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Stock Pot vs. Slow Cooker (for broth AND chicken)?

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I'm a newbie to cooking and want to incorporate bone broth into my daily routine for health reasons.

I cooked 8 pounds of chicken thighs in a slow cooker. After separating the meat, I tossed everything else back in and let it go for another 10 hours.

Trying to pour the results into a strainer over a smaller pot in the sink was a total mess.

And, the heavy slow-cooker vessel is really heavy and hard to manipulate to clean.

I was wondering if there is a better way?

I don't know if the right term is "stock pot", but I was thinking if I had a big pot with a built in strainer, I'd be able to lift out the bones & skin, leaving the broth in the original pot, which I could cool in the sink with ice water, and transfer to the fridge, then the next day scoop off the fat, and have a lot of bone broth!

1. Is it safe to leave something cooking on a gas stove for 12 or 24 hours? (There are no pets or kids in my household).

2. Are the holes typically found in the integrated strainers too big? Will I end up with lots of undesirable stuff in my broth?

3. Would cooking 8 pounds of chicken in such a pot be ok? From what I've read, a slow cooker cooks between 190 and 210 degrees. The difference between high and low is just how quickly it attains the eventual temperature (which is the same whether you pick high or low). BTW, my infrared thermometer gun indeed confirms that my slow cooker was cooking at 200 degrees.

Any thoughts you could share for this newbie would be very much appreciated!

 
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  1. I used to do the crock pot method, and I still do if I'm doing a smaller amount and need to be able to leave it home alone. Otherwise I use my 12qt Cuisinart multi pot. It has both a steamer and a strainer insert. I can't tell you weights, as I don't weigh my bones before putting them in. I've done a whole turkey carcass though with room to spare.

    I have no qualms leaving it on the stove overnight, I've done so on both gas and electric and I do have cats. But the pot is much larger than the flame ring and my cats are smart enough to avoid hot stuff. They don't even go near the crock pots let alone the stove unless it's cold and not in use.

    I put the stove on the lowest flame possible so the stock just gets the occasional bubble popping.

    I always use the bones from roasted meat in my bone broths.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rasputina

      Thanks for the reply.

      Did you use that pot only for making broth, or could you cook chicken in it, separate the meat, the return the bones and simmer longer for broth?

      I presume you can do "slow cooking" with that method. Like 6 hours for 8 pounds of chicken thighs?

      Thanks,
      Mike

    2. For making chicken stock, a pressure cooker is your friend...less than an hour and gets all the goodness. I have the same 12 qt Cuisinart set and never use it for stock anymore.

      21 Replies
      1. re: Alpncook

        Thanks for reminding me about the pressure cooker. I have one and have used it for stock before.

        Maybe I could get a strainer insert and lift all the goop out of the vessel after it's done?

        1. re: mike2401

          I just put a strainer that fits into the top of a large pot and strain the contents of the PC into the pot and I either cool it in a sink of cold water or simmer and reduce it down and cool for later use

          1. re: scubadoo97

            That's what I did but made a mess as the oily liquid spilled out of the destination pot, into the sink creating a yucking mess all outside the pot and the sink, etc

            1. re: mike2401

              pour slowly.

              If I have a really big pot of stock, I'll use a slotted spoon to lift out the floating stuff into the strainer (over the big pot, natch)

              Then I'll ladle out stock into the strainer/pot, using tongs or my slotted spoon to lift out the "stuff" as I uncover it.

              Then when the stock level is down to a manageable level, I pour it off through the strainer.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Maybe it's just a guy-thing, but I don't have the patience to do that, and I prefer one big pour, ka-splash, etc. I'm just trying to find a better way to do that :-) Or, to lift out all the solid bits with a pasta-pot style integrated strainer.

                Thanks!

                -Mike

                1. re: mike2401

                  to hell with chromosomes -- juggling a smokin-hot, big-ass stock pot is a hardcore pain in the ass.

