All About Chicken Stock and Broth
Chicken broth is one of those things that just tastes amazing. But how do you make it at home? Well actually, it’s pretty simple. I think it takes more time than skill in my opinion.
I know some recipes call for bone broth and some for stock. So what is the difference between bone broth and stock?
What is the Difference between Broth and Stock?
Some people say they are essentially the same and others say they have critical differences. So which is it?
I probably won’t solve that world dilemma today. There will always be experts in the field debating it or letting you know what it really is, but for today I will give you what I found from my research on the matter.
I’m sure there will be some who even disagree with these explanations. I guess that is the nature of the beast.
Small disclaimer, I’ve never been to a culinary school in my life. I’m just a home cook that learned from my Mom and life experiences. So at the end of this I will give you my recipe for my Chicken Broth….or at least what I call Chicken Broth!
What is Broth?
Broth is when you cook meat sometimes with bones and aromatics (think onions or garlic), herbs and/or a few vegetables. This cooks for a shorter time like one to two hours. Technically, you don’t even have to add bones for it to be broth.
The end product will not be thick or gelatinous. Basically, you won’t ever confuse this for jell-o in your fridge.
What is Stock?
Stock is made from cooking bones in water. It is cooked for 6-8 hours to release the collagen out of the bones. You can actually cook it for even longer than this. I’ve done it over two days many times and it is very rich and good tasting.
Some people recommend roasting your bones in the oven before cooking them on the stove-top in a pot of water.
The end result of cooking stock is a product that should be thick and gelatinous when it is cooled. Think Jell-O consistency.
What Do I Make?
Based on these definitions, what I make must be a crossover between the two. I’ve come up with what works best for me time-wise and flavor-wise.
I use meat and bones, but I also cook it for very looooong time. I don’t usually add anything else either.
Occasionaly I have added celery, onions, garlic, ginger, pepper, and/or carrots, but that’s just if I have extra stuff hanging around and am in the mood for something different.
It’s fine if you do. I’ve found that I like the flavor the best with just meat and bones. I like the flavor of the chicken to shine through and not be over-powered by all that other stuff.
I do pull the meat off of the bones after about an hour and then put the bones, skin, etc all back into the pot. I think having the meat cooked with it for even a short amount of time really adds a ton to the overall end flavor.
I use a meat thermometer like this one to check to see if the meat is done.
I pull the chicken out to de-bone when it reaches at least 165 F in the thickest portion of the meat. I stab it a few places just to make sure. I know. I’m a bit neurotic about this. But I want to be very sure that the chicken meat is thoroughly cooked.
I think for the average home cook it is safe to say that you can use stock or broth interchangeably in your recipes with good success.
What Bones do I use for making Broth or Stock?
Because, I live in Estonia and have limited access to beef bones, I primarily just make chicken broth. I’ve used chicken necks to make broth. I can buy a bunch of them frozen in packs. It tastes good. There are a lot of little bones, so at the end you want to strain it out really well.
We’ve also used chicken feet, but I think that one is better if you just add a couple to a pot of other bones. It really does add a lot of thickness to the end product, but when I tried it as just a bunch of chicken feet, the taste was not that great. My kids did not like that one at all.
I can’t find them easily, so it’s not something I use frequently. But I would throw in a couple with every pot if I found a way to get them locally.
Most of the time, I use whole chicken fryers. I cut the breast off to use in a chicken stir-fry or for making home-made chicken tenders. My kids just love the chicken tenders. Those always disappear off of the plate way to fast.
Once the breast are removed, I put the whole chicken in the large pot and cover it with water. Our chickens here tend to run on the small size so I do two at the same time.
I’ve tried Pork Broth. I used joint bones. It’s really not my favorite broth at all. I guess there is a reason no one really talks about pork broth. While I am sure you can make it work. I’ve never tried it again as I didn’t think it was that great and wasn’t really worth my time.
