Which type are you when life is having its moments? Do you run to creamy cheesecake, crunchy chips or chocolate? Or, are you like me, with barely an appetite and the only thing I want is soup, and it has to be homemade soup. This is where chicken stock (or chicken broth) comes in. It is the base for so many soups and comfort foods.
If you take out the best of the best cookbooks looking for THE recipe for chicken stock or chicken broth, you will find a lot of different opinions, but I believe that after scouring through, I have found the secret to a good broth (or stock). Just look at that golden color of delicious, organic broth.
Stock and broth are not the same thing, but sometimes these words are used interchangeably. I still can’t give you a definitive answer on this, but basically stock is concentrated and made from bones, whereas broth is lighter and made from meat. But, what about the stock/broth that is made from both meat and bones? And, to add to the confusion, Thomas Keller has a broth recipe that uses backs and necks, and Marcella Hazan has a broth recipe that requires that only 2/5 of the meat/bones can be bones. When does stock become stock and broth become broth?
Stock has more body, getting its luscious quality from the collagen extracted from the bones, as this homemade beef stock. Broth (which is made from meat or mostly meat) has more flavor. And, even if one is using bones that have meat on them (chicken necks), a shorter cooking time can end up with more of a broth than a stock.
For example, Thomas Keller suggests a rather quick cooking time in which the necks and backs (and chicken feet) are simmered for up to two hours in total, but not to the point where the bones begin to disappear and a thick gelatin is extracted, which is what Alton Brown suggests. So, even if you decide to make a broth using bones that tend to release more of that good collagen (like neck bones) if you do a shorter cook time, you may be closer to making a broth than a stock.
Is your head feeling like cotton and all you are hearing from me is blah blah blah? Well, don’t worry, whether you decide to cook your bones down for hours to get a very concentrated stock, or you are looking for a lighter, nearly fat free broth, the same rules and kitchen secrets apply. You can decide in the end what ratio of meat/bones to use and cooking time. But, whatever you do, the following broth/stock rules still apply.
Thomas Keller and Ad Hoc
In all of my research and trial and error, I have learned the most from Thomas Keller’s chicken broth recipe from my new most favorite cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. It’s from his most casual restaurant that was inspired by what the staff ate every day, meaning the kind of food you and I eat at home. He wanted to make it the very best home cooking that could be served. You might know Thomas Keller as one of the most renowned chefs in the world, legendary for The French Laundry which could cost $1000 for a meal. However, Ad Hoc is more my style, and the cookbook is one that anyone could cook from. His recipe is the one I studied the most, adding in peppercorns as suggested by Alice Waters.
Why You Should Consider Making and Stockpiling Your Own Chicken Stock/Broth
If Spinach Tiger had a restaurant, it would be much more along the Ad Hoc style, giving people the best home style cooking possible, preparing everything fresh, seasonal and simple. Chicken broth is the basic foundation for so many of these types of dishes, and while you may never be able to make 5 star food (me either), you can take your home cooking to 5 star delicious just taking a little time to get your basics down. Once the broth is made, freeze it in silicone muffin cups, then store in freezer bags for up to three months.
Store bought broth and homemade broth
Store bought organic boxed chicken broth is a luxury I am not going to discredit. I also expect this to be a kitchen staple, but just think how lovely it is to do this for your own kitchen every now and then. And for those blue moons, here are my top ten tips.
After you read these, you may know of a few of your own. Please share; I value your comments.
Ten Tips for Making Chicken Broth/Stock
1. Chicken backs and chicken necks (and feet) rock, but get them from a reputable chicken farmer. Organic necks and backs are affordable.
2. Wash your chicken parts very thoroughly in cold water.
3. Do not add organs to the pot, as they will make your broth bitter.
4. Start your broth with COLD water, bringing the heat up SLOWLY.
5. Use salt from the beginning, but carefully, as stock concentrates, so does the salt..
6. Never abandon your broth in the first hour of simmering as you need to skim the scum repeatedly.
7. Never boil your broth (it will turn cloudy); only bring to a simmer.
8. Have equal amount of ice cubes ready to add to that first simmer to bring the fat to the surface. Do this before you add vegetables.
9. Do not add any vegetables until the first simmer and skimming, then use onion, leeks, carrots, celery, which will be discarded during the straining process.
10. Never pour your broth when straining; ladle to avoid bottom sediment.
Once broth is simmering and skimmed, add onion, leeks, carrot, bay leaf, peppercorns.
Freeze in flexible muffin pan, place in freezer bags, for up to three months. I love Demarle, makers of Silpat. This pan folds over and is easy to store.
Eighteen chicken necks purchased from Westwind Farms.
- 5-6 pounds of chicken necks. (you can mix in chicken backs, chicken feet)
- 4 quarts cold water
- 8 quarts ice cubes
- Bay leaf
- 1½ cups carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 cups leeks
- 1½ cups onions (he suggested spanish onion; I used yellow)
- 1 cup celery (my addition)
- ¼ cup peppercorns (my addition)
- Sea salt, pepper
- Rinse chicken parts thoroughly in cold water. Place in large stock pot, with just enough cold water to cover by about an inch. Put on a low heat, bringing to a simmer very slowly. Do not allow to boil.
- Once simmering, skim repeatedly, and add ice cubes one cup at a time, which will force more fat to the surface.
- Add vegetables and continue to simmer for 40 minutes. If broth is too light for your taste, you can concentrate by cooking longer remaining at a very low temperature. This is where broth become stock, highly concentrated in body. When using chicken necks, you will see more collagen and get that jelly like substance that covers the broth.
- Once you are finished simmering, allow to sit for 10 minutes before straining. Cool entire pot in ice bath, if storing.
- Store in refrigerator no longer than 3 days. Store in freezer up to three months.
How to Save Your Stock
Freeze in muffin pans. I like these silpat pans from Demarle.
Release. Store in plastic ziploc bags for up to three months.
This is my favorite recipe for authentic, healthy chicken broth.