17 Feb Make the Most Flavorful Chicken Stock
Not everyone reads the comments section, so I thought I’d start a separate post to share the conversation I’ve been having with Barbara about chicken stock. Barbara has moved to a small apartment and is re-learning to make stock without $7 stewing hens and a large stockpot. So far, she’s managed to create a very gelatinous stock — which is far more important to a soup’s texture than you’d imagine. She’s being smart and using frozen, raw chicken backs from her butcher. They have a fair amount of meat on them and cost next to nothing, so they’re a perfect starting point. Her current stumbling block is creating a more flavorful chicken stock.
For those who missed the original post, here are the ratios for good chicken stock regardless of what size pot you’re using.
- Fill the pot 2/3 with chicken bones. You need room for the vegetables.
- Cover with 1 inch cold water.
- Use a ratio of 3 parts chicken to 1 part vegetables (the classic vegetable mix consists of 2 parts onion, 1 part carrots and 1 part celery.)
- Add salt. Try adding 1 teaspoon for every quart (or 4 litres) of water.
Still not flavourful enough? I scoured my reference library for some other ideas:
Gourmet Today likes a very high chicken-to-water ratio. According to Gourmet, you can get a richer stock by using approximately half chicken wings and half chicken parts. They use the neck and giblets (minus the liver) from a whole bird. They also add cloves and garlic to their stock. I’m not a big cloves fan myself, but love garlic.
In Ratio, Michael Ruhlman says you’ll get more flavour from the peppercorns if they’re cracked. “For optimal flavor, toast them briefly in a hot, dry pan and crack them with the bottom of a small sauté pan before adding them to your stock.” He also adds 2 tablespoons tomato paste for every 2 pounds of raw chicken bones. That’s a new trick to me. I’d only heard of tomato paste used in beef broth.
In How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman says you can intensify any stock by roasting the bones and vegetables first. He roasts the bones, with or without vegetables, drizzled in oil, at 400°F for 40 to 60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes. When he transfers the roasted bones and vegetables to the stockpot, he includes all the drippings. This produces a darker stock, which might not be suitable if you want a pale soup.
Got any ideas for intensifying the flavour of homemade stock? If so, please share them in the comments section.
In the meantime, here are the steps for Perfect Chicken Stock rewritten as a proper recipe. I’ve written it with the fewest steps and most cost savings in mind — raw bones, no added roasting time. This is really more a guideline than a true recipe. Adjust the quantities up or down depending on what size stockpot you own or how much chicken you have on hand. Will the results be consistent? Not always. But even if you don’t do a perfect job, this stock will be fuller, richer and more flavourful than the watery, salty commercial broth available on store shelves.
- 4 pounds raw chicken bones, either fresh or frozen
- cold water
- 3 onions, cut in half, you don't even need to peel it
- 2 carrots, cut in half (about half the amount of the onion)
- 2 stalks celery, cut in half, leaves on if possible (about same amount as carrots)
- 2 cloves garlic, optional
- salt to taste -- 1 teaspoon per 4 cups water used
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 stems of thyme
- 6 stems parsley, optional
- 2 teaspoons peppercorns
- Place the bones in a large pot. The pot should be about ⅔ full, not more. If you are using frozen chicken bones, you do not have to bother defrosting them. Cover the bones with cold water by about 1 inch. Turn the heat to high and bring the stock to a gentle simmer, leaving the pot uncovered. Do not boil. The water will get cloudy at first but will eventually clear.
- While the water is heating, occasionally skim the foam from the stock, making sure you don't disturb the liquid too much. Do not stir.
- Once the stock is simmering, reduce the heat to low to maintain a slow, steady simmer. This can take about a half hour so don't rush things.
- Add the vegetables and salt. Simmer, uncovered, 3 to 4 hours for maximum flavour.
- In the last half hour of simmering, add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, and peppercorns. If you want, you can toast and crush the peppercorns for more flavour.
- Strain the stock thoroughly. Traditionally, you should use several layers of cheese cloth, but a fine mesh strainer, clean (retired) curtain sheers or even coffee filters can be used. You'll be shocked at the residue that's left behind. Toss the residue once the stock is strained.
- If you're using the stock right away, skim off and discard the fat that floats to the top. If the stock is being used later, chill in the refrigerator and then scrape off the solidified fat.
1. Fill the pot ⅔ with chicken bones and cover with 1 inch water.
2. Use 3 parts chicken to 1 part vegetables. Aim for 2 parts onion to 1 part carrots and 1 part celery.
3. Don't skimp on salt. Add about 1 teaspoon for every quart (litre) of water.