Beef broth is amazing and I am bummed that beef bones are so hard to come by here. You want to look for bones that contain joints, like knuckles, short ribs or neck bones. The joints are where most of the cartilage is located and that is what makes broth have that amazing thick texture.
Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth contains essential amino acids and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It contains collagen with is said to be great for your joints, hair, skin, and nails.
You can’t say for any certainty what exactly is in your home-made broth since there are so many variables: diet of the animal, which bones are used, and how long it was cooked.
We can all agree it is loaded with good stuff for you though. Using broth won’t cure all that ails you, but it does taste good and is a great base for soups, sauces, or even just to drink on its own.
Do you Refrigerate Broth?
I put my broth in a canning jar while it is still hot and put a lid on it. It will seal, but don’t think….pressure cooking type of seal. You must still keep it in the fridge. I use mine within a week or else I break the seal and put it in the freezer.
(I break the seal to allow for expansion in the freezer. Also you want to make sure that if you are freezing liquid in a glass jar that you leave a bit of head space. I leave at least an inch. I learned the hard way that you can break your glass jars in the freezer if you don’t leave that extra room for the liquid to expand. It was a frustrating moment to see all my hard work go right into the trash. On the bright side, it was a lesson I won’t ever forget!)
Does Broth go Bad?
The short answer is….Absolutely! But how do you know if it’s gone bad? I look for the color to have changed to a kind of gray hue. Take notice of what it looks like fresh so you will know what a change actually looks like.
I also smell it. If it smells like anything other than chicken broth….it’s time to pitch it. When it doubt throw it out!
Making the Broth
What you need:
2 whole chickens
large cooking pot with lid (mine is 7 quarts)
sharp knife and cutting board
1. Cut the breast off of your chickens and set those aside either in your fridge to use within a day or two or in your freezer for storage.
2. Place the chickens in your pot. Then cover them with water or add water up to within two inches of the brim of my pot. You might need to vary a little bit based on the size of your pot and the size of your chickens.
I like the water to cover the chickens, but if for some reason the chickens are bigger then I don’t cover them completely. If the water level is too high then the pot will boil over very easily. And who wants to clean up that mess? I try to avoid that.
And that is all I put in the pot at this point. Notice no salt is added at this point.
The reason is that as the bones cook they will release some of it’s own and it can taste a little bit salty…so it’s best to wait until the end to taste test it and see how much you really need to add.
3. Turn the pot on high to bring it to a boil.Once it boils, turn it down to low heat and let it cook for about 45 minutes-to 1 hour to cook the meat.
- Watch the pot carefully as it comes to a boiling point. Depending on how much water you put in the pot, it can boil over the pan. I hate it when that happens.
- When I can tell it is about ready to boil I often just prop the lid a little off of the pan to let some heat escape to prevent it from boiling over.
- I have tried different ways of doing this. If I don’t put water over the entire chicken that leg that is sticking up takes forever to cook. By the time that leg gets cooked the rest will be mush. So I try to re-position them so it all fits in nicely and can be covered with water. Occasionally, that just doesn’t work and I deal with it!
4. Use a kitchen thermometer to test for when the meat is done. I’m a bit neurotic about poultry being cooked all the way through. I want it to be a solid 165 F before I pull it out.
That is my safe number. I realize it can be lower than that and still be done, but that is where I am happy.
5. When the chicken is done, use a large slotted spoons to lift out both chickens onto a platter, bowl or plate. Whatever you have that will hold that much chicken is fine to use. Just make sure that it is a clean dish!
6. Let it cool for a little bit and then de-bone the chicken. I keep the meat and throw that in the fridge.
It is perfect for mixing with BBQ sauce and making sandwiches with later. You can add taco seasoning for chicken tacos. Use it in enchiladas, or even make chicken salad sandwiches. You are limited only to your imagination. It’s handy stuff to have around. It has many uses.
