Chicken Stock

chicken stock

chicken stock
Making your own chicken stock is considered to be an old-fashioned and time consuming affair: why would anyone want to go to all that trouble when you can so easily buy a stock-cube or stock-pot gel? As with all convenience foods, what you ‘think’ it contains is not as good as the marketing implies. Knorr’s Chicken Stock Cubes are advertised as free from artificial preservatives and colourings, which they are, but there is a lot of salt and sugar! As I write, these are the ingredients for Knorr’s Chicken Stock Cubes:

Salt, Potato Starch, Vegetable Fats (Palm, Shea Butter, Sal, Butter), Yeast Extract, Sugar, Chicken Fat (2%), Chicken (1%), Spices (Turmeric, Pepper, Celery Seeds), Flavourings, Onion Powder, Maltodextrin, Lemon Juice Powder, Parsley, Caramel Syrup, Antioxidant (Extracts of Rosemary)

And their new Chicken Stock-Pot Gels contain:

Concentrated Chicken Stock (Water, Chicken) (36%), Glucose Syrup, Salt, Sugar, Flavourings, Yeast Extract, Chicken Fat (2%), Carrots, Palm Fat, Potassium Chloride, Leek, Gelling Agent (Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum), Parsley, Garlic, Caramel Syrup, Maltodextrin, Carrot Juice Concentrate, Colour (Mixed Carotenes)

Is using a supermarket-sold stock cube/pot/powder a bad choice for you? There are far worse things you could have – but please consider this. These cubes are mostly salt and they have quite a lot of sugar too. Most dishes requiring ‘stock’ would be equally as tasty if you simply added a little salt (then you know how much you are adding!), black pepper and sprinkling of fresh or dried herbs. And this is often what I do. But when I have the time or if I have previously-made frozen, then my preferred option is to make/use my own chicken stock or see my recipe for a quick vegetable stock.

Chicken Stock

Makes 1.5 litres

  • Chicken carcass
  • 2 carrots – roughly chopped (if organic or home-grown – no need to peel first: just wash)
  • 1 large onion – roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large stick celery – cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large sprig of parsley
  • If you have them in the garden or have then fresh you can also add a little of any of the following: marjoram, sage, thyme, chives. If you don’t have any fresh herbs to hand, then 1 rounded teaspoon of dried mixed herbs or Herbes de Provence.
  • Approx 1.5 litres of water
  • Large saucepan with a lid

I frequently buy a whole chicken when cooking chicken dishes. I like to see the chicken whole – then I know what it is I’m buying! It’s also far cheaper than buying chicken parts as a whole chicken costs roughly the same as 2 skinned chicken breasts so in my (crazy?!) mind it’s like getting the legs, wings and bones for free 🙂

If you are uncertain about how to joint a chicken, please see this short, easy-to-follow video by Gordon Ramsey.

As I usually want to add chicken into casseroles or stir fries or use in soup, I skin the chicken as I joint it. I begin by sliding my thumb under the skin next to one of the breasts and begin to loosen it and prise it away from the flesh. When I’ve loosened enough to get my knife in, I cut it above the breast then continue pulling it off each of the breasts and the first part of the thighs. Then I joint the legs and wings like Gordon does, before pulling back the skin off the drum sticks and wings. After the breasts have been removed from the carcass, I pull the remaining skin off the under-side of the chicken and cut off the parson’s nose. The carcass now is just bones with very little (but important none-the-less) flesh. The skin is very fatty and can be discarded: you don’t want this in your stock.

Take the chicken carcass and break it in to 2 or 3 pieces. Place in a large saucepan. If you have deboned the legs and or wings, these bones can also be added to the pot. Add the vegetables. Fill saucepan with enough water to fully cover the bones. Bring to boil. As the water begin to boil, a scum will appear. Scoop most of this off using a large serving spoon. Don’t worry about not getting it all: it will ‘sort-itself’ out as it cooks. Add the herbs, then put your pan on your smallest ring on it’s lowest setting that just keeps the stock very gently simmering. Cover and continue to cook for 1 hour – or up to 90 minutes if you have the time (you get even more flavour in this way). Set a reminder for every 30 minutes to check if it needs a little more water – but it can happily cook very slowly with little or no attention.

After cooking – again if you can – leave the stock for another 30 minutes or an hour – this allows the flavours to further infuse into the liquid. When ready to strain, first lift out the carcass and discard, then pour the liquid into a fresh pan or bowl using a fine sieve to strain it. Gently press the vegetables and herb mush against the sieve – not to the point of pushing them through the sieve, but to gain every last ounce of flavour from them. Then discard this mush too for it has done it’s job.

You will now have somewhere around 3/4 litre of stock. Use in casseroles and soups. Note this has not been seasoned with salt or pepper yet – but I prefer to do that at the cooking stage. This stock can be frozen for use later.

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