This post has everything you-didn’t-even-know-that-you-need-to-know to make homemade chicken stock or broth on the stove, in the slow cooker, or in the Instant Pot pressure cooker. Follow the same guidelines and steps for making turkey stock, too.
Just about every cook knows to keep at least one can or carton of chicken stock on hand. It’s a reliable pantry staple that many of us use on a weekly basis in everything from soups to gravies and stir-frys too.
While store-bought chicken stock work just fine in recipes that don’t call for much of it (or bouillon cubes when you’re in a real pinch), no one can deny there’s nothing like homemade chicken stock for adding the ultimate flavor.
It’s pure liquid gold.
Homemade chicken stocks and broths (and turkey too) lend a richness and complexity to dishes—particularly risottos, soups, stews—that the store-bought stuff simply can’t match. So if you find yourself with some leftover chicken bones from last night’s dinner and a little hands-off cooking time on your side, make a vat of rich, savory stock to stick in the fridge or freeze for later. Pinky swear, you won’t regret it.
Never made chicken stock before? Fret not, it’s actually incredibly easy. In fact, it’s really hard to mess up.
Is Raw Chicken or Cooked Bones Best for Making Homemade Stock?
For years I followed the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe that calls for using whole, raw chickens in my stock. But after adapting this recipe and testing it over, and over, and over again, I am convinced that using the carcass and bones left over from Sunday night’s dinner delivers a much richer stock. And not only richer and more flavorful, but a cleaner stock with less fat too.
It seemed counter-intuitive to me that using just bones would yield more flavor than a raw chicken with both meat and bones. But my testing proves the roasting of the bones releases more collagen and gelatin directly into the broth as it stews, thus creating more flavor. The stock is also less fatty and greasy since the skin has typically been removed.
If You Don’t Have Leftover Chicken Bones…
If you don’t have a carcass handy, get busy and roast a whole chicken or 2 bone-in chicken breasts plus 2 thighs and legs. It only takes an hour at 450°F and is incredibly easy to do. Try this recipe or this one and make it perfect every time.
If that still doesn’t fit into your plan, ask the butcher at the meat counter for chicken bones or scraps, or purchase bone-in chicken wings (they’re cheap!), and brown in a bit of butter or oil in the same stock pot you’ll be making your stock. Or, make it super simple and use a rotisserie bird from the store.
Go ahead and throw the whole, raw bird in. But be forewarned, your stock will not be as rich or hearty as if cooked with just the bones.
Follow the directions below.
How to Make Chicken (or Turkey) Stock in 5 Easy Steps
Not much is more comforting than walking into a room to the smell of simmering stock on the stove. But for convenience sake, this recipe is just as easily made in a slow cooker or Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, too. To cook in either appliance, start with these steps for the stove top, and get the specific cooking instructions in the recipe box below.
- Roast your bird. The best time to make chicken stock is after you’ve roasted a chicken or purchased a rotisserie bird from the store and picked the little fowl clean. After removing the meat, you’ll want to save the carcass for your stock. Don’t worry about stripping the bones clean—those extra nuggets of leftover meat and connector stuff add flavor. Ideally the bones or carcass from 5-6 pounds of chicken works fine.
- Wrangle up the supporting cast. Vegetables and aromatics are two important flavor building blocks for your stock. My favorite part of this recipe is when adding the vegetables to the pot, there’s no need to even peel them, even the whole head of garlic! Just cut it in half and toss it in, papery skins and all. Cut the larger vegetables into large pieces before adding to the pot.
Veggies I always use:
Parsnip or leeks
A whole head of garlic cut in half
Tip: If you really want to go the extra flavor mile, you can sauté or roast your veggies beforehand, but I rarely if ever do.
Herbs I always include:
Fresh Italian parsley
Black peppercorns (Use 6-8 peppercorns. If you add too many the stock will be extra spicy.)
My secret flavor weapon:
My husband started adding two chicken bouillon cubes to the stock for a little more salt and a head start on the chicken flavor. Now, I always include them but they’re probably not essential when using roasted bones, but they do help if using the whole, uncooked bird.
- Know your chicken and veggie to water ratio. You don’t want to dilute your stock, otherwise it will be weak in flavor, but you don’t want it to be exceedingly rich or overpowering, either. Make sure the carcass and veggies are covered by at least an inch or two of water, or between 12-20 cups of water (that’s at least 3 quarts or up to 5 quarts) and will fit into a large stock pot with a lid, and won’t overflow when it boils. I typically hit it right in the middle and use about 16 cups of water.
- Simmer down. Add all of your ingredients and water to your stock pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a gently rolling simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours up to 3 hours. A lot of recipes suggest skimming any foam from the top as it cooks, but I’ve found if you don’t use raw chicken, there’s not much there to skim. The stock will reduce quicker if you simmer it uncovered, but I like to cover my pot 80% of the way with a lid so the liquid doesn’t evaporate so fast.
- Strain and discard. The real test for knowing when your stock is done is by taste. Sample your stock as you cook and look for it to be a rich, amber color. Add 1/2 teaspoon more kosher salt at a time if needed to amplify the chicken flavor. Once you’ve concluded your stock has sufficiently reduced, turn off the heat and let cool or if using immediately, place a large colander over a Pyrex 4-cup glass measuring cup and slowly drain the broth from the rest of the aromatics so the colander catches any veggies or bones that may fall from the pot. Then, use a fine-mesh strainer and strain the stock into your next recipe’s soup stock pot, or, if storing to use later, strain into 1 quart glass canning jars and cool before adding a tight fitting lid (these are my favorite).
