Making Better Chicken Stock

Simmer Like a Winner

There’s a time and a place for pre-made stock, but if you’ve got the ingredients on hand and would like to take your soups and risottos to the next level, try your hand at making yours from scratch.  It’s very forgiving to do so, and you can easily extend your ingredients into savable (read: freezable) stock for recipes later on.

  • Supermarkets often have sales on chicken breast in bulk, but it needs to be trimmed.  Save the bits of chicken and fat for use in making stock later on.  I also do the same thing with wing tips and skin.
  • Where you’d usually trash the leafy tops of celery and the stems of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (are you singing?), you can reserve these items to flavor your stock.
  • For a unique depth of flavor, use roasted chicken as the base of your stock.  You can use the leftovers from a roasted chicken, or roast the leftover chicken briefly in the oven.  The caramelization of the skin and meat will help to impart a more complex flavor to your stock.
  • If you are using leftover chicken to make your stock and you don’t have much meat to add to the soup, poach a chicken breast in the stock as it boils, remove and let cool, then shred for your soup.
  • Deglazing your soup is easy to do when the stock is cool – the fat will rise to the top and form a solid layer that can be scraped off in one pass.  Easy peasy.
  • If your stock tastes of chicken, but still falls flat, chances are that you’ve undersalted the thing.  Get used to tasting your stock for salt throughout the cooking process – as you reduce the stock, the saltiness will become more pronounced.  This is one of the few times in cooking where you can absolutely salt up until the very moment that you serve.  And worst case scenario, you can add a bit of water if your stock is too salty.
  • Brighten the flavor of your stock at the very end of the cooking process with a squeeze of lemon.  Stirring in freshly snipped herbs upon serving has the same effect.