Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

How To Make Veggie And Chicken Stock

You probably know you should be making stock. It's easy and basically free and so much better than the canned or boxed junk you buy at the store, and it's a thing you need in so many recipes, like perhaps the ones you've been enjoying in the Deep Dish kickasserole series! Those are all great reasons, and we haven't even gotten to the smug-factor that comes with being able to say that you're a person who makes her own stock.

But probably you aren't making stock? Even though it's easy. And smug-making. Because—and here maybe you should sort of huddle around me so the stock-making evangelists among us can't hear—while it's easy, it's not exactly convenient: it simmers a long time so you're stuck at home for that, and the straining process is kind of a pain in the ass, or maybe, like me, you live in a tiny urban skycave with an economy-sized freezer and you have no room to store the stuff. Does any of that sound familiar? Still, if you're A Person Who Cooks, you should try making stock at least once, just to say you've done it.

The instructions here are for vegetable stock and chicken/turkey stock. Beef stock? Covered that already. Fish stock? You're out of your mind if you think I'm going to boil fish parts in my home for four hours. But to make up for my absolute refusal to speak to you on the topic of fish stock, I will tell you how to roast a chicken. Generous, right?

Storage And The Urban Skycave Dweller
We'll actually start at the end of the stock-making process and talk about storing stuff first. You're going to need a million (rough count) small freezer-safe storage containers, because these recipes make 19 cups of stock or something insane like that and you'll want to portion these out into 1- to 2-cup servings for later use. Which is great news for all of you empty-Parkay-container hoarders out there! You can also do the pour-stock-into-ice-cube-trays trick but while that sounds so genius, it's actually a GIANT hassle.

Now then, those things have been discussed before in other places and they're not insurmountable. But there's something else, something really important that we need to talk about here and will do because we are your friends and this is what friends do, tell each other the hard truth about life: that stock? Is awfully judge-y and hoooo boy does it ever have a mouth on it. Every time you open that icebox there it is, hissing at you, "Use me. Uuuuuuuuuse meeeeeeeeeee. You wretched ingrate, I am delicious homemade stock, use meeeeee. And call your mother." It's really terrible. As a wise man once put it, in response to my attempts to foist off containers of turkey and beef stock because I was drowning in the stuff, "I never make stock anymore because yup, freezer, full, sad, angry."

With pesky logistics out of the way, we can talk about the basics of making the stuff, which boils (heh) down to: throw a bunch of garbage in a big pot, cover with water, bring to a boil then simmer for some hours, strain, store and done. But the devil is in the details and who's more fun than the devil, right? So let's talk details.

Veggie Stock
There are two main approaches to veg stock, which I refer to as The Three Root Vegetable Approach versus The Scrap Approach. In the first, you'll take carrots, celery and onions and boil them in water for about an hour, then strain and store. Garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and/or peppercorns make nice inclusions to the T.R.V.A. Would you feel more comfortable if I gave you some measurements? Because I can do that! So let's say something like:

2 onions
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
1 cup tomatoes
1 cup mushrooms
2-3 cloves of garlic
10 or so whole peppercorns
6-8 cups water

Roughly chop your veg, throw them into a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Start with cold water, by the way. There are reasons for that but do you care what they are? I thought not. Just start with the water cold and save your questioning for the things that matter in life, like why there isn't a picture of an awl on The Awl. Bring the whole mess up to a boil and then drop it to a simmer. Simmer for an hour or so. Keep an eye on the heat level—you want to keep it at an even simmer throughout, even if it means turning the heat off entirely for a few minutes to let the stock cool its jets.

If you want to get really advanced with things—though honestly? don't—you can brown the veggies before you get them into the water and/or chop them rather finely, as there are those who insist that one or both of those techniques produce more flavorful stock. I believe them! I just truly don't give enough of a fig about producing more flavorful stock to bother.

The second method, or The Scraps Approach, is just that: boil/simmer up whatever you've got lazing around in your vegetable drawer and/or any scraps you've saved. Which brings me to The Saving of The Scraps and how I'm an asshole who has a giant Ziploc in my freezer (for this I have room?) that I trot out every time I cook so I can dump in the carrot peelings or the onion ends or the kale stalks or whatever. Once the bag of trash is full up, the contents go into the stockpot along with some peppercorns and garlic cloves and we're off to the races. I'm being completely serious here, by the way, both about this practice and about the fact that it makes me the worst person ever. Also we refer to it as "the bag of trash Jolie keeps in the freezer because she is the worst." When I grow up, I'll probably turn out to be the sort of woman who makes homemade baby food. Don't worry though, I hate myself so you don't have to.

