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Why Make Chicken Stock?

Is there a practical reason for making one's own chicken stock? Does it actually taste much better than stock soup off the shelf, like this one below?

http://img4.realsimple.com/images/091...

I understand the logic for making my own pastries and cookies because (1) everyone has slightly different preference and I can always tweat my recipe to my liking (2) there is no comparison between my own fresh bake goods with hours-old bake goods from stores, (3) bragging rights.

Yet, I don't see the same arguments can be made for chicken stock. Someone please enlighten me. Thanks.

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  1. I've never tasted a packaged stock that was anywhere near as good as homemade. Plus, you can make it from leftovers (if you don't ever buy a whole chicken, you can save leftover scraps and bones in the freezer until you have enough to make stock) and it costs next to nothing.

    1. It is not just taste it is mouth feel. Home made will have that gelatinous lip licking feel. Also every packaged one I ever had has a chemical aftertaste. I would rather use water.

      1 Reply
      1. re: torty

        Torty,

        Oh yeah. Now that you mentioned it. Yes, I remember. that gelatinous feel.

      2. I make it mostly because my upbringing makes it almost physically painful to throw away anything that still has use in it, especially food. Few things exasperate me more than to see a recipe that tells us to discard backs, wings, necks or whatever - no, you either pack them away in ziplocks and freeze them for stock-making, or you cook and eat them and THEN freeze the remains. When we lived in Nashville, chicken was our main source of protein, and I constantly had a crock-pot full of bird detritus simmering overnight; Mrs. O referred to this as our shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Broth.

        Another good reason is that although I do buy the occasional can or box of Swanson's or whatever, there's something to be said for rolling your own when you get the chance, and having a nice bag or two of homemade stock cubes in the freezer for some quick soup. It's that thrifty thing again...

        4 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          I usually do the same with vegetable parts as well. I have a big ziploc in the freezer that I store vegetable parts others would throw out, like asparagus and broccoli stalks, onion ends, carrot tops, etc. Once I have enough I make a vegetable stock, or if I have some bones, I might simmer those first for a few hours and then add the vegetables for the last hour. That makes a very good tasting broth.

          1. re: MVNYC

            I've been toying with the idea to save vegetable trimmings. The thing that keeps me from doing it is the lack of freezer space occupied by bones.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              If b/c of space restriction you can only keep a limited amount of veg trimmings, I recommend keeping your leek tops and herb stems. I just chuck them into the bag with the bones - every batch tastes a bit different. There's a lot of flavour in this skinny rosemary and thyme stems.

              1. re: cinnamon girl

                Thanks for the tip cg. I do feel guilty tossing those multitude veg trimmings. I once did composting but that was just too big of a PIA for me to continue.

        2. For the last year or so I've been making chicken stock in the slow cooker (I let it go for at least eight hours) and it's taken it to a higher level. I can and do eat spoonful after spoonful in its pure state. There's just no comparison. I'll admit that I don't use the homemade when it's a dish that's got a whole lot already going on flavor wise. I never have ALL that much on hand and really like to save it for when it will shine.

          12 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            This sounds good, C.
            Makes me wish I had a bigger freezer.

            Can I ask if, say you made a roast chicken, do you cook it all, or cut of say, the wings before it goes in?
            And say you have a whole carcass? That will never fit in my freezer. Smash it up somehow?

            1. re: Soop

              I only make stock using a whole, uncooked chicken. That makes some people crazy that I'm "wasting" it but that's what I do. My grocery had chickens for $0.77/# the other day and I found the smallest one. Removed the liver and put everything else into the slow cooker with water only. Once the internal temp of the breast meat reaches 160 (about three hours for me), I remove the breast meat and cook on for at least a total of eight hours. I don't have room in my freezer for carcasses either. The stock goes into zipping bags in one and two cup portions.

              1. re: c oliver

                Does it work out as cheap as regular stock?
                And you throw away the meat? It sounds like the start of a chicken stew to me!

                1. re: Soop

                  I keep the breast meat. The rest I pick off and feed to the dogs over a week or more. I got about three quarts of stock plus two beautifully poached breasts so I consider it economically sound. But I do it for the flavor not the cost. There's NO comparison. And though others on CH strongly disagree with me, the rest of that chicken that has cooked for eight or more hours has no flavor and the texture it does have is not a good texture. I try not to use an inferior main ingredient in something. This is just the way I and some others do it. There's room for many techniques --- or else why have CH, right?

                  1. re: c oliver

                    True that. Well next time I see a cheap chicken, I'll think of you and your stock and try it out.

                    (I love the reduced section, I got me a pousin for 10p a few weeks back).

                    1. re: Soop

                      Wow, I'm so flattered. Thinking of me when you see a cheap chicken :) 10p? Wow, that IS cheap. I remember visiting St. Andrews about ten or more years ago and they charged 10p to pee!

                      We refer to it as "brown meat" (the reduced section) and never leave without giving it a look-see.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          We call it the "Used Meat Department", and I frequent it religiously.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I'm a little more frugal. Or maybe I just don't love my dogs as much as you do - I want that thigh meat for myself.

                        Rather than just taking the breasts, I remove the entire chicken once it's cooked, let it cool a bit, and then pick off as much meat as possible. That goes for chicken salad, enchiladas, chicken & dumplings, whatever.

                        The bones and other solids go back into the pot to cook until they nearly fall apart, then they get mashed up and fed to the dogs.

