I included how to make chicken stock from scratch in a previous, longer blog “Mugged by Chicken”, but I’ve been asked to “pull” the recipe, let it stand alone and go into a little more detail. Glad to oblige. So, first of all, what is chicken stock?
Simply, it involves nothing more than simmering the chicken carcass in water, with other flavourings and aromatics, until you have a rich, chicken flavoured liquid: stock, in other words. On another level, it is a way of wasting nothing. You have already cooked your chicken, but don’t throw away the bones: there is a meal there, and/or a magical ingredient for several more.
If you’ve never made stock before, you may think it is some mysterious alchemy, and too much fuss. You may also think it takes a long time. Well, yes, it is a mysterious alchemy, that turns a pile of bones into a delicious and useful ingredient, and it does take quite a lot of time. The good news is that it’s hardly any fuss at all. The preparation time is mere minutes, and you then let it take care of itself for three or four hours, with no more than the occasional stir and checking that it is not boiling dry.
Tip: if you don’t have time to make the stock within a day or two of cooking your chicken, you can freeze the carcass until you’re ready – break it up a little to save space. The bones can be used straight from frozen, with no need to defrost first.
Here’s what to do.
One or more chicken carcasses, broken up a little – grab all the bones off the plates too, they are going to be very well sterilised, so no problem. Include the skin and any other bits. Make sure you remove any “good” meat, and reserve: even pop it in the freezer for future reference.
One large carrot (or two small, or three tiny etc), peeled, topped, tailed, cut into large chunks.
One medium onion (or two small, etc) peeled, topped, tailed and halved
One or two sticks of celery, cleaned and roughly chopped or broken into bits
Three or four large cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
8-12 whole black peppercorns
A sprig or two of robust herbs, such as thyme, and three or four bay leaves
ADD NO SALT AT THIS STAGE!!!
Tip the whole lot into your biggest pot, and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer, the heat being correct when it is hardly bubbling. Skim off any nasty looking scum that rises to the surface. Keep simmering for at least three hours.
Strain through a fine sieve, preferably lined with muslin or similar. Don’t worry if you haven’t got any muslin, the results will be fine, just maybe not as crystal clear.
This stock is great as it is, as a basis for chicken soup or for any other chicken stock recipes. You can, however, reduce it to give you a stronger stock, where just a spoonful or two will add a depth of flavour to many other meals: chicken stock is a kind of “universal flavour” and does not need to be confined to chicken recipes.
To reduce: return to the cleaned pan, and boil hard until the stock has reduced to half, or less, of its original depth (I use the lines of holes in a slotted spoon as a “depth gauge”). This makes a very rich, jelly-like stock, more powerful, quantity for quantity, than the equivalent stock cube or bouillon powder.
Either the original, thinner stock, or the heavily reduced stock can be used right away, kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or frozen down for future use. The thinner stock is best frozen in at least half pint/290ml quantities, but the reduced stock can be frozen in ice-cube trays: just one or two cubes, straight from the freezer, will give a great depth of flavour to your cooking.
Remember, you haven’t used salt in the stock-making process – this is so the stock does not become too salty as it reduces. Add the salt when using the stock in your recipes.
I hope I have convinced you that making chicken stock from the carcass is easy, is a great resource to have in your kitchen, is the great basis for many fine recipes, eliminates waste, and saves you money in your kitchen.
A great recipe for making chicken stock while poaching chicken can be found here: It’s not my recipe, although you will see the similarities. I do like the idea of making the stock at the same time as you cook your chicken. Be warned; you can browse this website for hours!