One recipe I make often is homemade chicken stock. Not only is it easy to make, it’s delicious and a great way to save money on your groceries. When you are finished you will have the golden broth and tender chicken to use in so many recipes. I’ve been making chicken stock like this for years and it’s the basis of lots of our favorite meals.
You can use the stock to make soups, stews, risotto, sauces, and more. You probably already buy stock to use for a lot of dishes and this is a great way to save some money. It’s easy to freeze in large or small containers for a variety of recipes. I’ll even drink a mug of hot chicken stock when I’m feeling under the weather and it’s so comforting.
“Be resourceful” is a phrase my high school algebra teacher used every day in class. I say it nearly every day myself! My kids joke that they will have it carved on my headstone. Making chicken stock is one of the most resourceful things you can cook. Often the only thing I need to buy is a whole chicken to make a gallon of stock. You can easily make 2 or 3 meals with that.
In my freezer I keep a ziplock bag of onion ends and skins, ends cut off of celery, odd bits of carrots, and those garlic cloves that are too small and fiddly to mess with. Whenever I make chicken stock, I pull out that bag and add a bunch of those vegetables to the pot. What would normally be wasted is turned into a delicious thing!
Chicken Stock Recipe
- A whole chicken
- 1 onion, unpeeled and quartered, or equivalent pieces of ends and skins
- 1 stalk of celery or equivalent ends and pieces
- 1 large carrot or equivalent ends and pieces
- 1 head of garlic broken into cloves
- Dried or fresh herbs
Put the chicken, vegetables, and seasonings in a large pot. Ideally you would have a stash of vegetable trimmings in the freezer to use. I usually add about a tablespoon of salt. You can add less or wait to salt it at the end if you prefer. Add water just to cover. I use filtered water but tap water is fine too.
Ideas on Seasonings
As far as dried herbs go, I usually use a good teaspoon or so of one or two herbs. This is a great way to customize your stock. If you are making it for a specific recipe you can change the herbs to suit that dish. When I’m making a Mexican style soup I’ll use Mexican oregano, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds. An Italian soup would would be great with basil, oregano, and extra garlic in the stock. For basic stock I use rosemary and thyme.
Cooking the Stock
Bring the pot to a simmer over medium-low heat. Adjust the heat so there are small but steady bubbles on the surface. You don’t want to let it really boil, a gentle simmer is best. After about 45 minutes check to see if the chicken is tender. The best way to do this is to test the leg. Using tongs, wiggle the leg to see how loose it is. If you can pull the bone out or the leg separates from the thigh then the chicken is done. If not then simmer it for 15 or 20 minutes longer.
When the chicken is tender, carefully lift it out and set it on a plate or dish to cool. You can pull out the bones at this point and add them back to the stock if you want. I usually keep simmering the broth to reduce it a bit and get more flavor from the bones and vegetables. It’s also fine to take it off the heat and let it cool a bit. This is a very flexible recipe.
Finishing the Chicken Stock
I know these are not the most appetizing photos to look at. You just have to trust the process and go for it. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take the meat off the bones and set it aside for soup or however you want to use it. You can return the bones and joints back to the stock and simmer a few hours longer if you want a stronger stock.
When the stock has cooked as long as you like, let it cool a bit and strain it into a bowl. Throw out the vegetables and bones you strained out of the stock. This may feel wasteful but all the goodness has been cooked out of them and into the stock. Also if you used vegetable scraps you’ve already used somthing that would otherwise be thrown out. Let the stock cool before storing or use immediately in a recipe.
Storing the Chicken Stock
It’s very important to let it cool down before refrigerating so it doesn’t spoil or spoil anything in your fridge. Putting a big pot of hot liquid in your fridge can raise temperature enough to spoil other perishable food. A good way to cool it down is to set the bowl down in a sink of ice water and stir the stock until it’s cool. If I have planned ahead, I chill the chicken stock overnight so the fat hardens up and can easily be removed.
For long term storage I freeze the stock in jars, freezer bags, or containers. If you use a glass mason jar be sure to leave about two inches of space so the jar won’t break when the stock expands. A wide mouth jar is best for this since the liquid can expand easier. Often I’ll leave the lid off until it’s frozen then put the lid on nice and tight. It’s handy to freeze it in small quantities for specific recipes. Usually I portion it into 2 cup and 4 cup amounts. This is perfect for sauces and soups.
Another Stock Option
You don’t need a whole fresh chicken to make a delicious stock. I always save bones from roasted chickens in the freezer and when I have several I make a pot of stock. This is sometimes called found stock and is elite-level resourcefulness since it’s made entirely of something you would otherwise toss. This won’t be as rich as stock from a whole chicken but it will be delicious. If it’s not flavorful enough for your preference, boil it down to reduce it. Use it just like store-bought or whole chicken stock.