Chicken stock is a reliable pantry staple that can be used to add richness, complexity and nutrients to many recipes. While store-bought chicken stock is ubiquitous and works just fine in recipes that don’t call for much of it (or bouillon cubes when you’re in a real pinch), no one can deny that homemade chicken stock adds something special to soups, gravies, and risottos. It’s pure liquid gold.
An additional perk about homemade chicken stock is that it utilizes scraps that would normally go into the compost or garbage and gives them a second life. The prep is simple (no chopping is even required) and the cooking time is hands off!
Is a whole chicken or roasted bones better for making homemade stock?
Many recipes call for using whole, raw chickens in chicken soup or stock. However, after making many, many, many batches of chicken soup, I am convinced that using the carcass and bones left over from a roasted or rotisserie chicken delivers a much richer, more flavorful stock.
So, we’ll start by roasting a chicken. (you can also pick up a 5-6 lb rotisserie chicken if you’re short on time).
1. Roast your bird. (we love Thomas Keller’s recipe as well as this Herbed Faux-tisserie Chicken)
2. Remove the meat (perhaps while having lunch or dinner) and save the carcass for your stock. You don’t have to lick the bones clean—little nuggets of meat, connective tissue, and skin are all fine to add in to your stock.
3. Add the carcass to a large soup pot. I use one that is 4 quarts and that produces about 9-10 cups of stock. If you’re not making stock on the same day that you roast a chicken, you can freeze the carcass or other chicken bones, then pull it out of the freezer when you’re ready to make stock, no need to thaw it first.
4. Add vegetables and aromatics. The secret to a good Jewish chicken soup is lots of parsley and dill! A good bunch of each. When adding vegetables to the pot, there’s no need to peel them, even the whole head of garlic! 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, if they won’t fit.
Veggies I always use:
A whole head of garlic cut in half
Optional: Parsnip or leeks
Herbs and aromatics I always include:
Fresh Italian parsley
Black peppercorns (Use 6 peppercorns. If you add too many the stock will be extra spicy.)
5. Add water. You don’t want to dilute your stock, otherwise it will be weak in flavor. Make sure the carcass and veggies are covered by at least an inch or two of water, or between 12-20 cups of water (that’s at least 3 quarts or up to 5 quarts) and will fit into a large pot with a lid, and won’t overflow when it boils. I typically use about 16 cups of water for my 4 qt pot.
6. Simmer. Once all of your ingredients and water are in your pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce to a gently rolling simmer for at least 2 hours up to 3 hours. If you see any foam, skim it off, but typically foam is only an issue if you use a raw chicken.
7. Reduce. Your 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. More evaporation = more concentrated flavor.
8. Taste. The real test for knowing when your stock is done is by taste. Sample your stock as you cook and look for it to be a rich, amber color. Add 1/2 teaspoon more kosher salt at a time if needed to enhance the chicken flavor. Once your stock passes the taste test, turn off the heat and let it cool.
9. Let it rest overnight. This is another practice that might not be necessary, but I think it helps the flavors meld together better. I let my pot cool, I put the lid on (don’t touch a thing), and I stick it in the fridge overnight.
10. Strain. After it’s cooled in the fridge overnight, take out your soup pot to the counter. Place a large colander over a Pyrex 4-cup glass measuring cup or have a friend hold the colander over a large bowl and slowly drain the stock from the rest of the aromatics so the colander catches any veggies or bones that may fall from the pot. Then, use a fine-mesh strainer and strain the stock into another pot, or mason jars to use later.
How Long Does Chicken Stock Stay Good In the Fridge?
Homemade stock will stay good in the fridge for 5-7 days. Signs it’s time to discard are when the stock smells funky … you’ll know.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a jello-looking substance in your stock. It’s just collagen rendered from the chicken bones, and it also helps preserve the stock while in the refrigerator.
Tips for Freezing Stock
Make sure to leave enough room for the liquid to expand in the freezer. You can freeze stock in freezer ziplock bags. 4-cup portions is usually a good portion size for soups, etc. Fill the bag and lay flat on a shelf until frozen, then stack them however they fit in your freezer. Don’t forget to write the expiration date on the bag, 6 months from the day it’s made (more or less).
Carcass from a 5-6 pound roasted chicken
5 carrots unpeeled (cut in half to make them fit better)
4 ribs celery (cut in half to make them fit better)
2 yellow onions (whole)
1 head of garlic unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
1 bunch of fresh dill
6-8 whole black peppercorns
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
Add the chicken carcass or bones, carrots, celery, whole onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add cold water, covering the chicken and veggies by at least 1-2 inches—about 16 cups of water for a 4 qt pot. Add the parsley and dill on top of the water (they will cover everything).
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a lightly rolling simmer and cook partly covered for 2 to 3 hours or until the stock is amber brown and tastes well flavored and at the concentration you like. Add more salt to taste if necessary.
Turn off the heat and allow the stock to cool. Place in the fridge and let it sit overnight.
Take the stock out of the fridge using a large colander over a bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, slowly drain the stock from the rest of the aromatics so the colander catches any veggies or bones that may fall from the pot. Then, use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the stock into another pot or into mason jars for later. It should be golden / amber colored and sparkly. Enjoy!