                  I also didn't do all that work to produce all that stock just to slop it down the drain.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Golly, girlfriend, you have such a better way with words than I did :) LOL.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      (and that was the toned-down version)

                    2. re: sunshine842

                      I did that once. Put the strainer in the sink without the pot. Slap head! I said once. Caught it at the halfway point. Hang head in shame

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        I almost did it -- lost a couple of cups of stock (it was chicken jello, too. dammit)

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          I almost did that recently with something. Yelled "oh shit" and stopped.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I think I uttered similar words

                        2. re: scubadoo97

                          I did that with pasta once. Forgot to put the strainer in the sink. Oopsie!

                          1. re: DuffyH

                            no matter how careful I am when draining things into the sink, ONE thing will always manage to escape (there's a disposal on that side of the sink, so it's no biggie)

                            I've finally learned to just shrug and chalk that one escaped item up as my offering to the kitchen gods.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              I quarter potatoes when prepping them to boil, so my russets tonight were long planks. Lost one when draining them. Fortunately, it was a big spud, so there was plenty left for the two of us.

                              It slid right into the disposal, neat and clean. :-)

                      2. re: mike2401

                        If you prefer one big pour then one big ka-splash is what you are going to get.

                        Just dip in a jug to transfer manageable quantities of liquid to the strainer. Jug clean up is much easier than ka-splash clean up!

                    3. re: mike2401

                      Picture of my set up. To filter out the fat and small debris I line the strainer with a paper towel

                       
                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        A picture is worth a thousand words. Those holes seem smaller than some (a good thing)

                        I'm surprise paper towel bits don't get in the broth, but cool !!!

                        1. re: mike2401

                          As to the paper towels, we buy the good ones ;). No lint, bits or dust as far as I can tell. I wet them down first as I do for paper coffee filters before use. 80% or more of the fat stays in the filter. Stock is quite clear with very little fat globules. I often reduce the stock and to cool the pot goes in the sink of cold water with ice or ice packs immersed in it. Cools down fast

                        2. re: scubadoo97

                          I like how your strainer is right-sized for the pot. Mine is too big for the 12-cup pot which probably contributed to the over-spill and mess.

                          1. re: mike2401

                            Just lucky

                2. Hi Mike-

                  Chicken broth, freshly made is a good idea for your diet.

                  It is the basis for many dishes, and a pot of chicken broth is usually found hot and ready in most restaurant kitchens. Chinese, European, North American, etc. it is one of the pot items heated at the start of each day. It then simmers all day and night.

                  In cooking school when I was 15, we made it using a cooked chicken carcass, meat removed, and then split in half. Celery, carrot, wrapped in herbs would be added there as a rule, with " minimal " salt, a subjective measure if ever there was one. Too little and it tastes poorly, too much and it ruins a meal.

                  In Austria and Switzerland, an onion studded with a few cloves, and perhaps a Bay leaf is added, while in China, just a few sliced spring onions. Garlic, ginger, marjoram, all variations on a theme.

                  8 pounds of chicken seems to be a lot. You would bring that all to a boil, skim it to remove fat, and then simmer it from there. That is a lot of meat to boil, which you could do other things with. Using just the carcass, you have little fat to contend with, and the flavour you want from the carcass bone. I prefer a pot, on induction, but why not a slow cooker ?

                  Keep us posted.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: SWISSAIRE

                    Thanks for the reply. I'm trying to do bulk cooking and maximize efficiency and minimize cleanup.

                    Getting two 4 pound family packs yielded about 15 (4 ounce) servings (I think). I'll have to count better next time.

                    Do you think I need a really huge pot (like 12 quart) so there is enough room for enough liquid and swimming room?

                    Is there any advantage to cooking beyond when the internal temp reaches safe poultry temp? Will cooking it longer make it better some how?

                    I do have a pressure cooker and am toying with using that to speed things along.

