Here is the step-by-step process of how to make the best chicken stock at home by using chicken bones. I have a complete guide to teach you all about the difference between stock, broth and bone broth. I’ll also be covering why some stock is cloudy, thin or bitter and how to avoid these common mistakes. Plus, I will explain the science behind just how long you need to simmer the stock and why!

pouring stock into jars

I originally shared this recipe on November 14th, 2011. I have updated the photos and text to reshare it with you today. This post contains affiliate links.

Why Make Homemade Chicken Stock

Since learning the proper way to make a classic Chicken Stock in culinary school more than 20 years ago, I have made it a part of my cooking routine. I make a large batch, freeze portions of it, and use it for soups, stews and various other recipes all year long.

Learning how to make rich, clear and gelatinous stock is one of the most important building blocks of cooking. It is an ingredient used as the base of many recipes, from soups and stews to the flavorful cooking liquid used in rice dishes, pasta dishes, or casseroles.

In this post I will share:

  • Why your stock pot is not a garbage can
  • Why roast chicken bones before simmering when making stock
  • Why use cold water for stock
  • How to avoid cloudy or bitter stock
  • What is the difference between stock and broth
  • How to use chicken stock in recipes
  • I have a video and step by step photos as well as a printable recipe to walk you through this process.

What’s the Difference Between Chicken Stock, Chicken Broth, and Bone Broth?

For all intents and purposes, the vast majority of people use the term broth and stock interchangeably, but on a technical culinary level, they are actually a little different. 

Stock

Stock is made with slowly simmered bones and water with vegetables and aromatics added at the end. The slow simmering process dissolves the flavors and nutrients out of the bones and vegetables and results in a thick and rich flavorful liquid.

Broth

Broth is made with the addition of meat. Think of it like a stock that’s enriched with meat. This is the result of the cooking process, not a product made for the sake of use in another recipe. Shelly explains the difference here.

Bone Broth

And finally, bone broth is actually stock that has been cooked longer. It also almost always includes the addition of acid (in the form of a couple of tablespoons of vinegar per gallon) to help dissolve the nutrients out of the bones.

Equipment You’ll Need

Now that you’re excited to learn the tricks and tips of making perfect stock gather your tools and let’s get cooking!

  1. 2 Large-rimmed sheet pans. I use heavy aluminum sheet pans.
  2. Tongs. You’ll need them to move the chicken bones into the pot. The bones stick to the sheet pans. 
  3. Large Pot. The bigger the better! 
  4. Ladle and a heavy measuring cup (or another container) in which you’ll ladle the fat and impurities off the top of the stock as it simmers. The cup has to be heavy enough so the ladle won’t knock it over. 
  5. A very large bowl (or another pot) to strain the stock into.
  6. A large strainer to strain the stock through. 
  7. Containers To Decant the Stock into. I like four-cup wide-mouth containers because they seem to be the most useful size for thawing and using in a recipe. 

Key Ingredients For Making Homemade Chicken Stock

three jars of stock overhead

Raw Chicken Bones

For this recipe, you’ll need 12 to 15 pounds of raw chicken bones. Which is about 12 to 15 carcasses. You can order chicken bones from a good butcher by asking for carcasses, or if there’s a farm in your area that sells chicken, there’s a good chance you can order directly from them. That’s what I did most recently from a farm near me

Over the years, I have had luck calling the meat department at any of the locally owned groceries in the area and special ordering them. They often come in frozen, so you’ll need to plan ahead about a week so that you can defrost the mass of them in your fridge. You can also save up your own overtime in your freezer, any time you debone a whole chicken.

We’re going to make our stock out of roasted chicken bones, so learn how to roast chicken bones for stock here.

I also augment my stocks with carcasses and bones from roasted chicken and leftover Thanksgiving roasted turkey. I keep them in the freezer until I am ready to make stock. For pre-roasted carcases and bones, you can skip the roasting steps.

Vegetables

If you take nothing else away from this post, this is an essential point. The quality of the vegetables used for your stock is critical for delicious flavor. Your stock pot is not a garbage can! If any cook tells you to use veggie scraps and peels run away as fast as you can. Read more about why this is true below on how to avoid bitter stock.

Instead of vegetable scraps, use peeled Spanish or yellow onions, peeled carrots, and celery ribs for this stock. Be sure to clean your celery and peel the carrots and onions for the best-flavored stock.

You’ll want to cut the vegetables into big pieces because they’ll need to hold up for an hour in the pot. If they are cut too small they will break down and you’ll have cloudy stock.

I generally don’t usually add any other vegetables to chicken stock because they tend to flavor the stock in more strong directions. You can add cleaned mushrooms or mushroom stems, parsnips, celeriac or cleaned leeks in small amounts. 

Cold Water

Any classically trained chef will tell you that it is essential to use cold water for cooking the bones. Cold water is used in making because it facilitates flavor transfer of the bones and it helps to dissolve the gelatin out of the connective tissues in the chicken carcasses.

Lemon Juice or White Wine Vinegar

I add a tablespoon of acid to the water in this recipe (lemon juice or white wine vinegar works.) This helps to break down the collagen as it simmers. I only add a tablespoon because I don’t want to flavor the stock too much. For bone broth, you’ll want to go up to three tablespoons.

