Liquid Gold: Homemade Chicken Broth

by Sally on January 16, 2012 · 6 comments

in Basics and How-To, Soups, Stews and Chiles, The Daniel Plan

This year, step away from the box – boxed chicken broth, that is. Simmer chicken pieces (or bones) for a few hours with carrot, onion celery and herbs, then strain, cool and freeze. The house will smell heavenly and you will have “liquid gold” in the freezer to use for fantastic soups, stews, risottos and more.

Making homemade chicken broth is easy. Most of the time is hands off while it simmers on the stove. The big reason to make it is taste.  Homemade tastes much better than anything store bought. You control whether it’s a rich or light in flavor. You control the sodium level. If you read the labels on most store brands, you will be shocked at the sodium content and other ingredients (like sugar). Not healthy.

Broth or Stock?

So is it broth or stock? These days the terms are used interchangeably. Traditionally, chicken broth is made with meaty chicken pieces and chicken stock is made from chicken bones.

What Kind of Chicken?

When making homemade stock I often use a whole, cut-up organic chicken. I’ll buy the two packs at the warehouse store because their prices are good on whole organic chickens or buy them on sale. I also use bone-in chicken thighs and legs. Check with the butcher and ask if they have chicken bones or parts for sale. It will usually be backs and necks from chickens they have cut up. Some cooks even add chicken feet. They all work, as long as there are bones. Use what you can get at a good price.

To prepare your chicken, rinse and remove as much skin (fat) as possible so there is less skimming and fat at the end. If using a whole chicken, you’ll need to cut it up into pieces. Follow the photos. Use a sharp French or chef’s knife or a cleaver.

Start off by freeing the leg-thigh major piece above the joint. Cut through the skin and cut above the joint. Bend the chicken in your hands to tell where it is. Remove the skin then cut this larger piece into the leg and thigh.

Next, cut off the wings, again above the joint. Next, cut off the breasts. Start by slicing through the center breast bone. Free the breasts from the body and cut them in half crosswise.

Lastly, cut what is left of the body in half crosswise. You will end up with twelve pieces. After cutting up raw poultry, immediately wash and sanitize your tools. See my note at the end on a good non-toxic sanitzer.

Why Bones?

Bones are important because they contain collagen protein. That’s what gives the broth body, flavor and mouthfeel. When you simmer your broth for 4-5 hours or longer  (I usually simmer mine for 8 hours), the collagen breaks down and releases into the broth. When cooled, good broth will be wiggly like gelatin. That’s because of the collagen.

What is That Scum?

The brownish, foamy scum that appears when you first begin to simmer your broth is impurities being released. Skim if off and discard every few minutes until it’s gone.

Add Aromatics, Skip the Salt

Next, add your aromatics and herbs. I add carrots, onion, celery (all organic), a dried bay leaf or two, black peppercorns, fresh parsley and thyme sprigs. What don’t I add? Salt. Skipping salt allows you to add the right amount of salt in your final dish to meet your tastes. A no sodium broth is also good for people with sodium restrictions.

As your broth simmers over a few hours, the water level will drop. I keep a kettle of hot water on the stove and add water as needed.

Note – Never cook your broth above a low simmer. If you boil or stir it your broth will be cloudy. Just let it happily bubble away, filling your house with heady fragrance.

Finishing the Broth

At the end of simmering, your broth will be golden and clear. Carefully strain out the spent bones, meat, vegetables and herbs. I discard them, as they have given their best to your broth. Place the strained broth in a large stainless steel bowl or another pot and place it in a sink of ice water. This will help it cool quickly.

To speed the cooling, place a trivet under the bowl or pot for ice water circulation. Stir occasionally until it’s cool. From there, refrigerate and use within three days or freeze. You can use muffin tins for small measures, canning jars and larger containers. Measure it out, label (masking tape and a Sharpie should always be in the kitchen) and freeze for up to three months.

In a pinch, we may all need to occasionally resort to a good canned or boxed brand of chicken broth, but try making homemade. It’s the best.

Liquid Gold: Homemade Chicken Broth

Like most things homemade, making your own chicken broth is so much better than store bought. Although the simmer time is 4-5 hours, it’s easy and mostly hands-off. I keep containers in my freezer for soups. stews, risottos and many uses. It tastes better and is better for you too. I usually double this recipe and use organic ingredients.

