Making Great Chicken Stock

Since we started raising meat chickens a couple years ago I’ve been roasting whole chickens on a regular basis.  At first I was just throwing the leftover bones away but I quickly realized that I needed to learn how to make chicken stock.  I had tried it once or twice before but it seemed like too big of an ordeal to bother with.  Once I had a steady supply of chicken bones and other leftovers it only made sense to use them.

Now I’m a complete convert.

Great chicken stock is the base for great cooking.  It’s as simple as that.

Chicken stock is easy to make- Boil some bones in water, throw in some veggies, strain, reduce, use.

Fine Mike, but how much?  How long?

Don’t worry, I’m going to break down how I go about making a great chicken stock.

Chicken stock ingredients

I collect chicken leftovers in the freezer until I have enough to do a large batch.  I got myself a great big (4 gallon I think) stock pot so I could do great big batches of stock.  I usually wait until I have about eight carcasses or so.  You can scale the amount of stock you are making to whatever size you like.

Set some time aside to make stock though, it’s an all day affair.

Chicken feet

Chicken feet ?!? What the hey!!

See that up there in the pot?  Chicken feet.  I know they look kind of creepy but it’s the secret to great chicken stock.

I know, I know, eeew, gross, how could you? Why would you?

Because chicken feet make chicken stock great.  Seriously, chicken feet are full of collagen, the material that makes connective fibers.  Collagen, when you cook it slowly at a low heat breaks down into gelatin.  Gelatin is what gives stock the rich smooth mouth feel that makes you wonder “How come their soup always comes out better than mine?”  Well they probably made stock with stuff that had a lot of collagen in it.

Convinced?

Where would I get these feet?

Try a butcher, not the guy in the white coat at the supermarket but a real butcher who actually cuts up animals.  Try Chinatown, the Mexican carniceria, ask at the farmer’s market, grow your own chickens…get creative.  Trust me you want them.

Anyhow, back to our stock.  I break down the carcasses of eight chickens and throw them into the pot then I add the feet and necks (another collagen goldmine) from eight chickens that I have saved from butchering day.

You don’t want to add any organ meat but other meat scraps or trimmings are fine.  You can add some salt now or do it to taste at the end.  I don’t generally add any salt because my leftovers are from roasted chickens and there is enough salty rub to season the stock.

Fill the pot up with cold water.  Make sure you have enough space to throw in some vegetables after the bones have been cooking for a while.

Put the pot on the stove and start heating it.  The idea is to bring it up to a very low boil and then turn it down to a simmer.  A simmer means- blurp… a bubble came up…a few seconds pass…blurp… there’s another bubble.

Slow and low is what we’re after here.

Let the bones simmer uncovered for 4-5 hours.

If the liquid level drops below the bones just add more water.

There will probably be some funky foamy stuff on the top.  Just skim it off occasionally.

Mirepoix While the bones are simmering, prepare your mirepoix, that’s french for chopped up onion, celery and carrots.  Just chop them into 1/2″ pieces.  The more evenly they’re cut up the more evenly they will cook but don’t pull out a ruler or anything.

pot w/ veggiesAfter 4-5 hours the connective tissues will be pretty much broken down.  Now you can put in the veggies and cook it for another hour.  If you want to put in any herbs like bay leaf, thyme or whatever you like now would be the time.  If you want to be fancy, tie it in a bundle with some cotton string and drop your sachet in.  I usually don’t add herbs.  I want a base that I can take in any direction later.

First straining

Look at that concentration!

After the stock has cooked for an hour with the veggies it’s time to strain it.  I do it in two passes.  first it goes through a colander to get all the major stuff separated out.  All the bones and junk go into my compost.

Second strainingThe second time I run it through a cloth to strain out the little stuff.  At this point I’ve used every pot I own to do all the back and forth pouring.

Now you have chicken stock.  Congratulations, you worked hard and it looks good.

We’re not going for good chicken stock though, we’re going for great chicken stock.  You’re not done.

Return the pot of stock to the stove and bring it back to a boil.  Now you can boil it vigorously.  Some people say you should never boil stock because you don’t want to stir up impurities but I figure you’ve been skimming and straining very conscientiously.  We want to reduce it’s volume by a third and we’ve been at this for a while so go ahead and boil away.  This will really intensify the flavor and add body to your stock.

finished stockHere is the finished stock starting to cool.  It’s really intensely flavored and will actually look like a jelly at room temperature (thanks gelatin!).

chicken stock containers

Do you like my super re-used lids?

The only thing left now is to pack it up and store it.  I like to put it in yogurt containers and mark the date.  I’ll stick it them in the fridge first.  Once they have cooled off completely I spoon off any excess fat from the top if there is any and then freeze them.  If I want to make soup I’m most of the way done.  Just defrost it and go!

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Here’s where else we are showing our Chicken Stock at:

 Hearth-n-Soul blog hop

Somewhat Simple

A Glimpse Inside

Tidy Mom

Lady Bird Lane

Chic On A Shoestring Decorating

Tip Junkie

Creative Blog

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29 Comments

  1. heidi
    Posted November 1, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Yum!! Maybe you can sell chicken feet as an added side business.  With this awesome post, they should be in demand now.  (I want soup!)

