***Note: If you haven’t read my post on The Fundamentals of Stock Making, do it now. There’s crucial information you need in order to make stock correctly. This post is purely the method and doesn’t include the hows and whys of proper stock making. For even more info, including what bones to use and where to get them, you can go a step further with Stock vs Broth.***

Let’s get started on our chicken stock. We’ll make it following the fundamentals from the last post. For about 3 quarts of chicken stock, you need:

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs chicken bones
  • 8 oz onion 
  • 4 oz carrots
  • 4 oz celery
  • 10 whole thyme sprigs (or about 4 tsp dried thyme)
  • 10 parsley sprigs (leaves and stems)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 whole peppercorns
  • 1 gallon water
I’d love to tell you how many whole chickens you need in order to make chicken stock but it completely depends on what you do with your chicken bones; do you remove the breast from the bone or cut the breast bone-in? What about the chicken thighs? Was the neck included in the whole chicken you purchased? How much did the whole chicken weigh? Given all the variables, there’s no way I can tell you how many birds to buy.
If the idea of not knowing exactly what you need drives you crazy the only thing I can tell you is… relax. Weigh your bones and if you have 3 lbs instead of 5, make a half batch. If you have 6 lbs, toss your extra pound into the freezer and save it for next time. We’re focusing on the technique instead of the recipe, anyway. Knowing the technique means you won’t have to run to your computer for a recipe every time you want to make stock.

Prep

First, gather your equipment. To get your stock started, you need the following:

  • stock pot
  • cutting board
  • chef’s knife
  • vegetable peeler
  • cheesecloth
  • kitchen twine

When choosing your stock pot, you want one with the smallest circumference possible. Less surface area of liquid means less evaporation so choose a taller, skinny pot rather than a short, fat pot. Short/fat pots will work so you don’t necessarily need to run out and buy new equipment.

Next, chop your veggies. They’re going to cook for several hours so you don’t have to get crazy with the knife skills; cut them into about 1-inch pieces. Discard the peels, skins, and roots from the onion and carrots. Once your veggies are cut, drop them into your stock pot.

Now make your sachet. This step is optional but I recommend it. Cut 2-3 layers of cheese cloth into 8″ to 10″ squares and stack them. Place the thyme, parsley, peppercorns, and bay leaves inside. Pull all the corners up and tie the twine tightly around the little sack so that nothing can get out. Then, cut the excess cheesecloth off the top with some kitchen shears. If you want, you can leave about a foot-long tail of twine and tie it to your stock pot handle so it’s easy to fish out at the end of cooking. Since I’m cheap and I find it pretty easy to fish out the sachet, I don’t see the need in wasting the twine. If you don’t want to make the sachet, you can always toss all the flavorings into the pot naked. The only problem with that is that they get caught into the stuff that floats to the surface so you’ll end up skimming them out.

Last step of prep, rinse your bones in cold water. Some chefs will tell you to rinse, some will tell you not to. I like to rinse them because it gets the blood and extra stuff off them. I’m going to skim that stuff off the surface of the stock anyway so rinsing them now means less stuff to skim. Once rinsed (or not), add your bones to the pot.

Cover with Cold Water

Now, cover all your ingredients with water. Your bones need to be completely covered and about an inch below the water’s surface. Ideally, this will take about a gallon of water but it will vary depending on the size of your stock pot. If it takes more than a gallon to cover the bones by an inch of water, you’re treading into “unsuccessful stock” territory. Too much water means your stock won’t gel like it should and it will probably taste a little bland. If that’s okay with you, go with it. If you plan on ditching the boxed stock and making your own for good, you should probably shop for another stock pot.

If it doesn’t take the whole gallon, that’s fine, too. It means you’ll have a little less final product but it will also be richer. Nothin wrong with that.

Also, if you don’t know why we use cold water, you need to read my last post. Right now.

Simmer Gently

Turn the fire on to no higher than medium. We’re not going to “bring to boil then reduce to simmer.” We’re just gonna simmer. Once the fire is on, check your stock every 15 minutes or so until you see bubbles on the surface. Don’t let it ever boil so reduce the heat, if necessary, to maintain a gentle simmer.

Skim Frequently

You’ll see brownish and foamy bits rise to the surface. Get a spoon and skim that stuff from your stock every 15 minutes or so for the first hour. Skim every 30 minutes or so for the second hour. After that, check it periodically.

Simmer the stock for around 6 hours, total. Add cold water, if necessary, to keep the bones below the surface.

Strain Carefully

After 6 hours, turn the heat off. Grab a ladle and remove all the liquid you can from the pan without disturbing the bones too much. I usually ladle the liquid into my 4qt sauce pan. Don’t transfer it for storage at this point (you’ll see why).

Line a mesh strainer with a couple layers of cheese cloth and strain what’s remaining from your stock pot into your stock. Don’t press the vegetables or sachet to get all the liquid out; the good liquid will drip out on its own.

Cool Quickly

Remember the Food Temperature Danger Zone? Prevent bacteria growth by getting your stock to temperature as quickly as possible. Drop your stock container into an ice bath and stir frequently to chill it quickly. Once it gets to room temperature, move the stock to the fridge and let it chill overnight.

Degrease Completely

As the temperature of your stock drops, the fat will start to rise to the surface. When you let it chill overnight, all the fat will rise and create a layer on top. Remove that layer with a spoon. Sometimes it’ll come out in one, solid piece.

When the fat layer is gone, you should have what looks like “chicken jelly”. This makes me happy. Extremely happy. If you don’t have chicken jelly and your cold stock is liquid-y, you likely didn’t follow the above procedures as they’re written so read them again and determine where you may have skipped a step. If you can’t figure it out, email me and we’ll figure it out together.

Store Properly

I like to freeze the stock I won’t use right away in quart size freezer bags. Don’t go with the flimsy cheap bags; they rip and it’ll ruin your day if that beautiful stock you just made ends up on your floor.

Roll the top of your freezer bag down so the zippy part (technical term) is facing out. This will prevent you from getting the top of the bag dirty, which makes it hard to close. Spoon your cold chicken stock into the bag until it’s almost full. Roll the top back up and seal it, squeezing out as much air as possible. Repeat with the rest of the stock you want to freeze. Lay the filled bags flat on a sheet pan and transfer to the freezer. Make sure your bags are labeled with both the contents and the date (I usually do this before I fill them, one at a time so I don’t label too many). Once your stock is frozen, remove the pan and they’ll store conveniently.

Click here for my complete Chicken Stock recipe (for print or download). Or click in the blog footer for a printable version of the extended directions.

Happy stock making! And join me for my next post as we talk about how to make a brown stock.

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