Once your stock is done simmering, you'll need to strain it before storing for later use. But first let it cool for a while. I use a splatter guard placed over the top of my pot to hold the mess o' scraps back while I pour the liquid out into a large bowl, but you can use a traditional colander placed over a bowl.

The best best best thing to do if you've got the equipment, is to use a pasta insert to hold all the veggies, which can then be pulled out of the pot leaving only the pristine stock ready to go into your storage containers.

How To Make A Roast Chicken, Then Turn It Into Chicken Stock
The same straining and storing instructions apply to chicken and turkey stock, which is what you'll make when you have a carcass left over from Thanksgiving or from that awesome roast chicken you made when you had friends over the other night.

Oh wait! Has anyone ever told you how to roast a chicken? Because it's stupid easy and really cheap and so yummy and a great thing to serve when you're having people over for a casual dinner. Serve it with a starch, a veg and/or a simple salad and prepare to be a hero to your friends. This is my go-to method, though of course there are a million variations.

Buy a whole chicken. Also buy a lemon, a big one. Or two small ones. And if don’t already have it at home, some dried rosemary and garlic salt; before the anti-garlic salt people come for me: this is probably the only thing I ever use garlic salt for, because it just does something to the skin that I can't resist. Then you'll get out a big baking dish; some simple ceramic or metal thing will be fine. Slice the lemon in half. Leave one half intact and cut the other into rounds. Let's say four of them.

Take the bird out of his packaging and throw that mess away. Including the stuff in the inside of him, which is a little gross but won’t hurt you, it’s in a tidy bag. (Maybe try not to look at it too much though, okay? Okay!) Rinse Mr. Bird in cold water and then pat him dry. No, Adrienne, do not use soap.

Put the chicken in the roasting pan, breast-side up. Oh, at this point you should have the oven coming up to temperature – 375° will do it.

Using your fingers, separate the skin from the chicken’s flesh. Yes, I know. But you have to. Okay, now take the slices of lemon and slide them under the skin. It will feel like you’re going to second base with the bird and that’s okay. Take the other half of the lemon and stick it in Mr. Bird’s third base.

Now sprinkle him with a bunch of garlic salt and rosemary, and then massage it in. Basically, molest the bird.

Bid Mr. Bird fare-thee-well and put him in the oven. Leave him in there for an hour and a half. Maybe peek in and baste him a bit if you’re feeling curious about how he’s doing. After an hour and a half, check in on him and if his skin looks nice and brown and like he could pass for a cast member on "Jersey Shore" he’s probably done. If not give him 15-30 more minutes. Et voila! A roasted chickie.

Once you've eaten everything off Mr. Bird that you're planning to eat, put his carcass in your large stockpot along with some of those nice aromatics we've talked so much about. An onion, a few carrots, some celery, garlic cloves and the like. Toss in a handful of peppercorns. Do not add salt. We don't add salt to our stock; we add it to the dishes we use the stock in. This is very important to know.

Cover the whole mess with cold water and bring it up to a boil, then drop to a simmer just the way you did with the veg stock. At this point you can play Choose Your Own Adventure: if you've got four hours to spare ("Housewives" marathon, anyone?), go on and let the stock simmer on the stovetop before removing from heat, cooling, straining and storing. If you don't have four hours to laze about the house get out of my face, you overachiever. Ha ha, just kidding! (Not really.) You can shorten the active cooking time by using the "steeping" trick we talked about here: bring the liquid to a boil, simmer for about an hour, remove from heat and cool, then cover the stockpot and put it in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours before skimming the fat, straining the solids out and storing your stock.

Not that you have to do any of this. Truly. We just want you to know that you have options in life. And if you do opt not to make your own stock, here is a very handy guide to which store bought brands are made of garbage and which ones are actually okay to put in your mouth.

Jolie Kerr wonders if any of you would like some homemade turkey stock?

