Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a great chicken broth/stock. With this broth plus a few other ingredients you can create many wonderful soups, such as: Greek Lemon Soup, Can’t-Wait-for-Spring Herb Soup, and Cream of Cauliflower Soup. In upcoming posts, I’ll show you how to make these and other great soups. But first, let’s make the broth!
Homemade Chicken Broth
Makes ~ 9 cups of chicken broth, plus about 1/2 pound to 3 pounds chicken (or turkey) meat
- 4 – 5 chicken feet (see Q & A below)
- 5 – 7 pounds of chicken backs or other bony pieces of chicken or turkey (for example, wings or legs)
- Cold filtered water
- 2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
- Place the chicken feet into a tall pot, such as a stock pot or pasta pot (with the insert removed). Then add the chicken backs or other bony pieces of chicken/turkey to the pot. Leave about 2 inches of room above the chicken. Note: If all of the chicken doesn’t fit, use poultry shears (or a sharp kitchen scissors) to cut the larger pieces into small pieces so they take up less room.
- Add cold filtered water to cover the chicken with an inch of water.
- Add lemon juice or vinegar to the water.
- Over medium-high heat, bring water in pot to boiling.
- Reduce heat to medium and gently boil the contents of the pot, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
- A foam will develop on the top of the broth. The foam consists mainly protein and fat. You can skim off/discard the foam — or not. If you don’t discard it, the protein will sink to the bottom (no problem, because it’s edible) and the fat will rise to the top of the broth (no problem, because it’s easy to remove later when it’s cold/hard).
- After 30 minutes at a gentle boil the smaller pieces of chicken will have reached 165 degrees F. Remove the smaller pieces pieces from the pot and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Let the larger pieces continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the thickest piece of meat registers 165 degrees F.
- When the chicken that has been removed from the pot is cool enough to handle, separate the chicken meat from the skin and bones. Note: For larger pieces of chicken/turkey, you will find it helpful to use your fingers or a scissors to shred the cooked meat.
- Moisten the cooked chicken/turkey meat with a little of the broth and refrigerate. You can place the pieces of chicken/turkey into plastic bags for the freezer, with as little air in them as possible, and freeze for use later. See photo below. Note: The amount of meat you get from making this recipe varies depending on the pieces of chicken or turkey you use. I used to use chicken backs, but using backs would only yield about 1/2 pound of cooked chicken. Then I switched to a combination of chicken thighs and turkey wings and it was less work to remove the meat from the bones — plus I had more cooked meat to use later in soups and other recipes. Then one day the store didn’t have any turkey wings, and I used chicken legs and turkey thighs instead. The result (shown in photo below): even more cooked meat — 3 pounds of cooked chicken and turkey from using 3 pounds of chicken legs and 4 pounds of turkey thighs!
- Place the chicken skin and bones into a 6 1/2 -quart slow cooker.
- Ladle the chicken broth from the pot into the slow cooker, leaving 1/2 – 1 inch between the broth and the lid. Note: If after adding some of the broth to the slow cooker, you can tell that not all the broth will fit into the slow cooker, just boil the remaining broth in the pot to reduce it and then add the reduced broth to the slow cooker.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 – 12 hours. (Longer is OK too.)
- Turn off the slow cooker and remove the lid. Allow the broth to cool for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Place a metal strainer/colander in the center of a heat-proof (for example, stainless steel) bowl and ladle the contents of the slow cooker into the strainer. Then lift up the strainer and, voila, the broth you’ve been waiting for is in the bowl! Discard the contents of the strainer.
- Cool the broth: Into a large rectangular pan (for example, a roasting pan), place 6, pint-size, wide-mouth Mason jars (the kind suitable for the freezer). Ladle the broth into the jars, leaving a little more than 1 inch at the top (to allow for expansion when freezing. Fill the pan with cold tap water. After about 3 minutes, add 3 cups of ice cubes to the water in the pan, and stir the broth in each jar. After about 5 more minutes add more ice cubes. When the broth is about 70 degrees F, as measured with an instant-read thermometer, place a lid on each jar.
