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A Question About Stocks

I'm about to let my naiveté show (again). When a recipe calls for beef or veal stock, I truly understand the importance of using a slow-simmered, homemade stock, and I'm well aware of the distinction in the end result between using a canned or packaged product and the "real thing.". However, when the recipe calls for chicken stock, I turn to canned chicken broth, and omit the salt usually required otherwise. I cook chicken SOUP all the time, and would never consider using canned broth in its place; but when it comes to chicken stock, I've never even made an effort to make my own. I was just going to ask if the effort is worth it. Now I'm wondering if I've already answered my own question.

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  1. It's so easy to make, that yes, it's worth it. My crock pot runs 1-2 times per week making chicken stock from the bones and the bottom shelf of the refrigerator is buckling a bit, but it's so good (I'm reducing it more to a thick glace these days because I'm running out of space).

    No MSG either, unlike most canned broth.

    1. If you do it in an easy way (like crock pot) I would say it's worth it. There's not a lot of effort. If you do it in the manner of Thomas Keller...not worth it.

      1. Absolutely. It drives me crazy to have to resort to canned because I've run out of homemade. The flavor is much better, and it freezes really well.

        1. Agree with the others. Think about the cost: leftover chicken bones that you would throw away anyway, water, and a few vegetables and spices that would probably end up costing less than a $1. Worst case you make it, use half and toss the rest out if you don't use it soon enough (or freeze it). It's worth the couple minutes to dump it all in a pot fill with water and turn on the burner.

          With that said, if you don't already have any on hand, the canned product is just fine too, in smaller amount (like you said, it's not for use in chicken soup).

          1. I make my own stock as well, especially chicken stock because i use it 2 or 3 times a week. I roast the carcass in the oven until golden, this makes a wonderfully rich stock.

            1. If you make roast chicken, or any chicken with bones, you have stock, free and easy from the carcass and it's so much better. It's a no brainer.

              1. Okay. So now that I'm convinced that I've got to make my own chicken stock, a few questions:

                If I start out with chicken parts, rather than a carcass, which parts make for the most flavorful stock? Should the skin be removed or left on?

                Should the chicken parts be roasted? If so, should the vegetables be roasted along with the chicken? (I usually roast the veggies that go into my beef or veal stocks.)

                In addition to the "usual" vegetables (onions, carrots, celery) and herbs and spices (parsley, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns) what else ought to be added? Garlic? Dill? Parsnip?

                What are the distinctions between a darker chicken stock that would result from roasting before simmering, and a lighter stock that would result from not roasting? I'm referring to the different ways each might be used in recipes.

                For how long should the stock simmer? I simmer my beef and veal stocks for at least 6 hours; I have a feeling chicken stock doesn't need that much time.

                I'm going to be making a large pot of stock, and I'll freeze it in small portions -- probably 16-oz. containers. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I haven't done this before.

                9 Replies
                1. re: CindyJ

                  Wings are a cheap product that give good flavor and have enough collagen to create a nice stock. You could also buy some necks and/or backbones if you can find them. Leave the skin on.

                  You can roast the chicken parts - it will give a nice roasty flavor to the stock, and a darker color, but it's completely up to you. For what it's worth, I always roast my chicken but I leave my veggies raw. Again, just a habit I have and it's up to you. The only reason is that while my chicken is roasting, I usually prep the veggies and get the pot ready to go.

                  As for other veggies, you can add what you want but I would avoid dill. It's a little strong and you will probably end up with a dill-chicken stock. Not bad, but maybe not what you're gunning for. Parsnips are a good addition as is garlic.

                  The difference between the roasted/non-roasted stocks is simply flavor and color. For 99% of the dishes you create they are completely interchangeable.

                  I let my stocks go overnight. I'd recommend that for your beef and veal stocks too. I start mine around 10ish in the evening - sometime after dinner but before bed - and just let them go all night on the stove. Wake up the next morning to a wonderful smell in the house and a finished product! Overnight is usually a little longer than 6 hours, I try to go about 8 or 10. You really want to dissolve all the goodness out of those ingredients!

                  Large is the way to go and freezing is nearly essential - it's hard to use up a big vat of stock before is goes bad sitting in the fridge. Have fun!

                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    in aniother thread where I asked about tetra pak No Name chicken broth, many suggested going to Chinatown and buying bags of chcken nexks and backs for $1.00 to make stock. Gonna try the crock pot version. I like not having to watch it cook, or sleep while its turning into stock.

                    1. re: Danybear

                      You can do a crock pot but they are invariably smaller than a true stock pot. 6 quarts is a pretty good crock pot size and that's rather small for stock - only 1.5 gallons if you fill it to the top and that's not counting the volume that the stock ingredients take up. As CindyJ mentioned the more you make, the more you can save. If you get used to your stove and "hit" a good temperature/flame setting you can simmer a stock at the appropriate temp all night and it's no more dangerous than a crock pot and requires no heat adjustments.

