Homemade chicken stock is not complicated and you don’t have to own a stock pot or fret about doing it perfectly. Just use the biggest soup pot you’ve got and follow this simple guide to making, storing and using this essential cooking staple.
The difference between chicken broth, stock, and bone broth?
I will forego any technical definitions here because there are so many variations (and opinions) and we need more freedom than fret on this subject. I want to encourage you to think of these terms as stages rather than definitions.
Broth: The thinner version, usually involving more meat during a shorter cooking time (2 hours or less) and doesn’t gel when cooled. Need shredded chicken for enchiladas or cubed chicken for a salad? Cook a whole chicken or cut pieces with aromatics until the chicken is cooked through and the leftover liquid is used as a base for stock, lighter soups, boiling noodles, thinning sauces, etc. It tastes chicken-y, yet lightly flavored enough to let other ingredients shine. But don’t throw those bones away!
Stock: The thicker, silkier, next step in culinary evolution with an abundance of bones, is simmered for longer periods of time (4-6 hours) and gels when cooled. Save all your chicken bones (from above-mentioned broth or other meal prep), uncooked backs and wing tips, as well as wilted celery or leftover roast carrots to throw in this pot of goodness. Primarily use bones with just a small amount of clingy meat bits because you will not want to eat chicken cooked this long; it’s not dangerous, just mealy and unappetizing. Use stock as a base for hearty soups, luxurious sauces, and gravies—the gelatin from the bone joints and the roasting process is the one-two punch of making great stock.
At this point, the decision to go from stock to bone broth is made by whether I have the time to strain and cool it. If not, it stays on the stove. Handy, right?!
Bone Broth: When a great stock becomes even more nutritious because the bones have a chance to release more minerals when cooked up to 24 hours. Same uses, though preferred for sipping when someone is using it for medicinal purposes. Now you can throw the bones away.
What is clarified stock? Purely aesthetic in purpose, clarifying your stock will make it less cloudy for better presentation in clear broth soups. Here’s How-To Clarify Broth.
Are broth and stock interchangeable in a recipe?
Basically, yes. Keep in mind there will be differences in the texture, so you may need to adjust thickeners in some manner, but you won’t ruin a recipe if you use one or the other. Have a cold or recovering from surgery? You’ll feel better sipping on either one once it’s seasoned with a little sea salt. *If the stock texture is too thick to drink, add water to thin.
A Simple Guide to Homemade Chicken Stock:
- Roasting pan
- Stainless steel soup pot—Any size pot will work, but 8 quarts or more will maximize your efforts.
Note about pressure cookers: While a pressure cooker will make stock in less time, due to the limited filling capacities and size of most cookers, I still prefer to use my stock pot. Here are two recipes using a pressure cooker: Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Bone Broth by Nom Nom Paleo and Pressure Cooker Bone Broth by Food Renegade
- Strainer and (optional) cheesecloth to lay in the strainer to catch the fine sediment.
- Container large enough to strain the stock into and hold the stock while cooling, like a Rubbermaid Commercial Clear.
- Scoop to transfer the contents to the strainer.
- Fat separator (optional); I don’t remove all the fat from my stock, but I do remove some of it. Either use a fat separator or wait to remove the solid fat off the top once it has cooled completely in the fridge.
- Containers, jars, or freezer bags for storage. (Don’t forget to mark with the date.)
- Opt for organic or pasture raised chicken, organic vegetables, and filtered water for stock—whatever is in the chicken, vegetables and water will end up concentrated in the stock.
- Roast the bones and vegetables before adding to the pot for the best flavor—this is a must.
- Adding a small amount of acid like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar will help leach the minerals from the bones, but it’s not a deal breaker.
- Skim off the scum that rises to the top if it seems gross to you. It won’t hurt anything, it’s just a collection of proteins.
- Don’t boil, only bring to a boil and then gently simmer for the remainder of time.
- Close the door to your bedroom and bathroom so your clothes and towels don’t smell like chicken soup. (Been there.)
- To learn how to pressure can chicken stock, check out this tutorial at Life on a Homestead.
