Chicken stock is one of those things I just sort of assume everyone knows how to make—except, of course, I realize that’s not the case.
Often, I’ll use canned (or rather, boxed) chicken broth in my recipes, particularly if just a cup or less is called for. I follow the recommendation of Cook’s Illustrated and prefer Swanson’s Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth. But some recipes, like risotto or soup, demand a really good stock that’s full of flavor. And that’s when I turn to homemade stock.
Broth or stock? The distinction between the two is a bit murky. But the difference, far as I can tell, is in the preparation: Stock is made with bones, while broth is made with meat (so, think whole chicken vs. boneless chicken breast). Some definitions say that stock is “built” with bones and vegetables that have been roasted, giving a deeper flavor. For the sake of simplicity here, I’ll refer to this recipe as chicken stock, as it begins with bone-in chicken pieces.
On a recent Sunday, I roasted a whole Amish chicken along with blue potatoes, carrots and thyme. (This reminds me: I need to post my basic roast chicken recipe, which means I need to make it again soon. Ah, me.) The next day, I removed the rest of the meat from the bones and tossed the remains into a stock pot along with a handful of simple vegetables and water. Two hours later: stock.
There’s a certain inexactitude to this recipe for homemade chicken stock. But don’t be put off by that; really, this is almost impossible to mess up. Leave the vegetables unpeeled (do wash them, please). If you have other half-used vegetables in the fridge, feel free to add them: For this batch, I had half a red bell pepper that was going soft, so into the pot it went; other times, I’ve added leftover tomato. Go light on the salt, as you’ll season your dish when you cook with the stock later. Ideally, you’ll simmer this for 2 hours, but if you’re pressed for time, then a briefer cooking time is fine (the longer stock simmers, the more its flavor intensifies). You’ll notice that as it cools, the stock takes on the texture of soft gelatin. This stock keeps very well in the freezer; just portion out two to four even quantities into a zip-top freezer bag or plastic freezer container.
homemade chicken stock
(makes about 8 cups, give or take)
bones and skin from 1 whole roasted chicken (or 4 lb. chicken wings)
1 carrot, halved
1/2 large onion, halved
2 stalks celery, halved
handful of fresh parsley or parsley stems
1 bay leaf
10 whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
8 to 10 cups cold water
Place chicken bones and skin in a large stock pot; add vegetables, peppercorns, bay leaf and salt. Cover with cold water (you want the water to just cover the ingredients in the pot). Bring to a boil, then skim and discard any foam that accumulates on the surface. Reduce heat to a consistent simmer and let cook, uncovered, for about 2 hours, until the stock is deeply fragrant and slightly reduced. Let cool, then pour the liquid through a mesh colander or strainer into a large bowl; press firmly on the solids with a spoon to extract all the flavor. If you’d like to reduce the fat, cover and refrigerate overnight and remove the solid layer that rises to the surface. Refrigerate for several days or freeze up to 6 months.