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May 16, 2010 07:24 PM

Several Gallons of Stinky Chicken Stock - What did I do wrong?

Hi There,

Last week I made several gallons of chicken stock from a bunch of chicken backs I bought at Whole Foods. It's my second time making stock. The first batch was really great, a little cloudy but otherwise no problems. I more or less followed a standard recipe, I'm not sure which one at the time but nothing weird.

The stock at the time of cooking smelled a little bit off. I just defrosted a ziplock bags worth today and it smells distinctly musty. There is an odor of good stock in there but there is also a generally not that great smell. Doesn't smell rotten exactly but doesn't smell good.

The only thing I can think I did wrong is maybe not skim it effectively. I'm not sure I did a much better job of skimming the first time and it went fine, but otherwise, I'm really not sure what I did.

I'm assuming the smell should be like good chicken soup? Is there anything I could try to resurrect this batch? What should I do different the next time?

Stockless in Boston.

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  1. I would say that you had a rancid piece of chicken that turned the entire stock bad. If you have a bad smell while cooking, it isn't going to get better when done, and it certainly is not going to get better after freezing or otherwise storing. I would simply be more careful next time - wash and smell each piece of chicken you put in the stock carefully. This has never happened to me, but I use whole fowls (and part them myself) and chicken feet from the SE Asian stores. Since backs are cut out of chickens while parting, its possible that they were sitting for a while outside of nominal cooling temperatures.

    Applehome - http:/

    2 Replies
    1. re: applehome

      Am I correct that it should smell more or less like fresh chicken broth/soup?

      It's weird...there is that smell, but it's underneath a kind of mustiness.

      1. re: paulmcevoy75

        Since I haven't experienced it, I can't say exactly what this mustiness is. Because it's been boiled (simmering) for a while, I doubt that anything is kicking that's going to hurt you. So it's really a matter of taste. Can you put up with this mustiness as you drink it? For my own tastes, I'd pretty much throw out anything that wasn't "right". Hoping to cover up the mustiness would be a mistake. But it's really up to you.

    2. Did you put anything else in your stock (other than chicken)? Like aromatics, garlic, etc.?

      Maybe one of those tertiary ingredients is the culprit.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I did put in aromatics...mirepoix and bay leaves is all I remember. No garlic.

        1. re: paulmcevoy75

          Hmm, well stale bay leaves can turn a dish acrid. But that doesn't sound like your problem, so like applehome said above, probably a bad chicken in your grab bag.

      2. It sounds like you used mostly bones and that makes a very gelatinous stock but has very little flavor. It seems to me that the smell of it can be alarming because it doesn't smell much like chicken.

        If you put a lot of fresh herbs in it and simmered it for several hours, it could smell pretty funky as herbs especially fresh ones should be used the last half hour or so.

        I would suggest you mix some with an equal amount of canned beef stock. If it comes out tasting like beef but with a nice mouth feel to it and it doesn't taste funky, you are probably alright.

        If you come to the conclusion that your stock is fine but it just doesn't taste like chicken, cook your existing stock with a lot of chicken meat that has been roasted. That should increase the chicken taste.

        8 Replies
        1. re: tonka11_99

          I disagree with the roasting part. I think that the real "chickeny" flavor comes from raw chicken, not cooked chicken. I like to use old hens - fowl, that are otherwise useless for eating but have a lot of flavor. Roasted chicken will give you a roasted flavor - delicious, but not necessarily that wonderful chicken taste like you get in the best consomme, or even at Chinese restaurants or Jewish delis. But of course, this an entirely subjective matter and you should do what you like.

          To get really chickeny flavor, make a double stock. That is, take your stock and use it as the base (instead of water) in another batch of bones or whatever.

          As to clarity - this is an issue when using raw bones or meat. Always start in cold water and bring the temp up slowly, and never let it actually come to a roiling boil - just a simmer. You'll still get some coagulated blood that will muddy up the stock a bit, but far less. For real clarity, you have to filter well (e.g. through cheesecloth) or use the egg-white method.

          Using the feet or wing tips will give you more gelatin, which gives you that unctuous mouth feel, than using all the rest of the bones (back, carcass).

          Once again, much of this is subjective - you should play with making chicken stock and soup until you get to what you like. I say, have fun playing!

          1. re: applehome

            I like to roast mine, of course, but I don't mind a darker stock. I like to keep my carcasses and use them for stock.

            I like to crack the heavy bones like the drumstick and thigh bones to maximize the collagen.

            I try not to let it come to a rolling boil but a gentle simmer. I have been meaning to do it with a crockpot because it only gets to 205 degrees F.

            1. re: applehome

              Regarding the egg white method, you just drop an egg white and egg shells into the hot stock for a while and strain it out. Is that right? The small particles are supposed to stick to the egg whites. That is how I have done it but I'm not sure of the exact method.

              1. re: tonka11_99

                You can stir gently, but right - you then have to filter it out. I use cheesecloth folded over several times. It definitely comes out clearer than just cheesecloth filtering alone.

                1. re: tonka11_99

                  If you're trying to produce a consomme, not just keep your stock a bit less muddled:

                  Note that you can also try ice filtration as a method of clarifying stocks. It's generally easier than the egg raft method and noticeably more effective at clarifying, but it also removes the gelatin from a stock. You can add gelatin back in afterward if desired.

                  To clarify with ice filtration, freeze your stock. Then slowly thaw in the refrigerator in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl. The gelatin and impurities will remain in the colander leaving you with a very clear stock in the bowl. If your stock contains a lot of gelatin, you can expect to lose a good bit of volume from this method. Still, worth a try, especially if you've had problems executing the egg raft method.

                  Note that this works with many, many liquids if you add 1-2 percent gelatin (by weight) to them.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    This is 100% without snark: would any of these methods be likely to have any effect on this weird smell I'm getting? Or should I just dump this and start from scratch? That's where I'm heading.

                    I was psyched about my Whole Foods bones in the past...I think I'll go that way again but I'm mystified by what went wrong.

                    1. re: paulmcevoy75

                      Yeah, if it is really bad, you'll just want to throw it away.

                      1. re: paulmcevoy75

                        Sorry, we got off topic.

                        Clarifying methods will not help much to remove the funk. Since ice filtration removes all oil/fat from your stock, it may help a bit, especially if whatever compounds are causing that nasty odor are more fat soluble than water soluble. That's nothing more than a shot in the dark.

                        But I suspect, as applehome pointed out above, that your problem comes from a rancid piece of chicken, and you are just out of luck.

              2. How did you cool the several gallons of chicken stock?
                After bringing the small batch to a boil, how did it taste?

                I'm wondering if the stock was starting to sour a little?