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Feb 10, 2011 09:29 AM

Chicken Stock "Etiquette" Question

Hello Hounds --

I have a question that I couldn't answer by searching this board. I don't know that it will yield a right or wrong answer. I'm just curious what you all think of this.

If I have some people over, and serve them each a roasted half chicken, is it "okay" to make a stock from the bones after the chicken has been on someone's plate? What if I plan to use that stock in a meal for other guests in the future? What if everyone acted like they were raised by wolves, and ate with their hands? :-)

My personal feelings are that it's okay because the water -> stock will be plenty hot. But it will probably never reach a full boil... gentle simmer at the most. How would you feel if you knew a stock had been made with "used" bones in this way?

Secondary question, just out of curiosity: Can restaurants do this?

Apologies if this has been discussed before. I couldn't find this kind of discussion by searching.

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  1. I'll bite........No and No

    1. I don't see any reason why not. I assume that the process of making the stock would kill any germs etc. Although I would not want a restaurant doing it.

      I think you should carve the breast and serve it removed from the bird to each guest along with their thigh/leg/wing. That should leave you with enough to make stock.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MRich

        RSVP......Thank you for thinking of me, but I am sorry I will not be able to attend.....Regrets.


        1. re: fourunder

          No problem. I was only inviting you to be polite anyway. ;)

          BTW, can you specify your objections or is it just icky to you?

          1. re: MRich


            It's nice to see some still have a sense of humor here....

            Actually, I really do not have any real objections, other than whether it is ethical or not. My attitude is * what I do not know cannot hurt me * , so in that sense......I'm protected. My response has to do with the fact the query was posed with the bones coming off the *guests plates*.....did they simply debone with their utensils, or did the bones meet their mouths first , and or, did they use their hands? To solve this problem if it were mine, I would simply remove the bones in the kitchen before plating. Very simple and easier for the guests. If it were merely a family dinner and not an event, I see no reasons why you couldn't have a bowl on the table and request everyone pull the bones from the half chicken and toss them in.

            In reality, I'm really in the same camp with your positions. I see no consequences from a health standpoint.....just the person's reputation.

            1. re: fourunder

              BTW I don't think I do this myself, at least that I can recall. So we'll still hold a place for you at the table.

              You might want to note that I wash my wine stems by hand and don't use soap on them in case that weirds you out too.

      2. I did this at a family dinner 1x. Ill advised. I think I was drunk. Just say uh-uh.

        1. Since I always want the bones for stock making, I always carve the bird and serve- Keep the "unshared" parts for stock.

          Restaurants should never, ever re-use any food that's gone out to a table for any reason.

          5 Replies
          1. re: cheesemonger

            <<<Since I always want the bones for stock making, I always carve the bird and serve- Keep the "unshared" parts for stock.

            Restaurants should never, ever re-use any food that's gone out to a table for any reason.>>>


            1. re: cheesemonger

              That's what I do and end up with what I call the "carcass", which is basically the body after the legs and wings have been pulled off and the body carved.
              I wouldn't reuse any bones that have been gnawed on ;-)

              1. re: cheesemonger

                I do this, but should add that in addition to the boned carcass, I use raw chicken as well, to make the stock. I like the combo of roasted and raw--it works for me, flavor wise. It doesn't make as pretty a color stock as all raw, though.

                1. re: cheesemonger

                  Same here. If there's a teething kid around I'll give up one of the drumstick bones (for gnawing), but otherwise the carcass and bones stay in the kitchen.

                  And I'm with you 100% on restaurants. The very thought gives me shivers.

                  1. re: cheesemonger

                    Heard a story from a waitress about one of our local mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants that used to pour the leftover salsa from guests tables back into the pot used to fill new orders. I think of that everytime I order at other Mexican restaurants. Although I never returned to mom and pop's.

                  2. I don't think the stock is going to be strong enough to kill e-coli, unless you're putting chlorine bleach in the stock.

                    Save up some money, buy a couple of chickens and make the stock separately.

                    15 Replies
                      1. re: CookieLee

                        This makes no sense. The chicken has already been cooked. If there was Ecoli it would be gone.

                        The only way the leftover chicken bones can get ecoli again is if the diner was carrying some with him. But guess what - it's going right back into boiling water.

                        I totally get why a lot of people would not want to be served "leftover bone stock"...but I've done it before and the stock comes out just fine.

