Donna's Homemade Chicken Stock

Chicken stock was the very first thing I made in my own apartment, in my own kitchen, after leaving home during graduate school.  Nobody in my family ever made it, and I didn't consult any recipes or instructions.  I just grabbed a whole chicken, carrot, onion, celery, and garlic at the store, prepped them and put them in a stock pot and hoped for the best.

That was 26 years ago.

While my methods have evolved over the years and I'm much more confident in the process, really anyone can make chicken stock, regardless of your level of experience as a cook.  And everyone should make chicken stock.  It's delicious, nutritious, and part of Nature's medicine cabinet.  I always keep a couple of quarts in the freezer as a defense against "the crud", especially during cold and flu season.

I am not a professional photographer.  This is a photo of my latest batch of chicken stock, which yielded four quarts.  In the background, from left to right, you will also see: the stem of a meat thermometer, the bowl of my Kitchenaid stand mixer, my coffee pot, and a Lululemon bag someone used to pack their lunch in that day.

I am not a professional photographer.  This is a photo of my latest batch of chicken stock, which yielded four quarts.  In the background, from left to right, you will also see: the stem of a meat thermometer, the bowl of my Kitchenaid stand mixer, my coffee pot, and a Lululemon bag someone used to pack their lunch in that day.

I could go on and on about the benefits of homemade chicken stock (also called "bone broth" - Alton Brown discusses the real difference between stock and broth here): how its amino acids boost the immune system and heal the gut, how the gelatin protects bones and joints, how it supports healthy inflammation levels in the digestive tract. But I'll skip all of that for now.  You can read more about the benefits here.

The Rubber Chicken

I have an overarching principle of frugality that guides my chicken stock process.  Years ago I was inspired by the Rubber Chicken concept, introduced to me by my favorite household management guru, Flylady.  The basic idea is that you cook one chicken and get at least three meals out of it, including a batch of stock.  Now that my children are older and eat more, I often make two chickens, but the concept remains the same, and none of the chicken is wasted.

Why Apple Cider Vinegar?

I add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the stock-making process.  The vinegar helps draw the minerals out from the bones and makes for a more nutritious and flavorful stock.  You get much more bang for your buck by including this important ingredient.

Chicken Feet.  Gross.

Yet I still use them.  Using the chicken feet honors the chicken by not letting any go to waste.  Chicken feet are full of gelatin and, in addition to the apple cider vinegar, help you get much more bang for your buck in the stock making process.  You can ask the butcher at your favorite grocery store if they have any in the back, or consult a local Asian market or family farm.  I get mine from Rosey Ridge Farm.

You Want Chickens Who Lived a Nice Life

Since you are getting the most out of your money in the stock making process, and since the aim is to end up with a high-quality health-boosting stock, I recommend getting the highest quality chicken you can find.  The term you are looking for when you buy your chicken is "pastured" or "pasture-raised".  Unfortunately, "cage free" and "free range" don't mean much in terms of quality care of the chickens.  You can save a little money by watching for sales on pastured chickens and "stocking up" (see what I did there?).  Read more about quality control labels for eggs, meat and dairy, and why you should care, here.

Cinnamon: My Secret Ingredient

Years ago a friend of mine taught me how to make Chicken Alfredo.  I was shocked to see cinnamon listed as an ingredient in the sauce, and delighted to see how well the cinnamon flavor complimented the chicken!  So now I include cinnamon in most of my chicken dishes.  You'll see it appear twice in this line-up.  Don't skip it!  You'll be delightfully surprised!

Step One: Cook the Chicken

This chicken was cooked in my Instant Pot pressure cooker.

This chicken was cooked in my Instant Pot pressure cooker.

I cook my chicken all kinds of ways.

If we are going to have some of the meat as a meal before I make the stock and we want nicely browned skin and a deep roasted flavor, I will place the whole chicken and seasonings in a large cast-iron skillet and roast in the oven at 335 degrees.  You can consult the interwebs yourself for appropriate cooking times depending on the size of your bird.

If I want to save dishes and trouble, I will cook the chicken (with the same seasonings) in the crock pot all day or in my pressure cooker for about half an hour.  While the skin doesn't get nice and crisp this way, the meat does stay quite moist and you have the added benefit of using the same cooking vessel for the stock.  

INGREDIENTS FOR STEP ONE:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) grass fed butter (read about the benefits of grass fed butter here)

The following seasonings to taste: sea salt, ground black pepper, ground cinnamon, dried marjoram, dried thyme, chopped garlic

One 6" - 8" rosemary sprig

INSTRUCTIONS FOR STEP ONE:

  • Rub some of the butter along the bottom of your cooking vessel (cast iron skillet, casserole dish, crock pot, or pressure cooker liner)
  • Remove the giblet bag from the inside of the chicken.  You can add the giblets to the stock later, although that often yields a stronger flavor that some find unpleasant.  You can add the giblets to your pet's food or find another use for them such as giblet gravy.
  • Place the chicken in the cooking vessel breast side up and rub the rest of the butter all over the carcass of the chicken, getting as much under the skin of the breast as possible.  *Since I find this step to be gross, I use these latex gloves.
  • Season the chicken with the seasonings listed, in whatever amounts and proportions you prefer.  I never measure this.  I just go by how it looks.
  • Place the rosemary sprig inside the carcass of the chicken.
  • Bake the chicken in the oven at 335 for the appropriate amount of time for the size of your bird, or in the slow cooker for about six hours, or in the pressure cooker (on high pressure, on a trivet, with a cup of water in the bottom of the pot, for six minutes per pound of chicken, plus an additional two minutes).  If you have an Instant Pot pressure cooker, you can use the "saute" function to brown the outside of the chicken first.  But I am too lazy to do that.

