Homemade Chicken Broth

By Sally on January 16, 2012

basics and how-to, soups, stews & chilies, 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 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 chicken stock is made from chicken bones.I also make broth from the frozen, saved carcasses of roasted chicken. The broth is not as clear, but it tastes great. Plus, it is thrifty.

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, 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.

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.

Why Bones?

Bones are important because they contain collagen protein. That’s what gives the broth body, flavor and richness. When you simmer your broth for at least 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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

Helpful links and information:

Golden French Onion Soup, recipe here

Tuscan Vegetable Soup, recipe here

Homemade vegetable stock


Leave a Comment
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.

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.

    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. Fine Cooking has a good recipe, also like I would make mine, with roasted bones.

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. Fine Cooking has a good recipe, also like I would make mine, with roasted bones.

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!

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.

Kayla | December 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Hi there, do you keep tinge chicken after to eat it or what do you do with the chicken? I’ve never done this before so don’t want to mess it up. Can I can this after it is done to have for soups and recipes that call for chicken broth? Thanks

    Sally | December 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Kayla. Thanks for your question. After the chicken has simmered to create the broth for so long, it’s pretty much give up its all for the broth. It’s not very good to eat at that point. I toss it. Let me know how you do. Homemade broth tastes fantastic compared to anything boxed or canned. And it is so much better for you.

Lauren | March 3, 2015 at 4:10 am

I’ve seen many different ideas for freezing it, which is my best option. If you freeze it in one ounce cubes and then transfer to a plastic bag, do you run the risk of ice crystals developing all over it? I would love to know a great recommendation for freezing it in both large and small portions. Also, if you freeze it, can you thaw in fridge and it will still keep for a few days??

    Sally Cameron | March 13, 2015 at 12:53 am

    Hi Lauren. Ice cube trays works fine. I did that in the past but they are really too small for me. Most of the time I am using more, like 1-3 cups. I used to freeze broth in muffin pans that were about 4 ounces, so 1/4 cup. After frozen, pop them out and place them in a freezer zip bag. For larger portions, like 1-3 cups, I am using the Glasslock containers. Just started trying those. Used to use BPA-free plastic, but know that glass is better. Many people freeze broth flat in plastic freezer zip bags, laying them flat on a small, quarter rimmed baking sheet. When frozen they stack flat. Only issue I have with that solution is that if you get a leak they get messy upon thawing, so just remember to thaw them in the refrigerate on a bowl, pot or something to catch any possible leakage. Good question! Hope that helps. Blessings, Sally

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