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Oct 26, 2010 05:14 PM

Making chicken broth from bones

Ok, so when I try making chicken broth from bones, it never comes out right. It always tastes funny. I usually reserve bones from cooked chicken, and then throw them in a pot. I boil them first and throw out the initial boiling water. I was always told that was "blood water" and needed to be tossed. Is this what they mean by parboiling?

Then I put the bones in water and put them in the slow cooker on low for around 24 hrs and then I'm done. However, when I try to eat noodles from it, it just doesn't taste right. Is it because i'm not putting vegetables while I make the broth?

Usually I put the veges in the bowl and pour the boiling broth in it to cook everything, maybe I need to take the broth and boil it with veges to make the soup?


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  1. Brian, there may be several reasons why your broth doesn't taste like you want it to taste.
    #1 - 24 hours in a Crock Pot is a very long time. Have you tasted it after 8-10 hours? At 24 hours it is likely way overcooked especially since you are using already cooked bones.
    #2 - Doing the first boil-and-toss seems a waste to me. Skim the broth instead.
    #3 - Adding vegetables will give flavor depth to your broth - I use 2X onion : 1X carrot : 1X celery. Parsley stems and leek tops are another nice addition. I don't add salt because if I want to reduce this stock, it would be too salty.
    #4 - Try adding some inexpensive pieces of chicken, in addition to the bones. You'll get more flavor than just using bones alone. Legs, wing, necks, gizzards (no liver) etc work well. I save these in a ZipLock bag when I'm cutting up whole chickens.

    Try cooking the bones with some chicken and vegetables. Report back so we'll know if we're on the right track. Good Luck.

    1. You can't make a decent stock with bones. I thought I was being so clever and economical buy buying 8 lbs. of chicken backs to make stock. It was a total disaster. It came out gray and watery. Once reduced, it had a slightly liverish undertone. It wasn't even acceptable for cooking. I had to throw it out and start over with a whole chicken.

      1 Reply
      1. re: CathleenH

        With respect to Cathleen, I think chicken backs can actually make very good stock, but you have to clean out any organ residues from inside (voice of experience).

        In reply to the OP, I agree with Sherri that tossing the water from an initial boil is not good. In fact, I think parboiling would only be called for in bones that were not already cooked once, and even then it is an approach more often done with beef than with chicken (to my knowledge).

        Also, you need not cook 24 hours--more like 6 even in a crockpot is plenty--and you might be using too much water. In terms of proportions, I would not try to make more than about 1-1.5 quarts of broth/stock from the carcass of a typical roaster chicken. Adding some aromatics per Sherri's veggie recommendations is also a good idea. I also toss in some whole peppercorns. No salt, though: I leave that to the actual dishes later.

      2. Sherry is on the right track. You're likely cooking the stock too long and it's getting 'sour'. Chicken stock doesn't need to be cooked that long, beef stock doesn't even need to cooked that long. You should just do it all on the stove. Chicken bones will work just fine as long as there is a little meat on them. Wing tips are pretty essential however as they add good gelatin to the stock. Add the bones to cold water, bring it to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Skim the scum off the top. Do not dump out the water as you have been doing because you are just rinsing out good flavor from the bones that way. After the scum (which is protein) stops forming on the top, add carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, whole peppercorns, smashed garlic cloves, and whatever herbs you like wrapped in a piece of cheesecloth (or put them in a tea ball like I do). Simmer the bones and vegetables for a couple of hours on the stove, strain, chill, and skim the fat. I usually make stock when I have bones, not actually when I wish to make soup or something from it so after defatting I pour the stock into .5 liter water bottles and freeze.

        If you want detailed instructions with an ingredient list:

        9 Replies
        1. re: John E.

          Hey guys,

          Great advice! I always thought longer was better (like I thought you made pho by simmering forever, on the scale of 3 days lol. Maybe that was just bad advice?). You guys are right, it is getting sour so I probably just left it in too long. I'll try when I saved enough chicken bones.

          1. Would this be even better if you smash the bones? My vietnamese friends say they smash the beef bones (but I guess beef is a totally different animal? No pun intended)

          2. What herbs would you recommend if you were making broth for chinese style noodle soup?


          1. re: bshee

            To make the chicken stock more Asian and/or Chinese, try adding lemon grass, ginger, star anise, and maybe some rice wine. I usually just add the ginger.

            1. re: bshee

              No need to smash chicken (or turkey) bones. They're much much smaller than beef bones.

              I always made stock/broth in a pressure cooker. It never took very long - maybe a half an hour? 15 minutes? Whatever your pressure cooker instructions say. A pressure cooker is really handy if you make a lot of soups/stews/broth. You don't need a $200 wonder. I cooked with cheapy Prestos and Mirros for years.

              1. re: bshee

                I always smash the bones.

                If you don't smash the bones you'll get less flavour from the marrow and you won't get the pleasant mouth feel of the gelatin.

                1. re: Altarbo

                  Got lots of gelatin when pressure cooking without smashing bones. In fact the stuff came out fully gelled. Maybe it would be different in a regular stock pot.

