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Chicken stock - here's what I have; what now?

First, keep in mind that the stock will be used to replace water while cooking, such as when cooking rice. It will not be the base for soup.

I have the carcasses of 4 roasted chickens, the giblets bags from 3 of the chickens, a few carrots with their green tops, half an onion, 2 small garlic cloves, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and some fresh herbs--savory, lemon basil, and rosemary.

1.) Do I need anything else or more of what I already have--celery, leeks, parsley, more onion or garlic? Do the herbs I have work for stock? How much do I need for the number of carcasses I have?

2.) Should I use the giblets, and if so, all of them or do I remove the liver? Should I cook the giblets first, and if so, how--roast, pan fry?

3.) How much water do I use--enough to cover everything, or a certain measured amount? And how long should I simmer?

Most recipes I've read require using a whole or parts of chicken and give conflicting advice, so I'm hoping you can help me. Thanks.

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  1. Others may have differing opinions, but I would leave the giblets out of your planned stock, as their flavor is very strong and distinctive. Also, I'd go to a full onion. Haven't ever used lemon basil, so have no opinion on it. The rest of the herbs seem fine, although I'd add thyme if you have it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mcsheridan

      I agree, the giblets absolutely ruin a good stock. "Strong and distinctive" is a very diplomatic way of putting it. :) If you like them, cook them separately and add them to a finished dish.

      I would skip the lemon basil as well. If you want it in your finished dish, add it then (I actually feel that way about all of the herbs since a more neutral stock is more flexible and useful.)

    2. I'm good with the giblets -- I almost always add them, because we like the flavor. Don't bother pre-cooking.

      Herbs sound good -- rosemary can go in at beginning, but I'd hold the savoury and lemon basil until the last minute - they're too delicate to hold up to the long cooking.

      I'd use 2 of the carcasses - -that will make a LOT of stock. Freeze the other two.

      I agree to up it to a whole onion (if a half is all you've got -- oh well...this isn't a precise science)

      Throw it all in the biggest pot you have, add water to cover, and let it simmer as long as you have patience to let it go -- 3-4 hours at a minimum. I use a steamer basket, opened out and inverted over the whole mess to keep everything submerged.

      Stock is one of the easiest things out there to make -- bung it all in a pot, cover it with water, and simmer for hours.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        I agree in part. I'd use all the carcasses, and the giblets (not cooked separately) without the livers. Liver affects the flavor and color. I save the livers to dice and saute as part of chicken stuffing. If you have more onion, use it. If you have a pressure cooker, use that; water to cover solids, whether in a PC or regular pot.

        1. re: greygarious

          Same here. I leave the liver out of stocks and usually eat it on the spot right after prepping the chicken as the cooks treat

      2. If you can get a few chicken feet that would make a big difference IMHO

        4 Replies
        1. re: jefpen2

          In the flavor or just the texture?

          1. re: scubadoo97

            the texture and flavor. Not too strong but you get that great glutenous gooey stuff.

          2. re: jefpen2

            I've used chicken feet and they made no difference at all in flavor or texture. Maybe I didn't use high enough proportion I don't know. I wouldn't worry about adding them.

            1. re: jefpen2

              I use chicken feet also. Usually around 8 or so. I chop off the first toe digit to help release the collagen. Cooled down the stock is like jello.

            2. Here's more advice to confuse you. I detest the flavor of onion that hasn't been sweated in a little oil before using to make stock, so I always do that first. I also brown the carcasses before adding the water, but you don't have to do this. It just adds a nice flavor if you do.

              After that, cover the carcasses and veggies with water (don't add any fresh herbs at this point), toss in some salt and simmer, skimming the foam off for the first 1/2 hour of simmering. Then keep simmering until it tastes like chicken stock. Don't add water or it will dilute the flavor. You can always do this later depending on how you want to use the stock.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Isolda

                I usually just toss in the onion that was roasted with the chickens.

                1. re: Isolda

                  The carcasses were already roasted.

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    Roasting the carcasses will give a deeper, richer flavor and color, but is not necessary.

                2. I always hack the bones up a bit with a cleaver so more marrow and gelatin are released. I'd skip the herbs, too. IMO they'll make the stock too "specific" and lose their brightness in all that cooking. I've also noticed if I cook lemon basil in with certain grains, they often ends up tasting soapy.

                  1. 1. Celery, parsley, and more onion are nice-to-haves, but if you want to go ahead with what you have, it won't be bad. If you have celery powder or celery salt, that might be better than nothing. I agree with leaving out the other fresh herbs.

                    2. I'd throw in the heart and gizzard, not the liver. You could brown them in the bottom of the pot before adding everything else, or not -- it's not critical.

                    3. Enough water to cover. Simmer a really long time. I see a lot of recipes saying anything from an hour to 4, but whenever I've tasted it at 4, it's just not nearly as good as it gets yet. I like to go at least 6, and if it's not bedtime yet, I just keep going for up to 8. Taste it each hour or so and you'll taste the improvement. In my opinion, everything else is very forgiving and you end up with a delicious stock if you just go long enough.

