Easy Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

A couple of weeks ago I had a lovely lunch at a new rôtisserie shop and restaurant in my neighborhood called Solyles.

The name reads like sot-l’y-laisse, the charming French word for the “oysters” of the chicken, those two flavorsome morsels of flesh that sit in the small of the bird’s back, on either side of its spine. Sot-l’y-laisse literally means “it’s a fool who leaves it in”, allowing you to feel all kinds of smug when you know to claim them.

At Solyles we shared an excellent organic “pattes noires” (black-footed) chichen from Challans with our friends, and as we scraped our plates clean I pondered that I should have brought a container to take the bones home for stock*.

At the mention of bouillon de poulet, one of my friends got curious about how to make it. It reminded me that, however many the benefits of homemade chicken stock, it remains one of those things that too many home cooks perceive as complicated or involved, when it is, in fact:

Quick

Although it takes several hours of slow cooking to extract all the goodness from the chicken bones, it is in fact a “dump, simmer and strain” proposition that boils down (ha ha) to 10 minutes’ active work, tops. The rest of the time, your mission is to stay out of the way, and simply check on the water level from time to time.

Frugal

I know some people go out and buy ingredients — even whole birds! — to make chicken stock, but it always seemed to me like a backward way to proceed.

To me, the beauty of chicken stock is that it can be made in large part from kitchen cast-offs, things you would otherwise have thrown out: not just the carcass of that delicious chicken you roasted for Sunday lunch, but also onion skins (it is so much easier to peel onions when you don’t insist on wrestling with that outer layer that’s half flesh half papery skin, and simply set it aside for stock), carrot and mushroom trimmings, leek and fennel tops, herb stems, and miscellaneous flavoring ingredients that you have in large quantities and/or might go to waste. (Avoid using vegetables from the cabbage family or bitter greens, as they are too strong-flavored.)

And I learned just recently that you can actually reuse the bones (!!) for up to three batches of stock — this is called remouillage in French, or “re-wetting” — and still extract flavor and nutrition out of them, so this is what I’ll be doing from now on.

Flexible

Although the basic trio of onion, carrot, and celery is classically associated with the making of chicken stock, the truth is the only ingredient you really need is chicken bones. For the rest, you can delete or substitute at will to compose your own unique formula, using what you can spare from your vegetable drawer that day, or what’s stashed away in the stock box I recommend you keep in the freezer. And I take great joy in that improv moment when I plop the bones into the pot and start piling on the flavorings, plucking this thing or that from my stash and thinking about the balance of the ingredients.

If it also flexible in terms of timing. There is absolutely no obligation to make your stock as soon as you have bones available: you can just freeze the carcass and bones (break the spine in two so it will move around more easily in your pot) and get them out a few days, weeks, or months later. In fact, I like to wait until I have two chicken carcasses, to make the most of my stock-making time and get a more strongly flavored stock.

Health-promoting

When cooked slowly and made with good ingredients — most important, the bones should be from a healthy animal, not a factory-farmed one — chicken stock is a nutrient-dense food that is thought to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve digestive health, among other benefits. And because it contains gelatin — when chilled, a well-made chicken stock should have the consistency of softly set jelly — it is also very good for your skin, teeth, hair, nails, and bones.

Delicious!

You can drink the stock as is, in a cup or bowl, with a scatter of snipped chives and possibly some tiny pasta shapes or Dauphiné ravioles (miniature cheese ravioli) you’ll have poached in it. You can also add a splash to deglaze the pan when you’re sautéing vegetables, and of course, it is a transformative base to use for your soups, risotti, curries, and other stews.

Join the conversation!

Do you make chicken stock or other kinds of stock as a habit? What’s your method like and how do you typically use the stock?

* Yes, I would actually do that, though discreetly, and not without a slight counter-cultural tremor.

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

Ingredients

    The basics:
  • the leftover bones from 1 or 2 healthy roasted chickens, purchased from a trusted source (organic or as good as, not factory-farmed)
  • 1 medium onion (grimy outer layer removed but otherwise unpeeled), or saved onion peels, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, or saved carrot trimmings, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, or saved fennel tops, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic (unpeeled), roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (the acid helps extract minerals from the bones)
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns, crushed with the side of the blade
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Add these if you have them on hand:
  • leek or scallion tops
  • mushroom trimmings
  • assorted leafy fresh herbs or saved herb stems (such as parsley, chives, cilantro, tarragon, oregano, chervil... I wouldn't use mint)
  • 1 to 3 sprigs thyme or rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1 to 3 strips peeled citrus zest from an organic lemon or orange
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 prune, pitted
  • a splash of dry white wine
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon each of whole spices such as coriander seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds...

