Homemade Chicken Stock
Making homemade chicken stock is a super simple, versatile skill to have in your kitchen tool belt. In fact, if I had to pick just one frugal habit that consistently saves a significant amount of grocery money, while delivering a superior product, making homemade chicken stock would be it.
If you are on a tight budget, trying to figure out how to cut back on expenses, food is a tough category. Your family is probably kind of attached to the whole 3-meals-a-day routine and beans & rice only get you so far. To make those grocery dollars stretch as far as possible, try this: At the beginning of the week, roast 2 chickens using our Simple Roast Chicken recipe. Serve one roast chicken for dinner that night, with some simple side dishes. (Check out our Recipe Index for inspiration!)
After dinner, remove the rest of the chicken meat from the bones. You could store the meat in the refrigerator or freezer to use as a quick starter for future meals. Then take the chicken bones and make homemade broth.You are literally using up every bit of that bird which is great because when you are paying per pound for whole cuts of meat, the bones are always included but often overlooked.
From two 4-5 pound chickens, you would have enough meat for several meals and 6-7 quarts of broth. All for less than $20. If you typically purchase rotisserie chickens at the grocery store, these steps still apply! Don’t toss that chicken carcass.
Some people advocate starting with raw chicken pieces to create the broth (I’m looking at you, Martha Stewart!). You certainly could do it that way, but these steps make more sense to me. I feel like it gives you the best of both worlds: perfectly roasted chicken meat and a rich, flavorful stock for very little hands-on effort.
Okay, so first off, I got this idea from my smartypants friend, Elizabeth. Keep a bag in the freezer for vegetable scraps: onion ends, parsley stems, celery leaves, carrot peels, etc. These parts normally get tossed, but they still have flavor that would work great in a stock pot. When the bag gets full, use the contents to make stock (supplementing as needed) and stick the empty bag back in the freezer to fill up again. Such a simple way to stretch ingredients. (Costco often has Ziploc freezer bags go on sale or you can check out Amazon)
While I am giving you a basic stock recipe (see below), know that it really is open to interpretation. I like to include some combination of celery, carrots, onions, and garlic. If I have parsley, great! If not, no big deal. Unpeeled yellow onions or a tomato will add a rich color to your broth. Avoid strong tasting vegetables like beets or broccoli.
I try to keep it as simple as possible and limited to what I have on hand. My goal is just to create a better broth for way less than I could buy in the store. Oh, and I don’t usually peel my onions and carrots for stock. I started making carrot sticks for the kids and forgot what I was doing. Happens to me all. the. time.
Simply plunk the scrawny chicken carcass in the bottom of your largest pot. Add vegetables. I add some peppercorns for flavor and a pinch of salt to extract the flavor from the meat and bones. Add just enough water to cover the contents by one inch.
Cook at a low simmer for 3-5 hours. You could also do this in a slow cooker. I don’t usually bother with this because my slow cooker is pretty small so the yield isn’t so great (about 5-6 cups). If you want to go the slow cooker route, add all the ingredients and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
Strain the cooked stock through a fine-mesh strainer or colander set over a large bowl. Discard the solids and let the stock cool. I create an ice bath in my kitchen sink to cool the broth quickly before covering it and placing it in the refrigerator.
Chill until the fat rises and solidifies on the surface. Skim it off with a spoon and discard. Don’t be surprised if your stock has a thicker consistency than store bought varieties. That body comes from the collagen which has been extracted from the chicken bones. This will enhance the flavor and feel of the stock, giving it a richer, more filling quality than canned broth.
Use the broth immediately or transfer it to freezer bags or containers (If using containers, be careful to not fill all the way to the top. Leave some room for expansion). Label, freeze, and use as needed. A regular-size can of broth is 1 3/4 cups, so freeze in that size if you are just transitioning from canned to homemade.
This really is a simple process. Once you get in the groove, you’ll do these steps without even thinking. I like to make stock on a “quiet” morning or weekend while I’m doing other things. It takes me about 10 minutes to toss all the ingredients into a pot, and the long simmer time is hands-off. The finish work takes about 20 minutes. So, 30 minutes of hands-on time to create a rich, thick broth that is a far cry from anything you will pour out of a can or carton.
Homemade Chicken Stock
Yield: 12-14 cups
1 large onions, quartered
2 carrots, cut into chunks
4 garlic cloves
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
10 whole peppercorns
salt, to taste
14-16 c. water
fresh parsley sprigs, 1 leek, 1 tomato (all optional, whatever you have on hand!)
- Place the chicken bones, vegetables, peppercorns, and salt into a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the contents by 1 inch.
- Bring to a gentle boil and decrease the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 3-5 hours.
- Carefully remove and discard any large pieces of vegetables or bones from the pot. Set a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth-covered colander over a large bowl. Pour the stock through the strainer. Add salt, if desired.
- Chill the stock bowl in an ice bath, cover, and refrigerate until the fat has risen and solidified on the surface. Skim off the fat with a spoon; discard. Use or store in the freezer.
I love kitchen tools that can be used for a variety of tasks. I use my Fine Mesh Strainer (Amazon) like a small colander for everything from draining cooked pasta to rinsing quinoa (for Quinoa Patties!) to straining out berry seeds. And, of course, straining cooked broth!
Use your chicken stock in these delicious recipes.
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