When you want a great tasting soup or stew in this cold weather, you will need to start with a great tasting Chicken Stock. Making Homemade Chicken Stock is as simple as filling a large stockpot with chicken, fresh vegetables, seasoning and water, then simmering it for several hours. The outcome is a rich and healthy stock with natural flavors that beats any store bought variety hands down. I have tried almost every brand of boxed stocks (some costing up to $4-5 for a 32-ounce box) hoping to find something that tastes like chicken, but unfortunately all of them have failed the taste test. I’m talking about actually tasting the liquid right out of the box or can; if you have not done this, try it next time and I’m sure you’ll agree that it is not very flavorful. We all like the convenience of cooking with boxed or canned stocks that are available at the supermarkets and use them occasionally when we really don’t have time to make the homemade stock. However making wholesome stews and delicate soups such as Soup é Morgh Zaferani (Persian saffron soup) or Soup Jo with this homemade stock will give them a much superior flavor.
Since prepping for several quarts of the homemade chicken stock takes only a little longer than making a few cups, I always make a large batch and freeze it.
You will need a very large stockpot; mine is 12 inches in diameter and about 10 inches deep. I use two whole chickens with skin for extra flavor and richness; I normally remove the skin in all of my other recipes, but this is an exception. Once the stock is cooked and chilled, the fat collects on top as a solid layer that can easily be removed and discarded. Before I add the chicken to the stockpot I use a sharp knife to strip the flesh from the breast area in 4 large pieces with only a small amount of meat remaining on the breast bone. I save the boneless breasts for another recipe, such as Chicken Tarragon, Panko Crusted Hummus Chicken, or Chicken Piccata. If you wish, you could just cook the whole chicken but keep in mind that after simmering for 8 hours the cooked meat will be pretty dry in texture with very little flavor and it is usually discarded. All the vegetables are scrubbed and washed but not peeled for extra flavor.
Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by 2-3 inches. Without covering, bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Use a slotted spoon to skim off the foam that collects on top. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer without covering the pot for about 8 hours. It might be tempting to increase the heat and hurry up the process but this will make the stock cloudy and not as tasty! I recommend starting the stock in the morning to allow all the natural flavors to infuse over low heat.
At the end of this time remove the stockpot from heat. Use a large slotted spatula to transfer the large cooked solids to a colander and allow the liquid to drip into a large bowl. Place a fine mesh metal strainer inside a large pot or bowl and strain the remaining stock. Discard the solids.
At this point a taste test will prove that the soup made with this stock will be superior to any soup made with the store bought variety. This recipe yields about 6 quarts of homemade chicken stock, so unless you have plans to make a large batch of Aash Reshteh (like they do in Iran for large gatherings), you will need to freeze the extra stock. I normally pour the strained stock in individual freezer proof containers. I leave them uncovered in the fridge for a few hours, then top them with a tight lid and freeze them. The fat forms a hard solid layer on top and can be easily removed and discarded when I need to use the stock later. However, in the above photos, I’ve refrigerated the stock overnight to demonstrate how the fat in the chicken solidifies and forms a soft layer on top which also can easily be discarded for a healthier stock. The other point that you observe in these photos is that this homemade stock is so incredibly rich that it becomes gelatinous when chilled, unlike the stock from the boxes and cans that are a thin liquid regardless of the temperature.
When this Homemade Chicken Stock is made with patience and simmered gently, it cooks to a clear broth with a beautiful amber color. I think once you taste the difference you will have a hard time using anything else. I admit it takes some extra work but I can also tell you with certainty that the taste is worth all the effort. If you try this recipe, please drop me a line and tell me what you think!
Prep time: 20 minutes
simmer time: 8 hours
- 2 large whole chickens with skin
- 2 large yellow onions (unpeeled and quartered)
- 5 large carrots, unpeeled
- 4 celery sticks (I always add the leaves and the base of the celery stalk)
- Base and leaves of 2 Chinese celery (may substitute with additional celery sticks)
- 2 TBSP salt
- 2 TBSP whole peppercorns
- 3 medium fresh turmeric roots (No substitutes but optional)
- 10 sprigs fresh parsley
- Enough cold water to cover the ingredients (about 7 quarts, or 28 cups)
- Clean and wash the skin and cavity of the chickens. Use a sharp knife to remove the large meaty section of the chicken breast. You may leave it on if you wish, but it is really a waste of good chicken breast and you could save it and use it in other recipes such as Creamy Chicken Tarragon or Chicken Piccata, that I have previously posted.
- Scrub all of the vegetables under cold water with a stiff brush to get rid of any possible dirt. There is no need to peel or chop the vegetables. The occasional light gray spots on the outer onion peels are mold and they should be removed.
- In a very large stockpot (mine is 10 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter) add the chicken and the rest of the ingredients. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by 2-3 inches.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium high without covering the pot. Collect any foam that forms on top. Lower the heat to medium low and without covering the pot, simmer for 8 hours.
- Remove the stockpot from the heat and allow it to cool for 15 minutes or so to prevent burns. Use a large slotted spatula to remove the large solids a and place them in a colander that is sitting over a large bowl to catch every bit of the broth. Use a small saucepan with a long handle to transfer the stock into a fine mesh metal strainer that is sitting in a large bowl. Discard the solids.
- This recipe yields about 6 quarts of stock. To store, pour the strained stock into individual freezer safe containers with a tight lid. I usually use five 7-cup capacity Rubbermaid containers. Refrigerate the containers without the lid for a few hours to cool completely. Cover with the lid and store the containers in the freezer for 2-3 months and use them as needed.
- When the stock is chilled, a solid layer pf fat forms on top. Remove the layer if you’re using the stock right away, but leave it intact if you’re freezing it; you can remove it later before cooking.
- Depending on the recipe, you might want to thaw the stock before using it, or just run the sides of the containers under hot water to release the frozen stock and gently drop it in the pot.