35 Comments / Post A Comment

My method for making stock the lazy person's way is in a crockpot/slow cooker. I put it on overnight, strain it in the morning, and I don't have to watch the stove.

When I make chicken stock, it smells so delicious by morning that at 5 AM, I start having fever dreams of enormous feasts like the kind you see on "The Tudors."

Saralyn@twitter (#12,501)

Jolie! Do you have an opinion on using leek tops in stock? Because the internet is conflicted, but I have been cooking with leeks lately and don't want to pitch the tops.

Bitzy (#1,913)

@Saralyn@twitter Not Jolie, but YES! I have been on a leek kick lately as well (so tasty and buttery!) and put the tops in my stock. But I also like my stock super herb-y, so YMMV.

aubergines (#216,449)

I just defrosted my freezer to make more space for stock Jolie!!!

Can I recommend "Better than Bouillion REDUCED SALT" in pretty much any flavour? We're super fussy about salt in our house, going out of our way for no added salt everything. Best of all, you can control the precise strength of the stock, as you're using about 1tsp per litre or quart.

SeanP (#4,058)

@aubergines I swear I just cannot read today. I read that first line as "I just defrosted my freezer to make more space for Jolie!!!" and I was like I'm not sure how much room would be required for that, but I'm pretty sure Jolie's not going into your freezer voluntarily.

Leon (#6,596)

Don't for the love of god throw the disgusting baggie or weird chicken cuts and necks away. Even if you don't eat them (YOU SHOULD EAT THEM.) then you should still leave them around your roasting pan while the bird cooks and toss them in the stock.

Also? Chicken feet. But these are weird looking, and it turns out people look at you funny when you've got a big ol' sack of chicken foot on the L.

Olivia2.0 (#1,716)

I DO THIS!!! It makes the live-in-man-friend BATTY what with the big bags of "trash" in the freezer, but I do it anyways.

Also, I will (GLADLY, GLADLY I SAY!!!) join Jolie in the "worst persons in the world" corner over there. And I WILL let the door hit me on the way out, thank you.

shawn (#1,859)

I recognize those ziplocs of frozen vegetable trash — I have the same thing in my tiny apartment freezer, waiting to be given to my worm composter.

Two more things: crockpots are good for stock. Also CI seems to think that you really only need an onion for chicken stock; the rest of the aromatics do nothing. Even faster and cheaper!

sharilyn (#4,599)

Definitely save the chicken bits and throw them in your stock. SO GOOD. Chicken heart soup is the best, you guys.
PRO TIP: put your chicken bones back in the roasting pan (maybe with a quartered yellow onion?) and roast them at like 450F degrees for 20-30 minutes. THEN toss them in the stock pot.
Also, I don't care what Jolie says, I always put a little sea salt in while my stock simmers. Unifies the flavors and what not.
I totally do the gross trash-saving thing but then again I live alone. I also think you can make a completely serviceable (if minimal) stock with the following:
- some kind of meat bones
- one white onion, quartered
- coupla three carrots
- coupla three celery stalks
- some sea salt and peppercorns

SeanP (#4,058)

@sharilyn Yeah, I like to put in a little salt too. Not enough to make it noticeably salty, but enough to stimulate your taste buds a little.

sharilyn (#4,599)

Also, stock made from shrimp shells is super excellent (add a little curry powder!). As is stock made from the T-bone of a steak.

cherrispryte (#444)

Wait why are we not supposed to like garlic salt? Because I'm a little addicted to it.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

My boss definitely heard my singular chuckle that escaped when I read, "You're out of your mind if you think I'm going to boil fish parts in my home for four hours." I do cook, so I will try your veggie stock. I recently learned from a line-cook buddy that the carrots+celery+onions combo is called mirepoix. Isn't that something?

TheRtHonPM (#10,481)

One of my favorite Sunday afternoon activities is to get a pot of stock going while watching the football game. I've never made my own veggie stock, so I'll try that!

laurel (#4,035)

Oh yes. I made a kickass mushroom stock that became, with some other stuff especially port, the most sublime mushroom-gravy-over-mashed-potatoes ever. Seriously, people wept.

Jolie's freezer tidiness shames me.

emberglance (#7,305)

Use those giblets woman. They'll add so much flavour to the stock – that's why someone's bagged them up for you and put in the convenient poultry purse.

