How to Make Chicken Stock at Home
Chicken stock is a cooking ingredient that sits in the freezer of professional chefs and home cooks alike. Chicken stock serves as a neutral cooking base for so many dishes beyond chicken noodle soup, including sauces, gravies, a base for boiling rice and pasta, and even as a braising liquid for larger cuts of meat.
You’ve surely seen canned chicken stock on the shelves of your local grocer, which work great in a pinch, but as with most things in the kitchen, homemade chicken stock is certainly tastier than the stuff in the cans.
Making your own chicken stock is actually a pretty easy process. There are a few different ways you can do it, depending on the tools you have in your kitchen, but the end result will be a rich stock, mild enough in flavor to be versatile across any number of cuisines and dishes.
One of the best aspects in the process of making chicken stock is that you can use leftover bones and veggie scraps from previous meals as a starter to your stock. If you plan to make stock regularly, simply freeze your chicken carcasses and scraps in a freezer bag as you eat them. Once your bag is full, you’ll be ready to make your first batch of stock.
Of course, if you haven’t been planning ahead and saving your scraps, you’ll need to start from scratch. We recommend using chicken feet, chicken wings, or both as the bone base of your homemade chicken stock. Another option is to use a whole raw chicken, pulling the meat away from the bone to use in chicken salad or other meals for the week midway through the cooking process.
Stock, Broth, Bone Broth: What’s the Difference?
The ingredients required to make a great chicken stock are subject to opinion as the debate over the definitions of stock and broth continues on the web. The two main points that seem to be continually discussed are the parts of the animal used and the level of seasoning included in each one.
Alton Brown’s definition of stock is a great place to start: A liquid in which animal bones and connective tissue are cooked for a long period of time, usually unseasoned in commercial kitchens.
Brown offers a couple of helpful caveats for home chefs. He says that most home chefs will use bones that still have remnant bits of meat on them, in addition to adding salt and herbs for flavor.
The end result in a home kitchen is a bit of a hybrid between stock and broth, which we tend to refer to as bone broth. (Brown defines “broth” as a liquid in which animal meat is cooked for a much shorter period of time.) These caveats help us understand that, for the most part, when we’re making stock at home, we’re likely making a hybrid of stock and broth (bone broth), so the debate isn’t quite as critical for our purposes.
Choose Your Method
You have three choices for how you’ll go about making your chicken stock.
Low and Slow: Stock Pot
The first and oldest way of making it is in a large stock pot on the stovetop. When you use a stock pot, your cooking time will need to be at least 6 hours, up to 24, in order for the nutrients and flavor to leave the bones and enter the liquid.
This method requires a flame on your stove to be burning for a long time. While it’s at a low simmer for the majority of that time, some home cooks don’t feel comfortable leaving an open flame unattended, resulting in a commitment to be home all day as the stock cooks. We’ll use this method for our recipe below.
Quick and Easy: Instant Pot
The second way of making stock is to use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. This method requires only a two hour cooking time and doesn’t require an open flame.
The shorter cooking time is owed to the intense pressure and high heat the Instant Pot generates in order to push steam through the ingredients locked under the lid. This pressure and heat creates the same effect as as the stovetop method but saves you a lot of time and doesn’t require an open flame.
Set and Forget: Crock-Pot
The third option is a bit of a hybrid of the first two: a Crock-Pot or slow cooker. This option uses the same cooking method as the stovetop (slow and low), but doesn’t require the open flame.
The slow cooker option is the perfect method for the busy home cook who wants to set it and forget it. You’ll simply toss everything into the slow cooker, set the timer for a minimum of 6 hours, and head out the door.
Gather Your Kitchen Tools
In addition to the vessel you’ll choose to cook your stock, you’ll need to have a few more kitchen tools on hand to successfully make chicken stock.
Once your stock cools to room temperature, you’ll need to have a ladle and fine mesh sieve or strainer on hand to filter out the chicken bones and veggie scraps from the liquid.
Ideally, you’ll be making a large enough portion of stock to freeze some of it. (It will last in the refrigerator for about a week.) We recommend 3-cup glass mason jars or another type of freezer-safe container for storage.
If you are starting your stock with newly purchased ingredients rather than frozen leftover chicken parts, you’ll need a sharp chef’s knife and cutting board to chop your veggies as well.
Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe
This chicken stock recipe definitely falls into the category of hybrid between stock and broth. We’ve included herbs and spices, but have left out the salt so that you can determine when to add salt into your own cooking.
If you’d like to make a chicken stock that more closely resembles what you’d find in a commercial kitchen, we recommend leaving out the bay leaf and thyme and using chicken feet, backs, and leftover bones, as they have a bit less meat on them than chicken wings. There’s no need to peel any of the vegetables or remove the skins as long as they’ve been washed.
We’ve created this recipe with a 3-gallon stock pot in mind. You can pare down the ingredients proportionally if you’re using a smaller Instant Pot or slow cooker.
Minimum 6 hours, maximum 24 hours
6 hours and 10 minutes
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Large pot
- Fine mesh strainer
- Mason jars or freezer-safe containers
- 3–5 pounds chicken feet, wings, backs, or a combination of these
- 6 whole carrots, coarsely chopped
- 6 celery stalks, washed and chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
- Filtered cold water
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Add chicken parts, apple cider vinegar, and cold water to the stock pot. Add just enough water to cover your ingredients.
- Let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Add in the other ingredients and fill the rest of the pot with cold water.
- Place the pot on the stove and turn it up to high heat until the water begins to boil.
- Once the water is at a roiling boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover partially to allow steam to slowly escape.
- Allow the stock to simmer for 6 to 24 hours, then remove from the flame.
- Once the liquid has cooled, strain stock into mason jars.
- Freeze whatever you don’t think you’ll use within one week.
You’ll know that you’ve successfully created a rich chicken stock if your liquid turns to a Jell-O-like substance in the refrigerator. Once it achieves this form, there will be a layer of fat that has risen to the top and separated out. This fat can either be scraped off and discarded or included in the recipes you’ll create with your homemade chicken stock.
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