                  1. re: Altarbo

                    The gelatin in the bones is mostly in the joint ends. Stock made from raw parts has more gelatin than that made from cooked carcasses. I agree that smashing the bones is a good idea, but think the marrow from raw bones contributes more flavor than when you smash cooked bones.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      But if that's true, then why do so many recipes recommend you brown the bones in the oven first? (maybe that's only for beef bones)

                      How do smash the bones, btw? I know many use the gigantic chinese cleaver, but I'm afraid I'd rather not risk losing a finger. Any other "safer" methods? Would putting the bones in a bag and hitting it with a hammer work?


                      1. re: bshee

                        Browning the bones is different than cooking them when they are buried in meat. Browning raw bones in a very hot oven creates the Maillard reaction, imparting extra flavor and color as the meat, fat, and collagen remaining on the bones browns. This procedure is analogous to searing a roast or steak in a Dutch oven or skillet before finishing in the oven.

                        You can try whacking bag-wrapped bones - I don't know how well they will split. Your free hand doesn't need to be near the cleaver when you hack up chicken bones.

                        1. re: bshee

                          You don't need to smash the bones, just break them open. I use pruning shears, the kind you would use to cut small branches or flower stems. I bought a nice, sturdy pair for just this task. I take the small bones (wing bones, even the smaller leg bones) and cut them in half. This seems to work well as I do get a gelatinous stock. It is also safe (so far!). I would suggest eye protection when you do it, however, as sometimes the pieces can fly. Aiming down into the pot helps, too. Hope this helps!

                2. I completely disagree with the assessment that 24hrs on low in a slow cooker is too long. I do it all the time.

                  1) Make sure the bones and any other parts are cooked and even browned.
                  2) Add some vegetation like onion, etc. as has been pointed out.
                  3) Add bay leaf. It makes it really good.
                  4) A little salt is okay but once the stock is the amount you want season and then check for taste. It should be much better.


                  25 Replies
                  1. re: Davwud

                    Exactly - I only make chicken stock in the crockpot now and I go 24 hours on LOW (6 hours turns out barely chicken-flavored water, IMO). I start it late Saturday morning and it's usually ready by noontime on Sunday to be strained, cooled, and the chicken picked off the bones for the cat to enjoy mixed into his food. NOTE: I have an older crockpot so it cooks at a temperature lower than newer ones - by about 25 degrees, I think. I like the older one better than what I've seen the newer ones cook at - the stock is at a bare bubbling level on LOW vs. practically a high simmer or low boil with the new crockpots.

                    I always have a mirepoix that I quickly sauté in a frypan, dump that over chicken carcasses (with a good bit of meat on them), and put in a bouquet garni bag that has cracked peppercorns, a bay leaf or two, depending on size, and some thyme. I don't do salt as I'll probably add that to whatever dish I'm going to use the stock for.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      Agree with both Davwud and Linda - 24+ hours works fine as longer as the crockpot doesn't get past the barely simmering stage. As I mentioned here,


                      I use a Crock-o-Stat because I have one of the newer crockpots. - There are also commercial devices available that do the same thing.

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          Yes, that's what I'm using because I couldn't justify the expense of this:


                          EDIT: Since time has expired for me to edit/clarify my above post, just wanted to say that I meant to type, "as long as" instead of "as longer as".
                          In other words, since my "setup" keeps my newer version crockpot from boiling I find I get better flavor than when I do a "traditional" stovetop version.

                          1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                            YOWPS! 140 bucks! I guess it's nice that you can set it to a particular temperature, but unless it's getting feedback from an external sensor you stick in the crockpot I don't see how it would "know" what temp the particular crock pot that's plugged into it is at. Maybe it does, I didn't read the specs. Still, that's a lotta dough, LOL!

                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                              Yes, there's a sensor that goes into the crock - and replacement sensors alone are only $30....... which is about $25 more than I spent on my version of the crock-o-stat.

                        2. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                          Here's the deal - I think of stock and broth as two different things.

                          BROTH = done in a few hours - pale color, not a whole lot of flavor.
                          STOCK = takes awhile to make; deep, dark color and LOTS of chickeny flavor.

                          So broth could certainly be done in a crockpot in a few hours - it's just not what I'd prefer using. I tend to stick with stock for the added flavor it gives to recipes.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            There was a huge subthread a while back about the difference in the two and I learned alot. Unfortunately it got deleted; why I can't remember.

                            I made stock with chicken feet and backs and it probably cooked for 18 hours and was/is fantastic. Won't do it any other way again. I have lovely bags of one and two cups worth in the freezer.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              C Oliver - what else did you put in? My stock made with backs and wings was good, but lacked flavor. I doctored it up - as I was serving it with wontons, I put some soy into it and added boxed broth. Mine was gelatinous - was yours?

