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 8-20 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.
Homemade Chicken Broth (Bone Broth)
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.
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, leg pieces and chicken feet when I can find organic.
Chicken feet are a great source of collagen, and they add 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 have cut up. They all work, as long as there are bones.
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 (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 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. 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 20-24 hours to extract as much collagen and nutritious minerals from the bones as possible.
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.
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 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 store brand of chicken broth (look in the freezer section), but try making homemade chicken broth. It’s really the best.
Homemade Chicken Broth (Bone Broth)
- 10-12 quart stockpot
- 1 5 pound whole chicken or thighs, legs, backs, wings, feet and bones
- 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
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar optional
- 4 quarts filtered water
- Extra boiling water as needed
- 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 excess skin. Poultry shears also help break it down.
- Add the chicken pieces to a large stock pot, about 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 gray 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 20-24 hours, adding boiling water from a kettle if the water level gets low. The longer you simmer, the better.
- 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 portion and freeze in small containers for up to three months.