Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Importance of Chicken Stock

Evil looking feckers, I say.  Get 'em in the pot!

Chicken Stock


1 Leftover roast chicken carcass, chopped (or 6 raw chicken wings)
1 Medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 Small white onion, peeled and chopped
1 Stick of celery, chopped
1 Piece of leek chopped
1/2 Head of garlic
2 Bay leaves
Sprig of thyme
Small bunch of parsley
Small slice of lemon (optional)


1) Using a ratio of roughly 2-1 one, (water to bones) cover your carcass in a large saucepan with cold water.
2) Bring to the boil and skim any scum that may arise.
3) Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 2-4 hours.  Ensure you are at a very low simmer or 'tick'.
4) Strain slowly and carefully through a fine mesh sieve and cool quickly in a large tray or bowl over ice.
5) Chicken stock will keep up to three days in the fridge.  

Marco Pierre White swimming in Knorr stock cubes.
'Knorr- The best thing that has happened to cooking since me.'
Indeed, guffaw.

Two schools of thought here:
1.  The man has achieved everything possible in his chosen field and inspired generations of young cooks.  He arguably changed the landscape of serious dining and for this we can forgive whatever substandard products are lining the pockets of his descent into aged caricature.  Lord knows he flogs it with style.
2.  In the words of the late, great Bill Hicks- 'The moment you accept money for advertising you start sucking Satan's cock.'   When the products are this bad, and you make your living as a cook, you swallow.
(Thank-you Susyb for the insight.) 

Enfant Terrible no more.
     Chicken stock.  What can I say? So important yet oft ignored, nay shunned by the domestic cook.  Ok, so Marco has condoned stock cubes.  Does that give you the right to toss that left over chicken carcass in the bin after a Sunday feast?  I think not.  A creature dies and we are duty bound to make use of every scrap.  Stock is but a flavoured water that in this case gets its mojo from the connective tissue and cartilage of the chicken bones.  Connective tissue contains collagen which converts to gelatin which in turn thickens and enriches the liquid.
     Chicken stock is the starting point for so much joy.  Firstly, it imparts a fabulous scent whilst simmering that fills your home with warmth and childhood memories.  A throw back to the days of the cave when a bubbling cauldron of bones promised nourishment in a cold season.  
     If you crave simplicity and ease, simply season your stock and add some noodles with fresh herbs of your choice and you have a light and flavourful broth.  Reducing the stock thickens and intensifies the liquid where you can then jazz it up with butter, alcohol and cream what have you for a luxurious sauce.  In a professional kitchen I would use chicken stock as a base flavour to make other meat stocks with the addition of roasted bones and varying aromatics.  And, of course, it is perfect for many soups.

Top Tips:

- Always bring the bones to a simmer first.  It is much easier to skim scum before you add all the vegetal and herby bits.

-Pressure cookers are the way forward.  Contained flavour in a fraction of the time.

-Reducing a stock will intensify the flavour.  So, not to worry if you feel something is lacking.  Crank up the heat and bring that baby down.

-A leek bouquet garni is a nice touch.  Using a length of leek as a sheath, stuff and tie it with the bay leaf, thyme and parsley.  Much easier to remove when finished cooking.

-Fancy a remouillage?  Once your stock is strained, there is still hope for that tired and spent mess in the pot.  Repeating the process will provide a suitable, albeit weakened flavour.  After all, you can always get two cups of tea out of one teabag.

-Ice cube trays.  You can always spot the anorak cook.  He's the guy that has taken the time to cube up all his stocks in the freezer for a rainy day.

-Always use cold water.  If you use hot this may seal the collagen rather than promoting its extraction.

-No salt.  Season later.  If you need to reduce, you could easily end up with a too salty result.

-Do not boil.  A boiled stock is a cloudy one.  Tick it just right and you will end with a near consomme.

-End result too fatty?  Chill it and the fat will solidify on the top for an easy removal.

-The addition of a small slice of lemon is entirely left up to your own discretion/taste.  I am very partial to a hint of citrus and often treat lemon like a seasoning.


  1. Just had a wonderful chicken soup from the chicken stock recipe you provided. There is noting like it. The soup has a nice depth of flavour. I haven't tried it with the small slice of lemon but will do next time and I would like to try it in a pressure cooker.

    Thanks for a good recipe!

  2. The simple things are the best. Chicken stock is so versatile. Quietly going about its business bolstering up so many preparations.
    Happy Cooking

  3. Pressure cookers are not the way forward, they are the way backward. Your Grandmother used one
    when I was no more than chicken-sized.


  4. We must look to the past to progress to a sustainable and efficient future.