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How to Make Chicken Stock

Three tried and true methods for making GREAT homemade chicken stock. One method involves simmering a chicken carcass with vegetables. The other methods require sautéing chopped pieces of backs and wings first, before simmering with water and veggies.

Chicken Stock
Elise Bauer

Making homemade chicken stock is easy!

Not only do you save money because you don't have to buy boxed stock, the stock itself is so much healthier for you because of all the iron, collagen, and vitamin-rich marrow from the bones.

There are several ways to make chicken stock. Three of our favorite methods are presented here.

The first method uses the leftover bones from a chicken carcass and vegetables (which means it's practically free), and takes several hours of slow cooking. We often use this method when we've roasted a chicken and have a leftover carcass. It's a great way to not let good bones go to waste.

In the second method, we start with chopped raw chicken backs and/or wings, and sauté them first to brown them for flavor. Then add onion, carrots, parsley, and leek or onion greens, and cover with several inches of cold water. This we simmer for 4 to 6 hours and then strain.

The third method is a quick version of the second. You can make stock easily in about an hour this way, again starting with backs and wings.

How to Make Chicken Stock

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 6 hrs
Total Time 6 hrs 30 mins
Yields 2 to 4 quarts

Ingredients

  • Method 1: Stock with leftover bones and chicken:
  • Leftover bones and skin from a large cooked or raw chicken carcass (or two rotisserie chickens)
  • Celery tops and 1 large celery rib, cut into 2-inch segments
  • Onion, 1 large onion, quartered (no need to peel)
  • Carrot, cut into 2-inch segments
  • Parsley, 1 bunch
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

  1. Combine ingredients in pot:

    Put the leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a large stock pot. Add vegetables like celery, onion, carrots, parsley. Cover with water. Add salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper.

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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer:

    Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer. Simmer partially covered at least 4 hours, occasionally skimming off any foam that comes to the surface.

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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer
  3. Strain the stock:

    Remove the bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon or spider ladle, and strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve.

  4. Concentrate the stock:

    If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce the stock by simmering an hour or two longer to make it more concentrated and easier to store.

Method 2: Chicken Stock with Raw Chicken Backs, Wings, and/or Legs

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 to 5 lbs of chicken backs, wings, and/or legs, skin-on, trimmed of excess fat, that have been hacked with a cleaver into 2-inch pieces (you can ask your butcher to prepare the chicken pieces this way)
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered (no need to peel)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch segments
  • Celery tops and 1 large celery rib, cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • Leek or green onion greens (if you have them)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 quarts of cold water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  1. Cook the chicken:

    Coat the bottom of a large stock pot (12 quart), with olive oil. Place half of the chicken pieces, skin side down in the bottom of the pot. Heat on medium high, and let cook until the the chicken is browned. Add the rest of the chicken pieces and stir the pot, cooking and occasionally stirring until the chicken is no longer pink.

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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer
  2. Add the aromatics:

    Add the onion, carrot, celery, parsley, leek greens (if using), and bay leaf to the pot. Cover with 6 quarts of cold water.

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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer:

    Bring to a boil on high heat and reduce to a low simmer. If scum rises to the surface of the pot (this usually happens in the first half hour of cooking), skim off with a large metal spoon. Let simmer at a low simmer, uncovered, for 4 to 6 hours.

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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer
  4. Remove the solids:

    Use a large metal spoons with holes in it (or a "spider ladle") to ladle out the cooked chicken and vegetables. (These aren't really good to eat, by the way, because after 4 hours of cooking, most of the flavor and nutrients have been cooked out of them and are now in the stock.) Discard.

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    Elise Bauer
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  5. Strain the stock:

    Use a large sieve lined with dampened cheesecloth or a dampened paper towel (or if using a very fine mesh sieve no need to line), and place over a large bowl or another large pot. Pour the stock through the sieve into the bowl or pot to strain out any remaining solids.

  6. Divide and store:

    Either pour into jars at this point, or if you want, what we like to do is to boil the stock on high heat for 1 hour, to reduce it by about half. This way you are storing concentrated stock, which takes less room in the freezer or refrigerator. When you are ready, pour into jars.

    If you are freezing, you may want to ladle off some of the excess fat on the surface. (The fat helps preserve the stock in the fridge, but doesn't help it in the freezer.) If freezing, leave at least 1-inch head space, allowing enough room for the liquid stock to expand as it freezes solid. (Otherwise, the expanding ice stock will break the jar.)

    Let the stock cool completely before refrigerating or freezing. Stock should last a week or so in the fridge, and several months in the freezer.

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    Elise Bauer

Method 3: Quick Chicken Stock

  • 4 lbs of chicken backs, wings, and/or legs that have been hacked with a cleaver into 2-inch pieces. You can ask your butcher to prepare the chicken pieces this way.
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 quarts of boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Sauté the onion:

    Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large stock pot. Add one chopped onion. Sauté until softened and slightly colored - 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

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    Elise Bauer
  2. Cook the chicken and bring water to a boil:

    Add half of the chicken pieces to the pot. Sauté until no longer pink, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to bowl with onions. Sauté the rest of the chicken the same way. Return onion and chicken pieces to the pot. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.

    While the chicken pieces are cooking, fill a large tea kettle with 2 quarts of water, bring to a boil.

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    Elise Bauer
  3. Add water, bring to boil then reduce to a simmer:

    After the chicken pieces have been cooking for 20 minutes, raise the heat level to high, add the 2 quarts of boiling water, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 bay leaves. Return to a low simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, then cover and barely simmer for about 20 minutes.

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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer
  4. Strain stock:

    Strain stock through cheesecloth or paper towel-lined large sieve, and discard solids. (It helps to remove the big pieces of bone with a slotted spoon first.)

    Pour into jars and cool completely before refrigerating or freezing. Stock will last a week or so in the refrigerator or frozen for several months.

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    Elise Bauer
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    Elise Bauer

Method 3 comes from The Best Recipe cookbook by Cook's Illustrated. They got it from In Pursuit of Flavor, by Edna Lewis.

Did I say only 3 methods for making chicken stock? Here are a couple more!

Method 4: Use Chicken Feet

See How to make stock from chicken feet. If you have access to chicken feet, they make the most fabulous gelatinous stock.

Method 5: Parboil the chicken first

There's an entirely different method we are using in our Chicken Noodle Soup recipe. Starting with a whole chicken, we remove the large pieces of breast, leg, and thigh meat we want in our resulting soup. Then we parboil the remaining chicken to force out the impurities. Then we start over with clean water and the chicken carcass to make the stock. This approach results in a very clean tasting and clear broth.

About the Fat Cap

I've seen a lot of cookbooks advocate the skimming of the fat from the stock. We prefer letting the fat settle in a layer on top of the stock as it cools. This way, the fat acts as a protective layer over the stock.

Bacteria need oxygen to grow, so by allowing the fat to rise to the top of the stock and settle we will create a protective barrier between the stock and the oxygen in the air above. The stock will last longer in the refrigerator if you keep the fat layer on it. (Google "fat cap preservation" to learn more about this.)

Just lift up the layer of fat and remove the stock when you want to use it. Every few days, bring the stock to a simmer for 10 minutes and let it cool, again with the fat forming a protective layer. Your stock can be stored in the refrigerator and used for up to a couple of weeks this way.

Chicken Stock
Elise Bauer