How to Make a Good and Useful Stock

A good stock is a marvellous, beautiful wonderful liquid that you can use as the base for soups, stews, pie-fillings, risottos, pilaf/pilau. Here’s how I do it.

The first and most important thing to remember is never to add salt to your stock. It’s the base for other dishes. Add salt to the final dish.

TL;DR Version

  • Do not even think about adding salt.
  • Get onions, celery, carrots and chicken or beef bones (or not if you’re veggie).
  • Roast the chicken but not the wings.
  • Eat most of the chicken but not the wings.
  • Leave the skin on.
  • Do not even think about adding salt.
  • Cut everything into chunks.
  • Gently fry veg until the onion is soft in a pan.
  • Add a glass of white wine.
  • Add the chicken.
  • Do not even think about adding salt.
  • GENTLY simmer everything for an hour.
  • Skim off any scum. You’re not a Michelin-star chef so don’t fret about trying to get all the fat off. Fat is flavour after all.
  • GENTLY simmer everything for an hour to an hour and a half.
  • Leave to cool.
  • Strain through, well, a strainer or if you don’t have one, through a J-cloth or tea towel.
  • Do not even think about adding salt.
  • (Use the veg and wings in soup.)
  • You should end up with a liquid that is also a little gelatinous.
  • Use as the base for other dishes or freeze for later use.

Tips:

  • Do not even think about adding salt.
  • Do not boil your stock like it’s a diseased creature that requires decontamination. That way all the flavour disappears into the air and you will be sad.
  • Skimming is not a chore. It should be quick and easy. You can drop a whole egg in, let that come together and as it does it will collect the scum. You can add some gelatine/agar agar and let that collect all the scum. You can just add a clean J-cloth and let that do the job. Or you can just skim with a spoon.
  • Fat is your friend. You are not making a delicate consommé, you’re making a flavourful, robust stock.

Long Version

Kit

  • A pan big enough to hold your ingredients.
  • (Or a pressure cooker to speed the whole thing up)
  • A slotted spoon or one of those cheap Chinese, wooden handled, mesh scoops that you can pick up from your local Pan-Asian shop.
  • Chicken Stock
  • Ingredients
  • A chicken. Maybe two. Maybe more depending on how much stock you’re making. Remember you can freeze this stuff. For now, I’m going with one, medium-sized chicken.
  • Water – enough to cover your chicken.
  • Two medium onions quartered – I leave the skin on.
  • Two large carrots – peel them if you need to do additional work.
  • Three of the bigger celery stalks you can find. Leave the leaves on.
  • A glass of dry white wine.
  • Vegetarian
  • A handful of mushrooms (dry is best)
  • Water – enough to cover your ingredients.
  • Two large carrots – peel them if you need to do additional work.
  • Three of the bigger celery stalks you can find. Leave the leaves on.
  • Any other veg you’ve got hanging around in the bottom of your fridge. Seriously, old, flagging, nearly off. Anything except potatoes or any other starchy veg/tuber. No pulses.
  • A glass of dry white wine.

Method

  • Forget the chicken bits obviously if you didn’t use one.
  • Chop all your veg into chunks. They need to be able to stand up to being fried/sautéed and then live through a rolling boil without disintegrating.
  • Now, here we dive into arguments and preferences regarding what you do with your chicken. You can just use the entire chicken if you want. Just drop in into the pan with the water and veg. You can do that. You can roast the chicken bones. Both good options. Here’s what I’d do.
  • Remove the wings. Roast your chicken as you usually would for a chicken dinner. Eat your chicken dinner but don’t eat the wings. Have a glass of something nice. Tell someone you love them. Do the washing up.
  • Now, gently sauté (fry) your veg chunks in your stock pan until the onion is soft.
  • Next, cut up your chicken carcass and wings roughly.
  • Now add that glass of white wine to your fried veg to deglaze the pan. Let that boil off as much of the actual alcohol as possible. You’ll never lose all the booze no matter what anybody tells you.
  • Next add the chicken bits.
  • Now, add cold water. Yup, cold water. You don’t want to scald your chicken so it tenses up and takes an age to release its flavour.
  • Next, bring it to a rolling simmer. You are not looking to boil away the flavours here so don’t be drawn into high heats and aggressive boils, you’re wasting your’s and all your ingredients’ time.
  • Now, leave it. Leave on a simmer (some bubbles but no a bloody storm at sea) for an hour.
  • Next, skim off any scum. If you’ve left your onion skins on, you may find quite a bit and the stock will be dark (same with the mushrooms).
  • Do not obsess over this skimming.
  • Skim using a spoon or any of the methods in the short version. Do not worry about removing the fat.
  • Now, simmer some more for an hour or maybe an hour and a half.
  • Strain. The stock, not yourself.
  • Leave to cool. Skim again if you like.
  • Freeze or use immediately.
  • You can use the veg and wings in a soup too. Waste not want not etc.

Tim Smith

I write for money. Have done for decades. I've written about music, sport, cooking, games. I'm also a data miner who knows one end of a taxonomy from another. Feel free to get in touch.

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