                        1. re: CookieLee

                          E Coli is killed at 165 degrees. Water boils at 212.

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            Staph toxin is unaffected at 212. Just sayin.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              But the chicken has been eaten and, presumedly the people are fine so there is no e. Coli. IF the people had gotten food poisoning, possibly from the chicken, then it would be irresponsible to use the carcass to make stock. But, there's no difference in the level of e. Coli if I used the carcass from a chicken where I carved the meat first and one where people had their pieces and then I used those bones. I save all my leftover bones to make stock, IF I've carved the meat and no one ate off of the bones. But, that's a personal thing.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I have a general rule, not as yet codified, that once food has been in someone else's mouth, it doesn't later go into my mouth.

                              2. re: cowboyardee

                                Yes, I know. I appreciated your post below about heat-resistant toxins. You make a good point, especially if the chicken has been handled by people who might have staph bacteria on them.

                                I was only addressing the "strong enough" eColi comment.

                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                  Fair enough.

                                  Yeah, e coli isn't a very common issue with chicken anyway (though its not unheard of) - you'll see a lot more campylobacter and salmonella.

                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    E. Coli is in all of our systems naturally. The issue isn't it coming from the cooked chicken but from a guest's dirty hands and/or mouths. Our own E. Coli typically won't make us sick, but it can make others sick. Just like how I could give someone a cold by coughing in their face even if I'm not sick. That's the nature of bacteria moving from person to person.

                                    Not that boiling it wouldn't kill that again, but just saying. It's possible for a dinner guest to give your used chicken bones E. Coli, amongst many other things...

                                    On a personal note--I would never eat such a thing if I was aware. Some people have different immune systems than others and I always take this into consideration when prepping food for others. Some people have no problem eating raw fish, eggs, or milk, while it's literally enough to kill others. Yes, boiling kills many things, but there are many others it doesn't. Particularly a slow simmer, as you've mentioned. I read some study years ago stating simmering doesn't kill as MUCH of the bacteria as boiling, so it may eliminate enough to be safe for some, but not others. And there are about 10-15 foodborne bacteria that are not killed at all in boiling water.

                                    Anyway, I'd just de-bone before dinner. Why not? Out of curiosity...

                                    1. re: nothingswrong

                                      I'm all for safety and caution. But not for dis-information.

                                      Simmering, as for a stock, over a period of several hours will most definitely kill e coli bacteria as well as any other non-endospore-forming bacteria and leave you with a product that is as safe as almost any other foodstuff, as long as it is handled properly. You can't consider temperature only and ignore time with respect to reducing bacteria. And even then, 185 F is hot enough to effectively pasteurize a substance fully brought up to temperature very, very quickly - for most products, under 20 seconds.

                                      "Some people have different immune systems than others"
                                      This is true. But we're not talking about sashimi, or hollandaise sauce, or oysters, or beef tartare, or even medium rare grilled beef. We're talking about an end product that is absolutely as fully pasteurized as the overwhelming majority of cooked foods you can buy.
                                      The lone safety issue, as I stated above, would be staph toxin if you left the bones to sit out at room temp for a long period before making stock. Or of course any contamination or mishandling after cooking, but that applies to anything.

                                      E coli bacteria will not be in your guests mouths (unless they are fans of activities that probably should not be mentioned in these threads, and even then it is enormously unlikely to be the strain e coli 0157 that is associated with severe food poisoning/hemorrhagic colitis). E coli 0157 will not likely be on your guests hands either unless they have recently touched raw meat or (usually farm) animals. It's a moot point because none of the e coli strains or their toxins will survive stock making.

                                      1. re: nothingswrong

                                        nothingswrong & cowboyardee-

                                        You seem to have a good grasp of some of the science going on, so my question is: would this re-use be more "dangerous" then re-using the silverware and glassware that a guest uses? If these things are being hand washed (or even perhaps in a dishwasher) is that materially different then boiling the bones?