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      I can see it now: The chicken foot master of Santa Fe, Chick’n Feet R Us, Soupfoot.com…

  2. Michael's Mom
    Posted November 1, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    This process is so familiar!  I’m not trying to grab the credit here, because adding chicken feet is a  brilliant new twist.  But when you were a kid, I did this with all kinds of bones — not mixed but one type at a time:  beef stock, lamb stock, turkey stock, chicken stock….  I still do!  The resulting gels contribute to awesome gravies and sauces as well as soups.  One caution, however:  allow some time for the stock to cool some before putting it in plastic containers.  The hotter the liquid, the more likely it is to leach unsavory chemicals out of the plastic, and any fat content in the stock can get much hotter than boiling water.  If lukewarm, no problem.

  3. Posted November 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    We call it “Nikogori” – the jelly like meat stock. Cut it up and add it in the dumpling or something. You can make super juicy meaty dumplings!  mmmm yum.

    • Posted November 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Can you say guest post/video all about dumplings? Thanksgiving?!

  4. Posted November 1, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Hey! I’ve been enjoying stock made with your chicken’s feet for months now!! Just can’t let the kids see me making it — the feet gross them out too much. So…I’d love to know more about what you do with that gelatinous stock — I haven’t been that orderly, just made it and stuck it in the freezer, whether thick or thin, so do you add water to use for soup? Recipes! Recipes!

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      I usually don’t thin the stock.  I just add whatever’s in the fridge and call it soup.  I’m sure some recipes will find their way here as they emerge.

  5. Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    What a great recipe this is! It’s so informative! I would absolutely love it if you would share this on Frugally Sustainable: http://frugallysustainable.blogspot.com/2011/11/ginger-stir-fry-remedy-for-congestion.html I am hosting a linky for foods that heal and I think this would be perfect:) Btw…I’m loving your blog!

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks!  I’m headed over now…

      • Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable
        Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Awesome:) And I think I fixed your link:) Check it out to be sure! And thanks for the heads-up on the email button…I’ll get right on that!

        • Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

          I think you fixed it because we got lots of referrals from you yesterday. Appreciate that!!

          • Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

            You got me!  I came over from Andrea’s website!  I absolutely LOVE this recipe and can’t wait to try it.  And I’m not at all intimidated by the chicken feet ;-)  I have 3 laying hens, but don’t yet have the space for the meat birds.  One day, though!  Thanks for a great tutorial, I’m bookmarking this for sure!

  6. Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I have to ask – how much freezer space do you guys have?  This looks delicious but I’m freezer/fridge limited when  it comes to making some of this stuff, haha.

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Molly made me stop at three. We’ve got the freezer that’s part of our fridge. We started buying a cow each year and splitting it 3 ways a few years ago which fills up a small chest freezer. So we got a 3/4 size upright one last year. They’re all full right now! I can’t cook anymore food in bulk till we eat some of what we’ve got!

      • Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        I made you?  HA! HA! HA!
        I just suggested that anymore freezers and we will really seem like the junkiest house in the neighborhood.

  7. Steve C Haines
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Michael,After cooking the stock with vegetables, we like to squish all the vegetables through a chinois into the stock before straining.  This way you get more of the vegetable goodies.
    Steve

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Steve! You made it!!!

    • Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Good Idea!
      But where the hell am I going to store a chinois?  I’m going to have to build an addition to the kitchen for all my gear.

      • Michael's Mom
        Posted November 4, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        What do you use to make applesauce?  I used a potato ricer, back in the day, and that’s what I’d use to smoosh cooked veggies, if not a large strainer or small colander.  Remember the item in our kitchen which looked like a saucepan but had holes in it?  That would be perfect, and it stacks with saucepans for storage.  I’ve never seen another one like it — it came from your Philly grandparents.  Maybe you’ll stumble across one at a flea market.

  8. Betsy Warren
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I assume that if you wanted broth, not stock, that you would bottle it up without the last measure of boiling and reducing?

    • Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      I prefer the concentrated version but either way will be delicious.

  9. Posted November 6, 2011 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    This is such an interesting post, and a really comprehensive tutorial! I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to actually use chicken feet, but that’s just me! Thank you for sharing this excellent post with the Hearth and Soul hop. 

  10. 101centavos
    Posted November 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    The hard part for us non-chicken-keepers is no doubt getting hold of eight carcasses.

    • Posted November 8, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      Precisely why you need to become a chicken keeper!

      It can also be fun to go on searches for food that’s not readily available at the grocery store. I went on a pork belly safari last summer. The guys at the Carniceria were very nice to this gringo and did their best to understand my 7th grade Spanish. After 3 stores I found my pork belly connection and had new options for sourcing ingredients that I had never considered before.

  11. Posted November 8, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Ewww, you lost me at “chicken feet.”

    • Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Embrace the feet. They’re here to nourish you.

  12. Posted June 2, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I make turkey stock with store bought turkey wings. Pretty much the same way but not with turkey feel! Love this idea. I’d heard about not boiling the stock, but glad to know you can do that at the end to condense everything. 

    I will definitely look for chicken feet. I live in rural Kentucky and am sure I can find a source. 

    • Posted June 3, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      Asking at farmer’s markets is a good place to start.  Once you start looking you’ll probably find a few people who process their own chickens.  

  13. Beverly
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    How do you clean the feet before using? Hope you don’t have to scrub them — that would mean touching them!

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