Content of the material
The Ratio and Cooking Time
One of the keys to good stock is simply to not dilute it too much. When I started my tests, I was limited by pot size and dimension, and had to use one pound of chicken per two quarts of water (any more, and I'd overflow my smaller pots). But that produced stocks that were a little too weak.
In subsequent batches, I bumped the chicken up, and found that you want at least two pounds of chicken per two quarts of water, a 1:2 ratio by weight. Ideally, though, you'll add even more chicken: In a large stockpot, I was able to get a full eight pounds of chicken submerged in a gallon (four quarts) of water, which yielded the richest, most flavorful results. For every two quarts of water, I also added at least one large diced onion, two large diced carrots, two ribs of celery, and about four crushed cloves of garlic. A nice tuft of parsley completes it, though fresh thyme and bay leaves are also good to include.
That minimum ratio—a pound of chicken per quart of water—was sufficient to extract enough gelatin from the wings to give me the loosely gelled stock above. If you can pack in even more chicken and aromatics, your stock will only get richer and more gelatinous.
As for time, if you don't cook a stock long enough, you risk not extracting sufficient flavor or gelatin. Cook it too long, though, and you get into a case of seriously diminishing returns. Throughout my testing, I tasted my stocks as they cooked, and I generally found about one and a half hours to be a reasonable endpoint—plenty of time for a flavorful, rich broth, but not so long that it's a major commitment to make it.
Once you've got this basic stock down, you can either stick with it or try some of the more ambitious upgrades that I mentioned above. Just think how badass you'll feel buying chicken feet!
How to Make Chicken Stock
Making chicken stock is actually incredibly easy. Not much is more comforting than walking into a room to the smell of simmering stock on the stove. But for convenience sake, this recipe is just as easily made in a slow cooker or Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, too. To cook in either appliance, start with these steps for the stovetop and get the specific cooking instructions in the recipe box below. (You can also do this with turkey for equally great results.)
Roast your bird. The best time to make chicken stock is after you’ve roasted a chicken or purchased a rotisserie bird from the store. After removing the meat, you’ll want to save the carcass for your stock. Don’t worry about stripping the bones clean—those extra nuggets of leftover meat and connector stuff add flavor. Ideally the bones or carcass from 5-6 pounds of chicken works fine.
Wrangle up the supporting cast. Vegetables and aromatics are two important flavor building blocks for your stock. Bonus? There’s no need to even peel them! Just cut it in half and toss it in, papery skins and all. Cut the larger vegetables into large pieces before adding to the pot.
Simmer down. Add all of your ingredients and water to your stockpot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a gently rolling simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours up to 3 hours. The stock will reduce quicker if you simmer it uncovered, but I like to cover my pot 80% of the way with a lid so the liquid doesn’t evaporate so fast.
Strain and discard. Place a large colander over a Pyrex 4-cup glass measuring cup and slowly drain the stock from the rest of the aromatics. The colander will catch any veggies or bones that may fall from the pot. Next, use a fine-mesh strainer and strain the stock into your next recipe’s soup stockpot. Or, if storing to use later, strain into 1 quart glass canning jars and cool before adding a tight fitting lid (these are my favorite).
Tips for Freezing Stock
- Make sure to leave an inch of space between the stock and the top of the container you’re freezing it in. This allows enough room for the liquid to expand in the freezer.
- Freeze stock in freezer bags, in 4-cup portions, since that’s the amount of stock or broth many soup recipes call for. Fill the bag and lay flat on a shelf until frozen, then stack upright like little chicken stock soldiers.
- If you want to freeze smaller portions of broth for recipes that don’t call for much, ice trays or 1-inch muffin tins are the perfect vessels, and each one is roughly equivalent to 1/4 cup. Tip: These reusable silicone liners will make this a snap.
- Always remember to label and date! And don’t forget, homemade stock will stay good in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- To thaw your stock, simply place it in the fridge 1-2 days before you want to use it.
Arming the Aromatics
Another big question with stock is how to handle the aromatics. It's common to just throw halved onions and big chunks of carrot and celery into the pot. But is that the best way?
To find out, I made a new round of stocks. In one, I added the aromatics straight to the water in large pieces—halved onions and big pieces of carrot and celery. In another, I diced the aromatics and added them straight to the pot of water.
In the third, I diced the aromatics and sautéed them in a neutral oil until they were softened and translucent, then added the water and chicken.
From the photo, you can see that the sautéed aromatics produced the darkest stock (though I should point out that I didn't let them visibly brown at all while sautéing), but they also created a stock with a vegetable flavor that tasted less fresh to me, as if the vegetables had been overcooked to the point of murkiness.
The whole aromatics, meanwhile, made the stock with the least flavor, which suggests that surface area really does make a difference in terms of flavor extraction, even with the extended cooking time of a stock.
The plain boiled diced aromatics tasted the best to me and my fellow tasters, producing a stock that was both clean and flavorful.
Vegetables and herbs for stock
Here are the other ingredients in homemade chicken stock:
Onion, celery and carrot – Again, familiar building-block ingredients in most stocks and many Western dishes. The root vegetables add subtle sweetness as well as a freshness and complexity to the stock.
Cider vinegar – A little vinegar helps extract nutrients from the bone. We only use a splash, you cannot taste it nor does it make the stock discernibly sour at all.
Hi, I’m Nagi! I believe you can make great food with everyday ingredients even if you’re short on time and cost conscious. You just need to cook clever and get creative! Read More
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