Chicken Stock for the Mad Scientist’s Soul

I love recipes with zil­lions of options to tin­ker with, and stock is the quin­tes­sen­tial mad sci­en­tist recipe.

  • The Stock!
  • 4 lbs. of chick­en car­cass pieces: Bones, neck, backs, etc.
  • 2 gal­lons cold water
  • The Aro­mat­ics!
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 large car­rots, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 ribs of cel­ery, bro­ken in half
  • 1 leek, white part only, cut in half lengthwise
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh pars­ley with stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves gar­lic, peeled

You’ve heard of com­fort food; this is com­fort aro­ma. Right up there with bread in the oven!

Let’s get through the instruc­tions, then get to the fun part: the experimenting!

The Directions!

Put every­thing in a 12-quart or larg­er stock pot over high heat until it just starts to bub­ble. Reduce to a nice gen­tle sim­mer, scoop­ing the scum off the sur­face with a fine strain­er every 15 min­utes for the first hour, then every 30 min­utes for anoth­er two hours.

Sim­mer uncov­ered for 6 to 8 hours, top­ping the water off with hot water as need­ed, until the bones are get­ting soft and crumbly.

With tongs and/or a large strain­er, remove the biggest pieces. Using a 4‑cup mea­sur­ing cup, scoop up and pour your stock through a fine mesh strain­er lined with cheese­cloth into anoth­er large stock pot (YMMV, but me, I don’t like try­ing to pour the stock out direct­ly from the stock pot—it’s messy, some of it will go down the drain in the sink, and it’s risky to han­dle a big stock pot full of hot stock). 

From here you can put it back on the stove and reduce it some more if you want.

When you’re done, cool your stock down by putting it in a cool­er or sink full of ice, stir­ring occa­sion­al­ly. Refrig­er­ate overnight, then scoop any fat off the sur­face and store it in a cov­ered con­tain­er or containers.

The stock will keep for sev­er­al days in the fridge and 3 or 4 months in the freezer. 

The Experimenting!

I love recipes with zil­lions of options to tin­ker with, and stock is the quin­tes­sen­tial mad sci­en­tist recipe.


To meat or not to meet: If your carcass(es) has skin or gris­tle or car­ti­lage, that’s great–you want all that to get the stock set up nice and thick. 

What about meat? Depends. If you have lit­tle shreds here and there, that’s okay. If there’s more meat–leftover pieces that did­n’t get eat­en or whatever–leaving them in will add a bit more fla­vor and body, but it’ll leave more stuff to strain out, includ­ing more fat. Your call!

Does chick­en stock have to be chick­en? For me, it’s poul­try stock, not just chick­en stock. When­ev­er you have KFC or a rotis­serie chick­en or you just spatch­cocked a turkey or chick­en or have Peking duck left­overs, stick the car­cass­es in the freezer.

Turkey, duck, goose, quail, Cor­nish hens or any­thing else; toss it in there. I won’t tell if you won’t.

What about salt? Your call, but when it comes to salt, I approach stock the way I do but­ter: unsalt­ed. You can’t remove salt from but­ter or stock, but you can always add it. 

With or with­out aro­mat­ics? If you want plain stock–noth­ing but water and bird parts–go for it.

How much aro­mat­ics? Whether you’re using the aro­mat­ics in this recipe or not, it goes with­out say­ing you can tweak the day­lights out of the portions.

Which aro­mat­ics? Any­thing you want; sky’s the lim­it. Chilis or chili pow­der; cit­rus fruit or zest; toma­toes, mush­rooms. Some of those sug­ges­tions might make you want to hurl. Okay; don’t use them. But if you’e inter­est­ed in cus­tomiz­ing your stock, why not give it a try? You have noth­ing to lose but left­over chicken.

Is garbage okay? Lots of folks put veg­gie scraps in the freez­er along with chick­en car­cass­es. When you cut up cel­ery, onions, car­rots or oth­er veg­gies, take the stuff you’d nor­mal­ly dis­card and freeze ’em for your next batch of stock.

How stocky ya want yer stock? Your call! From broth to mire­poix to demi-glace; it’s your hap­py lit­tle world.