- Wipe the outside of the jars and then refrigerate in the coldest part of your refrigerator (rear of lowest shelf) for Up to 4 days. Or freeze to use later. Note: If you plan to freeze the broth, be sure to use freezer-safe (straight-sided) Mason jars. (The jars with rounded sides, can burst when subjected to freezing and thawing.) Alternatively, you can freeze the broth in silicon muffin pans or ice cube trays. And if you have some frozen broth ice cubes, you can cool your hot broth by adding them to it! This will make the process of cooling the broth go faster!
Q & A – Ingredients and recipe steps
Where can I get chicken backs? Specialty markets are good sources — but often you will need to ask the butcher to order them. The chicken backs from Whole Foods are from the standard Bell & Evans chicken — chicken that has never been fed or injected with antibiotics or growth hormones. But unfortunately this chicken is not pasture raised so it doesn’t forage for it’s natural diet of bugs, grubs, and seeds. Instead it gets fed “extruded and expeller-pressed soybeans, enhanced with corn and amino acids.” And the soybean meal is not certified GMO free or organic. Pasture raised chickens, are available from specialty markets. In Northern Virginia, we can shop for pastured meats at Maple Avenue Market or from buying clubs such as Polyface Yum.
Chicken feet? Really?! Chicken feet contain LOTS of collagen and when collagen dissolves you get gelatin which gives the broth body and makes it jiggle when cold. You can get chicken feet from pastured chickens at specialty markets and from buying clubs (mentioned above). Note: Fresh chicken feet need to be scalded about five minutes so the skin can be removed before adding to the stockpot. I’ve done that before but it’s not fun. So I try to buy feet that have been skinned already.
Why do you add lemon juice or vinegar? The acid helps to leach minerals out of the bones and into the broth. It does not affect the flavor of the broth.
Why do you make this broth in a pot on the stove and also in a slow cooker? I use a pot because with a pot you can heat liquid a lot faster than with a slow cooker and you can reduce liquid easily in a pot. I use a slow cooker to cook the broth undisturbed for long time without worrying about burning the house down!
Why didn’t you rinse the chicken before putting it into the pot? According to the USDA: Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking. And rinsing chicken in the sink might cross-contaminate or spread bacteria throughout the kitchen.
Why doesn’t your broth have salt in it? I make a lot of different soups with the same broth. So it’s better to season to taste when making each soup.
Why no celery, carrots, or onion in this broth? Because veggies take up room in the pot making less room for chicken. Also the veggies absorb the broth like a sponge and you end up throwing out the overcooked veggies (and their absorbed broth). To me that’s a waste. I’d rather cook the veggies just until done in the broth (after removing the fat) and eat the veggies! Also, when you add veggies you flavor the broth and I don’t want to do that because I want to be able to turn this broth into many different flavored soups.
Is it OK to eat the fat that rises to the top of the broth? I would not recommend it. Undesirable chemical reactions occur in fat that’s cooked at a high temperature or for a long time. So I place this fat (after it’s cold and easy to lift off the top of the broth) into container and when that container is full into the trash it goes. Note: Do not put fat down the drain as it will clog the drain!
Q & A – Nutrition
What are the nutritional benefits of chicken broth? Chicken broth can help you get over a cold and nourish your body as it contins:
- Calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that strengthen bones.
- Gelatin that strengthens nails, hair, and bones. For more details about gelatin and nutrition see 5 Reasons Why Even Vegetarians Need Gelatin and Denise Minger’s presentation at Ancestral Health 12.
- Other nutrients. For details regarding other nutrients in bone broth (from chicken and beef), see SCD Lifestyle and Mark’s Daily Apple. Personally, I think that the science behind some of these nutritional claims is scanty at this point in time, but there’s some truth to them — we just don’t have the proof yet.
How can I learn more about making broth, stock, soup?
- Attend a cooking class, such as the class given by Susan Blasko at the Maple Avenue Market in Vienna Virginia. If you don’t live in the metro-DC area, then look for a cooking class given by your local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation as this organization is trying to bring back the nourishing tradition of real broth/stock/soup.
- Check out this book, published in September 2014: Nourishing Broth: An Old Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel (both affiliated with the Weston A. Price Foundation).
Enjoy and be healthy!