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CI Jan/Feb'09 Chix Stock technique - WTH?

The creator of this recipe should be dubbed "The Unfrugal Gourmet". He writes, "Sure, it made sense in the past as an economical way to get a second meal from the carcass of a spent bird. These days, however, spending hours to make a pot of soup from scraps and bones just isn't practical." I'd say that, on the contrary, these days it is close to mandatory for the average family!

He used a pound of ground chicken plus two breast halves to a mere quart of water (plus 2 qts canned broth). The idea is to speed the process of soupmaking but seems to fly in the face of CI's devotion to methods that are both successful and economical. This method takes well over an hour, so it's not as though you can come home from work, start making this soup, and have it on the table before your family faints from hunger. And with CI's chicken recipes typically calling for Bell&Evans, it was disconcerting to see the photo of a package of Perdue ground chicken.

I'd suspect this article of being an early April Fool's joke, were it not for the fact that, as with nearly all CI articles, there's something to be learned: 1) while boiling the stock makes it cloudy, it extracts the maximum flavor - so if your priority is clarity, use a long, low simmer technique. 2) The smaller the pieces in the stock, the more flavor. They maximized this by using ground chicken, but if you are using a carcass and/or parts for your stock, chopping into small chunks will boost flavor. 3) The blood around the joints of the dark meat imparts a mineral flavor to stock. I am assuming this applies when using raw parts, not a cooked carcass, and I would doubt that it's noticeable unless you are making stock from raw legs/thighs only. My own take-away lesson from this point is to expose the joints and briefly microwave these parts to coagulate these areas before adding the pieces to the stockpot.

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  1. Just giving this ignored post an encore, since posts with stock-making questions are appearing again.

    1. I'm watching Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) make it with three whole chickens right now! How practical/ frugal can that be! In that Bittman thread, he said something about stock as well; the part I remember is 30 minutes cooking is enough, and I think that was with uncooked parts. Anybody know if a whole chicken is any better than random, uncooked (perhaps white meat) trimmings?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Shrinkrap

        I've watched that episode a few times now, and have stared over and over at the recipe in her at home cookbook. If I had a pot big enough, I would give it a try (probably right after a big sale on whole chicken).
        I've had good luck using a mix of wings and thighs. I'm going to give it a try with just wings this weekend. They're starting to go on sale now, I guess in preparation for Superbowl.

      2. Only posting to agree with you. I was shocked that CI would take such an economical, healthy practice and make it expensive and wasteful. The timing couldn't have been worse either, with the economy and unemployment rates as they are.

        2 Replies
        1. re: wickedcook17

          I've loved Cook's Illustrated for many years, and America's Test Kitchen still is among my favorite cooking shows on tv. But yes, they are running out of good, new ideas.

          1. re: nosh

            I've been a subscriber for 4.5 years, and my feeling is that they ran out of good, new ideas a long time ago. All of my Nov/Dec issues are virtually the same, and how am I supposed to keep track of which "new, improved, best-ever" version of the same recipe is really the one I'm supposed to be using? Pumpkin pie comes to mind, and there have been several others.

            And yet I let DH renew every year, and occasionally they do produce an issue of entirely new, relevant material. Go figure.

        2. In Dan Goldberg's now-defunct Curmudgeon newsletter, he was forever hammering Chris Kimball's "war on reality". I don't know how much Kimball had to do with this insane recipe, but he had to have approved its publication.

          Making broth with whole chickens is a good, economical thing to do, if you start with a properly mature bird and then pull it out and remove the meat as soon as it's cooked. What I do then is put the non-edibles back into the pot and continue the process for a while, since I want to get some gelatine from the bones and cartilage, and more flavor from the skin, without having to worry about overcooking the meat. Stock is a different matter, though I almost always use broth as a base for stock.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Will Owen

            What you have made IS stock. If you are simmering meat and bones, the resulting liquid is "stock." If you simmer meat only you get "broth."

            Stock = meat and bones
            Broth = meat only

            1. re: C. Hamster

              That wasn't the way I understood it. I've been given to understand that stock is made from bones and vegetables almost entirely, with maybe the addition of some chopped sinewy meat, and never with one end result being edible meat. Perhaps I was misinformed, or not paying sufficient attention, as happens sometimes...

              1. re: Will Owen

                The continuum is generally stock >> broth >> soup. Stock is made mostly with bones for body and a little meat for flavor. It's not generally eaten on its own, but is used as an ingredient in recipes. Broth generally uses more meat than bones, has more flavor and can be eaten as is (especially if you have a cold!). Soup uses either stock or broth and adds other ingredients. There is no hard and fast dividing line between stock and broth. It's relative.