                    I'm not thrilled about leaving it cooking on low unattended. (Seems scary). Of course, would I prefer to be home sleeping when my house burns down, or at work? (Tuff decision :-)

                    1. re: mike2401

                      Morning Mike-

                      Answers to your questions:

                      " Getting two 4 pound family packs yielded about 15 (4 ounce) servings (I think). I'll have to count better next time.

                      Answer: Leftover chicken can always be frozen, or refrigerated.

                      Do you think I need a really huge pot (like 12 quart) so there is enough room for enough liquid and swimming room?

                      Answer: For the time being I would continue with your slow cooker. If you decide to continue making the large amounts, you can re-evaluate your needs then.

                      Is there any advantage to cooking beyond when the internal temp reaches safe poultry temp? Will cooking it longer make it better some how?

                      Answer: Cooking chicken longer cannot hurt, provided the chicken is in solution. Minimally higher temperatures will not do much either way. The problem is when the birds are roasted, baked, or over cooked on a rotisserie. They get very tough to eat and digest.

                      I do have a pressure cooker and am tying with using that to speed things along."

                      Answer: I no longer use one, but others here may have something helpful to offer in the way of tips or techniques.

                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                        Sorry but I strongly disagree with you. "Cooking chicken longer cannot hurt" is just not correct. Well, as long as you're willing to not eat the chicken afterwards, then okay. But chicken that has been cooked for 8, 10 or more hours is WAY overcooked.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Oliver-

                          No problem, your point is well taken.

                          Mike's question was " would cooking the chicken longer make it better somehow."

                          I believe he was referring to a slow cooker, or what used to be known as a crock pot. Most of us have made meals in such units starting early in the morning, on low setting, and eaten late in the evening, tasting very well. I found one I set on high once, and it was inedible after 12 hours when I finally got home in the snow.

                          The danger is from eating under-cooked chicken. " Make it better " by overcooking is subjective at best, as some like soft, well cooked chicken.

                          Personally, I like mine Al Dente, or with a little bite to it, so I either steam, bake, roast, or cook ours in a wok.

                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                            Thanks for elaboring, Swiss.

                        2. re: SWISSAIRE

                          Thanks for the detailed answer. I notice my type: should have been "TOYING with pressure cooker" ;-)

                          Thanks,
                          Mike

                    2. I'm of the strong opinion that after that many hours the chicken has given all it has to give and I'd never eat it. But the dogs love it.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: c oliver

                        woof!

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Indeed, and Mike, what you might want to do is slow-cook the chicken for a an hour or two, then pull the chicken out.

                          Let it cool, and remove the meat from the bones.

                          Remove the bones (crack them if you want to release the marrow in to the broth) and return *just the bones* to the developing stock.

                          THEN cook for 8-12 hours.

                          That way, you don't have mushy sludge for chicken, but still get a rich, full stock.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I've only made stock in the slow cooker a couple of times but that's just how I do it.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              ok, that sounds exactly like what I want to do. I've let the chicken cook on 'low' slow-cooker for 7 hours. I wonder if that's too long?

                              I don't let it cool. I just separate the meat from the skin & bones, then dump it all back in.

                              I guess a question is what's the optimum time to cook the chicken.

                              Since "high" just means it gets up to 200 degrees faster, I don't know that there's a huge benefit to using the low setting.

                              After I attain 200 degrees, I wonder how long I should cook the chicken thighs for.

                              Thanks!

                              Mike

                              1. re: mike2401

                                Do you have a meat thermometer? If not, it's really invaluable and doesn't have to be expensive at all. I pull it out when it's about 160, remove the meat from the bones and put the bones back in. I think it's safe to say, from my viewpoint anyway, that chicken that's been cooking for seven hours would be given to our dogs and all taste and texture is gone.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  WOOF! Yes, I do have a thermometer so that makes sense. I only just learned that my slow-cooker on "low" is at 200 degrees. So, if the object is to get the internal chicken pieces to 160 and not more, if I leave it in longer than it takes to achieve that goal, it will go to 170, 180, 190, and top out at 200. That doesn't sound good at all. So, I will do another batch on next saturday and check after a couple hours to see the temp.