Seasonings

The rest of the ingredients for homemade chicken stock includes parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and whole black peppercorns.

Steps to Make Homemade Chicken Stock

Step 1: Roast the Chicken Bones

Arrange the oven rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 450 degrees F. Lay the chicken bones out in even layers (not overlapping if possible) on two large baking sheets. Roast the bones until the meat and bones are browned, which should take 45 to 55 minutes.

Step 2: Add Chicken Bones To Stock Pot and Cover With Cold Water

Transfer the bones to a stock pot with tongs and cover the bones with 2 gallons of cold water and vinegar or lemon juice. The cold water helps extract everything from the bones. Place the pot over high heat to bring it to a simmer.

FLAVOR SAVOR TIP: Once the bones are removed from the pan, you’ll notice that there is a mess to clean up. But, I have a tip that will make clean up very easy and add even more flavor to the stock!

This “mess” is actually known as fond in the culinary world! It is essentially the baked-on browned crispy bits on the baking sheet. To get it off, pour 2 cups water (or more) into the baking sheet(s) to cover the fond. Carefully, transfer the sheets to the oven and let them bake until the water is steaming hot, and the fond loosens, which should take about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes to allow the water to further loosen the fond.

Then, scrape up any fond from the pan with a spatula or bench scraper. Carefully pour the fond water into the stock pot.

*Note: If the pans never got any fond (just chicken juices) the juices and moist skin and meat can be added directly to the stock.

Step 3: Simmer and Skim Foam

When the stock comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, or to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook. Occasionally skim any foam or scum off the top of the simmering pot until a thick layer of fat rises to the surface. All in all this step will take about 20 minutes.

Step 4: Simmer Chicken Stock For 3 Hours

In cooking school, we learned that the step of skimming the stock as it cooks is very important to avoiding cloudy and greasy stock. It is called dégraisser and écumer in French.

Gently dip a large ladle just under the surface of the stock and allow the fat to flow into the ladle, without any broth from below the fat layer. Transfer the fat to a heat-proof bowl or metal can to be discarded later.

Continue simmering, occasionally skimming any fat from the top, until the chicken is starting to break down. At this point, the collagen on the joints and sternum is breaking down. This should take about 3 hours.

Step 5: Add Vegetables and Aromatics and Cook One Hour

Add onion, carrot, celery, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorn to the stock and return to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat again to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the vegetables are completely soft and taste like chicken stock, about 1 hour more.

How To Strain, Cool, and Store Chicken Stock

Strain 

Finally, you have to strain the stock. Promise me to be careful here.

Note, if the stock pot when full is too heavy, you can rest a strainer in the pot and dip out enough stock to make the pot lighter. Then carefully strain the stock into another large pot, bucket or bowl.

Discard the bones and vegetables or you could always compost them if you put meat in your compost. 

Cool Quickly For Food Safety:

If you’ve read my instructions for thawing chicken then you know I am somewhat of a food safety nut. So I must mention the food safety of the stock once it is cooked. 

Stock is high in protein. High protein foods are a good breeding ground for harmful food-born pathogens so it’s important that the hot stock goes through the temperature danger zone as quickly as possible. So I like to “shock it” down.

Once it is strained, I usually pour the strained stock back into the original pot, and then fill up my large bowl with ice and water to make an ice bath. 

To speed up the process, replace the ice as necessary and keep stirring often with a metal spoon (metal conducts heat better.)

Store/Freeze the stock

  • Ladle the stock into storage containers. I like to use quart (4 cup) containers. If using glass jars make sure they are wide-mouth. Also try Souper Cubes if you like to have control of the freezing process.
  • Leave a little headspace in the jar or container so that it can expand when it freezes. 
  • Then just label and freeze them.
  • You can keep it in the fridge for five days. 
jars of chicken stock

Common Mistakes: Cloudy, Thin, or Bitter Chicken Stock

Avoiding Cloudy Stock

The three contributing factors to cloudy stock are:

  1. Not skimming the scum and fat from the top. I’ll explain more about when and how to do that in the section below titled “cooking chicken stock.”
  2. Boiling the chicken bones too fiercely causes cloudy stock. You just want to bubble the stock gently.
  3. Adding the vegetables too early. They only need one hour to impart their flavor. After that they break down too much. 

Avoiding Thin Stock

If your chicken stock comes out with a thin texture, then your problem is lack of gelatin. 

It takes four hours in a moist cooking environment for the collagen (or connective tissue) in chicken bones to break down into gelatin. Gelatin is an important part of stock because it is what gives the soups and sauces you make with the stock great body, and all that lovely mouthfeel and richness. 

How To Tell If Your Stock Is Done and the Gelatin is Dissolved

  1. Once the stock has been simmering for four hours you’ll see that there is no longer any translucent and almost clear connective tissue in the sternums of the chicken breast bone or along the ball and sockets of the leg joints. If there are necks in your mix of bones, they will pretty much disintegrate into shredded meat and tiny little bones.
  2. When your stock is strained and then refrigerated, it will be almost as thick as jello. 

