Premium broth or chicken stock is used in soups, stews, braised dishes and thickening glazes to accentuate the real flavors of ingredients, particularly those ingredients which do not have a strong taste on their own. Chicken stock is the flavorful base for so many soups and stews in all cultures of cuisines, so it makes sense that you use the best that you can. The key to making a good pot of premium homemade chicken stock is on the cooking time and the control of heat. It has to be brought to a boil over high heat and then gently simmered over low heat for a long time (typically 3 to 5 hours) to allow the thorough infusion of the meat without clouding the stock.
The good news is that when you set out to make homemade broth, most of it is hands-off anyway. This chicken stock recipe requires a few hours of simmering and only 15 minutes of preparation beforehand. You’ll taste (and smell) a huge difference from store-bought.
Be careful never to simmer the stock over medium or high heat, or the stock will become cloudy or murky. Once the stock is first boiled, it is important to skim off the foam and the blood clots from the surface of the broth. This will allow for a clear broth. Then when the stock is done, skim off the fat. The best result is if the stock is robust in flavor and clear with a hint of golden in color.
Blanching the meat before use helps to remove the blood clots and the fat. Most stocks call for lean meats (pork, beef, or chicken) which constitute the key palate of the soups but it is best to blanch the meats first before using to prevent the stock from becoming cloudy and swamped with solid fats. After blanching, the meats should be drained and then rinsed in cold water to prevent the loss of nutrients and taste. When there are both vegetables and meat in the broth, it is important to add the meat first because it takes longer for the taste to infuse. Some vegetables turn mushy and break down easily if overcooked in the soup, so you should only add them to the broth after the meat has been simmering for about 1 hour.
Local Asian supermarkets are famous for the low prices on 14.5 oz (412 mL) canned chicken broth. It seems so convenient to keep the kitchen pantry stocked with cans of chicken broth to use in cooking. I tried an experiment where I made Asian beef noodle soup and French onion soup with canned chicken broth and homemade chicken broth for comparison. My husband and his family were the judges. By unanimous decision, we encourage you to make your own broth for the best-tasting soups and stews.
Since it takes so many hours to make a pot of broth, you might as well make more than you need for one meal and save the rest for later use. When the broth is done, it can be cooled to room temperature and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 1 month. I also freeze my broth into ice cubes and store them in the freezer for those recipes that only require small quantities of broth. I simply drop the broth ice cubes into the recipe and let it melt! Even better, the solid ingredients are still flavorful and can be boiled to make a second stock after adding half the amount of water and simmering for half the time. After all, it seems too wasteful to discard these solid ingredients after just one use, so I store it in the fridge to make a second stock with it. I’ve found that the second stock can still be used as a soup base for a noodles and stews.
1 chicken, excess fat removed, plus extra necks and backs/rib cages
2 medium onions, halved
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery including the leaves, chopped
1 leek, halved lengthwise and coarsely chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sprigs fresh parsley
Rinse the chicken and extra parts and drain well. If desired, and for easy handling later, cut the chicken into quarters.
Blanch the chicken and the extra parts in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain well and rinse with cold water.
Put the chicken and extra parts in a large stockpot (at least 8 quarts) and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. You may have to add at least 5 1/2 quarts (about 5 liters) water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 hour, skimming any foam or blood clots from the surface with a large serving spoon.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, leek, thyme, and parsley and bring it to a low and gentle boil over low heat.
Simmer, partially covered, for another 3 to 5 hours, skimming as needed until the broth is as rich as you like.
You can let it reduce to half the original volume if you like it very rich and full of chicken taste. You can also add a bay leaf and a couple cloves of garlic if you desire.
When the stock is done, turn off the heat and skim off the extra grease on the surface. Season with salt if needed. With a slotted spoon or spider skimmer, remove the vegetables and set aside on a large plate.
Lift the chicken and extra parts out of the pot, allowing the soup to drain back into the pot. Set aside; you can reserve the cooked chicken meat and vegetables for another use if you desire. Set a fine sieve over a pot or container big enough to hold the broth (at least 4 quarts). Strain the broth through the sieve and chill it uncovered in the fridge. When cool, cover and continue to refrigerate until the fat congeals on the surface. Scrape off the fat with a soup spoon.
Before serving or using in another dish, simmer for at least 10 minutes and season with salt to taste. Some deliciously flavorful soups, and wholesome meals I’ve made with my homemade chicken stock include:
French onion soup
Beef noodle soup
Tomato-basil noodle soup
Mare Nostrum lasagna