- When ready to strain the stock, grab that pan you used for roasting the bones for the discards to cool in—throwing hot bones in the trash can melt the plastic bag (trust me on this).
- Transfer the contents with a 2 or 4 cup scoop rather than trying to pour from a heavy pot with splashy hot bones into a strainer precariously balanced over a bowl.
- Don’t press the contents when straining, let gravity do the work to avoid tiny bits of sediment pressing through. *You can eat the strained vegetables and meat left behind, but it’s rarely appealing.
- Cool as quickly as possible using an ice water bath in the sink, or add a few ice cubes and pour into a shallow container to cool within 2 to 3 hours. Don’t put hot stock in the fridge, it will bring down the temp in the entire fridge to potentially dangerous levels.
- Homemade stock can be stored in the refrigerator 4-5 days, frozen 6-9 months, or pressure-canned for 1 year, for best results.
- Once cooled, freeze stock in various increments—ice cube trays work great when needing a few tablespoons; 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 2 cups are common in recipes; 6-8 cups work best for soups.
- Containers and jars should not be filled to the top so the liquid has an inch of space to expand. Only use glass jars with straight sides (no shoulders like the one in the photo) in the freezer to avoid risk of breakage.
- Storing stock in freezer bags that can lie flat is ideal. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. To prevent the bags from sliding into lumps, place the filled bags flat on a rimmed baking sheet. Once frozen, stack the bags more efficiently in a plastic magazine file or organizer tub.
Note about freezing stock in bags: Stock in a freezer bag will almost always leak when defrosted and in my experience bags can’t be trusted, there’s always a compromised corner. It’s important to not over-fill the bags—2-4 cups per quart and 6-8 cups per gallon bag doesn’t stress the seams and defrosts quickly. Defrost in a rimmed pan to catch leaks and resist the urge to defrost in a bowl of water unless you want your stock watered down (remember, bag corners can’t be trusted).
This recipe is adapted from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook.
- 1 whole chicken — or 2-3 pounds of chicken bones such as necks, backs, wings, and breast bones
- 4 to 6 quarts filtered water
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 3-4 stalks celery — coarsely chopped
- 2-3 large carrots — coarsely chopped
- 1-2 large onions — quartered
- 1 bulb garlic — cloves separated and halved
- 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 bunch parsley
- Divide the chicken into 9 pieces — 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 breasts, 1 back. (If the chicken neck is included, cut or break into several pieces.) Place chicken pieces in a large (6-8 quart) pot with water and salt. Boil for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Skim off any brown foam from broth. Transfer chicken to a platter and allow to cool until easy to handle; reserve broth in the pot. Strip meat from bones and reserve for other recipes. (I do not recommend using the meat for the stock because the texture becomes dry and mealy when cooked too long and doesn’t add to the quality of the stock.)
- If using a collection of bones, START HERE: Place bones, celery, carrots, onions, and garlic in a roasting pan with 1/2 cup of water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake in a 400° oven for 45 minutes or until bones are a dark golden brown. Be sure to check periodically to add more water so the bottom does not burn. When done, transfer bones and vegetables to the pot with the broth. Add 1 cup of water to the roasting pan, stirring and scraping to loosen any browned bits.
- Pour this roasting liquid into the pot and add the apple cider vinegar and thyme. Fill the pot with enough filtered water to cover the contents plus about 2 inches above. (If starting with just bones, there will not be broth to add water to, just fill the pot with filtered water.)
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 6 to 24 hours (remove any brown foam with a slotted spoon). The longer it simmers, the richer and more flavorful it will become. Add the parsley the last 10 minutes of simmering.
- Allow stock to cool slightly, then strain. Discard solids. Use a separator to remove fat or let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. (I do not recommend using the solids for soups or other recipes when they’ve been cooked so long due to texture, lack of flavor, and the nutrients have already been released into the stock.)
- Stock can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for later use.
If using a 12-quart stock pot, double the recipe. Any time you have bones leftover from a baked chicken or turkey, freeze them until you are ready to make a stock. It is not necessary to roast the bones and vegetables, but the flavor is well worth it.
Here’s just a few recipes for using Homemade Chicken Stock:
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