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Apr 20, 2009 05:02 PM

Onion Skins in Homemade Stocks

I once heard that if you keep the skins on onions when using them in homemade stocks that it makes the liquid darker, and in turn, richer looking. Is this true? And if not, is there any benefit one way or the other to using verses discarding the skins and vice versa?

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  1. Fairly common practice in making chicken stock/soup. Mostly color, I think. Looks richer, as stated. Different than making a dark stock, whereupon chicken bones, vegetables are pre-roasted which definitely gives a different flavor, not just appearance.

    3 Replies
    1. re: markabauman

      Agreed - they are used to dye eggs a tea-stained yellow, so there's some pigment to be contributed. If it's a part of the peel that's half-skin, half actual onion layer, then you don't waste that part. Largely, the point is not that you SHOULD add them, but that you don't need to peel the onion - just cut it into quarters or other big chunks. Wouldn't advise this if for some reason you were using red onion.

      1. re: greygarious

        Just to add a little info - onion skins are a natural dye and can be used to dye wool to be used in rug making, for instance. Just need a fixative to set the color - like citric acid. Personally, I prefer a light color to my stock so I peel the onions. The skins go into the compost bin.

        1. re: greygarious

          Yep. My mom is a weaver and uses many natural dyes. She always made hard-boiled eggs with onion skins so that we could easily tell fresh from HB. I do the same with my kids; they know golden = hard boiled.

      2. What Mark said. Also, you can save the ends and skins when chopping onions for other uses, keep them in the freezer, add them when you're making stock. Sometimes I have enough trimmings that I don't even need fresh onions. Save all your vegetable trimmings, like leek tops, celery bits, zucchini ends, whatever.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nemo

          I do the same -- ends and skins go in the stock bag in the freezer, along with carrot tops (not the leaves, just the tops), celery tops, etc. Then when I roast a chicken I add the contents of the stock bag to a pot along with the chicken carcass, skin, any leftover dry meat, and the giblets and voila! Stock from what would otherwise have gone in the bin.

          On another note, given the above info about the dyeing qualities of onion skins, if you strain your stock through a tea towel, don't use, say, the vintage one your mother got as a wedding gift and handed down to you when you got a place of your own. Not that I've done that.