We’ve been making and freezing our own stock for a few months now. It hands down beats the store-bought kind (there is no comparison really) and is so much cheaper to make ourselves. I think there are too many people who never make their own stock and I’m here to encourage them to give it a try.
Many people seem to use the terms ‘stock’ and ‘broth’ interchangeably. At a basic level, broth is very light in flavour and thin in texture (made with meat rather than bones) whereas stock is more intense, having been cooked slowly and longer to extract as much flavour as possible from meaty bones and aromatics.
This post will hopefully serve as a guide to making a beautiful full-flavoured chicken stock at home. A good stock should have a rich, clean flavour of chicken and importantly, have a decent body to it. If it gels when it’s cooled that’s a good sign. You can use this stock in any soup, risotto or stew. You can also reduce it further which concentrates the flavour and makes a lovely base for a sauce or jus.
Each different part of a chicken plays an important role. Chicken wings and wing tips in particular, add a lovely sheen and punchy dose of gelatine making them totally essential. Legs have a good bone-to-flesh ratio lending the broth some body whilst breast pieces add a very pure chicken flavour (without the body). We also add a chicken carcass or two if our butcher has some available. To produce the best overall result, we suggest using a combination of all the above.
You can use roasted bones which will give you a darker stock called a brown stock. We like the clean flavour of this basic white stock which requires no roasting of bones or vegetables.
It’s important to keep the stock to a gentle simmer as it cooks. The bustle of boiling water can distribute a lot of that surface scum impurity back into the liquid. We find around 3 to 4 hours to be about right for a flavourful, rich stock with enough gelatine extracted from the bones to give a loosely gelled consistency.
You don’t need to fuss about exact quantities but a good target is to aim for 500g of chicken per 1 litre of water. The quantities listed below will produce around 4L of stock:
- Chicken pieces (2kg in total) – wings plus extra wing tips, legs, breasts and carcasses
- 2 onions (roughly chopped)
- 1 stalk of celery (roughly chopped)
- 2 carrots (roughly chopped)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- A handful of parsley (including stems)
- 5 whole peppercorns
Place the chicken, garlic, vegetables, herbs and peppercorns in a large, deep-bottomed pan.
Add enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer.
Skim off any foam or impurities that have floated to the top. This step isn’t absolutely necessary as it will be fine-strained out later.
Simmer on a low heat for 3-4 hours. You should just see a few bubbles here and there – a little movement is a good thing. If you notice the liquid reducing too much you can add a few more cups of water.
After simmering for at least 3 hours, strain the stock through a fine mesh colander. If you’d like a clearer stock, strain it again through cheesecloth (this will ensure the smallest of particles are removed). It should look clear and lightly golden in colour.
Let the stock cool slightly (about an hour) then distribute into airtight containers. You can chill the stock in the fridge overnight and scoop the fat that settles on top before portioning into containers.
We usually freeze it in portions we think will be useful to use in recipes, like 250ml and 500ml containers. You can store the containers in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
I’m sure even the newest of cooks will be able to pull this off and produce a delightful full-flavoured chicken stock. It’s definitely worth having a supply of good stock on hand. I would love to hear about your stock-making experiences!