Okay, so I don’t want you to mislead by the word “easy” in the title of this recipe. Yes, it’s a simple procedure and I know you can do it, but it’s also pretty time consuming so I want you to know that up front. That said, most of the time involved is inactive waiting time, not active hands-on time, so it really is easy. Really.
There is often some confusion about what qualifies as chicken stock, chicken broth, or the currently popular bone broth. Bone broth, which is all the rage for its reported health benefits, is very similar to chicken or beef stock but involves long hours (in some cases a couple of days), of simmering roasted bones with vegetables and herbs until you have a super concentrated, gelatinous concoction that is high in collagen and has a wonderfully intense flavor. Broth, on the other hand, generally only uses only the meat and vegetables with seasonings. It can include some bones but cooks only an hour or two and will not have a gelatinous consistency. A culinary stock, like we’re making here, always contains bones, can also contain meat (we use the whole chicken in this recipe) as well as vegetables and herbs. It is generally simmered for 2 – 6 hours and produces a flavorful, versatile stock that can be used in many recipes.
I do not make my own stock all the time. Again, I would hate to mislead you. I always have a few boxes of store bought stock in my pantry because I use it a lot. However, there are a few really good reasons I like to make my own. The first is the flavor. It really is superior and more complex. The second is the sodium content. You’ll notice that homemade stock calls for no salt at all but the boxed stuff, even if it’s marked low or reduced sodium, has to have a fairly high sodium content to preserve it. And the third reason is that it makes me feel good about myself to put all (or most) of the parts of the chicken to use and not feel like I’m wasting too much.
I use the whole chicken in this recipe because it’s a super easy way to cook the meat, which can be used shredded in all sorts of different recipes while also producing a great flavored stock. It seems more efficient to me. Keep in mind the meat is not going to be as flavorful as a roasted chicken and will lend itself best as an ingredient to soups, casseroles, curries, etc. that will bring their own flavor. If you wish, you can replace the whole chicken in this recipe with 2 -3 pounds of bones, raw or roasted, without all the meat.
Easy Chicken Stock and shredded chicken
(yields 2.5 – 3 quarts stock and 4 – 5 cups shredded chicken)
1 whole organic chicken (3 – 4 pounds)
2 medium/large onions (yellow or white)
5 celery ribs (about 1/2 stalk)
3 medium/large carrots
1 whole head of garlic
2 bay leaves
a good pinch of black peppercorns (@ 1 tsp)
several sprigs of fresh thyme
Place the whole chicken in a large stockpot (it should be at least an 8-quart pot), making sure to remove any giblets inside.
Chop onions, celery, and carrots in large chunks.
With a sharp knife, cut the head of garlic in half, crosswise. It’s okay to leave the skin on.
Place onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and fresh thyme atop the chicken.
Fill the pot with water until it just covers the chicken and veggies.
Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat then cover the pot and immediately turn down the heat to low.
Be sure and skim off the scum that forms on the top of the stock occasionally with a large spoon or strainer.
Simmer for at least 2 hours. At this point, the chicken will be cooked through and the stock plenty flavorful.
Remove only the chicken from the pot and place it in a large pan (such as a 9×11 Pyrex). Allow it to cool slightly before shredding it.
Place a strainer over an extra large bowl or another stockpot, preferably in your very clean sink.
Carefully, pour the stock through the strainer and into the bowl. Discard the solids.
To cool the stock down quickly, place the bowl back in your sink filled with ice water and stir until it’s no longer hot.
Chill completely in the refrigerator. You made need to transfer the stock to a few medium size bowls to fit in your fridge.
Remove all of the skin from the chicken and discard it.
Thoroughly pick all the meat off the bones and don’t forget to find all the delicious dark meat. Shred with two forks or chop, then refrigerate or freeze for later use. If you’re freezing it, make sure you’re portioning it properly for your needs. I usually divide it up in at least two ziplock bags.
After the stock has chilled completely (overnight is fine), you will notice the excess fat has risen to the top. This makes it very convenient to remove it with a large spoon and discard it before proceeding. Of course, removing it is totally optional. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
You should only keep the stock refrigerated for 3 – 4 days so it’s best to freeze most of it if you’re not going to use it right away. I’ve found the best way to do it is to use muffin tins (I did not come up with this myself, found it on the internet).
Some people use ice cube trays but I think the larger portion from the muffin tin is better.
First, make sure the muffin tin fits on a level shelf in your freezer (pretty important). Next, fill the muffin tins almost to the top and, very carefully, place in the freezer.
Freeze overnight. Remove the pan then set it in a larger pan or your sink (must be larger than the muffin pan) that’s been filled about 2 inches high with hot water. Allow it to sit just long enough to release the stock, you don’t want it to melt too much. Then remove the stock rounds and transfer to a large ziplock bag. Freeze and remove stock as needed.
I suppose I could have offered up a recipe for St Patrick’s day this weekend, but I’m not really big on corned beef, soda bread or green beer and I’m trying to avoid potatoes. I’m proud to be half Irish but I can’t say it’s because of the food. It’s mostly because of U2 and the color green. I will offer you a blessing instead…
May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of your wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
And the kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you!