                    2. re: HaagenDazs

                      I like the idea of letting the stock simmer all night. But, given the deep freeze we're in here in the northeast, I think this time I'll simmer by day, strain, and then leave the pot out in the garage to chill overnight. Then I'll skim the fat and containerize it in the morning.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        HaagenDazs has given you great advice. I think some of it has to do with how much time you have. I like to roast the chicken wings first--it gives it more flavor plus gets rid of some of the fat first. But, whether you roast or not also depends on what you're using the stock for (as well as what spices you add). If I'm making a rich risotto, I want a rich stock. If I'm making butternut squash soup and don't want a heavy chicken stock, I don't. Also, it helps to release the collagen if you break up the bones first, especially if you don't roast. You can oversimmer the broth and end up with a bitter stock.

                        1. re: chowser

                          "You can oversimmer the broth and end up with a bitter stock." How long is "oversimmering"?

                          And do I roast the vegetables with the chicken, or just toss them into the stock pot raw?

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            For over simmering, I'm not quite sure, I've never had that problem.

                            Again, with the vegetables, it's up to you. The roasting will caramelize the vegetables and contribute to a darker stock. If you do it with your other beef and veal stock, then sure, do it now. There's really no set rules and you can do whatever you want. Having made beef and veal stock before, the process is exactly the same only using chicken parts.

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              I did it all day and the bones basically disintegrated--10 hours in the crockpot? It was terrible stock and I had to throw it out.

                              I usually do raw vegetables because I haven't planned ahead. Roasted vegetables makes a darker stock with more flavor, as Haagendazs said, but it's great without, too.

                      2. re: CindyJ

                        You can buy chicken parts for stock but get in the habit of saving backs, wing tips, bones, giblets (no livers), and scraps you clean way from other chickens parts. Store them in bags in the freezer. Now you can make stock on demand anytime you want from stuff you would have thrown away.

                        If you have a pressure cooker you can make the most intense flavored stock in under 1 hour. Worth buying a pressure cooker just for this.

                      3. A couple of comments based on personal experience but derived (mostly) from Harold McGee.

                        (1) Skin and bones produce collagen; meat produces flavor. For an everyday stock you want both, not one at the expense of the other. (2) The amount of time you cook a chicken stock depends not only on the sizes of the pieces of meat and bone, but on the age of the bird; the older the bird, the more cooking is required for it to give up it’s collagen. (3) That said, the bird is going to have pretty much given up all it’s going to give in about three or four hours (longer, of course, for beef). Cooking it for much longer than that disperses the molecules that thicken the stock so it won’t have that ideal “mouth feel” that well made stock should have. If the stock isn’t strong enough for you after this amount of cooking, strain it, defat it, and reduce it until it has the flavor and texture you’re looking for. (4) If you want a clearer stock, put the chicken in cold water, bring to a boil, then remove the chicken from the pot and rinse it before bringing it to a boil again in more cold water. (Starting in cold water, whether you parboil or not) and bringing it to a slow simmer makes it easier to skim off the impurities. (5) McGee doesn’t speak to the issue in regards to chicken, but Madeleine Kamman recommends against browning poultry carcasses or parts for stock. She says that in the browning process the poultry is forced to give up some of it’s taste-giving properties resulting in a less flavorful stock.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: JoanN

                          Interesting. Does Kamman recommend using raw carcasses? I get good flavorful stock from roast chicken carcasses.

                          1. re: chowser

                            "I get good flavorful stock from roast chicken carcasses."

                            chowser, I do too.

                            It think there are 2 kinds of thought going on here:

                            #1 is take what you've got, toss it in a pot and add some water. (hey that rhymes) And...

                            #2 is the more gourmet or "Thomas Keller approach" which involves chopping all your vegetables into 1 inch dice, and even adding ice to your stock at one point to make the fats chill and thicken, thus making them easier to remove. Clearly, these are steps that produce a wonderful stock, but they are also time consuming and for regular home use, rather ridiculous.

                            I say this not to make JoanN's points sound ridiculous because they are not, but rather to calm the thoughts of others who might not have made a stock before and think that suddenly it is more trouble than it's worth.

                            1. re: chowser

                              I think HaagenDazs has hit the nail on the head here. Any homemade stock, even one from a roast chicken carcass, is going to be better than what you can get out of a jar, box, or can. And why let that carcass go to waste. Makes sense to me to make use of it.

                              I wouldn't call the "gourmet" approach ridiculous, though. I buy raw carcasses for about 50 cents apiece whenever I'm in Chinatown or I'll buy a whole chicken, remove the breasts, legs, and/or thighs and use them for something else. There's still enough meat left on the carcasses to flavor the stock and I do find those stocks more flavorful than ones made with already cooked meat. And since I'm not concerned about the size of my dice and I always refrigerate my stock overnight to remove the fat, using uncooked meat and bones doesn't take any longer at all.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                It never occurred to me to get carcasses from Chinatown. I can get that and the necks for a quick stock. I normally freeze my chicken carcasses but do run out on occasion. Thanks for the idea.

