Once you taste homemade chicken stock - and see how easy it is to make (almost free!) and store in the freezer - you'll wonder why you ever bought it in the first place.
This pantry basic is a traditional, no special equipment needed technique. If you have a pot and stove, you can make stock/bone broth.
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Homemade chicken stock (also called bone broth) illustrates the "use it up" mentality I love of almost perfectly.
It consists of using what you have and what you might normally throw away, making it something we can actually make almost for free that a lot of people only buy.
This is also the concept behind all of my Pantry Basic recipes - they are foods we usually think can only be bought, but are actually easy and inexpensive to make at home. Think mayonnaise, ketchup, bread crumbs, and even chocolate syrup.
So, how can making chicken stock be free?
- Use your freezer to keep neck, back, and wing tips from cutting up a whole chicken and/or bones from a roasted or rotisserie chicken in a large baggie or container.
- Keep a baggie of trimmings from carrots, celery, and onions in the freezer that you cut off as you prep vegetables for salads and other meals (you know, the ends that would otherwise be thrown away).
- When you have enough of both, make broth.
Throwaway items + water + cooking time = free stock (or at most, pennies on the dollar if you count electricity)!
I didn't grow up making any kind of stock or bone broth - and I didn't know anyone who did.
In the early years of my marriage with one income and little kids, I looked for all the ways to save money and making soup with stock from leftovers was a no brainer.
Do you really need the vegetables?
The first recipes I followed called for whole onions, carrots, and celery and I was so frugal that I decided I wasn't going to waste perfectly good vegetables only to throw them out when the stock was cooked (since they're pretty mushy at that point).
So I didn't put them in and just boiled the meat and bones.
Guess what we discovered? You NEED the vegetables for flavor!
The soups I made with stock from only bones was SO bland compared to the veggie-full stock, it was actually kind of amazing - even Brian commented on it.
I've since learned that a lot of nutrients in stock come from the veggies it's simmered with, so one more reason to always add the vegetables.
Use the trimmings from the vegetables instead! I keep them in a baggie in the freezer until there is enough for a pot.
I wash them well and try to use only organic vegetables. I use the peels and ends of carrots, onions, and celery as well as the stems and leaves from parsley if I have any.
Once you've got your bones and trimmings, it's time to make the chicken stock in just four easy steps!
TIP: ANY bones can be used to make bone broth - turkey - like I show in the soup here - beef, and pork. Just change out the bones and proceed the same way as I show below.
Easy Homemade Chicken Stock (Stovetop)
1. Add bones and vegetable trimmings to a large pot
Once you have enough bones and trimmings to cook up, throw the frozen bones in a 6-qt (or larger) stock pot with the vegetables - no need to thaw first. (I use a 12-quart stainless stockpot.)
I always use carrots, onions (including green onion tops), and celery. Sometimes I throw in some whole peppercorns.
What about other vegetable scraps?
Some people like to add whole garlic cloves, but I prefer my broth to be more flexible, so I keep it simple and straightforward.
Other vegetable trimmings you can add, though they might impart a stronger flavor include: broccoli stems, cauliflower cores, cabbage trimmings and cores, other herbs that have wilted like thyme, rosemary, and chervil.
You'll also want to add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help draw out the gelatin from the bones. It's not absolutely necessary, but really encouraged.
TIP: you can see a whole breast in the pictures here, because I also decided to make a chicken soup at the same time for dinner - I'm going to pour some chicken stock off for the soup, and freeze the rest. Double duty cooking always works!
2. Cook down into stock
Fill the pot with water just enough to cover the contents.
Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to keep it at a slow simmer for 3-4 hours. Leave a lid on the pot slightly ajar so that it doesn't reduce as much as it cooks.
You can cook it as little as an hour, but you'll really only have a light broth then (more on the difference between broth and stock in the FAQ below).
The longer you can cook it, the better flavor it will have and the more nutritious it will be - that's what makes it a stock or bone broth.
On a stovetop, aim for 3-4 hours, minimum, or even from morning until night if you can.
3. Strain the chicken stock
When the broth has simmered, strain the broth out INTO A CONTAINER.
Yes, I have dumped the chicken in the colander and watched my broth go down the drain before I realized it...learn from my mistakes!
Use a large pot if you're going to make soup right away or a large glass or ceramic bowl with a pour spout to make it easy to pour into containers for freezing and storing.
4. Cool and freeze
Let the stock cool a bit and pour into freezer containers.
I no longer use the plastic freezer containers - the hot liquid causes leaching. I use pint and quart size mason jars, filling just more than 3/4 full. Yes, a few break every now and then, but I'm willing to put up with it. Using the white storage lids are easier than the two-piece metal lids.
Homemade Chicken Stock FAQs
I go into this in much more detail in this Bone Broth 101 article, but basically it's generally agreed that stock is made with the bones of an animal and is cooked for many hours while broth is made with meat and cooked about an hour. When the term "bone broth" is used, that's referring to stock, obviously, made from bones.
This is the way to make broth/stock no matter how you preserve it. BUT, this is a low acid product and cannot be water bath canned safely. If you want to can any type of meat broth you need a tested pressure canner recipe to know the pounds under pressure and how long to can it. Here is a recipe to pressure can chicken stock from Ball Canning (it calls for a whole chicken, but you can use just bones - that's okay and I like that this includes the vegetables that makes broth so much richer).
Yes! Go here to grab the instructions for making this easily in one of these appliances.
I really like these Souper Cubes that come in all different sizes so you can choose the size you use most. Once the stock is frozen, pop the cubes out easily from the silicone and add to a labeled baggie to pull out as needed!
That's it - can you believe how easy this is?
There's hardly any hands-on time and the result is better than anything you can buy - promise.
I made enough from this batch for a pot of chicken noodle soup and 2 quart containers, which is a pretty good amount for about 5 minutes of my time, right?
Plus I used up what would have been thrown away, AND I have a better tasting product which is super nourishing, to boot.
Easy Homemade Chicken Stock
- 1 6 to 12 quart stockpot, depending on the amount to make
- 1 large strainer/colander
- containers for freezing
- 3 to 4 pounds frozen chicken backs, bones, wing tips, etc. or bones from one whole chicken*
- 2 cups vegetable scraps: carrots celery, onions, parsley
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar**
- 12 cups cold water
- Optional: 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 2-4 cloves garlic, other herbs like bay leaf, etc.
- Add all the bones, vegetable scraps and apple cider vinegar to a large stockpot with any other ingredients you'l like to add.
- Cover with cold water, add the lid and bring to a roiling boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer on low (with lid on) as long as you can - at least 3-4 hours (morning to evening is the best).
- Set a container in the sink, put a colander over the top and pour the contents of the pot through, straining out the solids and liquid. (Discard the solids or pull off meat if there is any.)
- Transfer the stock to freezer containers, let cool a bit and then seal, label and freeze. Use within a year.
- Alternately, you can pour it all into a large stock pot and store it in the refrigerator for a day to be able to skim the fat and then transfer into containers - or make a soup with the stock right in the pot.
So, have I convinced you to start filling your freezer with bones and vegetable trimmings to make your own "gold" (broth)?Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price. Click here to read our full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.