Instructions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a soup pot large enough to accommodate them. I use a 5-liter (5-quart) pot, and if I find I have too many ingredients to fit, I just save the extra for my next batch of chicken stock.
  2. Fill with cold water to cover, and bring to a low simmer; you don't ever want the stock to actually boil.
  3. During the first hour or so, a foamy substance will collect at the surface of the stock. Use a skimmer or large spoon to remove it, and discard.
  4. Keep the stock at this low simmer for 4 to 6 hours (see note), keeping an eye on the pot and adding a bit more water as some of it evaporates.
  5. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl -- I like to use this handy bowl with a pouring lip and a lid -- and, using the skimmer or a ladle, transfer as many of the solids as you can into the sieve. Let those drain for a few minutes.
  6. Sort out the bones from the vegetables, keep the bones to make stock again if desired, and discard the rest.
  7. Pour the remaining stock through the sieve and into the bowl.
  8. Cover and cool the stock as quickly as possible to prevent bacterial growth: place the bowl on the window sill if it's cold outside, or in a shallow basin of ice-cold water otherwise (see note).
  9. You can scrape the fat from the surface once cooled, but I don't, as the layer is usually very thin with the kinds of chicken I use, and I find it adds flavor.
  10. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also divide it among freezer-safe containers, and freeze for up to 6 months.

Notes

  • All of the ingredients, if frozen, can be used straight from the freezer.
  • Some cooks push the simmering to 24 hours, but then you should only add the vegetable and flavoring components for the last 4 to 6 hours, or they'll completely disintegrate.
  • Never place warm foods directly in the fridge without prior cooling, or they'll elevate the interior temperature and compromise the preservation of the other items.

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  • Jenny

    I used to make my chicken stock this way, but now I use my pressure cooker. I put everything in (pretty much the same ingredients as your basic list), bring to pressure, and cook for about an hour. I find I get darker, richer stock this way. I was reading about it, and apparently at the high temperatures of a pressure cooker, caramelizing can occur even in a moist environment, which explains my darker stock.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Thanks Jenny! For a while I made mine in the pressure cooker, too, but I read that a gentle temperature was preferable to extract the nutrients from the bones, and of course at high pressure the temperature is much higher, so I reverted to the slow cooking method. I do still use my pressure cooker (as pictured!), but without the lid on.

  • LaCoccinelle

    That’s two new words I’ve learnt this morning, sot-l’y-laisse, and bocage, which I read when I diverted to the recipe of Muriel’s chicken. I sort of knew bocage anyway, it’s one of those words which is stored in the back of one’s brain in a half understood way. I should understand it, as I live in a very rural area with plenty of bocage.

    Last week, I pointed a French friend towards your web site as we were discussing a French proverb and what it means in English. The proverb is something like “peut aussi bien être surpris à voler un poulet comme une vache”, which I translate as “in for a penny in for
    a pound”.

    Clicking on links in your web site is always interesting. I ended up on the page about pink garlic, which I love. I try to go to the fête,
    at Lautrec, in August and my friends and I stock up on bottles of the beautiful, rose coloured, garlic vinegar and eat the wonderful garlic soup which feels as if it is tremendously beneficial for our health.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I’ve never heard that proverb, but I’m so glad you enjoy the language references around here as well. Don’t know if you know, but I have a book called Edible French coming out in the fall.

      And indeed, garlic soup, especially made with good homemade bone stock, would be a health tonic like few others!

  • Rachel Baddorf

    I make mine in the slow cooker. I cook on low for nearly 24 hours. After about 8 or so hours I’ll take out about 2-4 cups to save. I add more water and let it keep cooking until just before things disintegrate.

    I like to keep stock in ziplock baggies in the freezer. Stock in the freezer is like money in the bank!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Money in the bank — you’re right, that’s exactly how it feels! The French don’t use slow cookers much, but I can imagine how convenient it would be for stock.

  • Connie Wilson

    Typically, I make my stock in a pot on the stove. I’ve only made it with poultry, but plan on making one with beef bones in the near future. I brown the fresh chicken; remove and then brown veggies in the fat. If I am making it with the carcass post roast chicken (or turkey) dinner, I don’t brown the bones, but I brown the veggies in a bit of butter and then add the bones and water. I usually save my stock in the freezer for soup, but it is also delicious in rice dishes such as Mexican rice, pilaf or risotto. And of course, sipping it plain is really delicious and nourishing as well, but I do not do that regularly.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I, too, would like to try it with beef bones sometime! But I cook very little beef so I’d need to find a good source for grass-fed beef bones first.

  • mehdi aghdaee

    I always brown my chicken bones right before making the stock, as there’s always tiny bits of chicken meat attached to bone, and then deglaze the pot with a bit of water before proceeding. Most of my stock goes for making poireaux pommes de terre (slow cooking) or cooking burglar (fast cooking).

    PS: one cannot talk of “solilesse” without thinking of “Dominique Bredoteau” in Le fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain”. I learned both the French word and the concept in that movie.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Clearly I need to watch that movie again!

      And thanks for the browning tip. I admit I try to streamline the recipe to the max, but I imagine it has a lovely effect on the flavors.