                          2. yeah, it's a piece of cake to make and freeze in freezer cubes. they you have a stash all summer when you don't want to make stock.

                            1. Lots of good advice already, and for what it's worth, here's what I do when making chicken stock:

                              Best part ofs a chicken for stock: feet, wings, and neck

                              I don't roast the chicken parts

                              I don't put in veggies

                              Simmer for at least 5 hours, or overnight

                              Add a bit of vinegar (or lemon juice) to the pot before you boil -- it helps release the collagen from the bones

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Feet are good and seeing as though many people are grabbing chicken parts at Asian markets, there is likely ample opportunity to get a pound or 2 of chicken feet to add to the stock.

                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                  Honestly, I think feet are the best for stock. So much gelatin it's not even funny.

                                  Actually it's rather difficult to get spare chicken feet at Asian markets. Most chinese folks find chicken feet to be a delicacy. Heck my 5 year nephew can go through a pound of cooked chicken feet (braised in soy sauce) quicker than most kids can through a large bag of chips.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Can you tell me what makes gelatin a good thing for stock?

                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                      Gelatin is what gives stock its body, flavor and that certain "je ne sais quoi" that is so lacking in vegetable broth.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        can you explain what "je ne sais quoi" is?

                                        1. re: Poeticalmath

                                          The literal meaning of "Je ne sais quoi" (French) is "I don't know what". Conversationally, it means that certain something - something meaningful that you can't quite name.

                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                          Gotta disagree with you on the chicken feet, ipsedixit. Yes, they add a lot of body because they have a huge amount of collagen; flavor? not so much, because they have so little meat. Take a look at the white chicken stock recipes from nearly all the top chefs and cookbook authors. Child, Robuchon, Pepin, Colicchio are just four that I checked in the past few minutes. All recommend using wings, legs, backs, and necks. Not one mentions feet. You can get plenty of collagen from the bones alone.

                                          I do, by the way, use chicken feet when they happen to be attached to the chicken I've bought, as they often are. And feet are great if you want a heavily gelatinized stock for making something like soup dumplings, for instance, or aspic. But you can make an excellent, and more finely flavored, stock with good "mouth feel" without them.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            "Take a look at the white chicken stock recipes from nearly all the top chefs and cookbook authors. Child, Robuchon, Pepin, Colicchio are just four that I checked in the past few minutes. All recommend using wings, legs, backs, and necks. Not one mentions feet."


                                            That's a western point of view.

                                            Not necessarily saying you are wrong, just saying that there are different viewpoints on what's critical in good stock.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              It is indeed a Western point of view. Based, in fact, almost entirely on French cuisine. You're absolutely right about that.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                I think the FL recipe has feet?

                                                1. re: jaykayen

                                                  By "FL" do you mean Florence Lin? I only have her Chinese Regional Cookbook and in that one she calls for a whole chicken, quartered, and water. Nothing else.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Sorry; French Laundry.

                                                    I don't have a copy, so I'm going by fuzzy memory.

                                                    1. re: jaykayen

                                                      I don't have that. Maybe someone who does could let us know?

                                                      1. re: jaykayen

                                                        Found a copy of his recipe online. It calls for 5 pounds chicken bones, necks, and backs with 1 pound chicken feet optional.

                                                      2. re: JoanN

                                                        " ... she calls for a whole chicken, quartered ..."

                                                        Well, wouldn't that include the feet? When was the last time you saw a whole chicken walking around without ... feet?!??!

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          In My Vue: Modern French Cookery by Shannon Bennett (an Aussie) he says that a stock made with all wings makes a superior stock, and calls for 5kg or 11lbs of them.

                                                          I haven't been rich enough to try that yet, but that's what he says.

                                    2. For Xmas I got a Kuhn Rikon 5 qt Pressure Cooker and have been using that to make chicken stock. Before, it took me all day to make it and I would make a huge stock pot full that made about 5 quarts reduced and I would freeze it. Now, I have to make small batches since the Pressure Cooker is so small, but it only takes 30 mins for the cooking process!

                                      I've made chicken, beef & Iberico ham bone stock so far. It's also great for beans, dried hominy etc. I was afraid to cook with one before, but now I can't believe I waited this long to get one!

                                      1. This is a very interesting thread.

                                        I have never defatted my stock. Is it essential? I kind of always thought that the additional fat was a good thing, but now I'm not so sure.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: dexters

                                          Fat in stock leads to a greasy tasting soup, not good in my opinion.

                                          1. re: dexters

                                            Keep the fat for adding to potatoes or frying eggs, and the stock for everything else. :)

                                          2. I just made broth with the meaty bones leftover from de-boning chicken breasts - you can buy them at the poultry farmers at one of the farmers markets I go to. It was definitely less fatty than usual, and I prefer it with some dark meat as well, but it was still nice broth. And the naked breasts were really cheap.