Chicken Stock

This tutorial is an excerpt from my book, Much Ado About Chicken. Slight edits have been made for clarity as a post vs. a part of a full book.

Knowing how to make stock is one of the most fundamental building blocks you can have in your kitchen. It takes what might be thrown away (scraps of meat, veggies, bones) and turns it into comforting, healing, golden deliciousness. The stock can then be turned into soups, sauces, braising liquids, and flavor potential for all sorts of things. Thankfully, it is very easy to make. But before I get into the method there is one question we must address: broth or stock?

Broth is made from meat, stock is made from bones (and usually meat, too, for flavor).
Stock draws gelatin out of bones, which gives it soothing, healing properties as well as increases the protein content.

Perpetual Method

In the crock of your slow cooker, put the following:

•Chicken bones (such as a carcass or two from a roasted or butchered chicken. If using raw chicken bones, roast for about 20 minutes at 350° to give more flavor to the stock.)
•Vegetable Scraps (Carrot peels and tops, onion ends, the bottom of celery)
•Herbs (can use the stems from fresh herbs)
•Black pepper corns
•Garlic (a head or two, sliced in half)
•A Tablespoon or two of white wine or sherry vinegar (optional, but adds good flavor and helps to draw gelatin from the bones)
•Water to just barely cover.
•A heavy pinch of good quality salt (not enough to salt it, but will also help pull goodness from the bones)

Place the crock in a out of the way spot, and turn it on low. When you need some stock, take it out and strain through a very fine mesh strainer, or cheese cloth. Replace the water. You must draw and replace water frequently or you will get a slightly off flavor.

Note: only do this with a quality crock, and check the temperature frequently at least the first time to make sure even the center is being kept at a safe temperature. Also, if the crock boils the liquid on low this is not going to work. You need the stock to just barely be simmering.

Change out the bones and scraps every few days, and freeze any leftover stock you have (see below).

Crock Pot Method

Same as the perpetual method, except you make one batch, then strain and use. The time you do is very much up to you; I like about 10-12 hours best as I feel like that gets the most flavor out without having a little bit of an “off” flavor you can get from extended cooking. You can use the bones a few times, but the gelatin will decrease each time, as will the flavor, so I rarely find it worth it.

When done, strain through a heavy cheese cloth and freeze (see below) any stock you will not use within a few days.

Stove Top Method

Same as the crock pot method, but you do it on the stove. Put on the stove and turn on to a setting that will keep it barely simmering. You will have to learn your stove, and probably each burner, to know what settings but start with a fairly low setting and keep an eye on it.

Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer. If you want to be meticulous about particles in your broth (which is a good idea visually if you are doing a soup with a clear, golden broth), use a cheese cloth lined strainer.

Cooling Stock

Putting hot stock in a fridge is a great way to bring down the temperature of everything in it — which takes it into the dreaded “danger zone” where bacteria thrives. If it is cold out, you can take the stock outside (covered please!) and let it cool off quickly. Another option is to put the bowl of strained stock over an ice chest full of ice.

Freezing Stock

You have two options for freezing stock — glass or plastic. Each has pros and cons. I prefer glass to plastic as a general rule of thumb, but sometimes will use plastic for stock.

If using plastic: Use containers that are wider at the top than bottom (such as leftover yogurt or sour cream containers). This allows you to run the stock under water for a few seconds, then pop it into a pan and heat up quickly.

You can also freeze in ice cube trays to later store in ziplock bags for those times you just need a Tablespoon or two.

The last option is plastic baggies. Freeze the stock in plastic baggies that are laid flat in a tray. When thawing be sure to place on something underneath to catch any stock that leaks out.

If using glass: Jars are one of the easiest ways to freeze stock in glass, but there are some things you need to do if you do not want to crack the jars:

•Only fill the jars 2/3 – ¾ of the way full.
•Freeze in straight sided, wide mouth jars. I like pint size mason jars since the sides are completely flat, which makes getting the stock out easier as it does not need to be completely thawed.
•Freeze without the lids, then add the lids later.
•NEVER EVER EVER put the cold glass under hot water. Never. I mean never. That is “How to Break Glass Jars Full of Gorgeous Stock 101.”

Thawing Stock

Thaw stock in the fridge, not at room temperature. If the stock is in plastic, you can run it under cold water for a few seconds to help the frozen block pop out. If the stock is in a completely flat sided glass jar it can be put under cold water once the jar is no longer ice cold. The frozen block can then be put on the stove and will be ready quickly.