Chicken Stock and Broth
The Elixir of Health that has been handed down through the generations!
Introduction – Chicken – Pork – Beef
Chicken Stock and Broth is where it all started for most of us. We were sick as a kid and our mom or grandma whipped up a batch of homemade chicken noodle soup that took all day, or maybe two, to make and the house smelled glorious while it cooked. The soup was ever so tasty and soothed our sore throats, calmed our cough, and warmed us from the inside out. It is a magical thing and most people don’t really know what makes it so healthy besides that it is cooked with bones and the average super busy American adult rarely has time to make a home-cooked meal, no less embark on a culinary adventure as grand as making your own homemade stocks and broths.
I’ll readily admit that I start projects that are very grand in scale and many are larger than a lot of our readers will ever attempt, but I’m trying to make this one as detailed and accessible as I can because it is a skill that truly is worth learning. The health benefits are spectacular, the flavor is immense and versatile, and the sense of accomplishment is pretty damn good too.
Chicken is the easiest stock and broth to make, the extra steps are not necessary like they are with pork and beef, but are still advised. The method that is universal to all stock and broth making is the most detailed here and is summarized and referenced more sparingly as you read on so as not to be redundant and time-consuming to read… more than it already is. A project of epic proportions merits a blog of equal proportions. Whatcha gonna do?
Alright, Let’s Go!
Chicken Bone Broth
Chicken stock was the first we ever made and we always make it at thanksgiving when we have a lot of bones and leftover bits and pieces from the holiday turkey. Initially, I would throw all the leftover parts that we didn’t pack up for future meals into a pot and cover it with water and let it simmer overnight and well into the next day or two before straining and canning/freezing it.
As the years went on I started adding a family pack of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs to the mix that I would brown first and then add the aromatic veggies. I would get the stock started the night before Thanksgiving while I’m doing other prep for the next day and it was very convenient to be able to just drop leftover vegetable trimmings into the pot as well as the carcass leftover from the turkey the next day.
For a few years, we had extra family and friends over and needed to cook extra fixings to ensure there were leftovers. For this, I would get two smaller turkeys rather than one large one and cook one off a day or two early and that would yield premeditated leftovers and give me a whole turkey’s worth of bones to start the stock with. This was great for being able to make a richer stock and it gave me all the drippings and broth I needed to make the gravy ahead of time. On Thanksgiving day the gravy was already done and I just dropped the extra drippings into it and we were sitting down to eat dinner in record time!
We don’t always cook two turkeys anymore, but I do always make a year’s worth of chicken stock and broth in November. We prep our turkey using a method called Spatchcocking, which is just a fancy word that means to butterfly the bird. In short, you cut out the spine and lay the bird out flat which gives you maximum exposure of the skin for good crisping and both the white and dark meat cook evenly at the same time. We find this renders the juiciest and most evenly cooked version compared to everything else we have tried.
Our chicken stock is a combo of chicken and turkey, but you can do all chicken if you want. We find the taste difference to be indistinguishable from being a purest to all one bird or the other. There’s not enough bones and connective tissue on birds to make a very good standalone stock, but with enough bones, you can fortify a good tasting broth and give it the weight and personality it needs. We always make a bone broth from poultry, but for pork and beef we make straight stock and broth and pressure can them separately.
For making chicken/turkey bone broth you want to use a combination of:
Chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on) as well as chicken and turkey backs, necks, and feet (some markets will sell a package each of just chicken necks, backs, or feet. Check local ethnic markets that have a butcher/meat department). Chicken wings make great stock, but tend to be too expensive to commit to this. Another great idea is to keep a gallon ziplock in your freezer and save the handful of chicken bones leftover from meals throughout the year so that you have extra bones to start with.
The necks and backs have a decent amount of meat to lend towards the flavor that would be nearly impossible to try and eat off the bones, but break down well in water as well as having lots of small bones and connective tissue. These are worth buying just for this purpose in volume rather than just the one that each whole bird comes with. Same goes for the feet, but before you freak out about boiling chicken feet and feeling compelled to add some eye of newt to make a witches brew, keep in mind that we need a good source of cartilage and connective tissue to get a rich stock and enough meat to get a good broth flavor. Birds are pretty lean and have small bones so when it comes to cartilage, collagen, and connective tissue no other source besides the feet comes even close. This actually holds true across the board as pig and cow trotters are also necessary components for their own stocks.