ENJOY SOME OF THE CHICKEN

If eating some of the meat off the chicken after it's cooked is part of your meal plan, then it's dinner time.   If you are serving the whole roast chicken to your family, keep in mind that you are going to need as much of the skin, cartilage, bone, etc. from the chicken as you can salvage in order to make the stock.  I recommend cutting the meat off the chicken and serving it that way so that you have all or most of the carcass to use for your stock.  

Step Two: Making the Stock

You may have to go through a lot of trial and error before your stock-making process is seamless.  You'll need tools specific to your own kitchen and methods of cooking.  I will share with you what has made my stock-making process easier for me.

The fully cooked chicken stock in my Instant Pot pressure cooker, before straining.  You can see that I used the leaves and all from the celery.

The fully cooked chicken stock in my Instant Pot pressure cooker, before straining.  You can see that I used the leaves and all from the celery.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE STOCK

  • one whole chicken carcass - all or most of the bones, skin, cartilage, and perhaps some small bits of meat
  • chicken feet
  • 1-2 tbsp sea salt or himalayan pink salt
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig (about 6-8" in length)
  • 1-2 whole dried bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 whole small yellow or white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 medium carrot sticks, scrubbed and cut in half
  • 2 celery stalks, scrubbed and cut in half (you can leave the leaves and such on)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (look for "with the Mother" on the label; we use Bragg's)
  • Several cups of filtered water (depending on the size of your stock vessel)

INSTRUCTIONS

If you did not debone your chicken as part of a meal after cooking it, debone it now.  Get almost all of the meat off of the bones (although it's okay to leave some, as it does lend some flavor to the stock) and store the meat separately for a future meal. I use those handy dandy latex gloves in this process as well.

Place the entire carcass (bones, skin, cartilage, any small bits of meat, plus the chicken feet) into your stock vessel (can be a stock pot on the stove top, your crock pot, or your pressure cooker).

Add all of the remaining ingredients, then add the filtered water to fill the cooking vessel.

COOKING METHODS:

  • To cook on the stovetop: place a lid on the stock pot and turn the heat on the lowest setting.  Cook the stock for 24 - 48 hours, checking frequently for any evaporated liquid and replenishing with more water if necessary.  
  • To cook in the crock pot: cover and cook on low for 24 - 48 hours.
  • To cook in the pressure cooker: Cook on high pressure for 120 - 240 minutes.  *I only have experience with my electronic pressure cooker, the Instant Pot.  It makes beautiful stock.  I do not have experience making stock in a stove top pressure cooker.

After the stock has cooked, let cool for an hour or so, covered, then strain.  

The straining part is where you'll need to have the right tools for the job or it will take longer than it needs to.  I put a giant stainless steel bowl in my sink, then place a rectangular sink-length colander over the bowl.

My stock-straining contraption helps me strain and store the stock in seconds flat.

My stock-straining contraption helps me strain and store the stock in seconds flat.

I also get four quart-sized mason jars ready on the counter near the sink, and have lids cleaned and ready to go.  I have a canning funnel set up in one of the jars, which makes pouring the stock into the jar much easier.

canning funnel

Using pot holders, lift the vessel with the stock and pour through the colander into a large stainless steel or glass bowl.  Let the colander sit over the bowl for a couple of minutes to finish draining.  Have a trash can nearby.  When the colander is done draining into the bowl, lift and dump the contents into the trash.

Lift the bowl (using a towel to protect your hands if the bowl has gotten too hot) and begin pouring the stock into the quart jar with the canning funnel.  Once the jar fills, place the canning funnel over the next jar and repeat the process.  Depending on the size of your cooking vessel, you should have about four quarts of stock.  Repeat to fill all jars, then secure the lids tightly on each jar.

chicken stock.jpg

***When I have all of my supplies set up and ready to go, then I am able to strain the stock, discard the carcass, pour the stock into the jars, put the lids on, and leave to cool in less than two minutes.  

After the jars are full and the lids are on tightly, leave the jars to cool for an hour or so, then place in the refrigerator.  You may hear the lids "pop".  This means the heat from the stock has caused the jars to seal.  This does NOT mean you can just leave the jars out and store them in your pantry!  This was not a full canning process.  You MUST store the chicken stock under refrigerated conditions.

The stock will be good in your refrigerator for a week or so (maybe more, but I don't like to leave mine there for more than a week).

You can also freeze the stock for several months.  After it has cooled overnight in the refrigerator, transfer the stock to quart-sized freezer bags or other plastic containers (I reuse plastic yogurt containers - they are perfect).  Make sure to label the containers with "chicken stock" and the date.

That's it!  You can sip on the chicken stock by itself, or turn it into any number of types of soup, or use as a base for gravies, sauces, and casserole dishes.  I use it for all of the above.  We also keep some on hand to give away to friends who are feeling under the weather.  Who doesn't love a gift of homemade chicken stock?

Have questions about this recipe?  Email me at donna@parkcitiesyoga.com.