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Chicken broth: bones to water ratio?

I'm using my slow cooker to make chicken broth. It's 6 quarts, and I tend it fill it almost all the way up with bones and backs - there's not much room for water. It probably adds up to 3 pints, strained, when all said and done.

Is this an appropriate bones/h2o ratio? Can I add water after the fact, or is that sinful? I suppose as long as the water covers the bones, it's ok, and one might end up with a more concentrated broth, and nothing wrong with that, right?

Thanks, all.

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  1. Maximum bones to water is best. If the result is too strong (although, for stock, I don't think it's possible) there is always water. Concentrated stock, frozen in ice cube trays, is a great ingredient.

    By the way, do you brown the bones in the oven first? It further increases the flavor.

    2 Replies
    1. re: therealdoctorlew

      In my experience, it doesn't matter as long as the solids are kept submerged until they're spent. If the result is too dilute you can simmer it down to whatever level of concentration you desire; too strong, just add water. If you are going to freeze the results, concentrating the broth/stock saves space. Be sure to label it so you don't accidentally put a frozen lump of concentrate into something that needs just a little broth.

      1. re: therealdoctorlew

        I never brown, just cuz I usually don't have the time, but it does add flavor. The one time I did it I noticed a little difference but not that much. But I add a carrot, celery and onions and seasoning in my pot, but add bones about 1/2 way up, the veggies and then the water. Stove or crock, just simmering. Works pretty good. And frozen cubes are great.

      2. I generally want to cover the bones, vegetables, and stuff with just enough water so that I can skim off the top easily without too much stuff getting in the way. Some things will float to the top of course, and it helps if you put the spices in a cheesecloth bag to keep them submerged (tie it to a handle of the pot to remove it at the end, if that's possible).

        Then reduce to make it stronger or add water to make it thinner. You'll almost always want to reduce.

        Brown the bones for a brown stock, or use raw bones for a fresher tasting clear stock. I usually brown beef bones for beef stock, but use raw bones for chicken stock and veal stock.

        3 Replies
        1. re: David A. Goldfarb

          Agree on the browning of beef bones but not chicken - it just doen't add to the flavor. (I roast veal bones as well)

          1. re: David A. Goldfarb

            I agree with this approach -- add just enough water to submerge everything.

            1. re: karykat

              Just to cover everything which is usually what fills my pot.

          2. Just one bone, a carrot, some celery, and an onion and a short boil is better than anything you will find in a can. With that said, the more bones the better.

            1. You didn't mention your typical applications.
              Nowadays I leave out celery and carrot because I'm cooking more Asian dishes, and the flavors of these vegetables doesn't work for me.
              For soup I will supplement or replace chicken parts with turkey parts (readily available here).

              I will try to break the bones to maximize extraction.
              Browned chicken wings are mostly bones and inexpensive in case my stash of carcasses is low.
              Simmer the stock until it fits in your storage containers :-).

              Besides barely simmering and skimming the surface, anyone have a good trick for clarifying the stock?

              1 Reply
              1. re: DiveFan

                To clarify stock--after skimming, straining, reducing, chilling, and removing the fat layer from the cold gelatinous stock, whisk one egg white with the shell per quart into the stock, and then heat to just short of a boil and simmer for about ten minutes, until the egg white, shell, and tiny particles that cloud the stock all rise to the top. If you're making a lot of stock in a tall narrow pot, you can remove some of the egg white layer with a skimmer, but otherwise, just push it to the side to avoid disturbing it too much, and ladle out the crystal clear stock into another vessel through a strainer lined with cheesecloth rinsed in cold water, or through a fine chinois.

              2. I've started doing it another way, with great results. Ground chicken sauteed with onions and carrots. I use chicken fat, but oil is fine.

                Add water (a few litres per Kg of meat.). Simmer for a couple of hours - don't boil. Then I add 3 broken-up chicken feet (Chinese grocery) and simmer it a couple of hours more. Then strain and toss the spent solids. There's seldom anything to skim. If you can't get chicken feet, you can use the backs.

                Then brown some thighs or backs (with skin) lightly. Use as many or few as you want. Put them into the strained stock. I add some sliced carrots, diced parsnip, bay leaf, and dill.

                After about 1/2 hour of gentle simmering, strain out the vegetables and chicken pieces and shred the now perfectly poached meat. The meat and vegetables will be edible.

                Reduce/season to taste. This will give you a solid gel when chilled, but you can concentrate it as far as you want.

                1. I think Harold McGee mentions a ratio of 1 liter of water per 1 pound of bones. He acturally gave a range but I remember this standing out becasue it was a 1:1.

                  1. Everyone has just about covered all the bases, but one point to add is DO NOT add water after the fact.

                    Add enough water to totally submerge the chicken
                    Bring to boil, then simmer uncovered
                    Simmer for at least 4 hours (6 optimal)
                    Strain and enoy.

                    1. Ok. Good to know. Thanks all.

                      I've read that if you simmer gently enough, the stock should remain clear.

                      Is there a functional purpose to clarifying, if you're not making a consommé? All I really care about is the flavor and honest to goodness of it.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: sevitzky

                        I usually make stock in large batches, reduce and freeze it, so I don't know what it's ultimately going to become, and stock clarified with egg whites is more versatile, if I want to use it in a clear soup or make a nice clear glaze for vegetables. I suppose you could just strain it well and clarify as needed, but I find it convenient to do it all at once and have the clarified stock ready to go in the freezer.

                        Another tip--I freeze stock flat in Ziplock freezer bags (reduce and chill before putting in the bags, or they will be likely to leak), and then I can file them like books in the freezer, and break off chunks, if I just need a small amount. If the bags are too thick to break up easily, a minute or less in the microwave is usually enough to soften them.

                        1. re: sevitzky

                          I don't cook anything detailed enough that I care whether my stock is clear or not - the most important consideration for me is extracting as much flavor and substance from the meat & bones as possible. I skim any scum from the top of the liquid but other than that, don't care if it boils or simmers. Not sure why ipsedixit says not to add water later in the process. If it's reducing too fast, I top it off, and if I've concentrated it before freezing, it's going to get diluted later on. There are many approaches and they all yield good, if somewhat differing, results. I keep forgetting to do what Shirley Corriher mentions in "Cookwise", which is to hack up the raw chicken parts so as to expose the marrow, which adds more richness to the broth.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Adding water requires re-boiling the water; don't want to do that.

                        2. Goldfarb - that's a cool idea.

                          While we're on the subject - keep forgetting about chicken feet. Does anything have to be done to feet before putting them in the mix? Will they make my broth smell like feet? Am I missing the golden key to super broth?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sevitzky

                            Depends on the source. The ones I usually get are cleaned, but you sometimes need to blanch and scrape them. I just clip off the claws, chop them into small pieces, and throw them into the stock. They have amazing gelling power, making for a very rich stock. The chicken meat gives most of the actual flavour, though. As to your other question, I don't know what your feet smell like :-)

                            1. re: sevitzky

                              Re: chicken feet.

                              Give them a pedicure, a nice message and drop them in.

                              Ok, pedicure not necessary, nor is a message. Just wash and drop them in your stock pot and you're good to go.