A Simple Guide to Homemade Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is one of those foods that make you feel like you’re a really good cook.

I used to think about making it, especially with a yummy soup recipe in mind, but then I’d turn to the chicken stock recipe in the back of the cookbook, and it had twenty ingredients just for the stock! It felt like I was making soup twice. No thanks, I really don’t have time for that. I’ll just fix scrambled eggs and toast..and I’ll probably burn the toast.

There are as many recipes for chicken stock as there are cooks. I discovered that chicken stock in its most basic form: chicken and water, is actually really good. The recipes that list twenty ingredients are better, in the same way that a tenderloin steak is better than a hamburger, but for some cold winter nights at home, simple food soothes just fine.

Don’t let lack of time and energy for those long-list recipes keep you from enjoying homemade chicken stock. If you make it at home, it will be better than anything you can buy at the store. So go ahead and make it yourself, even when you don’t have time for the bouquet garni.

The cooking time for stock is at least four hours, but hands-on time is fifteen minutes, tops.

The Essentials

Chicken bones. Stock is made from bones, so you don’t need the meat. After we eat roast chicken I’ll save the leftover bones in the freezer until I can make stock with two carcasses at a time. It’s the best possible food for a frugal grocery budget when something amazingly healthy and nourishing can be made from what we would have thrown away. My family can eat at least two more meals that week for practically pennies.

If you have a huge stock pot and freezer space, you could make more and freeze the rest, but I find smaller batches easier to manage, which helps me be willing to make it more often.

Cold water. Start with cold water because certain essential proteins only dissolve in cold water.

Something acidic. I add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, though some people use wine, or even tomatoes. The acid draws calcium and other minerals from the bones into the stock.

The Extras

Do you have any extra vegetables around? Toss them in. I usually slice an onion down the middle and add it, and you can also try carrots, garlic, or celery. All of these are good if you have them.

Seasoning. Salt is important to flavor, but don’t add it to the stock; wait until you’re cooking with the stock and add salt in the final recipe to taste. In the last twenty minutes of simmering the stock you can add fresh herbs and pepper if you want to. Since I start with the remains from roast chicken, it often has enough seasoning already and I don’t need to add anything.

The Method

Put the chicken bones and any vegetables into the pot and add enough cold water to cover them by an inch or two. Turn the heat on low and let the stock heat slowly. It might take an hour to warm up, and then keep the heat on low so the stock is barely simmering. Skim the top as needed.

Stock requires at least four hours to simmer, but how long you let it go is up to you. You can also try making it in the crock pot.

When enough time has passed, strain and pour the stock into jars. Let it cool and then chill in the fridge. Once the stock is chilled, there will be a layer of fat that you can remove from the top. Chilled chicken stock is thick like Jell-O, and that’s a good thing. That means you’re getting all the healthy gelatin from the chicken bones.

I gain about a gallon of stock when I make it in my stock pot with two chicken carcasses. I pour the stock into two half-gallon glass canning jars. This gives me enough to make soup twice for my family later that week. Stock can stay in the fridge for about four days, or you can freeze it for a couple of months.

When I see a jar of homemade chicken stock in the fridge, I know I’m just minutes away from a cheap and nutritious meal for my family.

And I feel pretty awesome.

What are your favorite ways to make and use chicken stock in your kitchen? Especially with winter coming, what do you add to it to make soup?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Rachel-
    Do you freeze it in the jar? And, do you dilute it (to thin out the gelatin)? I made stock a good deal in the past, but always did it with larger carcasses (turkey) and could never figure out how to divide it up to use it productively (and then, how to thin it so it didn’t lose its flavor). I buy stock/broth almost weekly this time of year…this is a good reminder to use up the bones! Thank you,
    Amy

    • Sometimes I freeze it in the jar. Since it’s glass I make sure to chill the stock in the fridge first before moving it to the freezer so the glass won’t crack, and I don’t fill it up so much so there’s room for the frozen stock to expand. Normally we use it within a couple of days, so I don’t freeze it.

      I don’t dilute chicken stock. The gelatin thins into a liquid just by heating it. If anything, you might want to condense the stock by letting it simmer longer so more water evaporates and there is less to freeze or store in the fridge.

  2. Yes! The ultimate in simplicity and frugality…my Gran taught me to use tops of veggies, celery leaves and cores, onions w/their skins, lemon rinds, etc, along w/the bones and then skim the whole thing through a cheese cloth to clarify it a bit. She didn’t care for bouquet garni, she preferred full contact bay leaves and peppercorns.

