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Chicken stock with a carcass in the crockpot - fail!

I attempted my first stock in the crock pot this week. I used the carcass from a roast chicken with a chopped up onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf and let it simmer in the crock pot for 24 hours. It didn't turn out so well and had really no flavor whatsoever. I have no experience so I can't identify where I might have gone wrong. It was only 1 carcass of a fairly small chicken so perhaps I added to much water, it needs to simmer longer or it needs to be reduced? I've read many other posts and blogs in which they just throw it in without reduction and it comes out brown and gels well in the fridge. This stock was light yellow with no gelling at all overnight in the fridge. Any tips would be great.

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  1. i'd reduce it and see what happens. i make big batches of broth, on the stove, and always reduce it.

    adding an acid also helps leach nutrition from the bones and helps amp the flavor.

    1 Reply
    1. Hmmm... if I had to guess I'd guess it was too diluted. Maybe save the carcasses in a gallon freezer bag in the freezer until you have 2 or 3. You're using pretty small chickens, aren't you?

      Either that or buy a package of wings or drumsticks to toss in with it.

      7 Replies
        1. re: weezieduzzit

          Wings, backs and necks are best - lots of connective tissue to turn into gelatin. I look for markets that sell those things; in Nashville it was most of them, but here in L.A. County the Asian and Latino markets are the best bet.

          1. re: Will Owen

            And feet. And uncooked. IMO those carcasses just don't work.

            1. re: c oliver

              Carcasses only work when you include the pan juices in the stock rather than eating them as a jus or as part of a sauce.

              1. re: c oliver

                I got to agree. Cooked Carcasses just do not yield a full flavored stock.

                1. re: chefj

                  Raw chickens definitely have much more flavor. I buy a package of chicken feet periodically and throw a dozen in each pot too, helps a lot with the flavor and the gelling.

            2. re: weezieduzzit

              And don't chop up the vegetables too much. Leave them in nearly whole. Makes for easier straining.

            3. How much did you make? IME you only get about a pint of proper stock from the carcass of a 4-5# roaster, and only if there's still a cup or more of meat/skin still on the bones, and you include the neck and giblets (omit the liver). I always add raw parts to the carcass in the pot since if I'm going to make stock I want a few quarts. I do not like the results when only the cooked carcass is used. The color is weak, sometimes grayish, and I find that the bones create a minerally taste. You certainly don't need 24 hrs of cooking. When the ends of the leg bones are easy to crush between your fingers, the carcass is spent and you can take the pot off the heat.

              8 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                i don't use meat or skin when making broth, since i don't enjoy eating poached chicken.

                i use bones, heads and feet.

                1. re: greygarious

                  You hit the nail on the head - the "color was weak, sometimes grayish and I find that the bones create a minerally taste." Well, I filled the crock so that's how much fluid I have so it seems like I should reduce it? The chest bones were crumbly but the leg bones itself were not.

                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    i STUFF an 8-qt stockpot with bones, bits and veg for chicken broth. it's about 8 pounds of chicken parts, and then i just add water. i reduce by about 1/2 for easy storage.

                    you water:bone ratio was way off.

                  2. re: greygarious

                    I too would never think to simmer chicken or turkey for 24 hours. Usually three does the trick. Beef and veal do need longer though.

                    1. re: coll

                      The recipe I posted from Ina goes four. That's more than plenty for robust flavor extraction, IME.

                      1. re: mcf

                        I don't even time it myself. I think the first few hours are the most important.

                        1. re: coll

                          My stock is considerably different at 20 or 24 hours than it is at 4. Much more flavorful, much more gelatin. The stock I made overnight from Tuesday night to Wednesday night is gorgeous and flavorful! Also, if you're interested in the health benefits of bone broth the longer cooking time gives more mineral extraction and amino acid extraction in a form more bioavailable than supplements. If that's not important to you than you don't have to worry about it!

                          1. re: weezieduzzit

                            No osteoporosis no far, but I will keep in mind for the future. Right now I just go for the gelatin, and it usually appears after a night in the fridge.

                  3. I have no idea. When I do it I use one chicken carcass per 6qt crock pot covered with water with veg, whole peppercorns but no salt. It's always come out great and I never reduce it.