                    1. Thanks for all the replies. Based on your posts and the fact I really don't feel like leaving the house right now, I'm just using what I have on hand. From the giblets bags, I'm using just one heart and all three necks. I put in one huge stalk of rosemary, but left out the other fresh herbs, and I threw in some dried thyme I found in my pantry along with a few dried bay leaves. I wasn't counting, but I think it took about 6 or 7 quarts of water to cover everything in the pot. I'll see how it turns out! Again, thanks for your help.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: brandygirl

                        Whatever you do, your stock will be good. Can it be better? Yes! But are you always going to be chasing the better? Whatever you do this time, remember it. Next time tweak it in whatever direction suits you. Don't worry too much.

                        1. re: brandygirl

                          I'll use my 2 6qt crockpots for the stock, if I know I can't be home while it cooks. Otherwise I just use my 12qt stockpot on the stove.

                        2. I use nothing but chicken (no giblets), celery, and onion , and salt because I don't want a lot of other flavors overpowering the chicken flavor. Giblets have a certain flavor. If you like that, use them. Otherwise, using giblets will lead to disaster.

                          1. A big fan of getting every bit of yum out of chicken/pountry bones. After cooking even a few split chicken breasts and eating, I toss in a pot. Celery, carrots, onions and water. Just let it gurgle for a nice long time. If I get a few pints of stock... better than just tossing what you already paid for.

                            In my book, poultry is poultry when it comes to stock... chicken or turkey. Have a few containers of turkey stock from T-Day in freezer... fine of starting a soup, making gravy, cooking rice or little pasta in.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: kseiverd

                              I collect bits and pieces as I go -- I'm up now to having a whole drawer in the freezer full of chicken and turkey carcasses, wing tips from making wings, and a package of chicken feet from the last trip to the Asian grocery.

                              I have to confess I'm not very motivated, as it's 90F every day here from now through October. I may have to try it in the crockpot overnight.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                The crockpot is the only way I make chicken or beef stock now.

                                The roasted carcasses (or wings and backs from the stupidmarket), chopped mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions, and a bouquet garni bag of fresh thyme, a bay leaf, and cracked peppercorns. That's all that goes into mine. Cover it all with water, started mid-morning on a Saturday, and it's ready for straining when I wake up on Sunday. Into the downstairs fridge to cool and solidify, then into 1- or 2-cup containers for the freezer.

                                I personally think that the giblets and rosemary would add too strong a flavor that I wouldn't want in a basic stock (I don't "do" giblets anyway, so they'd never be added).

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  agreed. carcass, no giblets. no rosemary. two carrots and two celery snapped in half. 2 onion unpeeled and quartered. a few pepper corn. some bay leaf. parsley stems if i got em. cover with cold water and let it go at least 12 hours. strain and cool. then freeze the awesome chicken jell-o

                            2. I see here that I am lazy. I put four raw leg-thigh combos in my crock pot with an onion cut through a few times and a couple of ribs of celery and some salt, and I fill it up with water within an inch of the top, and run it overnight. Then I pour everything into a colander sitting in a big mixing bowl (once I forgot the mixing bowl) and that's it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Querencia

                                Four carcasses makes a lot and needs a huge pot.

                                I like to add a shot of cider vinegar. You don't taste it but it pulls calcium out of bones.

                              2. For stock made from roasted carcasses I just do celery, onion and peppercorns. I'll add flat leaf parsley if I have some, but I usually don't. ( I'd personally leave out the rosemary, basil and giblets). The neck is fine though. Water to cover. Very low simmer, so just the occasional bubble pops. I leave mine anywhere from 8-24 hours for bone broths like this. Then I pressure can it.

                                1. Feet, wings and back. That's all you need. You get stock that'll make Jell-O jealous.

                                  Carcass is weak, just bones and meat scrap. You'll get chicken juice not stock using that.

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Well, maybe the carcass from a roasted chicken that's been picked clean would lead to weak stock... But I buy them raw, so there's still lots of meat, skin, etc.

                                    I use my big stock pot and use 6 carcasses ($2 total at the chinese market for 6) and I get jello consistency just fine.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I make stock with carcasses all the time. I get thick, gelatinous stocks that nobody would ever call weak.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Me too. I'm sold on the pressure cooker for stock making though. 90 min stock that taste like you cooked it all day

                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          I've yet to have good luck with the p/c -- I need to try again.

                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                              a regular stovetop pressure cooker -- I've just never had it develop the depth of flavor that my stovetop stock develops. Probably something to do with water levels and evaporation.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Try a Kunh Rikon unvented pressure cooker. Your mind will be blown. It is the absolute best piece of cooking gear I own and I have all sorts of crazy shit. If I could only have one cooking vessel it would be my 8 liter KR for sure. Can't make stock any other way now, and a lot of other things too.