You can use any combination of these parts based on availability and your budget. You can use other parts like gizzards for more depth of flavor, but unless you like the mineral flavor of them I would recommend against using the liver or kidneys. Some stores sell smoked turkey legs, wings and necks which add a really nice roasted flavor to stock. If you have the cash I would highly recommend grabbing a couple smoked turkey necks. The wings don’t have enough on them to really fuss with and the smoked legs cost too much for what they bring to the table.
Meat & Bones:
A good starting point would be:
1 Family pack of Chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on) apx 8-10 pieces.
4 Pounds of Chicken Feet
2-4 Turkey Necks, raw or smoked.
1 Pack of Chicken Necks. Apx 10 pieces
1-2 Turkey Backs
Any leftover parts from your Thanksgiving turkey or a rotisserie chicken
|Shopping for multiple Stocks/Broths||Chicken Feet-Essential to all 3 stocks.||Chicken Backs||Thanksgiving Carcass|
For the aromatics, a ratio of 2:1:1 of Onion, Carrot, and Celery is the classic French standard for Mirepoix. I always add 1 part Garlic as well. Leeks also make a great addition if affordable. A lot of Southern and Cajun cooking calls this combo the Holy Trinity, but they swap out the carrots for bell peppers. Onion, Celery, Peppers, and Garlic is called the Holy Trinity and the Pope. There are a few fun colloquialisms surrounding this fundamental combination of aromatic vegetables, but they are at the core of many a cuisine, especially with stocks and soups.
You can’t really go too wrong with this, but you don’t want more veggies than meat or bones. Generally, 3:1 by weight of bones to mirepoix is the max on veggies and many prefer 5:1. It’s easy to overdo the veggies because if you put too much in then it actually dulls the flavor of the meat and starts to soak the protein flavors back up after giving their vegetal flavor to the pot. Weighing your bones/meat and veggies is the best way to manage this ratio, but a little over or under is fine. It does not have to be precise to the ounce. Because I make such large batches when I make stock and broth I tend to hold pretty strict to a ratio of 3:1. If I was making a single broth instead of a fortified broth I would hold closer to 4:1 or even 5:1, but with the number of washes and resets it takes to make a fortified broth I lean a little heavier on the veggies. This is truly all personal preference though and just recommended guidelines.
Also, all of these will be strained out and discarded eventually so it doesn’t matter if you meticulously peel the garlic, or peel the carrots, etc. As long as everything is washed and free of dirt and debris it can be coarsely chopped and thrown in. I just cut the whole bulb of garlic cloves in half and I don’t peel the carrots. I do usually take the outer layer of skin off of the onions because sometimes mold or dirt can hide inside the first layer. I cut the butt off of the celery and discard that as it usually is the dirtiest part. Otherwise, very easy course chop and into the pot.
|Celery||Onions and Carrots||Cooked Mirepoix|
I often refer to this as the Simon and Garfunkle lineup; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme… Hopefully, you’re old enough to get the song reference ?. In addition, Bay leaves bring a lot of great flavor. Marjoram and Savory are good choices as well, but Oregano I would use lightly or not at all. Herbs I just eyeball and put in what seems to make sense for the volume I am making, use your instincts here. Rosemary and Sage are bold flavors so if anything, go less on those two. I use a combination of fresh and dried herbs. Both are not necessary, but we always have fresh herbs in the garden so it’s an easy addition. I recommend both, but dry is just fine too.
|Simon and Garfunkle|
Let’s start cooking!
You will want to brown all the meat pieces as best you can in your best quality pot that you intend to simmer in. Use a high smoke point fat like grape or safflower seed oil if you have it. Olive oil will work, but you have to be careful with the heat to not scorch the oil or burn the bits that stick to the pot before you can deglaze it. If you keep bacon fat or lard on hand those work wonderfully as well.
After you have browned all the meat parts like the thighs, necks, and backs just remove them to a bowl as they are done, working in batches until all are browned. The feet do not need to be browned.
The chicken feet and any bones that don’t have meat on them can all go in a separate pot, a cheaper one, and start their boil. Straight bones and feet need to be at a boil or as close to one as you can maintain for about 72 hours. Yes, mathematicians, that is 3 days! The broth on the other hand only needs to simmer for about 36 hours.
So, we have two pots going:
Pot One Is a cheap pot with any meatless bones and all the chicken feet. This is going to be your Chicken Stock and will be a high heat cook. Start with cold water, purified is best, but tap is ok. If you have really hard water where you live you might want to go the purified route. It is going to take upwards of 10 gallons of water to keep a 3-gallon pot boiling for 72 hours straight and as the water evaporates off, all the minerals are left behind and will concentrate. It may affect the flavor of the final product.