Except the liver, which you should not put in your stick as it will make it bitter. So, fry it in butter with a bit of sherry and eat on toast, like a louche European.

Flashman (#418)

Well, I just made a tater tots casserole – a hybrid of Jolie's and Hockeymom's recipes. I couldn't get real tater tots so I had to use McCain Tasty Taters, but I think it still turned out ok.
But is it supposed to be grey? I was thinking I would take it for lunch but now I'm not sure I would want anybody at the office to see me eating this.

JennyBeans (#7,034)

I am one of those people who makes her own baby food.

But I buy my veggie stock.

Because I put my trash in the compost.

So…I think I am the worst person ever? Or maybe just a hippy vegetarian who's also lazy about stock?

scratch (#9,949)

Um, "Mr. Bird"? Him? His? No. I'm sorry, but it is a HUGE peeve of mine when people refer to random animals (by which I mean all of them) as male. You may now consider me the worst person ever but I have the courage of my convictions. Good recipes, btw.

jolie (#16)

@scratch Look we all have our own brands of feminism. Mine is one in which I let the women live and roast the men in the oven. YMMV.

laurel (#4,035)

@scratch I am peeved by your peeve. Unless there's an on-topic distinction between the sexes of the animal (maybe we only cook girl chickens? IDK) or an argument being made that girl chickens aren't good at math, assigning a gender to an animal is meaningless and therefore unobjectionable.

Also? Cute helpless animals always seem male to me.

SeanP (#4,058)

@scratch Cats are always female, though, so there's that.

kendra j.@twitter (#191,244)

This is not really how you make stock. This stock will still be better than what you get at the store, but really, this is how you make stock:

@kendra j.@twitter
That recipe includes the line, "Always begin with cold water, this will slowly and efficiently release impurities from the bones."

SeanP (#4,058)

@kendra j.@twitter Right on time, the culinary police have arrived. That article ought to be entitled "how to make stock in such a way that it's too difficult and time consuming for people who have lives to actually do". Exhibit A: "Meat stock is an all day and sometimes all night affair; do not be in a hurry." Oh.

jolie (#16)

@kendra j.@twitter You must be a delight to sit next to at a dinner party!

Moff (#28)


@SeanP : I have this method for making veal stock that uses just the oven and requires no human intervention while it's cooking away, out of sight. Seriously, people are oooooverthinking this whole thing.

@Charismatic Megafauna : The cold-water stock thing is kind of a canard — it's some pseudoscientific thing about dissolving albumin, which clarifies the stock and floats all the crap to the top so you can skim it off every hour. Personally, I start with cold water because I'm too impatient to wait for the tap to get hot, and seriously it's not like we're going to make consommé here.

jhg (#1,366)

I have been cooking vegetable broth related items constantly for the past week because I had to use my garbage bag of vegetable scraps(lots of asparagus and broccoli stems, leeks, everything in the crisper) to make room in the freezer for, drumroll please – many little containers of baby food. Now I need a bigger freezer. My wife thinks I'm nuts – but continues to have no objections at dinner time.

mishaps (#5,779)

I can't believe I'm the one to point this out. HERE'S HOW YOU STORE YOUR STOCK EFFICIENTLY.

First, wait till it cools. If it's chicken stock, take this opportunity to skim the fat. Then ladle it in to Ziploc bags. Freeze the bags lying flat. (If you like to label your bags with the contents and date, do that before you fill them.)

You may want to put a cutting board or something else flat on your freezer shelf while the stock is freezing, if you are an obsessive like me, and if you make a lot of stock, you may want to do this in waves. You will end up with thin flat stock containers that you can stack horizontally or vertically, depending on your freezer space. Then when you need it, you defrost in the fridge, and pour out. Not hard! Saves SO MUCH ROOM. Do not despair!

laurel (#4,035)

@mishaps You freeze things in plastic?! Glass jars, people. They come in all kinds of sizes, you already own 100 of them, they stack really well and won't disrupt your endocrine system.

@laurel : Eh, I have a spare endocrine system just in case. I keep it in the freezer. In a plastic bag.

trappedinabay (#227,205)

Wait, I wanna know why it's important to start with cold water!

lovelettersinhell (#13,711)

Ahhhhhh, I hate to disagree, but if you don't care about the skin, roast that sucker breadth side down for juicy glory!

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