          2. Had Cornish Hens for dinner. The carcasses went into the crockpot, along with water, celery, onion, thyme, peppercorns, and a bay leaf. They will cook on "low" overnight. In the morning, I'll strain and chill the stock, then bag it. I'll end up with 2 quarts of very tasty (and free) stock.

            1. I came across this article in the SF Chronicle only recently (it's over a year old): http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

              To summarize: chefs do not agree on how to make stock.

              You can have the best of both flavor and clarity, though - just use egg whites to clarify. I've only done this a few times myself, since I rarely require perfectly clear stock.

              1 Reply
              1. re: avgolemona

                If you clarify broth with egg whites, you've technically transformed it into a consomme. However clarifying invariably removes some flavor.

              2. I had the same thoughts when I saw this recipe. Chicken stock is one of those easy, throw-together, no-measure things in my kitchen. Granted, I usually use it to make soups where the stock ISN'T the focus, but still...I can't imagine using a whole chicken for stock when the carcass has always worked just as well for my purposes.

                1. I was surprised at the recipe as well. Enriching purchased stock with ground chicken isn't very economical, so I didn't try the recipe. My experience when making stock with a carcass is that boiling the pot not only makes it cloudy, but also makes it taste bad. Did anyone try the recipe, which does involve boiling? Was the only effect cloudiness, or did it taste muddy? Maybe without bones in there, boiling doesn't matter at all, save the cloudiness.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: saltwater

                    The pot should never boil after the initial phase, no matter whether you're using meat or bones or both, unless it's a fish stock you're making. That's one reason I like using the crockpot, since it never does boil at all. Simmering is what we want.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      I suppose the fat is in there either way, bones or no, and would emulsify. I've got to try the CrockPot stock one day. I've got an ancient one, though. I'd have to test it to see what temp it maintains.

                      1. re: saltwater

                        I think that unless they've been submerged those things are immortal. My little one is definitely first-generation, and the inside of the metal part has grease stains from all the times it's overflowed, but it maintains exactly 190º on the low setting just as it's supposed to. I'm getting ready to make turkey-thigh confit in it as we speak.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Okay, I temperature tested it. You see, as of this Christmas I have a probe thermometer for roasting meats, so I had to utilize that to check the temps, just because. After 4 hours (and two lid-lift incidents of dangling in and removing probe) it was at 172F for somewhat more than half a crock of pure water. So, it may indeed creep to 190 if I left it undisturbed for several hours, but I think perhaps it will stay a bit lower than that, since it had only climbed 5 degrees in the hour since the previous lid-lift. Perfectly safe for stock to sit at overnight, I suspect.

                          Putting the temp to high boils the water.

                          I hope you enjoy your confit in a few weeks. I think I will try stock in the crockpot next time I have enough bones.

                          1. re: saltwater

                            Well, I must confess that 170º was in fact the best the old CP could do...and when I turned it up to high it boiled the fat, which may or may not have ruined it; I'll have to check on it after I've used the confit. The new pots do go to 190º on the low setting, as they also have a lower warm setting which the originals didn't. 170º is perfectly OK for stock-making, though.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              At the very least your turkey will have been a success in the fun department. Making food can be so entertaining, even if it insists on boiling itself when we don't wish.

                  2. Ignoring cost-effectiveness for just a moment, and pretending that taste is the only thing that we are after....
                    I totally disagree that the amount of particulate matter that has been boiled into the stock equates to more flavor. Its the tiny aromatic molecules that stimulate the taste buds of the tongue that we are trying to infuse into the water.... not the larger particulate matter of chicken meat or fat or whatever. If they were to use gas chromatography or similar method to measure the actual aromatics extracted, I would have been more convinced.

                    Maybe its different if you are starting out with canned broth to begin with, but I have tried to make chicken stock/broth using only water and boneless skinless chicken breasts (this was as naive teenager that didn't understand how to even begin to make stock). And the flavor from that alone is very weak. I have found that it really is the bones and skin that give flavor to the stock.

                    I also disagree that adding some corn starch gives the same mouth feel as the natural gelatin of a stock. This sounds like some crazy version of how the big companies probably make canned soup and compensate for the inadequacy with icky additives.

                    Another weird part of the magazine had an article suggesting boneless short ribs had better flavor than the bone-in ones.... the whole issue was very disappointing this month.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Mellicita

                      Utterly boneheaded, and I can say that with complete confidence without even having read it. You don't get flavor from having everything included, you get it from having only certain things included and others left out, no matter what the hell you're making.

                      I will reiterate: Dan Goldberg was right. This magazine is run by people who do not fully inhabit reality.

                    2. So has anyone actually tried this recipe and blind-tasted the stock/broth against your own home-made to see if there is indeed comparability?