  • Michelle

    I’m fascinated by being able to re-use the bones. When my freezer supply of stock start to dwindle, I start collecting my veg scraps in the freezer ( a large freezer bag= a full crockpot) then simmer in the crockpot for about 20-24hrs. Then I freeze in 1 cup measures in new (so there are no holes from being re-used) zipped bags laid flat so they stack neatly once frozen and the contents can be broken up if less than a cup is needed. Best of all, no added sodium. Shocking what some commercial stocks contain in terms of sodium!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I think what saves us in France is that all that’s available at the store are bouillon cubes, which are pretty nasty (and chock-full of sodium), so the benefit of making your own stock seems much clearer. :)

      • Annabel Smyth

        You do have the Knorr “stock pots” (“Marmite de bouillon” in French supermarkets), little jellied cubes of concentrated stock, which are in no way as good as fresh stock, but far, far better than stock cubes! I quite often put one in when I’m making stock, just to add to everything.

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

          Oh right, I think I got a sample of that once! I forget whether it convinced me or not, but thanks for sharing that tip.

  • rupa sikdar

    I’m very intrigued by the fact that bones can be re-used. Especially on rare occasions I roast a duck. Infact after my children are done eating ducks I insist they don’t throw the bones in trash, because after 6 hrs of simmering they are sterilized. I usually make my chicken stock by using roast chicken carcasses like you but I use vietnamese method of chicken pho’ stock, this http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2007/06/chicken_pho_noo.html one, I was born and brought up in eastern India bordering Bangladesh and this vietnamese way of broth reminds me of my childhood. Even though her recipe calls for whole chicken you don’t necessarily have to do that. I don’t recognize the food they serve in Indian restaurants in the West. But I’m going to try your recipe next, as soon as I have another chicken carcass. Also I don’t add salt to my stock, that way I don’t have to worry about oversalting when using it in recipes.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Thanks a lot, Rupa, I’m very eager to try the Vietnamese method!

      I like to add a little salt to my stock as I find in general the flavors of food develop differently if the salt is added earlier in the cooking, rather than at the end. And I take the salt content into account when I use the stock in a recipe.

  • Annabel Smyth

    I usually make chicken stock if I have had a roast chicken. Don’t normally use celery, as neither of us likes it, but chicken, onion, garlic, carrots, possibly a leek if I have a spare one…. I cook it either in the pressure cooker – 20 minutes, maximum – or in the slow cooker, whichever I have time for. I usually make risotto from it, but sometimes soup. What is lush is if you then poach a chicken in that stock (with fresh vegetables), eat the meat, which is moist and tender, and then re-make stock with what is left and the bones thereof. I think I once made stock 3 times like that, using the same original stock and just topping it up as necessary (freezing in between chickens, of course – I don’t eat THAT much chicken!). It eventually made the most wonderful soup you can imagine!

    Liking that Disqus seems to be working for me again – I don’t know why it wasn’t before.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      Yay for Disqus working again! ^^

      I’m not a big fan of celery myself, but I find the balance of my stock is better when I use it, so I buy it just for that purpose.

  • netc23

    Yes I do. I also add vinegar because that is supposed to help get more of the nutrients out of the bones. however, i recently made some and it tasted like metal to me so I couldn’t use it. (I’ve used the same stock pot for lots without this problem, not sure what happened)
    .

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I add vinegar too, or lemon juice, for the same reason you do. Weird about the metallic flavor! No idea what could have caused it, but I hope it doesn’t happen again.

  • Aisha Belhadi

    It feels so good to make chicken stock from leftover carcasses! I use a slow cooker and leave it on for a minimum of 12 hours. If I can’t attend to it when it’s done, I just let it continue simmering (no upper limit, though for the sake of decency, and to avoid running up the electricity bill and making all our clothes smell of chicken stock, I don’t go beyond 24).

    Slow cookers really make the process extremely simple: dump frozen bones, dump unpeeled garlic, add salt and pepper, switch on. It never risks boiling in the slow cooker and the water doesn’t evaporate much so I barely check on it. I don’t add any other seasonings or vegetables because I prefer the simple chicken-y garlicky taste and that way I’m sure the taste doesn’t clash with anything I’m cooking.

    Whenever I have leftover lamb bones, I use those too with the chicken (I find lamb-only stock too rich). And – please don’t gag – I ask my butcher to give me the chicken feet and always use them in my stock (after cleaning them thoroughly and cutting off the claws of course). I’ve never reused the bones again though! I store my stock in cup-sized containers. They take up more space in the freezer than flat zipped plastic bags, but I find them less fiddly and less prone to leaks.

    In addition to the uses you mentioned, I sometimes cook pasta directly into stock to jazz up a really humble meal of “pâtes au beurre”.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I love chicken feet! We always get them from dim sum carts, and they are said to make a wonderfully gelatinous stock.

  • Alicia

    Hi,
    Id like to make some chicken stock today. I have quite a few carcasses building up in my freezer now but Im not sure if they are fresh enough to use. Do you know how many months the bones can be frozen for and still safe for stock use?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      As long as the carcasses were handled safely (i.e. were not in the “danger zone” of 40°F-140°F or 4°C-60°C for more than 4 cumulative hours of their lifetime) and kept in a well-functioning freezer, you should be fine. Just plop the carcasses still frozen in your stock pot, and make sure you cool your stock and refrigerate it quickly when it’s ready.

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