You want to have enough water in the pot that everything stays submerged, but not so full you can’t get a rolling boil without it overflowing. Having an insertable mesh screen/steamer insert to keep things submerged helps and a splatter screen over the top to keep things clean is great. Each pot should ideally have an insert and a cover screen.
|Chicken feet and meatless bones||Bring to a boil with cover screen|
Pot Two Is your best quality pot and at this point, you have seared all the meat and set it aside and you have all the fat and bits on the bottom of the pan. This is your Chicken Broth.
Turn the heat back up high and add in your aromatics to sauté and deglaze the pan. I will usually add a large pinch of salt here to help the aromatics sweat and deglaze the pan, but that is all the salt I add until the end. Use a flat metal spatula so you can really scrape the bottom of the pan and give everything a good stir. As the veggies sweat, all the stuck-on bits should just melt off the pan within a few minutes.
Once the pan is clean on the bottom you can stack all the meat back in the pan on top of the veggies as tightly and neatly as you can. Fill the pot up with cold water, purified still best, and bring to a boil on high. As soon as it starts to bubble, reduce to a medium simmer. Once it is steadily simmering, reduce to the lowest flame you can manage without the pilot going out. Keep topped off with water to maintain submersion. This will simmer for 24-36 hours. It does not need to be stirred and the less it is disturbed the clearer the broth will be visually. I’m not ever making a fancy consommé where presentation needs to be perfect, I only care about the flavor, but disturbing the protein while it simmers will make the broth cloudy, if you are inclined to care about that.
When I go to bed at night I top the pots up as high as I can with cold water and check them FIRST thing in the morning as they usually need an immediate top off. For the stockpot on boil, I will keep it at a rolling boil during the day when I can monitor it and a threshold boil, medium heat or so, overnight to make sure it doesn’t boil dry.
|Searing Chicken||Chicken Necks and Backs||Seared Chicken|
|Fond||Deglaze with Onion and Fond melts||Cooking Mirepoix|
|Add seared chicken back in||Tightly layer your chicken over the mirepoix||Top with cold water and simmer 24 hours|
Two things you cannot fix: If you scorch the oil and burn the meat in the searing process or the pot boils dry and scorches you will have burnt flavors in the final product. Not necessarily game over, but it can be a very noticeable blemish in the final flavor.
Ok, so now we are set up and we have two pots boiling or simmering. Take a break, clean up, and go do whatever you want. If you have a good stove with consistent burners you can confidently sleep at night or leave the house during the day. The pots will be fine. In the first few hours, monitor the burners though and find the sweet spot for maintaining both a boil and a simmer.
If the burner goes out, the general rule is that you have 6 hours max to get hot food that falls into the danger zone back from the temperature danger zone of 40-140 degrees, all the way back up to 165+ degrees or in the fridge at 40-. Sometimes a simmering burner will flicker out, but the pot is so hot that it will hold safely for a couple of hours. If it goes out overnight it is your best guess at how long it has been out of temp and whether it is safe to proceed or not. Bringing it back up to a boil will kill all active bacteria, but it will not remove the contamination from the toxins left behind that cause food poisoning. Use your best judgment if this happens. I’ve never had a problem overnight as I get my burner dialed in during the day and it holds just fine.
Both pots are going to quickly produce foam and scum that floats to the surface. This is completely normal and to be expected as the impurities from the meat and bones separate and float. Keep the top of the pot skimmed once an hour or so if you can. After the first couple of hours, this occurs much less and much slower.
|False bottom insert for pot.||Small diameter splatter screen submerged.|
|A layer will form on top that needs to be removed||Skim when layer is thick enough to be scooped||Pull scum to one side, scoop, and toss.|
At the 24 hour mark
Or as close to that is convenient for you after 24 hours, but not before, we need to:
Give Pot One, the boiling pot of stock, a good stir and make sure nothing is burning on the bottom.
Carefully strain all the contents out of Pot Two, the broth simmering pot. Using any large slotted spoon you have, scoop all the contents into a large colander set over a large mixing bowl and let drain for a few minutes. Let cool long enough so you can handle it easily as you will need to separate the meat from the bones.
Pour the contents of the pot and the drippings from the removed meat and veggies through a medium-mesh strainer into a large pitcher or bowl. Improvise with what you have.
