Homemade Chicken Stock: A Simple Guide to an Essential Cooking Staple

Homemade Chicken Stock: A Simple Guide to an Essential Cooking Staple

Rich, homemade chicken stock is not complicated and you don’t have to own a stock pot or fret about doing it perfectly. Just use the biggest soup pot you’ve got and follow this UPDATED simple guide to making, storing and using this essential cooking staple.

The difference between chicken broth, stock, and bone broth?

I will forego any technical definitions here because there are so many variations (and opinions) and we need more freedom than fret on this subject. I want to encourage you to think of these terms as stages rather than definitions.

Broth: The thinner version, usually involving more meat during a shorter cooking time (2 hours or less) and doesn’t gel when cooled. Need shredded chicken for enchiladas or cubed chicken for a salad? Cook a whole chicken or cut pieces with aromatics until the chicken is cooked through and the leftover liquid can be used as a base for stock, lighter soups, boiling noodles, thinning sauces, etc. It tastes chicken-y, yet lightly flavored enough to let other ingredients shine. But don’t throw those bones away!

Stock: The thicker, silkier, next step in culinary evolution with an abundance of bones, is simmered for longer periods of time (4-6 hours) and gels when cooled. Save all your chicken bones (from above-mentioned broth or other meal prep), uncooked backs and wing tips, as well as wilted celery or leftover roast carrots to throw in this pot of goodness. Primarily use bones with just a small amount of clingy meat bits because you will not want to eat chicken cooked this long; it’s not dangerous, just mealy and unappetizing. Use stock as a base for hearty soups, luxurious sauces, and gravies—the gelatin from the bone joints and the roasting process is the one-two punch of making great stock.

At this point, the decision to go from stock to bone broth is made by whether I have the time to strain and cool it. If not, it stays on the stove. Handy, right?!

Bone Broth: When a great stock becomes even more nutritious because the bones have a chance to release more minerals when cooked up to 24 hours. Same uses, though preferred for sipping when someone is using it for medicinal purposes. Now you can throw the bones away.

What is clarified stock? Purely aesthetic in purpose, clarifying your stock will make it less cloudy for a prettier presentation in clear broth soups. Here’s How-To Clarify Broth.

Are broth and stock interchangeable in a recipe? Basically, yes. Keep in mind there will be differences in the texture, so you may need to adjust thickeners in some manner, but you won’t ruin a recipe if you use one or the other. Have a cold or recovering from surgery? You’ll feel better sipping on either one once it’s seasoned with a little sea salt. *If the stock texture is too thick to drink, add a little water to thin.

A Simple Guide to Homemade Chicken Stock:

1. Collect those bones. Don’t think of bone-in chicken as paying for waste, think of those bones as building blocks for a host of other recipes when turned into stock. Every time you roast a chicken or cut up a whole to make parts, save the back, neck, wing tips and leftover bones. (Don’t save the liver or gizzards for stock as these parts can give the stock a funky taste.) Keep filling gallon-size freezer bags until you’re ready to fill a pot. For those with an adventurous streak, it’s worth buying chicken feet to boost the gelatin for that silky, stand-on-a-spoon characteristic you want. As you can see in the photo, I took the plunge and bought the feet—let’s just say, I was grateful they were already cleaned and the yellow membrane removed, which I highly recommend.

Collect those spent vegetables too! Did the celery go beyond-ice-water limp? Carrots lost their vigor? Fresh thyme not so fresh anymore? Wash and peel as necessary, chop and toss in a freezer bag. Leftover pan drippings, roasted vegetables, aromatics from the cavity of the chicken you roasted? Stock is intended to be a foundation or base for other recipes, so mild aromatics and herbs are ideal for a clean chicken flavor to shine through. Best add-ins: onion (anything in the onion family), celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, and parsley. Just like the bones, keep filling the bag in the freezer.

How much will you need? A general rule of thumb is 4 to 5 pounds of bones to 4-6 quarts of filtered water—OR—Don’t worry about exact measurements, just put the bones and vegetables in a pot and fill with enough filtered water to cover about 2-inches above the bones. You can always add water to dilute or cook longer to concentrate, so don’t worry.

2. Gather the basic equipment:

Roasting pan

Stainless steel soup pot—Any size pot will work, but 8 quarts or more will maximize your efforts.

Note about pressure cookers: While a pressure cooker will make stock in less time, due to the limited filling capacities and size of most cookers, I still prefer to use my stock pot. Here are two recipes using a pressure cooker: Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Bone Broth by Nom Nom Paleo and Pressure Cooker Bone Broth by Food Renegade

Note about slow cookers: Models vary widely, so I don’t recommend using a slow cooker for stock unless you are sure it will simmer with the lid off to allow evaporation/concentration.

Strainer and (optional) cheesecloth to lay in strainer to catch the fine sediment

Container large enough to strain the stock into and hold the stock while cooling.

2 or 4 cup scoop to transfer the contents to the strainer

Fat separator (optional); I don’t remove all the fat from my stock, but I do remove some of it. Either use a fat separator or wait to remove the solid fat off the top once it has cooled completely in the fridge.

Containers or freezer bags for storage. (Don’t forget to mark with the date.)

3. Make the Stock:

Opt for organic or pasture raised chicken, organic vegetables, and filtered water for stock—whatever is in the chicken, vegetables and water will end up concentrated in the stock.

Roast the bones and vegetables before adding to the pot for the best flavor—this is a must.

Adding a small amount of acid like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar will help leach the minerals from the bones, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Skim off the scum that rises to the top, unless you don’t care about how it looks. It won’t hurt you, it’s just a collection of proteins.

Don’t boil, only bring to a boil and then gently simmer for the remainder of time; once it is strained it can be boiled to reduce

Close the door to your bedroom and bathroom so your clothes and towels don’t smell like chicken soup. (Been there.)

4. Strain and Cool the Stock:

When ready to strain the stock, grab that pan you used for roasting the bones for the discards to cool in—throwing hot bones in the trash can melt the plastic bag (trust me on this).

Transfer the contents with a 2 or 4 cup measuring cup and don’t try to pour 12 heavy quarts of hot stock with splashy hot bones into a strainer precariously balanced over a bowl.

Don’t press the contents when straining, let gravity do the work to avoid tiny bits of sediment pressing through.

Cool it as quickly as possible using an ice water bath in the sink, or if the stock is concentrated, add ice and pour into a shallow container to cool quickly. Don’t put hot stock in the fridge, it will bring down the temp in the entire fridge to potentially dangerous levels.

5. Storing Stock:

Homemade stock can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days; frozen for 6-9 months for best results.

Once cooled, freeze stock in various increments–ice cube trays work great when needing a few tablespoons; 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 2 cups are common in recipes, and 6-8 cups work best for soups.

Containers can take up a lot of space in a small freezer, so storing stock in freezer bags that can lie flat is ideal. To prevent the bags from sliding into lumps, spread the bags out on a rimmed baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, stack the bags more efficiently. Note: Stock in a freezer bag will almost always leak when defrosted—in my experience bags can’t be trusted, there’s always a compromised corner. Defrost in a rimmed pan to catch leaks and resist the urge to defrost in a bowl of water unless you want your stock watered down (like I said, bag can’t be trusted).

If you want to learn how to pressure can chicken stock, check out this tutorial at Life on a Homestead.

This recipe is adapted from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook.

PrintHomemade Chicken Stock


5 from 1 reviews

Author: Judy Purcell

Prep Time: 50 mins

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6 hours 50 minutes

Yield: 4 quarts


  • 4 quarts filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bunch parsley
Read the whole recipe on Savoring Today