Tuesday, September 22, 2009

That Monthly Thing and Chicken Stock

Every month it's the same old thing.. right around the 3rd week of the month.

I check my supplies in the cupboard to make sure I have everything I need.

And then, on a morning just like today I start.

To make chicken stock.

Um.. what did you think this post was about? Didn't you read the header?

To review:

Once a month I give you a very basic kitchen lesson. This month is chicken stock.

Everyone thinks making their own chicken stock is too hard or too time consuming. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is one of the cheapest and easiest things to do. Little to no tending is required. In fact, you can put it into your crock pot in the morning, leave for the day and by the time you get home in the evening have a beautiful, rich chicken stock that cost you pennies to make. In addition, your stock will be free of all the sodium and additives of purchased broth or stock. You can freeze it in any amount you desire and it will keep for an entire year.

The stock we are going to make today uses a whole chicken - because I want to make chicken soup out of it. You can use just bones if you wish. Using just bones will give you a nice broth that you can use in recipes calling for the addition of chicken broth. For an even richer broth, you can roast the bones before cooking them in liquid. This is called a browned or roasted broth.

Now, the million dollar question. What is the difference between stock and broth? These days the terms are used interchangeably. In the strictest sense of the word, a stock is more full flavored than a broth. Most soups start with a stock, while a broth may be added as a cooking liquid in the preparation of other foods.

Homemade Chicken Stock:

One 3 to 4 pound chicken, cut into pieces (you can buy the chicken in pieces or buy a whole one that you cut up yourself. The most inexpensive way to go is buy a whole fryer, on sale, and cut it up yourself. This is not hard to do especially if you have kitchen shears.

Cut the chicken in half through the breast. Spread it out and cut out the back bone. Cut the thighs away, cut the wings away. There you have it. Discard the giblets or cook separately for the dog. Do NOT use the liver, heart or gizzard in your stock. They will make the stock bitter.

Now. You have the chicken.

You will need:

2 carrots (washed and unpeeled)
2 ribs celery (washed and leaves on)
1 onion (quartered, not skinned)
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch parsley

Put the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf and parsley in a large pot (or crock pot) cover with cold water and bring to just a simmer. DO NOT BOIL. Boiling releases bitter proteins from the bones that will turn your stock cloudy and somewhat bitter. You want gentle bubbles that just break the surface. A crock pot placed on low setting is perfect.

Notice we did not add any salt, pepper or other seasonings to the pot. NEVER season your stock when you are making it. You want a pure, unadulterated stock. You can season it when you use it. And you never know how you are going to use it!

Simmer the pot for 2 to 3 hours or if using a crock pot all day. Skim any foam from the top that may form. It will be very little if you are simmering at a gentle pace. You don't have to do anything else. Just let it cook. Take a nap, read a book, clean the house (yuck) but don't worry about your stock. It is doing its thing now go do yours.

When stock is done simmering, scoop out the chicken pieces and let cool. Debone. You can use this chicken for soup, chicken salad or whatever. Scoop out the vegetables and discard. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the stock into another pot.

If you're in a hurry at this point, use this cook's trick to defat. Take an ice cube and holding it between your fingers skim the surface of the stock. Any fat will congeal on the ice cube. Do this a few times with a new ice cube and voila, your stock is defatted.

Now you can use this stock anyway you wish. I usually freeze in mason jars (leave 1 inch head room) and defrost as needed. I also freeze some in an ice cube tray. When frozen solid, pop out the cubes from the tray and put in a zip lock bag. One cube is 1/8th. cup. Two cubes is a quarter cup - when a recipe calls for a 1/4 cup chicken broth, just pop out a cube or two. No waste with those cans or cardboard boxes...

If you're going to make chicken soup:

2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 onion, diced
chicken, cubed
Noodles, rice or white beans

Saute the carrots, onions and celery until soft.

This is called your mire poix. It is the flavor base for soup. Every culture has their own mire poix. For instance, in Mexico, the mire poix may consist of peppers or chiles, onions and tomatoes. In France, a white mire poix omits the carrots and may use mushrooms.

When the vegetables are soft, add your stock. Add chicken and bring to simmer. If you want to add peas or corn or whatever do that now.

Cook your noodles, rice or beans (unless canned) separately - then add to soup. I can't tell you how many students have wanted to add the noodles or rice right to the soup. Uh, no. The rice or beans would absorb all the stock and the uncooked noodles, rice or beans would add so much starch to the soup it would be uneatable.

So to repeat. COOK your rice, noodles or beans (unless canned) separately, then add to the soup. If using canned beans, drain and rinse.

Warm all the way through. NOW taste for seasoning. Add salt, pepper or whatever to taste.

That's the monthly lesson. Hope you learned something new. Now I've got to start my stock.

Bon Appetite.


  1. yummmmm

    why didn't I read this before going out to do my grocery shopping?!?!?! oh well, I don't have a big enough pot anyway... I'll try and improvise on smaller rations some other week...

    Here's a question: what' a crock pot?

  2. Another reason I don't cook? That pic with the scissors totally gave me the willies.

  3. CrazyCris: a crock pot is an electric pot that slow cooks food.

    Captain: As long as you don't run with scissors they are somewhat safe.

  4. I love homemade stock... and were it not for the handy-dandy crock pot my family would rarely be fed!

    P.S. The taco soup was excellent last night!

  5. My mother in law makes a good chicken stock, but I probably wouldn't attempt to make it on my own. I'd probably forget something. Like the chicken.

  6. Kathy B: Glad you liked the taco stoup! Crock Pot's = God's gift to busy moms!

    Badass - your MIL would not happen to be Jewish would she? No one makes a chicken stock (or soup) quite like a Jewish MIL!

  7. Kathy - thank you. What a nice thing to say. I love teaching.

  8. Good advice and recipe! I make my own, too(most of the time!).

  9. Buffalo - thanks. When I make stock I make a huge batch and freeze, freeze, freeze... economy of scale is my motto. Why do things twice when I can just get a bigger pot!


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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