                                  I'm really glad I asked, this answer seems like a game-changer for me!!!

                                2. re: mike2401

                                  Hi Mike & Oliver -

                                  I believe we're on the road to consensus.

                                  160-200 F / 70-95 C = Well cooked Chicken

                                  Using a digital thermometer probe, I can obtain the temperature, as well as the density (soft, medium, hard ) of the cooked chicken.

                                  I find the colander-strainer method clogs, and did not work well. To make stock I use a pot, and a large skimmer, as pictured. That will remove excess fat, bay leaves, vegetables, and all bones.

                                  That same tool is also the best for making Paella, by the way.

                                  If you have the time, then stay with the cooking and stop at 160 F. If you are working, and don't have the time as most of us, then:

                                  1. start your crock or slow cooker on high, and
                                  2. 10-15 minutes later, turn it down to low and let her run.

                                  Our method usually is to steam cook the chicken in a Bräter, or an oval induction roasting pan, remove it when cooked, de-bone it, and then start the chicken stock using the carcass and bones in a large pot. That continues to cook on induction for hours on low setting, 1 or 2.

                                  Between the pan and the pot, much of the fat is removed and poured off.

                                  What is left can be frozen in containers, once cooled, and used later as required.

                                   
                                  1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                    Thanks @SWISSAIRE, is 200 degree chicken considered over-done, or well-done?

                                    1. re: mike2401

                                      way overdone.

                            2. Hey Mike, hope you are learning bunches, some good ideas here. I make stock about twice per week and use damn near anything. Here are a couple of great ideas. Use all the veggie ends with your bones. Strain them in ice cube trays and freeze, cracking out 2-4 for a quick sauce or soup for one. roast the bones and add a bit of chocolate and coffee grounds or coffee for a richer flavor. enjoy

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: CharlesKochel

                                I am learning lots here. Chow Hound has a great community of folks willing to share their knowledge and experiences with newbies (like me!)

                                Thank you everyone!

                              2. I don't see why pouring it would be a mess. I also make stock in my slow cooker and pour it into a large colander (not a strainer and not a sieve) sitting in a large stainless steel bowl, sitting in the sink. I have never had nasty stuff come through the colander's holes. I suspect your problem is that you need other equipment. (I then transfer the strained stock into large Mason jars for refrigeration). In answer to your other question, I do four leg-thigh combos, one onion cut in quarters, and a couple of ribs of celery in a 6-qt slow cooker.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Querencia

                                  Thanks @Querencia, I'm trying to close my eyes and imagine how much the chicken might weigh, relative to my 4 pound family packs (x2)

                                2. I didn't read other people's response, so it is very likely that you have read responses similar to mine.

                                  <Trying to pour the results into a strainer over a smaller pot in the sink was a total mess.>

                                  I like to first use a large ladle to transfer from the initial pot to the final pot (with mesh/cheesecloth to filter). Once the initial pot is light enough, then I will pour the rest.

                                  <if I had a big pot with a built in strainer, I'd be able to lift out the bones & skin>

                                  Many call that a pot with a pasta insert:

                                  http://www.surlatable.com/images/cust...

                                  http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I...

                                  It won't be useful for me because I like to use cheesecloth to do the final filtering.

                                  <1. Is it safe to leave something cooking on a gas stove for 12 or 24 hours?>

                                  The short answer is yes. Of course, it depends a lot of other things. Make sure your cooking area is clean and no risk of paper flying into the stove. Electric stoves are also slightly safer than gas stoves.

                                  <2. Are the holes typically found in the integrated strainers too big? Will I end up with lots of undesirable stuff in my broth?>

                                  For me, yes, but this is a really personal question.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I have a pasta pot with an insert but it's not nearly big enough when I'm making stock. I do what you and others do.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Thanks for the reply.

                                      Wow, that a great pot. Those holes look perfect.

                                      1. re: mike2401

                                        But it doesn't hold much.

