Friday, February 1, 2013

Foodie Friday: Simple Chicken Stock (Bone Broth) Recipe

I love making homemade stock. It's hearty and extremely nutritious—packed with minerals and protein to fortify soups, sauces, rice, and tons of other dishes. Better yet, it's cheap to make and it only requires a bit of effort (and a little more patience).

I like making stock for another reason, too: it eases any residual omnivore guilt I harbor about eating animals. I feel proud that instead of going in the trash, the bones and cartilage from a chicken dinner are put to good use long after the meat has filled my family's bellies. (And whatever gets filtered out of the stock ends up in the compost, so nothing goes to waste!)

Now I have to admit that while I have made chicken stock many times, Jaymz is the Executive Chef in charge of broth in our kitchen, and I am his Sous-Chef. I am glad that he enjoys the stock-making process, as what I most enjoy about making stock is being able to quickly retrieve it from the freezer later and then cook with it.

Quick note: Stock can be made with bones from any animal, and the process is essentially the same. For the sake of simplicity (and the fact that I photographed stock made with chicken bones) I'll refer to chicken stock from here on out.


Here's all you need to make fabulous bone broth:

  • Leftover chicken bones (meat removed)
  • Water
  • Celery (a handful, or 4-6 stalks)
  • Carrots (a handful, or 3-5 medium carrots)
  • Onion (medium-large)
  • Leek (medium)
  • Garlic (a handful, 4-6 cloves)
  • Fresh Herbs: (any/all of) parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage
  • Bay leaf (1)
  • Peppercorns (about 20)
  • White Vinegar (just a splash; other kinds of vinegar would work fine, too)

If you're following along with Lauren and me for the Six Ingredient Challenge, this is a fabulous staple to add to your whole foods freezer stash. Bonus: going by Challenge rules, chicken stock only has two ingredients—vinegar and chicken bones (and you can even skip the vinegar if you want to)!

Speaking of bones, you have to collect and save the bones after their initial use and before you make stock. There are a couple of ways to safely store bones for stock-making, and which method you choose depends on your personal preference (and how often you use up your stock stash and/or how much meat your family eats). Either:
  1. Keep the chicken carcass (or whatever bones you accumulate—perhaps you're serving chicken wings this week instead of a whole bird!) in the refrigerator and use it within the week, or
  2. Keep a large (gallon sized) freezer bag in the freezer and contribute bones to it as you use them. When the bag is full (whenever you run out of stock; whenever you want!) take the whole lot out of the freezer and carry on. This is the method we use.
Some people also collect good vegetable scraps (the ends they cut off of an onion, the leafy tops of celery stalks, etc) in the freezer bag along with the bones to use in the final stock. I'm not as diligent about this, but if I cook a chicken with an onion and parts of it are leftover after the chicken is gone, I will put that (along with any drippings from the bottom of the pan) into the freezer bag for later.

Back to making the stock!


Some additional supplies you'll need to gather:


  • Cheesecloth
  • Cotton Butcher's String
  • Colander (strainer, kitchen sieve)
  • Stock Pot (the largest pot you have; thrift stores are great places to find quality workhorse stock pots and other kitchen items)
  • Another large pot or bowl for later
  • Optional: freezer bags or Mason jars for storing the stock for later
(If you happen to have a soup sock on hand, you can omit many of the supplies on the list. In fact, making the stock would be easy peasy with a soup sock; all you would need is the stock pot and the sock—no straining required!)


Here's how:

  • Start in the morning!
  • Prepare the bones (this step is optional): Lay them out in a single layer (not stacked on top of each other, as much as you can help it) on a baking sheet. Bake the bones at 350°F for about 30 minutes, then turn them over and cook them for another 30 minutes, until they are browned. (The bones can be going in the oven while you're preparing the rest of the ingredients.)
  • Prepare the vegetables: peel and quarter the onion; chop the stem ends off the carrots, then halve them lengthwise; cut the root end off the celery (optionally half them if they're too long to comfortably fit in the stock pot); cut the leafy end off the leek, then cut in half (be sure to rinse the leek well, because they're usually pretty gritty inside). 
  • Put all of the vegetables into the stock pot.
  • Fill the stock pot about halfway up with cold water. The amount of water is not that important, but you want the water to cover the bones and vegetables by about an inch after everything is in the pot. The idea of a stock is that you're reducing (concentrating) the liquid over a long period of time, so as long as the ingredients are submerged, it should turn out great. Don't hesitate to add more water later if the stock is cooking down too quickly (but not concentrating like you'd like) the vegetables or bones start poking up over the surface of the water
  • Prepare the herb sachet (this may not be the technical term): lay out a piece of cheesecloth and place on top the garlic (smashed), bay leaf, peppercorns, and herbs. (Like I mentioned above, you don't need to have all of the different kinds of herbs listed—though that would be delicious—we usually just use whatever is in abundance in the garden or whatever we have on hand in the refrigerator.) Wrap everything up like a burrito and tie with butcher's string:
  • When the bones are finished (or, if you didn't bake them, whenever you're done prepping the veggies and herbs) put the bones in the stock pot with the vegetables and water, then check the water level to make sure it covers everything. Place the herbs on top. 
  • If you're using a soup sock: Skip the herb sachet step and put the herbs, veggies, and bones inside the sock; tie it up and plunk it in the water (OK, don't be too rough with it or you might get messy.)
  • Add a splash of vinegar to the stock mixture.
  • Put the pot on the stove on high and bring to a boil. 
  • Once the water reaches a boil, turn the heat down to simmer; leave it there for 6-12 hours. (If you need it faster, simply cook it at a higher temperature for a shorter time! The longer the bones cook on low, the more nutrients are extracted, but I've made delicious stock in short amounts of time, too.)
  • When the stock is reduced, it should look something like this:
  • When it looks like that, it's done. Remove it from the heat.
  • Carefully strain the stock by pouring it through a colander into another large pot or bowl. Take care not to accidentally dump all of the ingredients out of the pot at once, as you could get splashed with hot stock. (If you used a soup sock, just pull that sucker out of the pot, chuck it in the compost, and you're done!) Whatever is left in the colander and in the bottom of the pot after all the liquid has drained through can be discarded into the compost.
  • If you plan on refrigerating or freezing a portion of the stock (and you're not using the whole lot right away) place the pot or bowl into an ice bath to cool it off quickly: Plug up your sink and fill it with very cold water and ice (a great way to use up those forgotten ice cubes) and place the pot in the icy sink. The water should not be high enough to spill into the pot or bowl, only to surround the bottom of it so it will cool off quickly. Stir the stock to speed up the cooling process.
  • Store the stock in the refrigerator to cool off completely overnight.
  • In the morning, a fatty layer will have formed on the top of the freshly made chicken stock:
  • Skim off the fatty layer with a spoon and discard.
  • Congratulations, you just made chicken stock! If you reduced the stock enough (or you had bones with lots of cartilage) the stock will be very gelatinous, like this:
If you have a pressure canner, you can can your chicken stock for later use. If you do not have a pressure canner (like me) freezing is the safest way to preserve your stock for later. Jaymz and I freeze the majority of each batch of stock we make, reserving a few cups in the refrigerator to use right away.


Tips for Freezing Stock

We use plastic freezer bags (usually quart size, as it's the quantity I use in a recipe most often) for storing our homemade stock. If you prefer to avoid plastic, Mason jars can be used in the freezer. If you use glass jars in the freezer, make sure that when you fill them you leave room at the top for the liquid to expand when freezing. Otherwise, you could end up with a big mess in your freezer and a lot of wasted stock. I prefer not to risk it with glass in the freezer, and the plastic bags stack better for storage.

When using freezer bags, try to remove as much air as possible from each bag before sealing. A vacuum-sealer would be useful for this job, but I don't find that stock gets freezer burned in the same way that meats and vegetables can.

Make sure when freezing the stock initially that you place bags in a single layer in the freezer so that they all freeze as quickly and evenly as possible.

Label your bags with the date you made your stock so you know how old it is! I've read varying recommendations on the safe freezer life of homemade stock, but 3 months is the low end. We go through ours pretty quickly, so it's never in there for longer than a couple of months, but I would be comfortable leaving it in our chest freezer for a year since the temperature is more constant (and the door isn't opened as often as a refrigerator freezer would be).

Here's some yummy chicken stock we made together a few months ago.

That's it—now simply remove from the freezer and thaw to add to your favorite recipes!

Six Ingredient Challenge buttonJoin the Six Ingredient Challenge hosted by Hobo Mama and Anktangle!

We're on a six-week path to eat more whole foods, guided by one simple rule: Buy foods with six ingredients or fewer. And we're blogging about our journey on the way.

To join in the Six Ingredient Challenge anytime during the six weeks, visit the sign-up page for a list of posts and to link up!

Linked up at Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker, Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.


  1. What a brilliant idea. I can really help myself by saving the leftovers of the leftovers like the fats and broth to use later. Usually I have the family try to consume all of it during the meal or the next few days. Freezing is a great idea. Thanks. :)

    1. You're welcome! I find that the more use I get out of one chicken (initial meal, leftovers remixed, stock, etc.) the more satisfied I feel about preparing food in general. It's fun to be resourceful!

  2. Wow! I love this recipe!! I also love making my own stock, but you've given me some great tips I've never thought of before. Normally I just throw all the spices in with the pot willie-nillie, no sock or sachet... that definitely looks much neater, and easier to strain out! What the purpose of baking the bones first? I notice your stock doesn't look *nearly* as gross as mine done when it first starts going... Is that from the baking the bones? I may have to try that, since it doesn't seem like it adds too much more time to the process! Thanks for the great recipe!!

    1. You're welcome—I'm glad you found it useful! I don't know why my stock doesn't look as gross as yours, but the browning process may have something to do with that (a lot of the fat and such does melt off during the process).

  3. what does browning the bones do?

    1. Browning the bones seems to result in a richer, deeper, more concentrated stock. We have made stock many times in various ways, and this is the way we prefer to result in a hearty, substantial stock.

      Another thing you can try (which we sometimes do): after browning them, break the bones up a bit with a mallet or a pair of kitchen shears—this exposes more bone surface to the water, theoretically resulting in a more thorough release of minerals into the stock.

  4. Are you composting the bones?
    I've always read not to do that. Or is it OK because they've been simmered for so long?


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