                              1. re: smilingal

                                My guess is that if the broth/stock is gelatinous, it has all the flavor that was available in the chicken. If it lacks flavor, my first suspect is lack of salt. Boxed broth, if it isn't labeled as low sodium, usually as more than enough salt. It may also have a flavor enhancer such as MSG.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  you might be correct about the pre-salting not being enough. The broth (yes, even low sodium) and the soy sauce added the flavor. I will keep trying till i come up with a formula that works - but I suppose it might be the same as making tomato sauce/gravy - it might always come out different!

                                  1. re: smilingal

                                    It depends to some extent on the bird itself. "Back in the day", when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, you used to be able to get actual stewing hens. These aged birds had lived long enough to develop plenty of actual chicken flavor. I would toss a couple of these in the pressure cooker, pull them out after the appropriate time (what, 15 or 20 mins? Half an hour? Whatever it was). Meat and broth from this made wonderful soups and pies. We used the fat to make gravy.

                                    Today's meat chickens are ancient if they make it to 8 weeks. If you have access to stringy old stewing hens, they make a huge difference in taste.

                                2. re: smilingal

                                  I buck the trend of most here and put NOTHING else in! No onions, celery, etc. That way when I cook with it, I can add whatever flavorings (or not) as I choose. After 8 or 10 hours, I let it cool a bit and ripped all those pieces apart (It felt very creepy!) and cooked another 8 hours or so. Gelatinous? Holy cow, yes!!! Completely solid when cooled. (I think of Sam when I use it cause he was such a proponent of chicken feet which I was finally able to find.)

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I do the same thing--no veggies, only some salt. I use bones from roast chickens, wing tips, necks, backs and feet if I have them (I wash the backs to get rid of the organy stuff). Throw it in the crock pot and let it go for 24 hours. The best.

                                    1. re: MandalayVA

                                      I just pulled a cup out of the freezer for an oxtail braise for tonight.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        C oliver, I have maybe a weird question or 2, if theres a lot of that stock that you have froze. How do you freeze it? By tubs of 8oz.'s? I am trying to figure out so she i make mine i can freeze the stock too. I don't want to freeze it all as a whole so how can it be easier to freeze in portions? Any ideas? Would pyrex tubs be the best or is there a better choice a better way? I am going to attempt to making my first stock from free range chicken bones that had been left over. :) Oh when i checked the fridge this night I was too shocked for the soup to be all solid^^and am tickled to hear it's a good thing^^Thank you in advance for yours as well as any other comments on this. Cheers from Ohio:)

                                        1. re: kahreaytefwun

                                          I used to freeze stock in plastic tubs such as those from sour cream or cottage cheese. I discovered an easier was to store the frozen stock in the freezer. I put 2 cups into a 1/2 liter water bottle, freeze them upright and the stack them on their sides on a shelf in my freezer. I either put them in the refrigerator to thaw over night or I put them in a sink with hot water until they thaw.

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            Well thats a good idea, and can def. see how it can save space. i will have to try it. Thanks john E.:)

                                          2. re: kahreaytefwun

                                            I have extremely limited freezer space, so I freeze stock in plastic bags -- 2 cups of stock at a time, and lay the bag flat -- they can then be stacked, which saves an enormous amount of space.

                                              1. re: kahreaytefwun

                                                the stock? I've never had any liquid get freezer burned -- but I use it within weeks, anyway, usually.

                                                1. re: kahreaytefwun

                                                  I've had stock frozen in the water bottle for years without any ill effects. There is little air at the top of the bottle. The bottle is sealed and water/air proof. I did have a sort of a freezer burn problem when freezing stock in the plastic tubs I mentioned above. There would be large crystals forming and the lids are not completely air-tight. However, it would take many months for this situation to occur.

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      I remember that thread - didn't realize it was deleted! Sorry to hear that as it gave a lot of info.

                              2. re: Davwud

                                I totally agree, making stock takes time, usually we put it on low in the oven for at least 24 hours.

                                We use raw bones/carcass as well as baked bones from dinners, chicken that is already boiled doesn't have much left in it so it doesn't contribute to the stock.

                                Remove all traces of organs from the raw parts before putting them all in a pot, cover with water, add 1tbl vinegar to draw out the gelatin and bake or cook on low for 24 hours. If water reduces too low add a bit to cover bones.

                                Yes cracked bones give more flavor too, the marrow adds depth.

                              3. bshee et al., my two cents on broth, for what it's worth: First, there's no one way to make a good broth, but I can tell you (as others have) that using bones alone will not provide the kind of taste you desire. You can make a quick broth by placing bones, chicken parts like wings, drums, and backs, and vegetables, along with aromatics like bay leaf and thyme, into a pot of boiling water for an hour or two, and then straining same. Or, you can do a slow-cook method with same. Or, you can roast the chicken parts and vegetables in the oven first and then place the items in a pot and boil, for either a little or a long while. Depends on the kind of broth you're looking for. Fortunately, making broth need not be a high-stakes venture, so worrying about whether to break bones before boiling is troubling details that need not be troubled. I've had good success using the following recipe, and altering it as need be:
                                I roast the chicken parts and vegetables before simmering, and I let the simmering occur overnight. First thing in the a.m., I strain the solids, and voila, a delicious, rich, and very usable broth.