                    1. This is a terrific stock recipe; note the proportions for 6 qts.


                      1 Reply
                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            Try boiling it down but if possible, throw in some wings or backs. Since your bones didn't break down over 24 hrs I think your crockpot isn't getting hot enough. I use a large stock pot either on the stove the whole time, or transferred, covered, into the oven once it comes to a lively simmer. You can always reduce the finished stock, even to a gel if you choose, then freeze and when using it, add water.

                            Martha Stewart's Cooking School, on PBS, has a superb segment on making stock. My only criticism is that she says to discard the solidified fat layer covering the chilled stock.
                            I am sure she knows better, and uses it for frying, but that was not the subject of the show and there's just so much content that can fit into the time allotted. You can probably find the show online.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              Thanks. When I uncovered the pot in the morning it had a low boil but was on low.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                At the very least, the layer of fat on top protects the broth from freezer burn (if you freeze the broth, that is).

                              2. re: fldhkybnva

                                Ah, then I agree with the others.. a bit too few bones for volume. Personally, I'd reduce this batch a bit on stovetop and pack it and freeze for a background/base for a stronger flavored stew/soup. No loss. :)

                                I tend to go about 8-10 hours for stock (on low). Makes my life easier and seems to get plenty of flavor; lends itself to overnight bubbling.

                                Do you keep a bag of veggie scraps in freezer? That's the best and cheapest flavoring for these stocks.

                                1. re: DuchessNukem

                                  Great, idea. I don't but now I should.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    Seriously helps flavor the stock and you're already paid for these bits. Onion (any type) skins and trimmings, carrot tops and peelings, any herb stems/roots/dried out bits, celery bottoms/trim, snap/snow pea trims, zucchini or (unwaxed) cucumber tops and peels, stewing greens trimmings are terrific for basic stock or broth. Just keep a gallon plastic bag in the freezer and add trims when you're done with food prep.

                                    I often throw in tomato bits, garlic trims, radish tops and ginger peels, but those can influence basic flavor so you'll find many don't add these. I also like a few peppercorns (let's say 4-8) and a bay leaf. No salt.

                                    I don't use due to too-strong flavor or color: broccoli and cauliflower bits, horseradish, beet ends or beet greens. Sweet potatoes fall apart with long cooking so also a no for me.

                                    Don't let this experience discourage you. This stock is literally liquid gold lol.

                                    1. re: DuchessNukem

                                      cukes, zukes, etc. all have pretty distinct flavors. it's one thing if you're making vegetable stock, but i disagree with this "kitchen sink" approach for bone-based broths and stocks.


                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        Me too. You need to be careful about the vegetable matter you add to MEATstock. All of it adds flavor and will at some point overwhelm the chicken flavor

                                        I usually only add maybe a bit of onion, garlic peppercorns and celery. Flavors that I would want in any application.

                                        But there are some stock applications where I wouldn't want bay, for example. So why add bay to your mother stock?

                                        You can always quickly simmer them after the fact in if you want that taste.

                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          "So why add bay to your mother stock?"

                                          Lol, I had to laugh... because it was in my mother's stock. :)

                                          As hotoy said, YMMV. This works for me, and we're all just presenting our opinion. That said, back to the OP: fldhkybnva -- as noted, many folks like a simpler stock and you might want to try those suggestions first. :)

                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                          Yeah, it's called "chicken stock" for a reason :)

                                        3. re: DuchessNukem

                                          Oh wow, I never even thought to do that. We have tons of that stuff around every week which finds it's way in the garbage. I will plan to freeze it from now on, thanks for the suggestion!

                                2. I'd go with reducing it. Did you use any spices? I usually add bay leaves or star anise plus peppercorns. I do use leftover meat bits plus skin. The meat gets picked off for doggie dinners and I skim the fat after cooling. If I have them on hand, I'll toss in a couple of chicken feet.

                                  Second the idea of collecting a couple of small carcasses in a freezer bag until you have a sufficient quantity. However, I will also say that I don't mind a light stock, especially for something like soup where I plan on having lots of veggies, spices and other flavorful ingredients.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    I added peppercorns, bay leaf and the chicken had been seasoned with rosemary and thyme. There were scraps still on the carcass when I put it in, but not many. I think the idea of saving caracasses is a good one since I usually roast a quite small chicken

                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                      i have bags of bones of all sorts saved in the freezer, til there is "enough" of something to pot up.

