stock fixings like onions, celery and carrots, leek tops etc. And finally, at the risk of being repetitive, the larger bones should be cracked open with your kitchen shears or cleaver, etc before the final simmer in order to extract the marrow which gives a rich gelatinous stock. Keep at it, great stock making is a technique which pays great rewards in cooking.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dijon

          and I did use some onions, carrots, celery, etc. I've been saving all my scraps, veggies, as well as chicken.

          I've got a gallon ziploc bag of wing tips, plus some other assorted parts in other bags, so I've got a few more attempts in the freezer, haha.

        2. Aroma may well disappear with time and reheating. After all, the molecules that you smell the first time do not 'settle' back into the stock. They are gone for ever.

          But what I suspect you are mostly missing is salt. Stock without enough salt always tastes flat.

          Also, some flavor components stay in the fat. If you strip that off, you have lost those.

          Was it nicely gelled when you took it out of the fridge?

          2 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            actually, that was another odd thing. The last time i made it, I strained it through a mesh strainer, then put in a gallon pitcher overnight in the fridge. The next day I had a disc of fat, maybe an inch thick.

            This most recent attempt, I had only a very thin sheet of fat after an overnight chill

            1. re: JBethell

              Most of the fat in chicken is found just under the skin. Your first batch may have had quite a bit of skin, the second very little.

          2. The others are correct. Never boil stock. Just take your time. In this case the first burn should started in cold water, brought to a gentle simmer (with the occasional bubble breaking the surface) over a gradual heat and have taken about an hour and a half (for about 4 lbs of bones). This way the soluble proteins from the bones etc that would cloud a stock during a rolling boil, either rise to the surface and can be skimmed off or settle along the sides and bottom, which is why you ladle finished stock into a strainer of cheesecloth instead of dumping it, and those proteins into the strainer.

            I don't usually add vegetables until I've made the first round of stock--I go for pure chicken essence that won't have any competing flavours. Once I've got my first round, I freeze what I want then I add other ingredients and herbs to the remainder and reduce it more. You can also use that stock to poach chicken, giving you a double strength stock you can continue to use over and over.

            6 Replies
            1. re: speake

              Am I correct in say that the primary purpose of the no-boil is to keep the stock clear, as opposed to maximizing flavor?

              1. re: paulj

                The main goal of not boiling any stock is to keep the impurities out of the broth and keep it clear. It will still be flavourful and, more important, it has a better presentation especially for soups (you'll see all the veggies you've carefully diced and pieces of chicken in the bowl).

                There are two kinds of stocks: white and brown. White stock is from unroasted bones that have been rinsed to remove any fat particles and blood before they are tossed into a pot filled with cold water. With brown stock you don't have to rinse the bones as the roasting will take care of that. The reason for the difference is for presentation: a white sauce would become too dark with a brown stock, and brown stock adds depth to a meat sauces and jus. Both would ruin the colour of any sauce if they were full of particulates--unless you cleared them with egg whites and lean ground meat.

                1. re: speake

                  ive also read that boiling effects how the fat separates from the broth.

                  1. re: dani_k

                    Chilling should take care of any emulsification produced by boiling.

                    1. re: paulj

                      I've found that chilling only eliminates the larger bits--these settle to the bottom of the pot--and most of the proteins remain suspended and keep the stock cloudy. Boiling not only imbeds the soluble proteins in the stock but can also create an emulsion with the fats that are difficult to extract later (egg whites won't clear a stock if fat is present). It's always easier to let stock gently simmer for a few hours (only the occasional bubble rising to the surface) and topping up the water level every so often to keep the bones covered and skimming off the proteins and fat every 15-20 minutes or so until none remain. Then ladle the stock through a fine mesh strainer without stirring the pot or removing or pressing on the bones.

                      As a point of interest, I read (On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee--every serous cook should own it) that, as a rule, eight hours of extraction releases only about 20% of the gelatin in beef bones, so it's a good idea to simmer the bones a second time in fresh cold water once you've removed the first batch.

                      1. re: speake

                        In my experience parts like feet are much richer in gelatin than bones.

                        A pressure cooker will speed up the extraction process. The cookbook that came with my Hawkins PC (Indian) claims that after 2 hrs you can mash bones to a powder.

