Chicken Stock for Dummies…Which Would Be Me

I definitely did not have my kitchen mojo last Saturday. My first attempt at making chicken stock was a failure. Against all the advice I spout, I didn’t have all my ingredients at the ready before I started cooking. So when the recipe called for 3 quarts of boiling water, I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t read ahead and start boiling the water while the bones were “cooking”. When I realized my mistake, I compounded it by boiling 6 quarts of water instead of 3 (I am still not sure what led me to this momentously stupid lapse). Needless to say, the stock came out watered down and was pretty much unusable. After that, I decided to take the rest of Saturday off and try again on Sunday.

Luckily on Sunday, like Austin Powers, I got my mojo back! I went to the Dupont Circle Farmers market and got some more chicken parts, determined to persevere in the face of adversity (and by adversity I mean my own stupidity). Call it getting back on the kitchen horse after falling flat on my face.

I don’t eat nearly enough chicken to accumulate four pounds worth of bones, so I asked the advice of Eco Friendly Foods at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. She suggested I use chicken wings and chicken necks, both of which have little meat and are primarily bones. Plus, the wings apparently give off a lot more flavor. When I got home, I set everything out that I would need, including pouring 3 (and only 3) quarts of water into a pot. And this time I closely followed the recipe…well, I did throw in some of the greens from the top of some carrots I also picked up at the market.

Even though I followed the recipe, when the stock was finished simmering, it didn’t look at all like a good, quality stock. It smelled fantastic, but it was light in color…so I started to fret. I had plans for this stock, so I couldn’t fail. My confidence already shaken from Saturday, I considered my options while the stock sat in the refrigerator (as the recipe called for). A few hours later, I went into the refrigerator for some water and was pleasantly surprised to see a rich colored liquid where murkiness had been previously. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the stock had actually turned into stock! And I can definitely say homemade stock beats store bought ANY DAY!


Filed under Stocks

4 responses to “Chicken Stock for Dummies…Which Would Be Me

  1. You lied! Your stock rocked! And you rock! 😛

  2. i hope you kept that watered down stock!
    just let it simmer down on the stove for a few hours. it’d be just fine…

  3. Liz – Apparently any homemade stock is better than store bought stock, so it’s pretty much idiot proof…

    Claudia – Uhmmmm, I didn’t know that little trick. Jinkies! Had I but known…

  4. Chris

    Wait just a second. Some serious confusion here.

    1. Stock is usually made from bones because they are leftovers and thus free, not because bones are necessary to the flavor. You can use meat, and get better stock, if you are willing to pay for it. The best stock in the world is coulis, which is made from meat. You make stock with meat, and then you use the stock instead of water to cook more meat, and you keep doing this four times. I can’t afford it, but it’s fabulous. The only kind of meat you don’t want is liver, which has too strong a taste, and fatty organ meat, which is mostly fat.

    2. A stock that’s too thin should be reduced. If you have skimmed the fat well, or if you don’t care how much fat is in it, just boil it down fast — no need to wait for a slow simmer.

    3. Your entry says nothing about skimming or straining, which is 99% of what makes a stock worth having.

    Here’s the rules.

    A. Put the meat, bones, etc. in COLD water, not hot. Don’t add anything too finely minced until after it’s hot and skimmed.

    B. Bring to heat slowly — it should take about 45 minutes to come to a boil. The proteins will coagulate on the sides of the pot if you do this, and won’t cloud your stock.

    C. Skim all scum carefully and repeatedly until it is clear.

    D. When it comes almost to a boil, turn it down and let it simmer so slowly that you just barely see the odd bubble coming to the surface.

    E. After this point, add any spices you want, but keep this to a minimum; this is also the time to add any very finely-chopped vegetables (which will otherwise get skimmed out). Save everything you chop, just about, and add at this point. But DON’T add salt, bell peppers, liver, or leafy greens. Especially DON’T add salt. I recommend just a few peppercorns and nothing else.

    F. Let it cook at least 2 hours for chicken or fish, and 4 for meat — and 4-6 hours for chicken and 10-12 for meat would be much better. You cannot overcook it, so don’t worry, but be sure the water level never drops so low that the bones are exposed much or they could rot — if in doubt, add some cold water.

    G. Strain coarsely once, then strain again fine, then put it over ice (or put a ziploc-baggied cooler thing in it) and stir gently to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator until very cold. The fat will be hard on the surface, and you can remove it easily. Then strain again (warm it if necessary) very fine, and then boil down to whatever thickness you want.

    It’s a minor pain, but if you do it right you will have much better stock even than what you had. You have no idea how much better this is than store-bought!

    One last point. If you roast your bones first, about 1-2 hours at 400 degrees for chicken and about 2-3 hours for read meat, you will get brown stock, which is much stronger in flavor (and can in fact be too strong for some things!). If you want a flavor agent, do this. Be sure to deglaze the roasting pan with water to get all the lovely crunchy brown stuff into your stock.

    Defatted stock freezes well for a couple of months, but not fish stock, which dies almost immediately.

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