                                                1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                  I'm just not going to drop that much cash. I love the pc I have, and it made the cut for an international relocation -- the highest praise I can give.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    An inexpensive Fagor does a great job as well. Not sure why you've not gotten the depth of flavor from the PC. For me I find it's more concentrated and has deeper flavor then when cooked in an open vessel. Just goes to show there is no one way to do it

                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                              never had luck either. just don't get the flavor........

                                              1. re: eLizard

                                                haven't tried crockpot yet -- and I haven't given up on making stock in the pc, but haven't been thrilled with it thus far.

                                                Biggest thing is finding the motivation to make stock when it's hot and humid!

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  I think it was mentioned in this thread that some people set up their crock pots outside to avoid heating up the kitchen. But still, one doesn't automatically think of stocks and soups when it is so hot out.

                                                  1. re: rudeboy

                                                    ugh this is when I am happy for that extra burner on the gas grill - used it for PC dog food the other day - I don't feel like the slow cooker really heats up the house much but that wonderful smell of slow cooked meat that makes your house feel great in winter can feel sweltering in summer,

                                                    1. re: JTPhilly

                                                      Maybe one of those crawfish rigs would work. I can get mine low enough for a slow simmer using a cast-iron pan underneath the pot. I've noticed that, even without the pan, I can maintain a slow simmer for those periods between batches of crawfish.

                                                      And just after writing the above, I remember that I actually have made chicken stock on that thing.

                                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                                        I have a crawfish rig in the basement - I should pull it out and use it for stuff - I never think about it

                                                    2. re: rudeboy

                                                      It's not heating up the house that makes me drag my feet -- it's that hot soup when it's 90 in the shade just doesn't pique my interest.

                                                      Gazpacho, maybe!

                                        2. you know, after 20 years of every which way, this is what i do recently:


                                          I use chicken backs mostly as wings have become too expensive.

                                          3-5 lbs of backs, a roasted onion, 4+ quarts of H2O, and a three nich piece of scrubbed ginger, 10 hours on low, drain, skim, and pressure can (10 pounds, 25 min for me at sea level) .
                                          Four quarts shelf stable homemade chicken stock overnight.

                                          1. Not in any oder:
                                            Celery will add a bitter flavour to your stock. (Keller The French Laundry)
                                            Apart from the bay leaf do not add any herbs.
                                            You'll be making quite a bit of stock and it's better to keep it all 'clean' of any flavours except that from the chicken. You can add herbs to individual portions to your liking before serving.
                                            Leave the giblets out b/c hey are too strongly flavoured.
                                            Use 'sweet onions'.
                                            Carrots are "flavour sponges". Unless you plan to blend them into the stock you'll be throwing away flavour if you discard them.
                                            No garlic. Garlic will add a bitter note if cooked too long.
                                            Watch Tampopo. Notice how 'minimal' her chicken stock is.
                                            'Less is definitely more' when making any stock.
                                            Use and add enough water to just cover the carcasses.
                                            NEVER EVER boil the stock if you want to end up with a clear stock. A slow smooth simmer is all the heat you need.
                                            Many people mistakenly believe if they simmer/boil chicken bones for hours they will get a better flavoured stock. The opposite is true.
                                            You'll only need to slow simmer the carcasses for about three hours at most to get all the best flavours. After that the carcasses will add 'off/bitter' flavours'.
                                            I hope you go the low and slow route.
                                            Last point. I would take a big pair of vise grips and gently crush the largest leg bones. Inside these bones are a lot of flavour but they will also make the stock cloudy if the stock is allowed to boil.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                              lots of good points there

                                              interesting notes on the carrot and celery which I always add without thinking much about it because you are "supposed to" - makes sense though I will keep than in mind

                                              definitely agree with keeping the flavors clean and the simmer low.

                                            2. Do most of you include the skin, or remove it. I remove most off the meat and skin and just use the bones. Just curious......

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: rudeboy

                                                No skin, except maybe a little still clinging to the rib meat - I leave that. And whatever bits of meat is left on the carcasses is left. Not usually a whole lot.

                                                1. re: rudeboy

                                                  If it's organic chicken I use the skin and then skim the fat off when chilled and put it in a jar for cooking later. If it's conventional I remove it before making stock.

                                                2. No liver. I just cover it all with filtered water, bring up to temperature quickly, and let it seethe for hours. Do NOT let it boil, it will likely turn murky. I usually do use some celery, but take it easy on the rosemary, it's strong. I never use basil,just thyme, parsley, bay, and peppercorns. I add salt at the end, to taste. Also, a bit of acid will help dissolve minerals in the bones. I savea couple of reamed-out lemon halves and over-ripe tomatoes in the freezer with my non-cruciferous vegetable trimmings and herb stems and use those when I make stock. Also, yellow onion skins will give you a nice color.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: zeldaz51

                                                    You make the stock I would like most to taste.
                                                    I too add salt at the end and a few drops of good balsamic at the beginning.

                                                  2. also, re boiling..... i don't care about a cloudy or murky stock. i'm not serving consomme. i'm using it where that doesn't matter.