            2. I find if I brown my bones in the oven, first, I get a stronger flavor. Then simmer them in a heavy stock pot on top of the stove. I do not like to add veggies while making the stock. I think it over powers the flavor.

              1. Everyone has different methods that seem to work, but for me, it is using chicken with real meat, such as backs , from an asian market, and cramming the pot with several of them (not an excess of water). I do add some salt, but only enough to bring up the flavor.
                And I do use a pressure cooker now, as it only tales 45 minutes, and the stock is clear enough for soup or sauces. If I need consomme, it can always be clarified with egg whites.
                Once I started using meaty scraps, and lots of them, I stopped saving bones in the freezer. The stock always gels if it is made concentrated, and doesn't need reduction unless I need a glaze.

                14 Replies
                1. re: jayt90

                  Is the pressure cooker difficult to clean afterwards?

                  1. re: speake

                    No, it's an easy clean up.
                    I have noticed that if I do a meat dish, like stew or swiss steak, and have some thickener in the mix (corn starch or flour), it will go to the bottom and start to burn in about 20 min., so I don't pre-thicken any more.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      Yeah, know that. I hate burning stuff. I incinerated 20 qts of tomatoes this weekend because I used my el-cheapo stock pot--something I knew could happen but I needed it. Its now been banished from the house and is outside waiting for the recycling pick-up.

                  2. re: jayt90

                    jayt90, i like this idea very much. do you use an electronic pressure cooker? i'm debating whether to get one (i have old-style pc, but am always a tad leary of using it.)

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I use a Fagor Duo 7 litre. The modern valve system is quiet and safe, and it produces a full 15 psi pressure. The electric pc's are convenient but not as powerful, 10 psi or less.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        thanks for the info. mine's a presto 1975.... ;-)

                        1. re: alkapal

                          The Presto's produce a full 15 psi, but to be secure, the gasket should be recent, and the bobber clean.

                          1. re: jayt90

                            thanks. a new gasket is in order!

                        2. re: jayt90

                          FYI, I searched over a year ago and found 3 electric pressure cookers that are 15 psi. There may be more now, but the three I found out about are:
                          1) Nesco, 6qt, model PC-6-25-30-TPR Hi = 15 psi
                          2) Wolfgang Puck 5.5 qt Hi = Meat setting = 15 psi
                          3) Cooks Essentials, their oval 8 qt. has 15 psi.
                          I find these produce the same results as my old stove top models but with a lot more ease of use and convenience, plus clean up is a snap.

                          1. re: ereader0706

                            is it better to get a cooker that is larger vs. smaller? we are a two-person household, so don't cook much at a time, but would like it big enough to do things like pulled pork....

                            1. re: ereader0706

                              Thanks, ereader. I was misled by a Fagor site. I see the Puck model available at low cost (new) on eBay frequently.

                              alkapal, 6 to 7 litres should be about right.

                        3. re: jayt90

                          Much thanks to everyone for all the help.

                          I've noticed a few occasions where people have mentioned chicken pieces from an asian market, why there, as opposed to a butcher?

                          1. re: JBethell

                            I think it's because most western markets discard the "good" chicken parts used for flavorful stock -- e.g. feet, neck, etc.

                            For example, when I want to make chicken feet, there's no way I'm going to a Safeway or Ralphs. It's always to a Chinese market.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              An Asian market close to me sells prepackaged $1. bags of beef shin bones, and also $1 chicken backs and necks. I don't get feet in the packages , but they also have pig feet, and a half foot goes into each type of stock. The $1 bags are very generous with meat, skin, marrow etc.and I use them same day, for freshness . Each bag will fill my 7 liter pot.

                        4. When you cool chicken stock, you get a layer of fat on top and a layer of gelatin just below the fat layer. You don't want to remove the gelatin. When you heat the stock to use it, the gelatin goes back into the broth and adds flavor and body. Removing the gelatin with the fat would sure cause you to loose some of the flavor. IMHO

                          Your grilled carcass may have just been too dry to give you any flavor. What did you use previously when your stock came out better?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: yayadave

                            the butcher had deboned 2 chickens for me, I used the bones of those on that occasion.

                            1. re: JBethell

                              Since they had not been previously cooked in some way, they probably had more to offer than the dried out carcass of a grilled chicken. More to offer being raw chicken, fat, and bone marrow. I think that would make a richer stock.