Remove all the meat from the bones and set aside. Place all the bones into the boil pot
|Place colander over large bowl or pot||Strain broth solids and reserve broth||Simmer strained broth|
|Move bones to the boiling pot of stock||Return meat and veggies and top with fresh water||Simmer another 24 hours|
At this point, you can go a couple of different ways:
You can pack the sorted meat up and freeze it for later use. The meat itself does not have much flavor left, but makes for a convenient protein to drop into an impromptu soup or casserole where other flavors will surround the meat in another application. You can return the veggies and broth to the pot and add your herbs and any seasonings you’d like then simmer it down to the volume and concentration you want before medium and fine straining the liquid to the final product. No one will fault you for stopping here, this yields a nice light broth and makes great soup. The stock half will still need another day or two though. Place the broth in the fridge overnight to let the fat cap set and harden on top to be removed. You can discard the fat, keep it for cooking with, or throw it in the boiling pot to render further.
You can take the “First Wash” broth you’ve strained off and put it in the fridge overnight to let the fat cap set and harden on top to be removed. Place all the meat and veggies back into the pot and fill back up with fresh water and repeat the whole simmer process for another 24 hours to yield a “second wash”. The meat is committed to the process at this point and all the meat and veggies will be discarded after the second wash, but you will have a maximum yield from the contents and then the first and second washes can be strained thoroughly, combined and reduced down to final volume and seasoned to taste. I will usually throw the herbs in during the second simmer stage and strain them out with the meat and veggies all together at the end of the second wash.
Sometimes if it looks like there’s still a lot clinging to the meat, veggies, and herbs at the end of the second wash I will put them back in the pot with just enough fresh water to float and bring to a high boil and quickly strain. Not as necessary with chicken broth, but I definitely do this with pork and beef.
You can make a fortified broth:
This is more expensive and time-consuming, but you can complete it in the same amount of time it takes to properly render down the boiling pot of bones.
To make a fortified broth you need to do option 2 above where you commit all the contents back into the second wash with fresh water after removing the bones to the boiling pot of stock. The only thing different is you don’t add the herbs in yet. Complete the second wash at 48 hours, strain and discard all contents and merge the first and second wash broths into a pot and bring to a medium simmer to start reducing, continue to simmer until the whole process is done.
A fortified broth: Means to take an existing broth and repeat the broth making process rather than using plain water. You are doubling down on the flavor concentration by using broth instead of water in the complete process.
So you will need another set of meat and aromatic veggies to do a complete sear, deglaze, and simmer process for another 24 hours. For this, I use a family pack of boneless chicken thighs, with skin if possible. You sear another round of meat, deglaze with fresh Mirepoix veggies again and then take the combined first and second wash broth you’ve had simmering for however long and use that to fill up the broth pot and begin another 24-hour simmer. During this simmering time, I will add the herbs I’m using. If needed, top off the pot with fresh water so it starts full like the first time. If you have too much broth to fit in then use what you can until the pot is full and return the rest to simmer. That is now your top off “water” until it is all incorporated.
|Add herbs in final stages of simmer|
|1st and 2nd wash of Single Broth||Fortified Broth is concentrated and darker||Fortified Broth Vs Pure Stock|
This can actually simmer up to 48 hours if you wish and you can do one more wash or quick boil at 24 or 48 hours with fresh water to get a maximum yield from the second set of meat and veggies. How much effort and rinse/repeat steps you want to do is completely up to you. I almost always go the fortified broth route and in actuality, with schedule and life in play, this whole process usually takes me 4 complete days from start to finish. In 4 days I can do a first wash on the broth at 24 hours, second wash in the next 24 hours. Then I reset with fresh meat and veggies from the 48 to 72-hour mark using the combined first and second broths before straining everything and doing a final wash with fresh water on the second set of meat and veggies from the 72 to 96-hour mark. Sorry, I know that is a lot to follow, but that is the rough timeline for resetting every 24 hours over 4 consecutive days to make a complete broth in the first two days and then use it to make a fortified broth in the next two days.
Like I said, this can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be and it largely comes down to patience. For me, if I’m going to put in the time and expense then I’m going to get the maximum yield for my effort.
At the 48-hour mark: The liquid in the boiling pot will become pretty thick and needs to be drained off. Using any large slotted spoon you have, scoop all the contents into the large colander set over a large mixing bowl and let drain for a few minutes.
Pour the contents of the pot through a medium-mesh strainer into a large pitcher or bowl. Improvise with what you have. Return the contents of the colander back to the pot and place it on the stove. All the yielded stock should be run through a strainer a couple of times so all bones and bits can be returned to the pot.