Avoiding Bitter Stock

As I said before, “Don’t treat your stock pot like a garbage can.”

In culinary school, we learned that if you use vegetable scraps such as onion skins, bitter carrot peels, bitter celery leaves, and dirty roots to make your stock, your stock will taste bitter and dirty, and anything you cook with that stock will taste bitter and dirty.

To further illustrate the point, our chef instructor had us make a side-by-side comparison of stocks.

  • The first batch was made with peeled onions, peeled carrots and clean celery.
  • The second was with celery leaves, carrots peels, onion peels and miscellaneous roots, potato peels and so on.
  • The first was sweet and fragrant and the latter was well, disgusting. It was a far cry from what you’d want to use as the base for another recipe. 

FAQs

How can I use this recipe to make bone broth instead of stock?

If you are interested in making Bone Broth instead of Stock, follow the below instructions and add in 3 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar with the water. Simmer the broth for 7 hours before adding the vegetables and aromatics. 

How long do I need to cook chicken bones for stock?

The bones need to simmer for 4 hours.

What makes chicken stock thick and gelatinous?

The connective tissues in bones is made of collagen and elastin. Slowly simmering the bones breaks the collagen down into gelatin which makes the stock gel-like when it is cold and gives it a rich mouth feel. If your stock is not gelatinous it has not been simmered long enough. Usually, it takes about 4 hours for collagen to break down into gelatin. Read more on avoiding thin stock here.

three jars of stock

Ways To Use Chicken Stock In Recipes

You can use homemade chicken broth in place of store-bought broth in almost any recipe. The vast majority of store bought broths have added sodium, so you have to adjust your recipes accordingly. To use this stock in place of broth in a recipe you should add 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup of stock. Here are some recipes to use your stock.

More Cooking Essentials and Kitchen Tips

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

 

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jars of chicken stock

Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe


  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 7 Quarts 1x

Description

Here is the classic culinary way to make chicken stock (or broth as it is sometimes called) with chicken bones.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 13.5 pounds raw chicken bones
  • 2 gallons cold water plus about 2 cups, divided
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 pounds Spanish onions, peeled and cut into quarters (5 medium)
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (4 large)
  • 1 pound celery, cleaned, leaves removed and cut into 2-inch pieces (5 large stalks)
  • 3 stems parsley
  • 2 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
  • 1 stem thyme
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Instructions

  1. Arrange oven rack in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 450 degrees F. Lay chicken bones out in even layers (not overlapping if possible) on two large baking sheets. Roast bones until the meat and bones are browned, 45 to 55 minutes.
  2. Transfer the bones to a stock pot with tongs. Cover the bones with 2 gallons cold water and vinegar or lemon juice. Place the pot over high heat to bring to a simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, pour any fat from the baking sheets (you may not have any, see below *note.) If there is any fond (baked-on browned crispy bits) on the baking sheet, pour the 2 cups water (or more) into the baking sheet(s) to cover. Transfer to the oven and let bake until the water is steaming hot, and the fond loosens, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cool 10 minutes to allow the water to further loosen the fond. Then scrape up any fond from the pan with a spatula or bench scraper. Carefully pour the fond water into the stock pot. *note: If the pans never got any fond (just chicken juices) the juices and moist skin and meat can be added directly to the stock.
  4. When stock comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low or to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, occasionally skimming any foam or scum until a thick layer of fat rises to the surface, about 20 minutes. Gently dip a large ladle just under the surface of the stock and allow the fat to flow into the ladle, without any broth from below the fat layer. Transfer the fat to a heat-proof bowl or metal can, to be discarded later. Continue simmering, occasionally skimming any fat from the top, until the chicken is starting to brake down and the collagen on the joints and sternum is braking down, about 3 hours.
  5. Add onion, carrot, celery, parsley, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorn and return to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat again to maintain gentle simmer and cook until the vegetables are completely soft and taste like chicken stock, 1 hour more.
  6. Strain the stock into another large pot or bowl. Rest the large pot or bowl with stock in it in an ice bath, stirring often until cool. Transfer the stock to storage containers, leaving about 1/2 –inch of head-room if planning to freeze, and freeze or refrigerate. To use this stock in place of broth in a recipe you’ll should add 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup.

Notes

Roasted Garlic Chicken Stock Variation: Place one to two whole head(s) of garlic on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Wrap up into a packet and place on the baking sheet with the bones in step 1. Unwrap, and add the whole head(s) to the stock with the chicken bones.

Porcini Mushroom Chicken Stock Variation: Soak one half ounce of dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 20 minutes. Lift the mushrooms from the water and add to the stock with the vegetables and aromatics in step 5. Strain the mushroom water through a coffee filter or cheese cloth. Add to the stock.

To Make Bone Broth:

If you are interested in making Bone Broth instead of Stock, follow the above instructions adding in 2 tablespoons additional lemon juice or white vinegar with the water and simmering the broth for 7 hours before adding the vegetables and aromatics.

  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Category: Stock
  • Method: Oven and Stovetop
  • Cuisine: French

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 40
  • Sugar: 0
  • Fat: 3

Keywords: chicken stock,chicken broth,bone broth