                                      i don't use a lot of seasoning, since i prefer to keep it neutral and doctor it later when using it for a meal.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        I keep chicken backs and wing tips in a freezer bag, too. I love Ina's stock, it's neutral enough to use in anything that calls for stock. Great richness.

                                        I don't think you have to toss the meat, though it is pretty well cooked out.

                                    1. My stock comes out the same way, and I think it's because it needs to be reduced, or maybe more things added for flavor,. Also, look at that foodnetwork site and note how many herbs are added, that must make the difference. I use the stock to make a great red lentil soup, BUT I have to add chicken bouillon to get the flavor, makes me think I shouldn't even bother to try to make stock, I'm going to do what others suggested, save till I have a lot of bones and then use that food network recipe

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: knitterbetty

                                        I use NO seasoning in my stock. Just feet, necks and backs. I want to be able to use it for anything, esp. Asian.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          You can use Ina's stock for anything, honest. But whatever floats yer boat. :-)

                                        2. re: knitterbetty

                                          you can reduce to help it along, but you too need more bones to water for your ratio. you shouldn't be needing tons of herbs for flavor.

                                          1. re: knitterbetty

                                            If you add boullion, you will ruin your stock/dish.

                                            1. re: sandylc

                                              the boullion definitely voids the purpose of making stock, but i think betty just needs more bits and less water. :)

                                          2. Sounds like a case of too much water. Make sure that your water level just barely covers the bones. With one small carcass this will not give you much stock, so it's smart to save bones in the freezer until you have enough for a big pot.

                                            Greygarious gave you good advice. I'll add that I crack the larger bones in half with a cleaver and open up chicken feet at the joints to aid in gelatin extraction. Also, a splash of something acidic also seems to help in extraction. Don't just throw the vegetables away either; put them in a fine cheesecloth and wring the absorbed liquid out before discarding.

                                            1. Everyone's given you good advice. Here's my perspective, which repeats some of the above:

                                              I make my stock in a 6-quart slow cooker, but I stuff it full with at least 2 carcasses (including any leftover skin, meat, fat that is still attached or that I pulled off and set aside). Additions are an onion, a few garlic cloves, celery and peppercorns. Then I top with water, which isn't a ton of water, since the cooker is so full. I think in the end, I usually end up with 2 - 3 quarts of stock.

                                              Overnight only is sufficient. 24 hours isn't necessary. Strain out meat and veggies, chill in containers and I get a beautiful gelatinous broth without any more reduction.

                                              I have to disagree with those that say that stock made from carcasses is useless. While I do make stock from raw parts, I don't like to waste my chicken carcasses. My carcass stock is still delicious and makes great soups.

                                              One thing to consider if you try this again is the lack of salt in your stock. When people taste homemade stock, they are often disappointed in how flat or bland it tastes. Commercial broths have a ton of sodium, so once you add some salt to yours, you're back in the game.

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                                I agree about using carcasses. Maybe if you only used the truly best parts for stock it would be better. But to say it's useless is ridiculous. It far supercedes boxed stuff and is light years ahead of plain water.
                                                I also agree with the salt thing. I usually add a bit and am usually using Costco crcasses which are very salty to begin with.

                                                As for duration, I will usually set mine up around dinner time and let it go. Strain after I get home from work the next day. So not needed but 24 hours works perfectly fine.

                                                Just FYI, the best way to determine if you nailed it, other than taste of course, is put it in the fridge overnight. It should turn to jelly.


                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                  I make stock or broth the same way... 24hours, one carcass with Vinegar, a bit of salt if the carcass was not already salty. There is a difference- to me -in making bone broth vs chicken stock. Both are good for different reasons. When I make bone broth, the focus is on a lighter, more mineral tasting broth that is easily morphed into another dish and incorporates into a sauce better when chicken flavor is not the focus.

                                                  Rich, gelled chicken stock is more about the bones, meat, skin together, and extracting "chicken essence" from it all. I really pack it in the crock pot. This is my soup base and I save this stock for when the dish is really "chicken forward" :)

                                                  I only add vegetables when making vegetable stock.

