Step away from the box – boxed chicken broth, that is. Learn to make homemade chicken broth. Its the best.
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 just sipping.
Making Broth is Easy and Healthy
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 and control of ingredients.
Homemade tastes much better than anything store bought. You control whether it’s a rich or light in flavor. You control the sodium level. That would be zero in homemade.
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 vegetables and chicken stock is made from just bones and vegetables.
What Kind of Chicken?
When making homemade stock I often use a whole, cut-up organic chicken. Warehouse stores usually have good prices on whole organic chickens or watch for a sale at your regular market. I also use bone-in chicken thighs and leg pieces.
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. I add chicken feet when I can get them, which adds great body to the broth. They all work, as long as there are bones. Use what you can get at a good price.
One more note on bones – After I roast whole chickens, I strip of most of the meat for other uses like soups, stews, chili, enchiladas, salads or tacos, but save the bodies and freeze them. When I get 4-5 frozen bodies, I make broth. Great way to really use the whole chicken and not waste anything. The broth is not as clear, but it tastes great and is thrifty.
Prepare the Chicken
To prepare your chicken, rinse and remove as much skin and any extra fat as possible. That means 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.
How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken
Start 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. The joint will pop out. 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.
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. Skim, skim, for a good clear broth.
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.
Add Boiling Water as Needed
As your broth simmers over a few hours, the water level will drop. I keep an electric kettle of hot water going and add water as needed. Don’t worry, it won’t dilute the broth.
Keep it at a Simmer
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.
On Bones and Bone Broth
Articles about the healing benefits of bone broth are everywhere these days. I simmer my broth 12 hours to extract as much collagen and nutritious minerals from the bones as possible.
Bones are important because they contain collagen protein. That’s what gives the broth body, flavor , richness and health-giving properties. When you simmer your broth for long periods, the collagen and minerals break down and release into the broth. When cooled, good broth will be wiggly like gelatin. That’s because of the collagen. You can simmer even longer if you want, up to 24 hours. I get good results with 12 hours.
Many people add apple cider vinegar to assist the extraction process. Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice as it’s unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Another tip for bone broth, use all bones and few meaty pieces. Chicken feet, backs, and wings are a all good when you can find them. You might have to ask your local butcher to save them for you, and be sure they are organic.
Finishing the Broth
At the end of simmering, your homemade chicken broth will be deep golden and clear. Carefully strain out the spent bones, meat, vegetables and herbs. 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, boxed or frozen brand of chicken broth, but try making homemade chicken broth. It’s really the best.
Helpful links and information:
Golden French Onion Soup, recipe here
Tuscan Vegetable Soup, recipe here
Homemade vegetable broth
Like most things homemade, making your own chicken broth is so much better than store bought. Although the simmer time is 12 hours, it’s easy and mostly hands-off. You can reduce the simmer time to 6-8 hours but you will get a richer, more gelatinous broth (bone broth) with a longer simmer. I keep containers in my freezer for soups, stews, risottos and many uses. I usually double this recipe and use a 12 quart stock pot, also organic ingredients.
- 1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds (1.84 K), or thighs, legs, backs, wings, feet 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
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional)
- 4 quarts (4 L) of filtered water
- Extra boiling water as needed
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the vegetables, peppercorns, thyme and apple cider vinegar. Keep the pot at a low simmer for four to five hours, adding hot water if the water level gets low.
- 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.