Homemade chicken stock is so amazing! I avoided making it for years because it seemed fussy to spend hours making something you could buy at the store. But then I tried it and learned something: it might cook for hours, but it really takes minutes to put it together, then a few minutes to strain it, but the stock mostly just makes itself. And the results are SO much better than store-bought stock.
Most of the ingredients are leftovers, so it doesn’t cost much. And you can give it this umami quality that you just can’t get from a box.
I am a working mom, and family dinner is super important to me because it gives me and my husband a chance to really connect with our kids. But after a busy day at work, I am not always up to making a dinner for scratch, and grocery store Rotisserie chickens are a great start to a healthy family meal. Costco is on the way home from my husband’s work; their chickens are the best I’ve found anywhere, and they’re the least expensive, too.
On Saturday, if we had a rotisserie chicken for dinner one day that week, I can use the chicken carcass (minus any leftover meat if I am up to picking the meat off the bones) to make this stock. I let it cook on the stove longer to reduce it and concentrate its flavor — reduced stock makes the most flavorful sauces, and allows me to throw together a sauce on a weeknight in a jiffy.
Enough chatter… on to the recipe!
How to Make Chicken Stock
Start with a nice-sized stock pot. For all the time this takes (though not a lot of actual effort), you want to get a very flavorful stock!
Add your rotisserie chicken carcass. Cut out and reserve the meat or not; it’s up to you. If you’re not in the mood, it is perfectly fine to leave it on the carcass. You can still make plenty of yummy foods without the meat, and it will add flavor to the stock.
Roughly chop your veggies and add them.
Add your herbs. Use what you have: fresh or dried. In the summer I can grab herbs from my garden, but in the winter I either use leftover herbs I have purchased for something else, or I use dried herbs. Give fresh herbs a quick rinse before throwing them in. The only trick with dried herbs is you do NOT want to use ground herbs (they will cloud the stock); use only dried leaves.
For today, for the photos, I cheated and bought this awesome little poultry herb mix from my favorite grocery store. Usually I won’t do that just for a stock; I prefer to stick to leftovers.
Also, add whole spices (this is a great way to use up some whole spices that have been sitting in your spice cupboard for too long). Don’t forget the garlic cloves. Chop them in half and leave the skins on… it’s easier and the skins will give the stock flavor without adding color.
Salt is optional. Add it or not – it’s up to you. But if you’re going to reduce it by more than what I’m doing here, less is definitely more.
Now, I like to add some apple juice – this adds this amazing depth of flavor and umami richness. Then, a bit of apple cider vinegar to help get the nutrients out of the bones.
Add leftover veggies, herbs, and whole spices that you think might give your stock some flavor. Most anything goes. Today I have some leftover lemon wedges, so I threw them in.
And last, but not least, the water. Fill the pot almost to the top. Since you’re going to simmer it, it shouldn’t boil over.
It’s time to turn on the stock. Hopefully you were able to get to this point in just a couple of minutes. Bring it to a simmer – not a boil. Your house is going to start to smell wonderful! Simmer it for about 4 hours, or until the stock pot is about half full.
Now, pull any big chunks out with a slotted spoon, then strain the rest of the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a large pot. Skim off any fat and foam that float to the top.
At this point, the stock is ready. I take an extra step and reduce it, but you could store it at this point. Reducing it concentrates the flavor, gives you less to store, and is easier to use in sauces and stews, so it’s worth it to me to continue.
Continue to simmer your stock until it is reduced by half. You could simmer it until it is reduced by three quarters, or even more… you’d end up with more concentrated flavors and a chicken glace. Useful if you have the time and patience, or have something particular you want to make with chicken glace.
Skim off fat and any skin on top, then pour into a container. Let it cool 15 minutes, then put it in the fridge.
Reduced chicken stock will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it for up to a year.
How to Use Chicken Stock
Now your stock is ready to store or use. You can use reduced stock in place of regular stock in recipes. It will make your recipes more full-flavored.
Since I don’t drink but love to make gourmet recipes, I also use reduced chicken stock as a substitute for wine in sauces (such as lemon garlic beurre blanc – so yummy on seafood).
Here are a few recipe suggestions:
- Chicken soup
- Chicken pot pie
- Chicken & dumplings
- Gravy for next week’s rotisserie chicken meal
No matter what you make, you’ll realize your homemade reduced chicken stock is so superior to the store-bought kind, and recipes you make with this stock will be much better!