Although not as easy as making vegetable stock, homemade chicken stock is very approachable and incredibly useful once you’ve added it to your kitchen skill set. This technique can also be used to make stock from most other whole birds.
What to do with chicken stock:
Chicken stock can be used to make velouté, a classic French sauce, or used as the base for soups. For chicken noodle soup, just add thyme, salt, pepper, noodles and, if you want, chunks of chicken. For the fastest method, cook the noodles in the stock while sautéing the chicken separately, combine the two and serve. If you have more time, simmer the chicken in the stock prior to adding the noodles.
How to make chicken stock:
1. Assemble your ingredients:
For chicken stock you will need vegetables, usually a blend of carrots, onions, and celery (aka mirepoix), a bouquet garni or sachet, and one or more chicken carcasses (ideally raw, but these can be left over from roasted chickens). Almost any poultry carcass can be used to make stock using this method (including our heritage chickens).
The proportion used by many commercial kitchens is one pound of mirepoix and five quarts of water for every five pounds of bones. You can adjust the proportions down depending on how much stock you want to make. Buying whole chickens and roasting them whole or “fabricating” the different cuts from them prior to cooking not only saves you money, but also results in the bones you need. The problem is you’ve only got one set of bones at a time. As a home chef, you have two options:
A) Save up your chicken carcasses until you have enough. It may sound crazy to freeze them after you’ve taken all the meat off, but this is a great way to make the best use of your leftovers.
B) Just use what you have. Only having one chicken carcass will result in a weaker stock, but no forethought is required.
2. Prepare your ingredients:
Wash your vegetables. Chop them into pieces that are of roughly equivalent size. Trim any visible fat from your chicken carcasses (this is optional, but will result in a clearer, leaner stock).
3. Blanch your bones (optional):
Fill your stock pot with cold water and the chicken carcasses. Bring the water to a simmer, skimming any particles/scum that rise to the top. Pour out the water while reserving the bones.
4. Refill the pot with cold water, bones and bring to a simmer:
Skim often at this stage. Once the water has reached a simmer, back off on the heat in order to keep at a simmer, and add your bouquet garnis/sachet and vegetables.
5. Simmer 3 to 4 hours:
Longer is better, and you can even simmer your stock overnight, but after four hours many chefs believe you reach the point of diminishing returns where most of the good stuff will already have been extracted. Be sure to skim as often as you can without losing your sanity. It’s more important to do this near the beginning of the simmer than near the end.
6. Strain and drop your stock:
Strain your stock through the finest strainer you’ve got (with cheesecloth added if necessary) and quickly reduce the temperature (“drop”) through the use of an ice water bath. Dropping your stock is particularly important with bone-based stocks for safety reasons. For further explanation of stock dropping, refer to the cardinal rules of stock making.
7. Store until ready to use
Stocks store in the fridge for about 2-3 days refrigerated (assuming you dropped them correctly) and will freeze wonderfully for several months.
What is a fat cap?
Your stock may develop a “fat cap” while being stored. This layer of fat floating upon your stock is actually a very good thing. For starters, it helps your stock’s preservation (as in duck confit, bacteria don’t like fat) and secondly if all the fat’s solid and on top, it’s very easy to extract from your stock when the time comes to use it.