Yield: About 3 quarts or 3 liters

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds (1.84 K), or thighs, legs or bones
  • 2 large celery ribs, roughly chopped (about 4 ounces or 120 grams)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (about 4 ounces or 120 grams)
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 8 ounces or 230 grams)
  • 1 large dried bay leaf
  • a handful of parsley leaves and stems
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 quarts (4 L) of filtered water

Directions

  1. Rinse the chicken. If using a whole chicken, break it down into pieces with a sharp French knife, Chef’s knife, or cleaver.  See the photos in the post for help. Start by cutting off the leg and thigh pieces and cut them in half, then cut off the wings. Next, cut through the center breast bone of the chicken, splitting the body into two halves. Cut the breasts free and cut them in half. What’s left is the body. Cut that in half crosswise. Remove as much excess skin as possible.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to a large stock pot, eight to ten quarts. Cover with the water and bring to a simmer. As the chicken simmers, impurities will begin to rise to the top. It looks like a brownish foamy scum. Not a pretty description. Skim it off and discard. Continue to skim and discard until its mostly gone.
  3. Add the vegetables, herbs and peppercorns. Keep the pot at a low simmer for four to five hours, adding hot water if the water level gets low.
  4. Strain out the spent vegetables, meat, bones, etc.  and cool the broth in a large stainless steel bowl or pot in a sink filled with ice and water. Place a small rack or trivet under the pot to speed cooling. Stir occasionally to assist cooling. Refrigerate broth for 3 days or freeze in small container (or even muffin tins) for up to three months.

Note – I often let my chicken broth simmer for 8 hours. As the water level drops, add hot water from a tea kettle to bring it back up. It won’t dilute it. My broth comes out gloriously golden. Any questions, please comment or email me a note. 

Helpful links and information:

Golden French Onion Soup, recipe here

Tuscan Vegetable Soup, recipe here

Homemade vegetable stock

After working with raw poultry or meat, it’s smart to immediately wash the area and any tools with soap and hot water. After that, use a sanitizer such as Mediquat by FreshAWL. Mediquat is non-toxic, safe for food preparation areas (and other areas in your home). I make a small amount and keep it in spray bottles. They specify 2 ounces per 1 gallons of water, which is  lot for most homes. To make a smaller amount, I use a 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) per quart of water.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathy Gold January 17, 2012 at 9:59 am

Great post and photos, Sally. The 2nd Wednesday of every month is stock making day at In The Kitchen, and we make enough for the month. We leave it overnight in our AGA and I strain, cool and package it all the following day. Quite a process, but so worth the effort.

Reply

2 Madonna January 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm

This is beautiful. Even though I have made a lot of stock I always learn something from your tutorials. I always added the veg immediately, but now see the benefit of waiting to skim first. Also, good idea to freeze some in muffin tins for that recipe than calls for just a little stock. I love the thought of having stock ready to make soup or risotto. Any chance you will be making beef stock? When I make short ribs or beef bourguignon the recipes always call for beef broth/stock and all the ones in the market contain soy. As usual your photos are just wonderful.

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3 Sally January 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Hi Madonna. Glad it was helpful! I don’t bother making beef stock as I don’t use it often. When I do, I buy a good quality brand called Stock Options. The label reads just like I would (or used to) make it. It’s not cheap, about $10 for 28 ounces, but really good stuff. Here is their link.http://stockoptionsonline.com/. Fine Cooking has a good recipe, also like I would make mine, with roasted bones. http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/beef-stock.aspx

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4 sally January 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Hi Madonna. Glad it was helpful! I don’t bother making beef stock as I don’t use it often. When I do, I buy a good quality brand called Stock Options. The label reads just like I would (or used to) make it. It’s not cheap, about $10 for 28 ounces, but really good stuff. Here is their link.http://stockoptionsonline.com/. Fine Cooking has a good recipe, also like I would make mine, with roasted bones. http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/beef-stock.aspx

Reply

5 Sally January 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Sally, beautiful! Great instructions on how to break down a chicken and turn it into stock. I try to buy necks and backs (organic, when they have them) and supplement with legs with thighs attached–about 8 pounds in all. I look for bargains and freeze if I can’t make the stock right away. I also save bits and pieces in the freezer when I bone a chicken or remove chicken backs or wings. Lately I’ve been trying out making stock in the insert in my pasta pot. I’m not sure yet what I think, but it IS much easier to pull out the messy bits before straining. I strain right away into quart containers–it cools faster in smaller containers. Then I let it cool briefly and refrigerate overnight. The next day I spoon off the fat (once it’s hardened) and pop that liquid gold in the freezer. I urge everyone to actually taste the stuff that comes in the box–I’ve done tastings in cooking classes. The word “dishwater” came up often (!) I like your muffin cup idea, too!

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6 Linda Chin February 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

Hi Sally, I used this method with a frozen turkey carcass leftover from Thanksgiving and the family said it was the best homemade soup I had ever made them…….I make homemade soup fairly often in the Winter. All your little tips really make a difference, thank you! Also I love the idea of trying this with my pasta pot insert. I have some frozen chicken bones that will be my next try.

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