    I second the non-addition of salt – as the stock cooks down, all the flavors concentrate and it can end up being really overly salty. I learned this the hard way. It still worked out okay for a potato soup base, but hardly ideal.

    Thanks for sharing such a tried and true idea.
    the cottage child´s last post…Less is more perfect

  3. I just made homemade chicken stock for the first time! I love to cook & bake, why I never made stock, I’ll never know. I love using it in place of water when I make rice, it give it an extra “boost of flavor.”

    My basic chicken soup, has noodles (wide ones, or curly ones depending what we have on hand), carrots, celery, small chicken chunks. Salt, pepper, other various spices.

  4. I’ve always been intimidated by those complicated recipes. Thanks for a simple method. Looking forward to try it. We’ve been buying less meat (because of the expense compared to beans and eggs) but this would even out the cost in our food budget. Thanks!
    Laura´s last post…Handmade hair accessories with a huge help!

  5. one question: what do you use to strain?
    Laura´s last post…Handmade hair accessories with a huge help!

    • I use a wire mesh strainer. I’ve also tried straining through cheesecloth, but I found that the wire mesh worked just as well for me and it was easier to clean.

  6. I make this all the time. I didn’t know the gelatin was so good for you. I thought it was a side effect of making it at home. LOL.
    I use pasta, corn, chicken, veggies, etc. My favorite thing to do is throw a few meatballs into the soup when I am preparing it for dinner. I top it with avocados, shredded cheese, sour cream and crushed tortilla chips. I never get any complaints from this one. Also I add a few drops of Louisiana hot sauce to the batch, and then add a bunch more to mine. Yum!
    Lauri V.´s last post…The meaning behind the madness

  7. I didn’t know that you could make stock from already roasted bones…I thought only row ones were used! And that’s how I made it. I’ll definitely try this one, though.
    I actually prefer plain chicken stock because it’s somewhat unflavored and thus better to use in various recipes.

  8. Whenever I make chicken or turkey that has bones in it I have everyone save the bones from dinner.

    I just dump it in a large pan, fill with water and throw in an onion or celery or I just use the chicken and water. :-)

    I then let it cook on low overnight on the stove top and in the morning have some great stock!

  9. Thanks so much for the step-by-step breakdown (ratios of chicken bones to water, etc). My dad does this all the time, but he’s never specific in how to make it… so mine always turned out thin and flavorless. (I gave up eventually.)

  10. I am one that has always thought about making it, but without ever doing it, it seems like such an overwhelming task…I think I will go ahead and throw everything back in after cooking a chicken in the crockpot and cook overnight. That way I don’t have to clean the crockpot twice, and I will also get all of that good stuff that already cooked off of it. Thanks for making this task seem easy.
    Katie´s last post…some diversions

  11. Yummy. I love making chicken stock. I’m making two stuffed chickens for dinner tonight, and you just inspired me about what to do with the bones.
    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Just a little help for the hedgehog

  12. Mmmmmm, yum, my favourite is risotto, with the stock and with any leftover meat from the roast chook. And leftover roast pumpkin, onions, etc. We always get at least 3 meals for 2 out of one bird, and they’re all so wholesome and yummy!
    Sue´s last post…12 Days of… Something Christmassy

  13. Oh, thank you thank you thank you!! I’ve only made stock a couple times for similar reasons. My cookbook didn’t list 20 ingredients, but still, I didn’t know I could do without what they did list. So, I’ve tossed any number of chicken bones in the freezer only to throw them away after they got freezer burned. Now bones will go straight into the pot! Yay!

  14. Wish I’d read this earlier! Tonight I tried making this for the first time – didn’t quite work out. Your directions seem simple enough to give it a second go!
    Light´s last post…Eating out with Kids – Beyond the Restaurant Coloring Books and Crayons

  15. Thanks for the easy instructions! I was vegetarian from age 8 to age 25 so I never did learn how to cook with meat. Even the simplest things are foreign to me (roast chicken, that sounds good…any tips?) This sounds like something I could manage. :)
    Denise’s chicken noodle soup recipe looks do-able too!
    Kelly´s last post…this moment

  16. Great tutorial! I’ve been making homemade stock for years. With 4 boys, cheap, healthy eats are a must. I don’t always use whole veggies though. I save my scraps (onion skins, potato peels) in a baggie in the freeze and when it’s stock time, I throw them in the pot along with some fresh garlic. If it doesn’t seem like enough I’ll add some whole veggies, but it’s usually enough after a few weeks of saving them. :)
    Michelle´s last post…Update- Menu Plan Monday

    • i do this too! you’d be amazed at how much you’d throw away that can go into your chicken stock freezer bag, and later into your stock. carrot peelings, the tops and ends of celery, onion peels. vegetables that have been in the crisper bin in your fridge and are on their last leg.

      someone said below, that they skim the fat off. I heard recently that the fat is where we get the immune boosting that chicken soup is famous for. leave it in!

      after i make my stock, i like to freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop them out into a ziplock. makes it easier to just get a little out, for cooking rice in, or to add a little more to soup.

