Step away from the box – boxed chicken broth, that is, and learn to make homemade chicken broth. Its hands down, the best. Simmer meaty chicken pieces and bones for 12-20 hours with carrot, onion, celery and herbs, then strain, cool and freeze. The house will smell heavenly and you will have golden broth in the freezer to use for fantastic soups, stews, risottos and just sipping.
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 so much better than anything store bought.
Store broths are usually filled with sodium for taste and as a preservative, while homemade has zero. If you read the labels on most store brands, you will be shocked at not only the sodium content but other ingredients (like sugar). Not healthy.
Chicken Broth or Stock?
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 sometimes vegetables. I use a combination for the best flavor and nutrition.
What Kind of Chicken?
When making homemade stock I use a whole, cut-up organic chicken or bone-in chicken thighs and leg pieces. Adding chicken feet provide extra collagen and great body and nutrition to the broth. Check with your butcher and ask if they have chicken bones or parts for sale. It will usually be backs and necks from chickens they cut up. They all work, as long as there are bones. While chicken feet are creepy your broth will be like jello.
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 about 5 frozen bodies (plus I add chicken feet), 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 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 and 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. And be sure to add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. It helps the pull the nutrients from the bones. Bragg raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice as its unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Add Boiling Water as Needed
As your broth simmers over a few hours, the water level will drop. I keep an electric tea 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. 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.
I simmer my broth for 20+ hours to extract as much collagen and nutritious minerals from the bones as possible.
Finishing the Broth: Cooling
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 overnight (covered) and skim the solidified fat off the top in the morning. Use your chicken broth within three days or freeze in portions. Freeze in muffin tins for small measures, canning jars, mason jars, and larger containers.
Measure it out, label (masking tape or kitchen labels and a Sharpie should always be in the kitchen) and freeze for up to three months. I freeze in 3 cup, 1 cup and ½ cup portions.
A Note for Histamine Intolerance
Because of the long simmer time of the bone broth, it may cause flare ups for people with HIT or MCAS. After you are healed and managing, you might be able to enjoy this. I do and I have both HIT and MCAS. For a 2-hour, low histamine chicken broth made in the Instant Pot try this recipe.
Homemade Chicken Broth (Bone Broth)
- 12 quart stockpot
- 1 5 pound whole chicken or 5 pounds thighs, legs, backs, wings, feet and bones
- 1 pound chicken feet or 1 more pound chicken pieces (optional)
- 2 large celery ribs roughly chopped
- 2 medium carrots scrubbed, roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 1 large dried bay leaf
- 1 handful parsley leaves and stems
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 quarts filtered water
- Extra boiling water as needed
How to Cut up a Whole 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 at the joint, 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 excess skin. Poultry shears also help break it down.
Start the Broth
- Add the chicken pieces to a large stock pot, about 10-12 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 gray foamy scum. Skim it off and discard. Continue to skim and discard until its mostly gone.
Long Simmer the Broth
- Add the vegetables, peppercorns, thyme and apple cider vinegar. Keep the pot at a low simmer for 20-24 hours, adding boiling water from a kettle if the water level gets low. The longer you simmer, the better.
Strain and Chill the Broth
- 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, covered, overnight.
Use and Freezing
- Skim off the solidified fat in the morning. Use broth within 3 days or portion and freeze in small containers, labeled, for up to three months.