Got chicken stock in the fridge? You’ve got a leg up on dinner. Turn it into a soup with just about any meat or veggies you have on hand, simmer it with rice for a nourishing risotto, pour it over a casserole or add it to your favorite grain. Check out more meals that turn into a week’s worth of dinners.
Why make chicken stock at home? It’s easy, for one (you’ll see how easy, below). Homemade stock has a velvety texture and full flavor that the canned stuff (let alone bouillon cubes) can’t touch. Collagen-rich and laced with vegetables and herbs, homemade is also healthy, whereas commercial stock is laden with preservatives and salt. (Plenty of grocery store items are better made at home.)
We suggest making stock on a weekend morning. Just dump the ingredients into the pot and go about your day. By afternoon, the stock will be done, and your fridge will be loaded up for the week. Here’s how it’s done.
2-1/2 pounds bony chicken pieces (legs, wings, necks or back bones)
Aromatic vegetables, to add flavor. You can use most vegetables (or even scraps left in your crisper). Our basic recipe calls for:
2 celery ribs, cut into chunks
2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
2 medium onions, quartered
Spices. We use a few classics:
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 to 10 whole peppercorns
2 quarts cold water
Test Kitchen tip: While you can experiment by swapping in your favorite herbs and spices, it’s a good idea to stick to small amounts. The stock’s long simmering time will extract a lot of flavor, so too much spice can overpower the finished stock. Plus, stock is meant to be a base from which to build flavors for a variety of recipes. You can always add more seasonings later.
Step 1: Prep and combine all ingredients
Everything goes into the pot at once, so the first step is slicing and measuring the ingredients. As they’re ready, put them into a Dutch oven or stockpot. Pour the water over all.
Step 2: Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce heat
Set the pot over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat and simmer.
Step 3: Simmer slowly to extract flavor
Simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 hours. The longer stock simmers, the more collagen is extracted, giving the finished stock a full, silky texture (instead of a watery one).
Foam will rise to the top and drift to the edges of the pot; skim it away with a spoon and discard.
Step 4: Strain and save the meat
After a few hours, the stock should smell amazing and have a nice golden brown hue. In short, it’s done!
Now it’s time to strain the stock. To do this, set up a large bowl with a fine mesh-strainer over it. Remove the larger pieces of meat and vegetables with tongs or a ladle. Once most of the solids have been removed, lift the pot and carefully pour the rest of the stock out.
Test Kitchen tip: Strain twice if you’ve missed some bits; for extra-clear stock, lay a piece of cheesecloth over the strainer.
Test Kitchen tip: We like to save the meat. It makes a good filler for chicken salad, casseroles, tacos and more, making weeknight dinner easy. Pull the chicken out with tongs and set aside. Once it’s cool enough to handle, cut the meat from the bones. (Discard the bones; they’ve given up their flavor to the stock. Discard the vegetables and seasonings, too.)
Step 5: Let cool and skim the fat
If you plan to use the stock immediately, you’re in luck, because it’s ready to eat. Keep in mind: The warmer the stock, the more difficult it is to remove the fat. You will see oily rounds of it floating on the surface; scoop them away and discard.
Not eating the stock right away? It’s easier to remove the fat once it’s cooled. Let the stock cool slightly at room temperature. (You should never put steaming food into the fridge. Here are a few more important fridge tips.) I like to pour stock into a few shallow storage containers, and if I’m in a hurry, I toss in a few ice cubes to cool it quicker.
Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. While it cools, a hard layer of fat will form on the surface. This is easy to pull away with a spoon.
Test Kitchen tip: Chicken fat (or schmaltz) is delicious. You can use it like butter, to cook eggs or spread on toast. Keep it in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.
Step 6: Store
Stock will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for four to five days.
If you want to keep it around longer, seal tightly in a freezer-safe container and freeze. It’ll keep for up to a year this way. (Did you know you can freeze your favorite summer produce?)
Fun fact: Chefs and home cooks alike often use the terms broth and stock interchangeably. To be 100% accurate, stock refers to liquid made from bones, fat, meat and vegetables. Broth is made with just meat and vegetables. Stock is what most people are after when they make this flavorful liquid at home.