  17. I love having homemade broth or stock on hand! Its a great way to use up veggies that are past their prime too. Generally, I make chicken broth though because I’m using the whole chicken with skin and meat and once I de-bone it I have yummy, flavorful chicken for other meals. I skip the bouquet garni too and my seasonings of choice are bay leaves, whole cloves, peppercorns and fresh parsley. Thanks for the tip on something acidic – I had never heard that before.

  18. I like making mine in a crockpot. I’ll let it cook for about 48 hours, actually. I use a carcass from when we have roast chicken, and my husband just dumps the bones in the crockpot as he’s carving. Then, I’ll add apple cider vinegar, onion, celery and carrots. I don’t add any salt or spices, because I want it to be as neutral as possible. I keep it in mason jars, but also freeze it in ice cube trays, so I can add little bits to everything.

    This week, I cooked up some onion and garlic, added the stock and some sausage I bought at Whole Foods (chicken, spinach and feta) and browned and sliced into rounds. I then added about half a head of chopped dinosaur kale and simmered for about 15 minutes. Then, salt, pepper and juice of half a lemon. I put cooked brown rice in a bowl before ladling the soup on top. Hmm. Wish I still had some of that soup left!

  19. I couldn’t tell if you skim the fat off, or if this is optional, before freezing. Also can you freeze it in any kind of jar or just the ones that say they are for freezing?
    Thanks for making this sound so simple!
    Frances´s last post…Heating costs- How low can you go

    • I do skim the fat off before freezing because that makes the thawing process simpler later. I would think most jars can be put it in the freezer.

  20. Lovely.. I’ve been making stock but never from roast chicken bones.. So, this I’ve got to try.. Thanks Rachel for helping me “frugalize” even more.. Bless you!
    Prerna´s last post…Need Help Getting Organized at Home An eBook to the Rescue

  21. that looks fantastic! I have always been afraid of trying to do stock because it seems so complicated… am definitely trying this soon… thanks!!!
    angelvalerie´s last post…the comfort of old friends…

  22. My week isn’t complete if I haven’t made chicken stock! I always knew that gelatin is really good for you, but I just learned that it acts as a protein sparer, which makes a little meat go a long way – very frugal :)

    I like to freeze stock in my silicone muffin tray – when it’s frozen, I just take out the portions (each 1/3 cup) and put in a large zip-top bag. I throw one or two of those in anything I can think of, from beans to pasta sauce – it’s a great way to boost the nutritional value of any meal!
    Jennifer´s last post…Cranberry Greek Yogurt

    • Freezing in the silicone pan is a great idea! Thanks for sharing. Also, thanks Rachel for making this seem easy. I’ve had some bones frozen for a while now, but never think I have the time to make the stock.

  23. Can anyone tell me–how clean do the bones have to be? What’s the difference between broth and stock?
    Catherine´s last post…Good food is good Pork tenderloin with pears

    • The bones don’t have to be picked clean. I make stock with bones and the leftover bits of chicken. Broth and stock are similar, but broth is made when you include pieces of meat.

      • Actually, if you do add your salt at the beginning, it draws the juices (and flavor) out of the little bits of meat left on the bones.

  24. Loretta S. says:

    I put my stockpot in the oven at 200 for 6-8 hours and then strain it. I also freeze mine in plastic cups that I measure out to precisely one cup. (Most cups are 9 oz so there’s a little room in the top.) Then I put the frozen cups in ziploc bags and keep them around so I don’t have to thaw more than I need for a recipe.

  25. I’m not a big fan of plastic containers, but the Ball plastic freezer jars are really nice for stock. I have the two quart size. The shape of the jar allows you to remove the stock while it is still mostly frozen, so you can speed up defrosting time by warming it on the stove.

  26. My understanding was that the vinegar leeched the calcium from the bones (remember the science experiment where you soaked chicken bones in vinegar and then they bend?). I also found a great recipe for greek lemon soup. Cook some rice in 1 quart of chicken stock or broth, scramble 3 egg yolks into 1 cup of milk with a couple of tablespoons of cornstartch then add it little by little to the simmering stock. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice. LOTS of nutrition and very inexpensive to make.