                                    2. So funny, as a result of me asking this question on Chow Hound, and the resulting answers and comments, now facebook is hounding me to buy this kitchen gadget:

                                       
                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: mike2401

                                        If our comments and replies are going to result in Facebook hounding any member, I would report it.

                                        Thanks for the alert. Bye all !

                                        1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                          I've turned all that crap off in FB.

                                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                            Maybe hounding is a bit strong. I kinda like targeted advertising. I rather see an ad for something the wise folks here suggested I buy, rather than viagra or mortgage offers!

                                        2. Mike,

                                          I just remember to ask you this. Why do you want to make bone soup again?

                                          <After separating the meat, I tossed everything else back in and let it go for another 10 hours. >

                                          If all you want is just the bone, then couldn't you remove the meat in the beginning and save the meat, or do you really want a bit of everything?

                                          One reason I asked about your quest for bone soup is that many people believe that they can get better collagen. In that case, I recommend you to consider adding chicken feet to your chicken bones. Chicken feet has a great deal of collagen.

                                          Now, if you are thinking more about bone marrow, then I recommend you break/cracking the bone before or during cooking. The bone marrow is inside the bone. It is next to impossible to get them out unless you break open the bone.

                                          Here is a picture of the beef bone marrow for Vietnamese Pho broth. Scroll down:

                                          http://www.steamykitchen.com/271-viet...

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            I make stock with feet, necks and backs. After it's been cooking a few hours (in a stock pot not slow cooker) I break it all up and continue cooking.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              do you use one of those things used when eating crab to break up bones?

                                              1. re: mike2401

                                                No, I use my hands. And I have really weak hands. By the time I do that, they're starting to fall apart anyway.

                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              Great question! And yes, party for the collagen. And yes, I have used chicken feet before (although totally gross), they make it Jell well !!!

                                              I also was hoping the bone broth would be a good source of minerals but I read recently (sorry I don't have the link handy) that there's not as much minerals as you might think!

                                              I never tried, but will it be hard to crack bones for chicken thighs which have been boiled for 2 or 3 hours? Will I end up with bone splinters in the broth? (that idea scares me)

                                              I'm super happy you raised this issue. My primary objective in learning to cook is to eat healthier. Bone marrow sounds like it would be a healthful addition to my diet.

                                              1. re: mike2401

                                                For collagen, I still think a mix of chicken feet will help you.

                                                For bone marrow, you will need to break the bones. You can break them in the beginning or after cooking for awhile. Each have their advantages.

                                                <but will it be hard to crack bones for chicken thighs which have been boiled for 2 or 3 hours?>

                                                This is a really excellent question. Chicken bones actually become much easier to break after you cook the bones for a long time. However, bones after cooking will become more brittle (easier to break) and fragment into sharp pieces. Apparently, this is why it is more dangerous for dogs to eat cooked chicken bones than raw chicken bones. When raw chicken bones break, they don't splitter into sharp pieces as much.

                                                http://bunkblog.net/foods-safe-for-do...

                                                If you are concern of the bone fragments, then I suppose there are two main approaches to this. First, you can cook everything, and then filter the soup with cheesecloth at the very end which I usually do. Second, after you break the cooked chicken bones, you can put it into a cheesecloth bag (same idea as a spice bag). Now, the bone fragments will be contained inside the bag.

                                                http://thegirlbythesea.com/wp-content...

                                                "I put the fresh garden herbs and meat bones into some cheese cloth then tied it closed. I wanted the herb flavor, not the fibers."

                                                http://braswellscookingcorner.files.w...

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  good suggestion re: fragments. Fragments scare me!

                                            3. Try a large pasta pot. The pasta basket will allow you to remove almost everything. You can then strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth. I agree, the pressure cooker is best and quickest. But any method you are comfortable with will be best for you. We use a pasta pot for turkey carcasses as it is large, The resulting brother is jelly like when chilled.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: dcrb

                                                I just find that my pasta pot with strainer doesn't allow me to make as much as I want.