Back to Basics: Chicken Stock
The first installment of the “Back to Basics” series I wanted to touch on is chicken stock. Chicken stock is a fundamental building block of a wide variety of different recipes. From cooking grains like rice, lentils, or barley, to acting as the base for many different soups and sauces. It is extremely versatile in the culinary world. If you can master chicken stock, you will have a solid footing on which to build the rest of your culinary expertise.
Chicken Stock Ingredients:
9# Chicken Carcasses and Bones
¼ C. Light Olive Oil
1 Head Celery
3# Yellow Onion
2 Head Garlic
½ Oz. Thyme
1 Bunch Parsley
6 Ea. Bay Leaves
½# Leeks (White and Light Green Part Only) **Washed**
10 Ea. Whole Peppercorns
Chicken Stock Method:
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Toss bones and carcasses in 2 Tbsp. light olive oil and roast for 20 minutes, or until a nice amount of browning is achieved.
- Roughly chop celery, carrot, onion, and split the garlic heads in half horizontally.
- Toss the cut vegetables in the remaining olive oil and roast for 20 minutes.
- Add the bones to the largest pot available and add enough cold water to cover by a few inches.
- Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer.
- Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, and skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.
- Once impurities have slowed significantly, add roasted vegetables, and remaining vegetables then add enough cold water to completely fill the pot.
- Simmer on low for 4-6 hours. Skim impurities frequently for the first 30 minutes, then once every 30-45 minutes after that.
- After 6 hours, make a hole in the middle of the ingredients at the top of the stock. Carefully ladle as much stock as you can out and strain through a fine mesh sieve into another large pot. This will be our light stock.
- Once you have reached the level of the ingredients and it is difficult to ladle out anymore, refill the pot with cold water.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for another 6-8 hours, overnight is best.
- Divide the light stock in half and put one half in an ice bath to cool or directly in the refrigerator without a lid. With the second half, place on high heat and reduce by half. This will be our soup broth. Remove from heat, cool completely, then label and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Once the stock on the stove has simmered for 8 hours or overnight, remove from heat and strain through large colander then through a fine mesh sieve or several layers of cheesecloth.
- Return to the heat and reduce until the stock starts to thicken and you have very little left. Roughly 3-4 cups.
- Strain the remaining stock (which is now demi-glace) one last time through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen you can put the cubes in freezer bags for easier storage.
This recipe is one of the longer ones we’ve done here at Chef Hacks, both in written form and length of time to complete. However, the several different types of chicken stock that it yields makes that time easily worth it. With chicken stock having so many uses, it is only natural that slight variations result in a stock more fitting to certain applications.
In our case, the light broth (removed without agitation) has a very light flavor. Best for cooking rice or grains like lentils. The soup stock (the light broth reduced by half) is more flavorful and can be used in more broth forward applications like soups. The last portion, which was our remouillage (directly translated is “rewetting” means cooking stock bones for a 2nd time) stock that we cooked down to a demi-glace consistency is best for finishing sauces, most notably a pan sauce. Having a demi-glace so readily available can elevate your final dishes very quickly.
There is a great deal of leeway with the measurements listed above. Chicken stock is meant to be a utilization recipe. Meaning, you utilize things you would otherwise throw away. With that in mind, feel free to eliminate or increase the amounts of any of the ingredients listed to match your flavor profile.
For instance, if you don’t like pepper, omit the peppercorns. I like to save peelings and scraps of vegetables as I use them in other recipes, store them in a baggie, and freeze them for stock. The amount of onion scrap vs celery scrap that I have at any given time changes drastically, yet the stock still turns out how we want it to. It is a rather forgiving recipe.
Brown Vs. White Stock
The recipe listed above is for a brown stock. This means that the bones and veggies were roasted before going in. I prefer this method for almost any application as I find the flavor to be more concentrated and richer. The alternative would be to put everything in the pot raw and simmer for similar amounts of time. This will produce what is called a white stock. They tend to lend themselves better to cooking pastas and rice where you’re not necessarily looking to have a stand-alone flavor for a dish, rather just a building block of flavor.
In my cooking style, I almost always reach for brown stock before white stock. If you find yourself needing a white stock, you can use the same recipe above, and simply skip the roasting steps for both the vegetables and the chicken carcasses.
The only ingredient I have had trouble gathering for this recipe is the chicken bones or carcasses. While some butcher shops may sell necks and backs, they seem to go for a premium price. I have had the best luck in simply breaking down my own chickens.
There are 3 advantages to doing this. First, I can customize how I break down my chickens. For instance, I like to have the skin on most of my cuts, but I don’t like having to deal with the bones. So, I remove all bones, use them for stock and leave the skin on all my cuts. Second is the price. Chicken thighs around me are usually near $3.25-$3.50 per lb. I can find whole chickens for $1.00 a pound some places.
The final advantage is the reason we went with whole chickens in the first place. We yield the bones, necks, and wing tips that we can use for our stock. The disadvantage to this method is simply the time put in. Breaking down enough chickens for a good batch of stock will take considerable time to complete. An alternative is to simply buy whole chickens as a substitute to how you usually purchase chicken and save the carcasses, necks, and wing tips in the freezer until you find you have enough for a batch of stock.
Mastering chicken stock is an indispensable skill that lays the groundwork for culinary expertise. This comprehensive recipe for chicken stock, while time-consuming, offers a versatile foundation for various dishes. With three distinct variations – the light broth, soup stock, and demi-glace – it caters to diverse culinary needs, from enhancing grains to enriching sauces and soups.
The recipe’s adaptability encourages customization based on individual flavor preferences, allowing flexibility in ingredient quantities. Procuring chicken bones may pose a challenge, but the benefits of breaking down whole chickens, allowing customization, cost-effectiveness, and maximizing stock yield, outweigh the time investment. Embracing this fundamental technique not only elevates the depth of flavors in dishes but also showcases the resourcefulness of utilizing otherwise discarded ingredients, embodying the essence of culinary artistry.