    • Yes, calcium is one of the minerals that the vinegar draws into the stock from the bones, and that’s great for us since my family is dairy-free.

      I make a similar soup recipe all the time, it’s called avgolemono and I love it. I found it in the Williams-Sonoma Soup cookbook.

      • I did a little research after reading this comment and made the avgolemono soup today. I have to say it is magical.
        I will be making it again and next time hopefully with home made stock.

      • Yup. That’s it. I had it in a Greek restaurant once then had to have the recipe. My husband likes bits of chicken in it; I like it with or without.

  27. These are the best and clearest instructions for stock that I’ve ever seen. Thank you SO much!

  28. What a coincidence! I’m waking up this morning to fresh chicken stock in my slow cooker. We had roast chicken last night & I just throw whatever is left of the chicken in the slow cooker with veggies. I had no idea about the cold water or to add something acidic though. Tip for everyone is not to peel your yellow onion and this will make for a clearer stock. Thanks for the continued inspiration :)
    Sarah @ Mum In Bloom´s last post…Its Girl Scout Cookie Time!

  29. Thank you for the simple instructions! All the stock or broth recipes I’ve seen have been really intimidating. I actually feel like I can handle it after reading this!

  30. I always pour my chicken stock into ice cube trays. Each frozen cube equals about 1/8 of a cup. Once frozen I crack them into a large ziploc bag and store them in the freezer. It is so easy to just count out cubes for whatever I am making. Use to boil veggies (green beans are great this way) or cook rice for lots of added flavor.

  31. thanks so much for this! I got a rotisserie chicken for dinner last night and made a stock in the slow cooker overnight – couldn’t be easier! I have a bunch of soup recipes flagged, so this will be perfect- tastier and cheaper than store-bought stock, too! love getting two uses out of that chicken.

  32. I poach a whole chicken in a big stock pot with herbs and vegies – that way you get both the stock and lovely tender chicken in about an hour.

  33. I love making chicken stock! Actually, I have chicken parts thawing in the fridge right now to make some this week. I like how you take the stock down to its basics so people are not intimidated!

    My Amish butcher taught me a trick: put the stock stuff in a crockpot and let it go all night on low. He said when their stock is done, the dogs aren’t even interested in the bones because all the good stuff is in the stock.

    Another thing I do: use the onion skins too because it gives the stock a good golden color.

    I like to make noodles and drop them in the boiling stock with some parsley, garlic, and lemon juice at the end. (pasta tutorial blogged here http://thriftathome.blogspot.com/2010/05/you-dont-need-pasta-maker-tutorial.html)
    Margo´s last post…Do We Know How to Roast Beef

    • Haha- I thought it was funny that your Amish butcher suggested the crockpot when the Amish in my area do not have electricity. Maybe they borrow from the neighbors like ours do with our power tools!

  34. My last “soup” was made tonight but I added too many noodles! So it’s more like noodles and carrots, lol! Oh well! It still tastes good.
    I also added carrots, kale, potatoes and white beans to my stock a few days ago along with some spices. Great way to use up the wilting kale!
    I do have to say that although I have read to use up your stock within a week, I find that mine lasts longer than that. The stuff I used up tonight was almost 2 weeks old. Maybe leaving the fat floating on top helps protect it? It was still really good!

    I do have on e question- what “proteins” won’t dissolve in cold water? I have never heard that before.
    Elizabeth´s last post…Vitamin D- What is it and where do you get it and why you should bother

  35. In Spain we have a very simple way to get chicken stock. Just boil raw chicken whit carrots, leeks, celery, an onion and a potatoe. We also use (parma) ham bones but I think you can only find that here. Boil for some hours. You get stock, chicken to use cold in salads, for the soup or to make croquetas ( a typical spanish recipe). The vegetables left can be chopped for the soup or you can make a cream with them adding a bit of stock. Try it, it´s simple and cheap.

  36. Another delicious and filling addition is dumplings (for those who are OK with the gluten). Make a recipe of baking powder biscuits, but roll them out thinner (1/4 inch) and cut them on the diagonal. Drop them into the broth and push them down with a large spoon or ladle (they’ll pop back up covered with the broth). Cover and simmer lightly for about 10 minutes. They’ll turn out all chewy and moist and delicious. Especially good with vegetables and bits of chicken in the stock. The stock will also thicken up a bit.

  37. Oh am so spoiled by canned chicken broth! I would love to try making a chicken stock and you make it sound SO easy! And the dumplings above sound awesome as well!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Get a whiff of this!

