Traditional Chicken Stock

Is spending 5 hours to make homemade chicken stock really worth the $6 savings over store-bought broth? If you measure your answer in terms of time or dollars, then the answer is certainly no. So here’s why I make it nonetheless. First, the 5 hours of clock time is more like 30 minutes of effort. Second, I like the idea of using my chicken scraps rather than simply discarding them. When I buy chicken breasts, I always feel semi-guilty about throwing away 20% of what was once a living creature. But of course, the most important reason to make it is that homemade stock taste much better and is preservative-free.

After de-fatting, separate into usable sizes.

After de-fatting, separate into usable sizes.

My personal history regarding chicken stock is a checkered one: Years ago, all my “chicken stock” started with a bullion cubes (bullion is just the French word for broth). It was inexpensive and convenient, but unfortunately they are mostly salt (and chemicals). Any recipe that reduces stock made from bullion will become too salty. My childhood memories of metallic-tasting Campbell’s soup have always stopped me from buying canned broth. So lately, I’ve been buying 32-ounce cartons of broths, which taste much better, but can be inconvenient if I only need a cup or two (once opened the boxed broth should be used within a week). I suppose it could be frozen, but have never actually done so.


  1. The most important thing in terms of logistics, is to keep a gallon-sized Zip-lock bag in your freezer. As you trim your chicken over the months simply add the chicken scraps to the bag. My first misconception with stock is that I had to have 5 pounds of fresh chicken scraps all at once, which of course would never happen.
  2. This recipe makes the equivalent of three 32-ounce cartons of chicken stock. It usually takes me about 2 months of regular cooking to gather enough chicken scraps to make a batch of stock. In terms of my kitchen, that’s more than enough to satisfy all my chicken stock needs.
  3. For recipes where I need a smaller amount of stock, I measured out 2-cups into Zip-lock bags. I laid then flat on a baking sheet and froze them. I can thaw out a bag for just 2 cups of stock at a time. From an old quick tip. I also have some containers with 3 and 4 cups, which satisfy my soup making needs.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 1:00 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

5 pounds assorted chicken parts (backs, necks, legs, and wings)
3-1/2 quarts of water
2 medium carrots
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  1. Add chicken parts to a stockpot just large enough to hold them. Cover with water, adding an extra 1″ of water (about 3-1/2 quarts). Bring to a boil over medium-high burner. Use a ladle or skimmer to remove any foam that rise to the top.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and cut carrots into 2″ lengths. Cut celery into 2″ lengths. Peel and quarter your onions.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add chopped vegetables, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Reduce burner until it is barely simmering (bubbles just barely breaking the surface). Cook for 4 hours, occasionally skimming any impurities that rise to the top.
  4. Line a strainer with cheese-cloth and place over a large bowl or pot. Strain away and discard the solids; do not press on solids.
  5. Allow to cool completely (you can use an ice-water bath to speed the process). Refrigerate overnight to allow the fat to accumulate to the top; then lift off and discard the semi-solid fat.
  6. Separate into individual containers in commonly used sizes. The stock should only be refrigerated for up to 3 days, but holds well in the freezer for up to 3 months; but be sure to completely thaw in refrigerator before use.
Divided into 4 cup, 3cup, 2 cup and 1-12 cup sizes

Divided into 4 cup, 3 cup, 2 cup and 1-1/2 cup sizes. So they’re pre-measured.

After  chilling, the fat is easily removed with a spoon

After chilling, the semi-hardened fat is easily removed with a spoon

8 Responses to Traditional Chicken Stock

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve done this in a crockpot as well. Works great. Also, if you ever read the ATK article on how chicken broth in cans/cartons is actually made, you will always make your own.

  2. jean says:

    love homemade stock. I’ve used my pressure cooker a few times and can’t believe how good and fast it is. the other bonus is that it’s a 6 qt size, so I really only need 1 entire chicken carcass (i.e. the remains of a rotisserie chicken) and a carrot, onion and celery stalk and broth in around an hour.

  3. Anna says:

    I’ve made stock in my crock-pot a few times. Easy, plus it doesn’t heat up the house. I like being able to assemble it all at night, then waking up to broth For me, this is a handy way to make use of a leftover chicken carcass once I’ve stripped all the meat off the bones. Doesn’t make a ton of stock, since my crockpot isn’t huge, but still,very handy and makes me feel frugal.

  4. Katie C. says:

    I have a couple questions. You made the comment about not having 5 pounds of parts to make the stock, so how much do you usually make? I had to throw out my almost big enough pile of frozen parts this summer when we lost power for an extended period of time. I don’t have the five pounds again…yet. I think that the stuff the comes in the cartons is better than the cans too. I read somewhere that the manufacturers don’t have to take the cartons to as high a temperature as the cans when “canning” so the taste is better. What always confuses me is: what is the difference between the cartons labeled broth vs. stock?

  5. Hi Katie,

    I also lost an almost-filled bag when Sandy hit. But afterwards I went through a week of making chicken every night, so filled up a new bag quickly.

    The final quantity of stock depends upon how much water you add, but I usually make 3 quarts with 4-1/2 to 5-lbs of chicken parts. You can make it stronger or weaker by adding more or less water.

    The difference between broth and stock; Stock is only meant as an ingredient for other recipes, and broth is balances enough to be eaten on it’s own. Because I didn’t add any salt whatsoever, this stock would taste terrible as is.


  6. Kim says:

    You should definitely try making your stock with the carcass from your birds. I always spend the day after Thanksgiving making turkey stock. I even have my neighbors give me their carcass too since I know they will just throw it away! I make a turkey / chicken stock from the scrap bag that I keep in the freezer and from a turkey carcass.

    Try roasting your carcass in the roasting pan until it gets a deep brown, then either turn it into stock or freeze it until you have the time to do so. The browning makes for a much richer tasting stock. I put it in the fridge overnight to scoop off the fat which has hardened on the top… the stock becomes the consistency of hard jello. This also means that it is very concentrated. I usually have to dilute it when I don’t want such a strong flavor.

    You also should try freezing at least some of your stock in ice cube trays. It allows you to take out just the amount that you need to add a “splash” of stock.

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