                                                  1. re: sedimental

                                                    You bring up a good point that I didn't know til CH. That there's a difference between stock and broth. I keep canned 'broth' around for when I need just a bit or need it NOW. There's a world of difference between that and the 'stock' I make.

                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                      Yea, I mostly use my stock for dishes other than soup - braised vegetables, pan sauces, etc.

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        Oh, I interpreted you OP as it was the first time you made stock. But in fact it's the first time you've used the slow cooker. Gotcha. I usually make stock in a large DO that goes in a low oven til everything is falling apart. Literally.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          No it's the first time I've mad stock. "My stock" was a reference to stock purchased at the store :)

                                                      2. re: sedimental

                                                        That is a great synopsis, thanks.

                                                    2. re: TorontoJo

                                                      Great, thanks. What parts do you prefer for other stock? I might give that a try. Does the same approach work?

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        Backs, necks, wing tips saved from prepping or sold for nearly nothing in the store. And non liver giblets.

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          Ditto for me, except for the giblets. But that's a personal taste thing. :o)

                                                          At Thanksgiving time, I ask my butcher for all the necks and backs and wing tips he cuts off when he prepares turkey breasts and thighs. Free and awesome. I roast it all up and make my stock for gravy from that. And given the quantity of gravy I make (a gallon or more), it's fantastic to get the parts for free.

                                                      2. re: TorontoJo

                                                        <I have to disagree with those that say that stock made from carcasses is useless. While I do make stock from raw parts, I don't like to waste my chicken carcasses. My carcass stock is still delicious and makes great soups.>

                                                        I disagree as well. We're talking stock not broth

                                                        I really can't comment much on the methodology of the use of a slow cooker. I've taken the opposite approach and use a pressure cooker and can turn out some very flavorful stock using nothing more than a carcass and or a collection of bones, skin and cartilage in around 90 min. The gel factor is through the roof. For a more concentrated stock I will reduce it to save freezer space or to just boost the flavor.

                                                        From the stock I've made with bones and meat scraps I have never understood the need to put a whole chicken in a pot. I'm sure the broth is very good but the meat is near useless after giving up it's flavor to the broth and the texture is pretty bad. This I know from sampling the meat scraps when straining off my stock.

                                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                                          I agree with scubadoo97 that it's a water issue. I also use every single chicken carcass and make stock in the crock pot with great success. My pressure cooker is too small for a chicken carcass. I throw it in my 7qt cheapo off-brand slow cooker and add a couple small carrots and a small rough chopped onion. (I am assuming a "normal" rotisserie chicken, i.e. not "barbque" or "rosemary" or other flavored bird of less than 5lbs with meat on). I use a picked-clean bird with whatever juice ran off into the container or platter. I cover it just barely with water, even in the big pot and try to pull off pieces/bones to make it lower in the pot so as not to overwhelm the thing with H2O. I cook it 24hrs and if it's weak then I put it on a low simmer on the stove until the flavor concentrates a bit. At that point I might add parsley, thyme, peppercorns. I agree that the issue is the amount of water. I LOVE my crock pot for chicken stock! Never waste food!

                                                      3. I just want to add one thing: when I make stock, I remove the skin from all but the legs and wings. I get just enough fat, lots of flavor from the recipe I posted from Ina Garten, and A supply of skin to store or high temp bake right away with salt and pepper to a crispy delicious snack.

                                                        1. IMO a small roasted carcass will yield very little flavor. 24 hours a way too long. Any flavorful stock will be made in an hour or two at most on VERY low simmer.
                                                          Get a bunch of fresh chicken backs feet wing tips necks. Just cover with cold water. NO SALT NOOOO CELERY whatever you do! NO WHITE WINE! NO CARROTS AKA 'flavor sponges' unless you are going to eat them.
                                                          Barely simmer for a few hours at most.

                                                          1. Something I've done a time or two is to put a whole chicken in the slowcooker and cover with water. Once the breasts and thighs are done, I remove that meat for other purposes and then continue with the cooking. It's not what I usually do, but a couple of times.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              I've done the same thing with chickens and turkeys. I consider I'm 'poaching' the birds. I also add a bunch of feet/necks/backs and some fresh pork bones and a hand full of leeks to the pot. After I remove all the meat I use a big pair of pliers to crack the larger bones then I slow simmer the stock for another couple of hours or so. No salt no celery no carrots no white wine. Strain through a few layers of cheese cloth.
                                                              Check out the stock/broth/soup making scene in the movie 'Tampopo'. THAT's how to do it IMO.