  38. Thai Chicken Soup — Ooo, ummy! It’s our favorite meal, summer or winter. We make stock exactly as you described, then, to about 2-3 quarts of stock, I add two 12 oz cans of coconut milk, a couple of teaspoons of Thai red chili paste, juice from 2-3 limes, then veggies (usually potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic) and cooked chicken. Nothing in the world like it!

  39. Rachel,

    As a vegetarian, I will not be able to use this recipe but I do make veggie stocks at home when I get a chance. I admit it, not as often as I like though. I freeze some and use in cook rice and make it more favorable or in soup.

    Preeti
    Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last post…Giving Thanks- How Gratitude Can Improve Your Life

  40. I cook the whole chicken on low in the crock pot for 7 or 8 hours, take the chicken out to eat or make casseroles, after removing the bones I place them back in the crockpot add about 6 cups water, and any seasoning or veggies and turn on low overnight. Just strain in the morning, put in the fridge and later skim fat. You have great stock!!

  41. I think this will be one of my New Year’s Resolutions – to make my own stock. I’ve been doing so much more cooking than usual to have features for my blog, it only makes sense that I make it from scratch. Thanks for explaining the method. I didn’t realize it takes four hours. I’m looking forward to trying this and filling my freezer with this golden goodness.
    Kim McCallie´s last post…Cranberry Salad

  42. I use chicken bones / scraps / etc to make stock for my dog. Other than removing harmful items I don’t strain it. I then freeze it into ice cubes. A chicken broth ice cube will keep her occupied for quite some time. But I’m now persuaded that I need to make the jump to making stock for myself!
    Juice´s last post…Chloe Visits Fort McHenry

  43. I love making my own stock. I make chicken stock, turkey stock, beef stock, and I’ve even used a bunch of pork chop bones to make pork stock. I freeze mine in chinese soup take out containers, ricotta cheese containers, sour cream containers and the like. They work great because the stock can be removed even if it’s still frozen; like when I need it and forgot to defrost the stock beforehand. If I have leftover stuffing after thanksgiving that isn’t worth saving (ie like there are 2 spoonfuls left in the bowl) I throw it into my stock too. It adds a wonderful extra flavoring!
    Renee´s last post…Best Macaroni and Cheese EVER

  44. I make homemade stock weekly. I like to keep a jar or baggy in the fridge to throw all the chopped ends of carrots, celery and onions as I cook and prepare food throughout the week. I also keep the outer layers of onions, too. That way I have a whole jar worth of vegetable bits to throw in the crockpot with the carcass for added flavor without wasting whole onions, carrots or celery stalks. I love that you are promoting such a healthy and budget saving idea!
    Sarah H.´s last post…Urban Homestead

  45. I make chicken stock w/ a recipe so easy it’s hard not to do it. As you remove the meat place chicken bones in crock pot w/water to cover – cook over night on low – I add veggie bits from salad making – onion, tops of celery, carrot ends saved in freezer for this. in the morning I add some egg shells to help clarify broth and let cook another hour or so. Pour all through colander into large bowl, cook and refrigerate.

  46. Rachel I know it’s summer time and because I joined your blog recently, I wanted to give you a suggestion for a delicious soup. I am Romanian from origins, living now in Ohio and I cook a lot and soups are always a great meal I grew up with. “Supa cu galuste de gris”. Chicken soup with cream of wheat dumplings. You boil some water in a saucepan with about 6cups water. In a separate bowl beat 1 egg with 3 tablespoons of cream of wheat and let it sit for a bit till your water comes to boil. When the water comes to boil take a serving tablespoon or teaspoon, depending how big you want you dumplings to be, dip it in the egg mixture and turn it slightly to clean the excess off and slide it gently into the boiling water. Keep a cup of cold water near by as I always dip the spoon after each dumpling as it makes for easy sliding for the next dumpling. So repeat the procedure with all the egg/cream of wheat mixture. You will see in the beginning they will sink into the boiling water. After a few minutes they will rise and at that point you can turn them so both sides are cooking well. When you have them puffed up just transfer them into hot stock and let simmer for 10 more minutes to mix the flavors. It might sound complicated, but it’s not. It makes a great soup, is cheap and my girls absolutely love it. I use 3 eggs for a large soup. I would imagine for a family of 4 you would need 2 eggs+ 6 Tbs. of cream of wheat( each egg needs 3 tablesoons of cream wheat). I hope you like it. It’s been one of my favorite soups and to add a comment to your stock receipe..I was told by my Mother-in-law who’s also Romanian that the garlic in the stock keeps it clear and it gives it more gelatin so I usually have garlic in my soups. The soup I told you about, it’s always garnished with parsley… Pofta buna !