Chicken broth is one of those elements that are nice to have on hand. I use it for sauces, gravies, rice, and as a more flavorful substitution for water. However, I frequently do not use an entire container of store-bought broth at one time, so can end up wasting it if I do not use the rest before it goes bad. Also, when I buy a whole chicken and butcher it myself, I end up with bones and things which can be used to make broth instead of just tossing them. Making a batch of chicken broth at home is pretty easy, cost-effective, and can make use of things that would have just been thrown away otherwise.
This recipe is more of a technique as you can get very different results depending on the ingredients and process that you use. The “light” version is one that has a very subtle chicken flavor similar to the unsalted broth you may find in a grocery store. I find this more versatile as you can add flavors to it when using it for cooking. The “dark” broth, on the other hand, has a stronger chicken flavor which I usually balance with more onions, vegetables, and herbs. This is something that has enough flavor that it could be warmed and sipped without adding anything to it if desired. But it also is great for rich gravy or pan sauces, or when you want some more flavor in your rice.
I tend to make a batch of broth about two times a year alternating between the “light” and “dark” versions. This tends to keep enough broth in my pantry to not have to pick up any from the grocery store. However, canning or even freezing the broth can be dangerous. Therefore I am not going to make any recommendations about storage or provide details on how I store my broth. While I have not (yet) had any issues with food spoilage, if you plan to can the broth using a pressure cooker (a water bath is definitely not safe), or freeze it, please research the options fully before attempting them.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes spread out plus 10 more minutes for a dark broth made on the stove
Simmer / Wait: 4 hours plus 1 more hour for a dark broth made in the oven
Total: 4 hours 30 minutes (light) or up to 6 hours (dark)
- 1 chicken carcass (or about 2lb of various chicken bones) with larger parts like the neck bone and rib cage cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 white onion halved and quartered
- 2 stalks celery cut in 1 inch pieces
- 2 carrots cut in 1 inch pieces (or 8 baby carrots)
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 peppercorns
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 4 stalks parsley
To make a broth with more flavor, then some or all of the following optional ingredients may also be added. I tend to make a more neutral, light broth and flavor it later as needed. However, if I am making a dark broth then I will tend to add all of the following to balance out the stronger meat flavor.
- 1T tomato paste (if making a dark sauce)
- 1 leek cut in 1 inch pieces
- 1 head of garlic cut in half width-wise
- 1 parsnip peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 turnip peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
This technique can be used to create a lighter broth with subtle flavors or a darker sauce with a stronger flavor. I tend to make a lighter sauce, or alternate between batches of the two types so I have both on hand.
The difference between a dark broth and a lighter one is that the chicken bones (and optionally some of the other ingredients such as the onions) are cooked first. This cooking can be done in the same pot in which you will be cooking the stock, or by roasting in the oven.
If cooking on the stove, add 1T olive or avocado oil to a 6 quart or larger pot. Heat on medium-high heat then add chicken pieces (and optionally the onions and/or other large vegetables) along with the tomato paste, and mix. Cook until browned, about 6 minutes, stirring and turning occasionally to keep things from burning. If any chicken pieces stick to the bottom of the pan, just let it cook more until it releases easily. Then continue with the light broth recipe.
If roasting in the oven, preheat the oven to 450°F / 230°C. Add chicken pieces and optionally the onions to a large roasting pan along with the tomato paste. Mix well and make sure things are distributed fairly evenly in the pan. Place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Empty the contents of the pan into a large pot then put the pan on the stove and add a cup of water to it. Heat to a simmer and stir, scraping all pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then empty the liquid into the pot and follow the instructions for a light broth.
- Place all ingredients into a 6 quart or larger pot.
- Fill the pot with water leaving an inch or so at the top. This should submerge all the other ingredients under at least an inch of water.
- Bring the water to an almost boil, or around 205°F / 96°C, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low and try to maintain a low simmer (on my electric stove the best setting is 2 elements on 2.5 using the heating element with three elements).
- Check the broth every 20 minutes for the first hour of cooking. You want to see some occasional bubbles, but not a full boil, so make slight adjustments to the heat as needed. Also, when checking the heat, also skim any foam and oil off the top.
- After checking every 20 minutes for an hour, the heat should be adjusted well and there will not be much more foam forming on the top. You may then just let it cook for at least 3 more hours.
- Remove the pot from the heat and fish out as many large pieces of things as you can easily onto a baking sheet to cool before disposing.
- Strain the broth into another pot using a very fine strainer.
At this point I usually pour the broth into warm 16oz mason jars along with a pinch of salt, then place in a pressure cooker. Another storage option is to let the broth cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day skim off any fat layer at the top and place in freezer-safe containers with sizes of your choosing. Of course the safest option is to just use the broth right away storing and using any excess in the refrigerator within a few days. However, I am not a food safety expert and unqualified to make any recommendations on food storage. Whatever option you choose please do your own research into the matter.