How Long Does Chicken Stock Stay Good In the Fridge?
Homemade stock will stay good in the fridge for 5-7 days, although I’ve been known to let it go longer than that. Signs it’s time to discard are when the stock gets cloudy or doesn’t pass the smell test.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a gelatinous layer of fat form on the top of your stock as it cools in the fridge. Gelatinous blob=more flavor, and more flavor is good. It’s just collagen rendered from the chicken bones, and it also helps preserve the stock while in the refrigerator. However, if you plan on freezing your stock, you’ll want to scrape off the fat before doing so, and freeze it for up to 6 months.
Tips for Freezing Stock
- Make sure to leave an inch of space between the stock and the top of the container you’re freezing it in, allowing enough room for the liquid to expand in the freezer.
- Freeze stock in freezer bags, in 4-cup portions, since that’s the amount of stock many soup recipes call for. Fill the bag and lay flat on a shelf until frozen, then stack upright like little chicken stock soldiers.
- If you want to freeze smaller portions of stock for recipes that don’t call for much, ice trays or 1-inch muffin tins are the perfect vessels, and each one is roughly equivalent to 1/4 cup. Tip: These reusable silicone liners will make this a snap.
- Always remember to label and date! And don’t forget, homemade stock will stay good in the freezer for up to 6 months.
10 Ways to Use Chicken Stock and Add Flavor
- Use chicken stock as a base for soups and stews. Obvious, but essential.
- Keep it on hand for making gravies or binding sauces like in my favorite Curried Turkey Pot Pie.
- Instead of water, use it when cooking rice, grains, or even pasta that acts like a risotto, like in my Easy Lemon Orzo Faux Risotto recipe.
- In lieu of oil or butter, add a generous splash to a vegetable or chicken sauté or stir fry for a lower-fat option that holds the crunch.
- When a recipe calls for wine and you’re fresh out, substitute it with chicken stock.
- Use as the braising liquid for slow-roasted meats or vegetables.
- Poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts or even turkey or chicken meatballs (like in this skinny slow cooker recipe) in chicken broth or stock to add another layer of poultry flavor.
- Substitute chicken stock or broth for part of the cream in your next recipe of mashed potatoes and lighten up the calorie load.
- Or, make this creamy and dreamy mashed cauliflower with chicken stock and skip the cream completely.
- Cook dumplings or matzo balls in chicken stock instead of water for more infused chicken flavor.
How to Make the Best Chicken Stock
Yield 2 -3 quarts or 8-12 cups
Part of the beauty of making stock or broth is precision isn't really required, meaning, you don't really need to follow a recipe, but rather use it as a guide. But if you're the type who thrives of following recipes step-by-step, the recipe below is one you'll come back to time and again.
- Carcass from a 5-6 pound roasted chicken, or bones from 2 bone-in chicken breasts, 2 bone-in chicken thighs, and 2 chicken wings
- 4 carrots, unpeeled and cut into halves
- 2 ribs celery, cut in half
- 1 yellow onion, cut into quarters
- 1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
- 1 parsnip, unpeeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
- 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
- 6-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6-10 whole black peppercorns
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
- Add the chicken carcass or bones, carrots, celery, onion, garlic halves and parsnip to a large stock pot. Add cold water, covering the chicken and veggies by at least 1-2 inches—about 12-16 cups of water. Add a handful of the parsley (with leaves and stems intact), thyme sprigs, peppercorns, bay leaves, chicken bouillon cubes and kosher salt.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a lightly rolling simmer and cook partly covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the stock is amber brown and tastes well flavored. Add more salt to taste if necessary.
- Turn off the heat and allow the broth to cool or if using immediately, place a large colander over a Pyrex 4 cup glass measuring cup and slowly drain the broth from the rest of the aromatics so the colander catches any veggies or bones that may fall from the pot. Then, use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the stock into your next recipe's soup stock pot. Or, if storing to use later, strain into 1 quart wide-mouth glass canning jars and cool before adding a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze in gallon bags for up to 6 months.
- Hot to Cook Chicken Stock in the Instant Pot or Electric Pressure Cooker
- Place all of the ingredients in the insert of a 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot and add enough water to cover the veggies and bones by 1-2 inches. Select High Pressure or Soup and set the timer for 30 minutes When the timer sounds, use a Natural Pressure release, allow the valve to drop and carefully remove the lid. Continue with the directions for the stove top method.
- How to Cook Chicken Stock in the Slow Cooker
- Place all of the ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker and fill with water until it is 2" below the top. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Continue with the directions for the stove top method.
7 Recipes That Will Make Your Homemade Chicken Stock Sing
Now that you have your stock, it’s time to start cooking.
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
- Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup
- Curry Turkey Pot Pie
- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- How to Make the Best Steamed Clams
- Lemon Chicken Stew
- Matzo Ball Soup Chicken Meatballs and Homemade Chicken Broth
Hey, thanks for stopping by! I hope this guide is helpful and inspires you to get in the kitchen and make something brothy and good!
Thanks to FoodieCrush contributor Hayley Putnam of Seven Day Weekend for contributing to this story.
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