                        So we eat all the meat from a poached chicken, and the only added cost for the stock is the electricity required to cook it for a few hours. Knock off the reduced cost of buying less dog food, and it's a bargain all around.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Well, *I* definitely love my dogs more than you love yours :) But I actually got to thinking along these lines with the last chicken. It was a plumper bird and when I pulled it out to remove the breast meat, I did consider removing the drumsticks. But didn't. Maybe before I take that step, we'll have to have blind taste test of our respective stocks :)

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I couldn't bear to part with the thigh and leg meat..that's the best part!

                  2. re: Soop

                    Soop - a couple of stock batches ago, I was getting low on freezer space so I reduced a huge pot down to a demiglace (following Jacque Pepin's instructions) and then froze them in ice cube trays, individually wrapped them in foil and then put in a freezer bag. So while I couldn't use them for a big pot of soup, I do have instant flavour at my finger tips.

                2. 1) foodie argument--storebought chx stock is an inferior substitute to homemade, (gelatinous) homemade is infinitely better. homemade chx stock soups are ambrosial and restorative.

                  2) cheapskate/green argument--it is thrifty to use necks, feet, and leftover carcass for this purpose, saves money, helps you use the whole animal, is more "green" than discarding perfectly lovely nourishing bones/carcass, etc.

                  3) lazy cook argument--it's so easy and mindless to pop out some chx stock from leftovers while doing other cooking. it takes less than 5-10 minutes of real labor, including hand-washing the stock pot afterward, and the whole house smells wonderful. you can also package & freeze the result in whatever easy-to-use size is convenient for you to use.

                  4) wussy public transit/5th floor walkup argument--it saves you from breaking your back schlepping boxes or cans of storebought chx stock for a recipe. and again, sometimes buying a whole chicken or a pre-roasted one is cheaper (and lighter) than the cans and the result will be better, so. . .

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    Soupkitten,

                    Thanks. I agree and can agree most of your points, except the green part. It is much more efficient to make >100L of chicken stock in a huge tank in a factory, than have individuals to make 1-4L of chicken stock on stovetop.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Apples and oranges! :)

                      I take your point about the *energy* efficiency of large batches, but you also have to factor in the environmental impact of things like 1) the waste stream from discarding perfectly usable chicken parts, 2) the often wasteful (and non-recyclable, in the case of aseptic/tetra-pack boxes) packaging of store-bought broths and stocks, 3) fossil fuel impact of shipping to the store, 4) the factory farm at the front end of most broth, etc. Not all of those will apply in every case but they certainly *can* -- which makes it much more complex than big batch vs. small batch.

                      Ultimately, for me, the #1 reason to make homemade stock is the superiority of the final product. It just blows store-bought "stock" away -- really, IMO, there's just no comparison. Reason #2 would be the allure of using scraps to make something useful. Guess my grandma would be proud! :)

                      1. re: LauraGrace

                        Laura,

                        Currently I am leaning toward c_oliver opinion. I think I should make it clear that I do believe home made chicken stock is better, but does this really make real difference at the end because stock is usually one of the many ingredients for the final products. For example, I find certain cream cheese brand tastes slightly better than others and this make a real difference when I spread it on my bagels, but I usually cannot tell the difference when I use the butter for making cookies. What do you think?

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Ah, I see what you're saying, Chem! Yes, I do think the homemade stock is so good that it deserves to be in a recipe where it really shines. Typically I will use either homemade stock or water -- for instance, I prefer water in risotto in most cases.

                          But even in more highly-flavored stuff where stock isn't the star of the show, I still can't bring myself to buy boxed broth, but that's more because I'm a cheapskate than because I'm a food snob -- I can't bear to spend money on things I can make myself. I truthfully use store-bought broth once or twice a year (like at Thanksgiving when there's not enough homemade, or if I'm making a giant vat of soup for a crowd), whereas I try always to have containers of homemade stock in my freezer -- I make it a gallon at a time and try to do so about once a month.

                          1. re: LauraGrace

                            I need to discipline myself to make stock more often and then I wouldn't feel miserly about it. I DO consider it just about the MOST frugal thing when can make. Practically no waste. Recently I need just about a cup of stock (can't remember for what) and didn't have any canned but I did have a small amount of turkey stock in a ziplok. Thawed in the MW and I was good to go.

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I use both -- homemade when I have it and boxed (I'm very picky about my boxed, after trying a bunch of them I only use Pacific Naturals organic, not because it's organic but because it tastes better -- I buy it at Costco where it's relatively inexpensive) when I don't. I find that it does make a difference, even in the soups I make, which are always blended. Think about it: there's more stock than anything else in soup, so better stock is going to mean better soup with more depth of flavor and a richer mouthfeel.

                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          1-4L? Not happening here! Since I got over my fear of the pressure canner stocks of all kinds are on my shelves! Friends and neighbors save me their holiday bones and carcasses because they know of my post-holidays stock making frenzy. Our immediate neighbor even saves their veg scraps for me because she knows they'll go in the stock pot or (if I'm overwhelmed) in our compost. Currently I have one whole cupboard, top to bottom with 1/2 pints, pints and quarts of chicken, beef, ham, fish and veggie stock. In return for the ingredient bounty we host several soup nights every winter for the folks living on our short rural road. A huge pot of soup, several loaves of homemade bread, an immense salad from our winter garden, and berries or fruit preserved from summer for dessert. A bounty of stocks that cost me really only labor has a full return in flavor, nutrition, and a happy, neighborly, little community.

                          Seriously folks, if you have a pressure canner/cooker hiding in your closet bring it out and dust it off or invest in one. Free up valuable real estate in your freezer! Not to mention that having pressure canned soups, meats, and meals on hand beats the hell outta Campbells any day!

                          1. re: morwen

                            morwen, you are my hero for today.