Frugal cooking tip: Making homemade chicken stock

by Karen on August 16, 2008

We use chicken stock for a lot of meals, especially in the fall and winter during soup season. But it can get pretty pricey since store bought chicken stock costs anywhere from $2 to $4 a quart.

Since we also like to roast whole chickens (we get two to three meals out of the meat), we decided to stop wasting the rest of the chicken and start making our own stock. It’s not difficult, but it is time consuming. However, it’s worth the time.

We pay about $6 for a whole chicken, but I’m not sure how to calculate the cost of the carcass since we get 2-3 meals out of the meat. Beyond that, you’re paying for the produce, which costs under $3 total according to my calculations. Not too bad since this recipe yields 1 gallon of stock. (You could probably actually stretch it out to 2 gallons. We only make one gallon because our stock pot is too small to hold 2 gallons of water with all of the ingredients.)

We adapted this recipe from Good Eats, but we’ve made some changes to simplify it. We’ve also omitted several ingredients. Feel free to try the Good Eats version if you’d rather get the recipe from a pro!

Ingredients:
3 to 4 pounds of leftover cooked chicken carcass
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
1 to 2 gallons of water

Chop the following ingredients into large chunks:
1 large onion
3 to 4 carrots, peeled
3 to 4 ribs of celery

Place the ingredients in a large stockpot. (Tip from Good Eats: Use a steamer basket placed upside down on top of the ingredients to prevent everything from floating.) Then add the water.

Cook on high until it begins to boil. Turn it down to medium low and simmer gently 6-8 hours. Skim the surface of the stock with a spoon occasionally to remove the “scum” that builds up on the top. You’ll periodically need to add more hot water to keep the ingredients covered as the liquid cooks down.

After 6-8 hours, the bones should be brittle and easy to snap in half. That’s how you know it’s done. Strain the stock into another pot, and throw away the carcass. Let it cool before transferring it to quart-sized Tupperware containers. (We like to store it by the quart so we can thaw only what we need. We also like to split one of the quarts into 1-cup portions so we can use the stock for smaller recipes like rice pilaf without thawing a whole quart.) Refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, there may be some solid fat on the surface. Skim it off and the stock is ready to use. You can store it in the refrigerator for a week or several months in the freezer. If you choose to freeze it, just place it in the refrigerator the night before you need it to let it thaw.

Note: Always boil homemade stock for 2 minutes before using it to kill any bacteria.

If you don’t want to devote 6 hours to cooking stock, Tyler Florence from the Food Network has a shortened stock recipe that involves poaching a whole chicken for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Then you just remove the meat to use for another dish, and the remaining broth is similar to chicken stock. We’ve never tried this recipe because we prefer to roast the chicken. Roasted chicken is much tastier and moister than boiled chicken. But if you try this recipe, let me know how it works out!

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