April 9, 2018

Making chicken stock from scratch

3 minute read

Yesterday, I woke up and decided to try and make chicken stock from scratch. And, after another ten minutes of reflection, I further resolved to make it “from scratch” if at all possible. I rushed out the door to go grocery shopping, and grabbed the first set of ingredients: soup greens. Then, while I was at the butcher, I grabbed the second set of ingredients: chicken bones (prepackaged). (The bones ran me about $5, but my butcher charges a lot because they’re the only game in town; I’m pretty sure at other places it would be cheaper.)

I got back from the market around noon, and after eating a quick lunch, I got to work. Following tips from friends and the internet, I browned the chicken bones (they still had a bit of meat on ’em) in a skillet for a few minutes, before tossing them into a slow cooker with boiling water. Over the course of a few hours, I noticed the broth slowly getting thicker, as more chicken essence cooked into the pot. After around five hours, I ladled out two pints of the stock and reserved it; in a small (3.5 quart) stock pot, I seasoned my aromatics, poured in the stock (added a bit of water to fill), and cooked everything through for an hour. The resulting soup was quite tasty, and if I hadn’t watered down the stock, I’m sure would be even hardier.

That said, while I’m pleased with the results, I’m not sure it’s worth running off to the market bone-hunting and broth-simmering every time I want a pint of stock. I think the homemade stuff tastes about 50% better than the off-the-shelf variety, and if I can make use of a gallon of stock (or freeze it), runs maybe half the price. So sure, by my estimation, homemade broth is 1.5 / .5 = 3 times “better” than the off-the-shelf stuff. But, most of that difference is due to price; when time/effort are limited, and taste is the only remaining benefit, it’s not improved enough to justify the effort. So for me, it’s a tradeoff. I’ll probably do this again on similar Sundays, but I won’t necessarily bother if I’m cooking for company and already need to invest time cooking other things.

The next time you’re planning on making yourself a chicken soup (or any dish where you need a decent quantity of chicken stock), ask yourself if you have the time to make yourself some stock; if you do, I think your palette and wallet will thank you.

© Jeff Rabinowitz, 2022