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Skimming your stock...

  • Den Feb 2, 2009 11:51 AM

I probably do lots of things wrong with my stocks but they always come out tasting great so I don't care. I know I'm always told to skim the stock every 20 minutes (and I don't)...those impurities haven't killed me yet. I don't really see the need for my stock to be clear. Today, I was reading another post somewhere that said don't ever stir your stock while it's cooking. About all I do is strain the stock and cool it for the fat to rise to the top and then toss that out.

Anyway, how finicky are you with your stock and has it made a difference?

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  1. I was wondering the same thing. I always make stock with frozen carcasses, adding some wings/backs/feet if I have them on hand. I really don't worry about my stock being cloudy, as I suspect it is. I suppose if one is making a consomme (sp?), it would matter, but I wonder why it matters otherwise. One trick I did learn from JC is to simmer the carcasses (cut up) by themselves at first, skimming along the way, and then to add aromatics etc. I don't ever stir stock, but I don't see a reason to either.

    8 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Yep, I make chicken stock all the time. Add a whole cut up chicken with a onion, carrot, bay leaf, etc. Cook and remove chicken. Cut up and freeze. I use it for chicken pot pies, dumplings, soup. I also love creamed chicken over fresh southern bisquits. Or use for chicken salad sandwiches or even just over salad with some water chestnuts, snap peas, broccoli, scallions, shitaki mushrooms and an asian dressing.

      So yes, always, stock but I just strain once. Doesn't bother me. This works with beef ribs too and pork roast and a ham. Seafood is a bit different obviously

      1. re: kchurchill5

        I guess I strain mine twice - once through the mesh colander, then through a finer sieve - but just because I don't want gunk in my stock - not because of the cloudy issue.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          I always make mine with a carcass leftover from a roast chicken and find that the leftover shreds of meat are pretty flavorless by the time I'm done. When you make stock with a whole chicken does the resulting boiled chicken have enough flavor to be useful?

          1. re: mordacity

            It depends on how well you season the chicken before cooking it. If you use lots of herbs and vegetables in the pot, as well as some white wine, the chicken can have a nice flavor. I have always saved some chicken for a soup pot and/or a creamed chicken casserole. The texture is good but the flavor can be mild. If you use a leftover chicken, are you adding any spices to the pot?

            1. re: Thalia902

              I include whatever herbs I stuffed the chicken with, onion, carrot, celery, and whatever odds and ends of herbs I have leftover from the last few weeks of cooking. I keep a stock bag in the freezer with the chicken carcass and add herbs and veggies as I have leftovers until I've got all I need to make stock. I never use rosemary though - it's a bit TOO flavorful - and I save the salting and peppering for when I actually use the stock to avoid overseasoning those dishes.

            2. re: mordacity

              I use a onion, carrob and some celery when I boil the chicken. Eating alone ... no. But I use it for soups, stews, chicken salad, dumplings where I incorporate other ingredients. That way it is just fine. It is flavorful, not as much as some other techniques of cooking chicken, but very good in those uses. Chicken salad is a fave. Dumplings as well. I love chicken a good gravy over biscuits but I do add som peas, fresh herbs a bit of white wine, etc. Left over chicken is also great for quesadillas, spicy cheese, chopped lettuce, some onions, and the traditional topping. Very tasty. I love keeping bags in the freezer for those last minute go to meals in a hurry.

              1. re: kchurchill5

                I haven't heard of using carob in stock. Not sure your method is worth a try.

                1. re: jayt90

                  sorry ... carrot, typo and not wearing my glasses. My apologies.

        2. Depending on the meat after it cools and sits in the fridge I may skin the top. But not often. I do remove large carrots, onions, celery, etc before I package but rarely skim.

          Never killed me either. I care less if it is clear. I love the taste. I do take out large pieces of vegetables however, that is all. I do stir but not often. Just now and then. It doesn't have to be that hard.

          1. The 'particles" in stock can turn a tad bitter (overcooked /nasty overcooked meaty) but, for everyday (and less 'clean" tastes - my usual) is to cook, skim, and clear.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alwayscooking

              Except (I have to comment), ANY stock is soooo much better than ..... (?)....so cook and use!

            2. I think the main reason stock is "supposed" to be clear has to do with presentation. That's why the professionals are so picky about it, but for a home cook I don't think it's worth the bother. If I were making a clear soup for a fancy dinner party (which I never have) I would try to keep the stock as clear as possible, but otherwise I don't worry about it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jlafler

                I do strain when I make a great Japanese soup with stock and just select ingredients. Otherwise, who gives a crap. Just as cook for me.