Yes, it is boiled meat. I get that. It’s not really ultra-amazing on its own, but it is handy to make other meals with. My husband is a definite meat-eater and sometimes he just eats it plain as a snack.
As I de-bone the chicken, I have one bowl sitting to the right of the plate of chicken and the pot of “broth” sitting to the left of the plate on a pot holder. I throw the meat in the bowl and everything else goes right back into the pot…bones, skin, odd bits of whatever is in that chicken.
I’ll just state up front that some of the stuff you see when you de-bone a chicken is kind of nasty, but it’s fine to just throw everything but the meat back in the pot.
I think at this point some people would recommenced roasting the bones for at least 30-45 minutes in the oven. I’ve heard it really adds great flavor to the finished product. As of now, I’ve not ever taken the time to do that. Because….I don’t want to add even more time to my process…but maybe one day, I’ll get around to trying it.
Back to the broth….
I’ve tested the flavor of cooking the bones with veggies added to the mix compared to only chicken. I think adding vegetables really makes it taste more like vegetable broth and you lose that distinct chicken broth flavor we all know. So most of the time, it’s just bones for me.
I cook the broth again for several hours. There’s not really a right or wrong way here. If you only have 2 more hours to do, then stop at two hours.
But if you started early in the morning and are home all day, then let it keep cooking all day on low. If you use a crock pot and want to do it all night too. You can. The longer you cook it, the more good stuff comes out of the bones.
Sometimes, I add about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the bone broth after I’ve removed the meat to help break down the bones. That may sound gross, but you really don’t taste that in the end and it really does work.
I don’t add salt as the broth becomes naturally salty over the long cooking period. And once you add salt you can’t take that out. Not to state the obvious or anything. So I salt it to taste when I use it.
Why start with a Whole Broiler?
The reason why I start with whole broilers and then de-bone them is because I have tried making broth without meat and it just didn’t taste very good. It seems simple enough to find whole broilers and just throw the whole thing in and go from there.
My bonus is that I have teenagers in the house and I’ve taught them how to cut the breasts off of the chicken plus how to clean up the raw chicken mess along with how to de-bone them. So I get help from time to time.
It’s the bonus of having big kids around!
So I guess this is why my version is kind of a cross-over between stock and broth. I use meat, but I also cook it for a very long time without adding any extras to it most of the time.
Occasionally, I have some scraps and will throw in a bit of garlic or even some ginger that is drying up and is on its way out or other little things, but usually I just leave it plain.
When I am done. I use a slotted spoon and pull out the bones and trash them. Then I pour it into glass canning jars. You can put it through a fine mesh strainer to get all the little bits of stuff out if you want really smooth broth.
I don’t do it as I don’t really care. When I use it in soups and sauces it doesn’t really matter to me most of the time if there are few chicken floaties hanging around.
It all sinks to the bottom, so if I am just drinking it plain…I just don’t usually drink the last drink which might be more appropriately called a bite. LOL
Fat. There is always a good bit of fat to deal with in the finished batch of broth. You can use a ladle and try to skim it off when it is warm. I personally just throw it all in the jar together and store it that way.
I store my broth in the fridge and typically use within a week. After it is chilled the fat solidifies pretty good and it is easy to just scoop it out and do whatever you want to with it.
Now you have broth that is ready to use for whatever you want. If you cooked yours for a long time, it will be pretty thick when it is chilled. Some batches vary for me.
Sometimes they are like Jell-O jigglers and other times it is more like jelly, but it always thickens up at least a little.
I hope this helps you tackle making broth or stock for your first time.
It is a really wonderful thing to have on hand to cook with. It tastes so much better than store-bought stuff. I was appalled the last time I used canned broth from the store at how different it tastes from stuff you can make yourself.
You can so do this! It won’t save the world or heal all your problems, but you might feel like a super-hero the first time you do it. It’s pretty stinkin’ awesome to hold that jar of broth in your hands and think that you made it yourself.
You can do it!