Most of us know that homemade chicken stock would be healthier than most of the store-bought stuff. And we probably suspect that if we did it right, the homemade would be cheaper, too. But the process of making chicken stock is so time-consuming! It often looks impossible to fit this in to our already busy lives.
That’s because many modern stock recipes are impossible–and wasteful. In these recipes, stock is the only goal and the only end-product; everything else gets thrown out. That’s a ridiculous amount of time and resources for very little result.
Our great-grandparents did it differently. They started the process of stock-making by not making stock.
Back then, a chicken was too valuable to waste. Our forebears would have made one or more main dishes from that chicken, and they would have thrown the scraps and leftovers into a stockpot as they went along. The stockpot would have been kept simmering on the back of the stove, and they would have constantly drawn from it for the other dishes.
In other words, the stock wasn’t an end product: it was a by-product of their other cooking!
And that’s the secret to taking the pain out of stock-making. We may not be able to keep a pot simmering on the stove 24/7, but we do have the means to make chicken stock as a by-product at home.
All we need are:
- a way to cook chicken;
- a way to preserve the scraps and leftovers until we’re ready to make stock; and
- a way to simmer the stock when we get to that step.
I use a slow cooker, the refrigerator, and the slow cooker again. (You could just as easily use several different cooking methods, the freezer, and a stock pot.)
Here’s what I do. I hope this description helps you come up with your own low-fuss way of making chicken stock.
Chicken Stock for Busy People
- Make the Easy Slow Cooker Roast Chicken.
- Use that roast to serve different chicken dishes 2 – 3 nights in a row. (Roast chicken, casseroles, soups.) Any parts of the bird that aren’t being used stay in the slow cooker pot, which stays in the refrigerator. (“Parts of the bird” include muscle and organ meat, fat, skin and bones, plus juices from the original roast. Plus any other part that I may have missed!) Cooked chicken will keep in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.
- When it’s difficult to pull more meat from the carcass, it’s time to hook up the slow cooker and make stock. (Note: If you’re cooking for one, you may still have plenty of meat left after 3 – 4 days. Go ahead and pull meat off the bone to use or to freeze, until you get down to scraps that are too difficult to salvage.) I estimate that I have 1/4 to 1/3 of the meat left when I give up and move on to stock.
- All the “parts of the bird” that are left in the slow cooker
- 2-3 small bay leaves, or one giant one (the giant ones are available at Indian and international markets)
- A handful of chopped onion (about 1/3 cup)
- Chopped celery if I feel like it
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Water to fill the pot
- Dump all this into the slow cooker. Stir if you feel you need to.
- Put the cover on, and set the cooker to the Low setting.
- Cook for a minimum of 4 – 5 hours; longer will get you a richer flavor. I cook this at night, and set the cooker to stop about an hour before I’ll wake up the next morning, usually 8 – 10 hours. (Note: These cook times are for leftovers—meat, etc that has already been cooked once. If you’re using uncooked scraps, cook a minimum of 8 – 10 hours!)
- Let the stock cool enough for you to handle it safely. (If you need to put it back in the refrigerator and handle it that evening—or the next day—that’s okay.)
- Strain the stock. Discard the bones and the bay leaf, but save any meat and other solids. (While most of the nutrition and flavor have been cooked out of these solids, these leftovers can be frozen, then added to soups and casseroles.)
- Put your stock into freezer-safe containers and freeze. The stock will keep in the freezer for 4 – 6 months—and so will those leftover solids.
Yield: Depends on the size of the slow cooker, and the volume of the leftovers. I usually get about three quarts.
Nutritional information: This will vary, depending on the amount of each ingredient used.
Does this look easier than other methods you’ve seen? What will you need to change to make this work for you?
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