                                                            2. Stock must come to a good simmer to extract flavor, expecially from the bones, crock pots can't do that.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: cstr

                                                                Not only can they, but they often run so hot that meat is just boiled into oblivion. I had one that did that on low for 6 hours or so. No longer use them for that reason.

                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                  Yea, my crock was boiling on low.

                                                              2. Sounds to me like too much water. I put 4 large leg-thigh combos in 6-quart crock pot with celery and onion only and water to an inch of top and cook overnight. Level of meat is about 1/4 to 1/3 the depth of the water. When you say "carcass" do you mean an intact chicken or the bones etc left over from a meal? You can do that too and have a weaker stock for cooking purposes but in my experience if you are going to make soup out of it you need to make the stock with raw chicken meat in order to get the flavor you want.

                                                                1. One carcass does not a chicken stock make, even with minimal water. You need more of everything.

                                                                  1. I realize this is an old thread, I use a whole sale chicken (e g Foster Farms) and water to cover, about 2-3 qts. I tried 4 qts and it was too much. You can add produce, I used too, but I want a clean chicken stock, not one seasoned by produce.

                                                                    1. I've been using this technique forever so my advice may be worth something. For one thing, the stock isn't done until the bones crumble easily when grabbed with tongs. This can take longer than 24 hours, though not much longer id think. Also, did you add any salt? You don't wanna overdo it but you'll need a little for flavor.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                        I've now mastered the chicken stock. Adding salt was critical. Also I've let many batches go 24 hours and the bones don't crumble, they fall apart but are still quite intact.

                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                          if you plan on reducing the stock DO NOT add salt at the start.

                                                                          i don't add any salt until i am actually using the stuff since it will depend on what else is going in the pot with it. if it involves, soy or cheese or something like that than the finished product will be too salty.

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            That makes sense and I agree but the OP was concerned about lack of flavor. Salt may be part of the problem, as well as inadequate gelatin.

                                                                      2. If you are using a chicken carcass from a previously cooked chicken, you've already lost much of the flavor from it by cooking it.

                                                                        Try buying your chickens whole, and breaking them down yourself so you can save up these parts raw.

                                                                        Plus, in general, you need more chicken parts as a whole to make stock. I would wait until you've amassed enough carcasses, wing tips, necks, etc...

                                                                        If I want to make a stock and don't have enough parts, I will just use a four pack of chicken thighs in about 6 cups of water - then add all the other usual stuff, veggies, herbs, seasonings, a little dry vermouth for an acid. Most of the time I am making a soup with it anyhow, so I will just put the shredded chicken back into it.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Atomic76

                                                                          Me too! Or I shred the chicken for other purposes before it gets too overcooked and continue to cook the bones and cartilage until the bones are brittle

                                                                        2. I'm not sure the crock pot will work, it's not exactly the same as stove top cooking, hence you don't braise meat in there so why would you make stock in there. And you'll definitely need a lot more bone especially if you're going to reduce for a meat glaze, you can grab chicken spines from a whole foods, i use 8 and a full carcass. Break down the chicken, bone the legs and thighs I reserve both wings bone in for a secondary protein on the plate a frenched wing always looks good, I also trim the spines and save that for later use in a chicken sausage or something. Break down the bones to even piece and roast them. While they are roasting I rough chop carrots and onion, sweat them in as little oil as possible, as that works, prepare a boutique garni of parsley stalks, thyme, bay leaves, and garlic. Once your bones are roasted and veg are done you can add the bones and bouquet then I add just enough water to cover the bones. I simmer for about 5 hours, keeping an eye on it and adding water to keep it at the original level, any reduction can be done later. The time it takes for the bones to roast is also good to make a side dish, the veg and bouquet won't take long at all so definitely take advantage of the time, I generally use that to prepare something that bakes at the same temp as the bones roast so when you pull them it's right in with the next thing. Good luck!!!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: escoffier125

                                                                            Crock pot works fine. It was a bone to water ratio. I just strained several gallons of stock from several crockpots, all jellied and hearty. Just FYI many slow cook meats in crock pots.