              2. I wondered about how necessary all the skimming was. In Michael Ruhlman's "The Soul of a Chef," he goes on at great length about the near-moral imperative of skimming and clarifying, which seems to be all caught up in the idea that you must do the very best job you can when cooking--always! (I'm a hobby cook and my standards are considerably lower.)

                But several of the chefs he talks about also mention "clean tasting" stock and this may be involved in not having meat particles left in the stock, which could ultimately give the stock an off taste, I suppose.

                " But for mine own part, 'twas Greek to me," and I do ten minutes worth of skimming and straining and leave it at that. It doesn't seem to harm the taste to me to have cloudy stock. And, in fact, if you super-strain it, say, through cheesecloth, repeatedly, aren't you straining out some of the flavor, as well?

                Of course, you don't want noticeable fat or scum (congealed proteins) floating on top, but that seems to me to be pretty easy to get rid of that with a reasonable amount of skimming (my 10 minutes standard) and cooling to congeal the fat on top for easy removal.

                1. I have had luck with this process; perhaps you will too: Wash whole chicken inside and out - season inside and out with black pepper. Tightly wrap entire chicken in several layers of cheese cloth (tie the ends together on top of the chicken. When you reach in later to remove the bird, your tongs can grasp the knot).
                  Put prepared chicken into a 6 qt crock pot , add filtered water to cover, two whole carrots (peeled), a big onion (halved), a few stalks of celery, 2 bay leaves and two chicken (or vegetable) bouillion cube ('Knorr' is good). Let chicken cook for at least 5 hours on LOW.
                  When you lift the chicken from the pot, all of the small bones, and wayward yucky stuff will still be contained in the cheese cloth.
                  I put the chicken in colander/bowl and simply pull back the cheese cloth and pick all of the meat from the carcass. When you have finished, dump the leavings in the trash bin.I reuse my cheese cloth because it is a waste to throw away but you do what works for you.
                  After I dispose of the carrots, celery and onion, I cool the stock in my outside fridge (out here in the hinterlands that is the garage but the fridge works well too :) . In the morning, I use a wide spatula to lift the chilled layer of fat from the pot. Once that is done, I proceed with my recipe(s). Actually, I have found that my stock appears much clearer using this method but then I certainly don't worry about Top Chef judges criticizing it!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Thalia902

                    I commend you for that. Sounds like a great method. I usually don't have enough time to even think about all that, but agree it would work well. I boil a couple of hours on the stove when I get a chance and throw in the fridge. But that is a clever method. Kudos!!

                    1. re: Thalia902

                      if you're going to the trouble of making homemade stock, why are you adding icky bouillon cubes? seems entirely counter-productive.

                      if i'm using raw chicken to get started, i do it like i'm poaching it. gentle simmer til the meat is cooked, then remove it. this way, the meat isn't boiled to death and still has some flavor. bone out, return the bones to the pot. most of the body and flavor comes from the bones anyway. i don't like to salt and pepper til much later in the process since so much of the liquid cooks off.

                      also, start with cold water, the chicken and vegetables already in the water. a chinese trick to clearer stock.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        cold water does work, not sure why but it does.

                    2. I've never clarified stock using the French technique, as it's always seemed like a waste of good food.

                      I've recently been sold on the Chinese technique for stock making. Blanch the bones for ten minutes in boiling water. This cooks off a lot of the scum and bits of blood. Then drain, and rinse the meat under running water. Wash the pot, and then make stock as normal.

                      This makes a reasonably clear stock without having to skim during cooking or go through an elaborate clarifying process.

                      1. I don't think I'm finicky about my stock, but I do skim. Not so much for clarity (unless I'll be making a broth or aspic), but to remove the really ugly grayish coagulated cell proteins that often collect on top during the early stages. I don't make a big thing of it, but I will drag a perforated skimming spoon along the surface of the stock maybe three or four times during the first half hour of simmering. It's so habitual at this stage of the game that I really don't even think about it any more.

                        1. I use necks, wings, backs of chickens I've halved. I freeze the pieces until I have about 3 pounds. I roast them with onions and carrots for 30 mins at 450, pour off most of the fat and put them into a stock pot with 16 cups of water. I skim when it boils, add celery, parsley, thyme, salt, peppercorns and simmer for 3-4 hours. I run it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth, let it cool to room temp and then put it in the frig overnight. Next day I skim the fat from the top, put 2 cups each in ziplock bags and freeze it for later use. The roasting gives it a great brown color and terrific flavor!