                                        1. re: MRich

                                          cowboyardee--I agree with most of your post. I wasn't clear apparently. I did say E.Coli would be killed by boiling, which has already been established in the thread. I was more responding to an above post which stated E.Coli has no reason for being on raw chicken to begin with, which is not true. Chicken poop and birthing canals are dirty and that's where most of these bacteria come from.
                                          Also, agreed that E.Coli bacteria should theoretically not be in anyone's mouth, unless, like you said, they are fans of certain activities. Aside from these activities though, there are confirmed outbreaks of E.Coli in consumers due to chefs or prep cooks not washing their hands properly after using the bathroom and transferring E.Coli to food. Infected hands going into a person's mouth will transfer bacteria through both channels. I know there are many strains of E.Coli but E.Coli coming from human feces can cause severe illness. I also know I'm being totally nitpicky here, but a family member of mine contracted both E.Coli and Hepatitis from a cook at a restaurant in West LA and she was quite literally on her deathbed for over 4 months. Ensuing elaborate lawsuit concluded with said cook admitting he regularly defecated at work without washing his hands. All food served was cooked (i.e. either boiled, sauteed, or roasted--nothing raw), and yet look what happened! Obviously most likely case is what you pointed out-- cross-contamination is usually the biggest culprit in the kitchen.

                                          I'm highly aware of the emphasis that should be placed on "nitpicky" :)

                                          As for the boiling, I agree that it would kill most things in a long-simmering stock, although not certain clostridium bacteria including botulism. Yes, they don't really have any reason for being on anyone's chicken, but they are heat resistant bacteria. I've spent many years taking care of people who are immuno-compromised and pay great attention these days to the food I serve others, even if they are in perfect health. Sure, it's over-the-top to wash fresh produce with dishwashing soap, but we did it for so many years in my house to literally prevent sick family from dying that it became the normal thing to do. Even though it's not "normal" or necessary for most, it can't hurt anyway what with all these ridiculous outbreaks of E.Coli and salmonella in our produce. And we've already discussed Staph's heat resistance at length so I will not comment further.

                                          MRich--I know people who insist on boiling or "baking" their pots and pans before use, even if they've been in the dishwasher. This seems insane to me, and I'm quite careful (neurotic apparently) in the kitchen. But that is overboard. Sure, you can probably contract things from reusing silverware/glassware like you've mentioned, and no--handwashing and/or dishwashing doesn't necessarily kill all bacteria. The CDC has always stated that many of the cases of "stomach flu" might not be rotavirus but instead foodborne illness. Even others will contract things like salmonella, E.Coli, or listeria and not feel more than a little indigestion or cramping. This goes back to the "we all have different immune systems" bit. What is okay for your family might not be for another and vice versa. But, what are you gonna do? Germs are necessary in developing our immune systems as babies and keeping them revved up as adults. I have known two people who have died from catching a seasonal flu--one was 4 years old, the other in her late 30s. No other health conditions. The rest of their families had the same flu and recovered unscathed within a week or so. These types of things are tragic but unfortunately not avoidable. This is why parents are encouraged to expose their children, within reason, to certain germs (i.e. not be trigger-happy with the Purel all the time). And the same goes for us adults (even the crazy--I mean "careful"--ones like me).

                                          CHOW is going to kick me off of this thread here in a minute, as I always seem to be delving into "unrelated issues." Hopefully they will spare me this time, as the OP was asking about the safety of the freaking chicken.

                                          Thanks for your input cowboyardee--I was up late and being argumentative. I highly doubt anything would really go wrong in reusing the bones. I am more grossed out by the "ick" factor of recycling food that someone may have been sucking on. Don't care who the guest is, it just seems gross to me. And it doesn't seem all too hard to just carve the chicken beforehand. Like they say, "when in doubt, toss it out." If I even doubt my food prep "ethics" in the kitchen, I don't take a chance when serving others.

                                          1. re: nothingswrong

                                            Not to worry - I sometimes get argumentative myself. And food safety is a topic I find interesting.

                                            I'm sorry to read about your family member.

                                            To clarify, you're right that other strains of e coli can make you sick. Just not typically the severe or fatal hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome from e coli 0157 you hear about on the news.

                                            C. botulinum, or the bacteria responsible for botulism, is one of those endospore formers that I mentioned briefly in my above post. Botulism is not caused directly by the bacteria, but by its toxin, which is also destroyed by heat. Though the bacteria itself may survive the stock making process if it were introduced (maybe you added some garlic), it won't cause any illness unless it is allowed to germinate via poor handling once the stock is cooled. With respect to c. botulinum, stock made from a cooked and eaten carcass is no different than other homemade stock.

                                  2. re: C. Hamster

                                    Am I the only one who reduces my stock before freezing? It is so, so dead.