Top the pot back up full with fresh cold water and bring back to a boil. This is going to be a “second wash” and your strained liquid is the “first wash”. The stock reaches a point where it can’t absorb anything more and needs to be separated. You will be surprised how much the freshwater pulls off of the remaining bones. This is not nearly as dramatic with chicken stock as it is with pork and beef.
The First Wash liquid should be put in any pot that can hold it all and placed on a simmer while the pot of bones comes back to a boil just like we first did.
Two things to look for: If you can still distinguish the shape of chicken feet when straining the pot, the stock is not done. If you cannot crush the bones with your fingers, you are not done. I will boil for as many hours/days as it takes until the feet essentially just melt away and the bones all just settle to the bottom and all the chicken bones that have marrow can be crushed easily with your fingers.
On the third day all the bones, including the ones separated from the meat in the broth pot, should be brittle enough to crush with your fingers and the chicken feet should have melted. Once you reach this point you should strain off the liquid through both coarse and fine mesh sieves and combine it with the first wash of stock which is still simmering since it was removed and should have reduced by quite a bit by now.
Crush all the bones that have marrow in them, which is all the shaft bones from legs and thighs. I’ll take a potato masher and smash all the bones into mush in the bottom of the pot with no liquid in it. Then fill that pot up about halfway with fresh water and stir thoroughly, bring to a boil, and maintain for another 24 hours while also still simmering the combined stock previously yielded. On the next day, strain very very well this last wash to get all bone fragments and sediment out. This is where investing in a quality fine mesh strainer is really essential.
Combine this final wash of stock with the first two that are now simmering together and reduce to whatever volume works for you. Adding a little salt in the final stages is ok or fortifying with low sodium bullion can help give extra depth to your stock.
You can get this at Smart and Final for about $7. I use the chicken one to fortify my chicken and pork stocks/broths and the beef one for beef stock/broth.
At the end of this process, you should have a thick stock with good collagen yield for a lip-smacking texture. You should have a deeply seasoned broth with lots of roasted meat flavor that is delicious on its own. For chicken, I usually combine these two to make the perfect bone broth. Add stock to the broth incrementally and taste to see where you like it best. You may not need all the stock and you can freeze or can some by itself.
One last option is to make Demi-Glacé, but I will cover that at the very end as it is universal to all stocks and broths.
For the Stock:
You are boiling all the bones as high as you can for 72 hours, or until the marrow bones can be easily crushed and the chicken feet have melted. All bones from the broth will be added at the 24-hour mark. Give a good stir at 24 hours and keep topped off with water as you go.
Strain and reset the bones etc with fresh water and bring back to a high boil, stirring well. Set the first wash to simmer or place in the fridge overnight to remove the fat cap and then simmer the next morning.
|Draining and resetting Stock||Straining removed Stock||Reset to boil again|
At 72 hours:
Crush all the bones and do a final wash/boil with fresh water. Combine the first and second washes and set them to simmer until the whole process is done. The final product should be extra strained and filtered, then reduced down to desired volume for application or storage. The final stock should rest in the fridge overnight and the fat cap should be removed partially or in-whole.
|Fat Cap on top||Scrape off excess||Stock should be jello-like and jiggly under the fat.|
For the Broth:
You are searing all the meat, deglazing with the mirepoix, returning the meat to the pan, and simmering for 24 hours in a pot filled with cold water.
You are straining all the contents out and setting the first wash liquid to simmer. You are deciding whether you are making a single broth or fortified broth and proceeding with that decision.
For a single broth:
Separate the meat and freeze for other applications or commit back to the pot. Put the bones in the boiling pot of stock. Return the veggies (and meat if desired) to the broth along with your herbs and simmer for another 24 hours. Strain, season, and reduce. At 48 hours you are done.
For a fortified broth:
Strain the first wash off at 24 hours, move the bones to the boil pot, and return all meat and veggies to the pot and simmer again until 48 hours. At 48 hours strain and discard everything and set strained broth to simmer. Repeat complete cycle with fresh meat and mirepoix for another 48 hours, and adding your herbs, while using the first yield of broth as your water to start and top off the second process until all is incorporated. Strain, season, and reduce all broth and discard all solids at the end. At 96 hours you are done.
You can store your Chicken Stock and Broth separately or you can merge them into Bone Broth at a ratio that tastes good to you and store them combined. Make any and all adjustments at the very end of reduction so you know the flavor won’t concentrate further. Date the jars you put the stock in and label appropriately. FYI a coffee mug of Chicken Bone Broth is divine to sit down with and sip on 😉
|Setup a pressure canner||Enjoy your stock and broth all year long|