                          1. Depends how you are using your stock. For many dishes, it doesn't matter if it is clear, because you are mixing it around with so many other things. But if you are having simple that is mainly about the stock or broth, it sometimes is nice if is clear and not grimy at all.

                            I generally just skim whenever I see a lot of foam piling up. That means every 5 minutes or so for the first while, then usually only once an hour or so, and none towards the end.

                            Granted, I don't always need clear stock, but it is nice to have the option, and barely any extra work.

                            1. After many years of boiling whole chickens to make stock, I'm pretty fussy to keep the broth as clear as possible. One thing I've found which helps, is to absolutely wash the chicken inside thoroughly, sometimes there are leftover parts where the liver came from, and that will surely muddy the broth, so scrape that well and rinse with cold water, snip the back bone out, I've done that too. The other thing that I do is I bring the cold water to a boil then shut it down to the lowest setting. If I am making a dish with the breasts often I cut the heat and cover the pot for an hour. The broth not being at a rolling boil, seems to stay cleaner looking. For regular broth the additions of herbs or spices is simple, celery, onion, half a carrot, and pepper corns. For a broth to be used in an Asian dish, I add a scallion (whole) ginger root slice big, garlic cloves, celery and white pepper corns. Perfect broth. It depends on the chicken too, sometimes some chickens just have more flavor. Save your wings, they are especially flavorfull for broths. I can make a quart for a quick wonton or egg drop soup with a few wings in no time flat.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                I just do the first skim, sometimes twice, when you get a lot of that ocean foam on top.. I don't see why I'd want to leave it there, it's ugly and doesn't look appetizing... Plus it takes all of like 30 seconds, so what's the big deal.

                                I strain my stock once through a fine mesh sieve before freezing, just habit I guess.

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Yes, I've been meaning to mention that one of the recommendations for clearer stock is to keep it on the lowest possible simmer. The idea is that boiling the stock emulsifies the particles, making them impossible to skim out.

                                2. Coincidentally enough, I was watching some TiVoed cooking shows last night when lo and behold, the Barefoot Contessa began making a winter soup with leftover roasted vegetables. As she opened her quart size container of homemade chicken stock, it dawned on me - her chicken stock wasn't clear , and the tone was darker than I would have expected, which leads me to believe that the very best flavors can only happen when we let concentrated flavors rule!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Thalia902

                                    :) Saw that too. Darker and cloudy. I loved it. Made me feel better.

                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                      The darkness is likely a result of the solidified gelatin. Mine looks milky out of the ref but clears up when heated.

                                      1. re: alwayscooking

                                        very true my improves, still a bit cloudy but I could strain more I just don't. Depends what I am using it for.

                                  2. I did for years, not any more

                                    I've found a perfectly clear stock (a lot of times) can be made if you don't stir the pot and never boil the stock, whatever comes to the top of the stock will settled onto the bottom.

                                    I keep a jar of dried, powdered egg shell on hand for the times this method fails.

                                    I know a lot of cooks won't agree, thats okay. It has worked for me for years.

                                    One thing I don't care for is leaving the fat floating on top of the stock as it cooks. Once most everything has settled to the bottom of the pot, I do ladle off the fat into a fat separator then pour the degreased stock back.

                                    After straining the stock and cleaning the pot, I always reduce it by at least half.

                                    Since moving from “Clad” stainless cookware to copper, I've found cooling stock/pot in a water bath works amazingly fast.

                                    I never toss the fat rendered when making stock, it gets stored in cans in the fridge and used whenever I want to add a little more flavor to whats being cooked. I have chicken, beef, duck, goose, lamb and pork fat on hand.

                                    Any stock that won't be used within three days of making it, get frozen in ice-cube trays then stored in zipper type freezer bags. The trays I use make one and a half ounce cubes, very easy to get out just the amount of stock needed.

                                    When making poultry stock, nothing provides as much flavor as a stewing hen. These tough old birds are typically 1 – 2 years old, they no longer produce enough (eggs) to make feeding them profitable.

                                    Stringy, full of connective tissue and flavor, nothing is better when making aspic, consommé, coq au vin or jellied stock.

                                    Onion can make a real difference how the stock looks, Peeled white onions don't add color at all and are best for a white stock.

                                    Brown, red and yellow onions added with the paper will make a darker stock.