Every home cook should make stock. My mother, the queen of our kitchen, always makes stock when she has chicken bones on hand. With quality stock in the freezer you are able to make fantastic soups and sauces. Even better, you save money and use up all the older looking carrots, celery and onions in the house.
In general, you can make stock out of any bones or veggies. To be clear, the difference between stock and broth is that broth is made from meat rather than bones. The ideal stock will extract all the flavours from the aromatics and the bones.
Typically my family would always make stock from the bones of a chicken carcass either from when we cut up a chicken into pieces or when we roast a whole chicken. Other great stocks can be made from turkey, lamb bones (for my mother’s Scotch Broth recipe), fish and shrimp or lobster.
Rather than provide you with a recipe, I want to give you 5 key tips that I learned from my mother to make great stock. I have thrown in some images to help you along the way as well.
Tip 1: Uniformity Is Key
Chop veg into large uniform chunks – too small and they’ll disintegrate during the long cooking time. If you are roasting your bones, use the vegetables as a trivet to keep the meat elevated for uniform browning and to lower the risk of burning.
Don’t use starchy vegetables such as potatoes as these will make the stock cloudy, or vegetables that are too green as these can colour the stock.
TIP 2: Roast for Flavour
I will always roast my bones and veggies first before making the stock. This is because it adds a delicious depth of flavour to the liquid. If you are using the carcass of a roasted chicken then you can skip this step. Roasting is also especially effective for shrimp and lobster stock as they can really intensify the flavour.
The only exception to this tip is when you after a pale crystal clear stock. In those cases, do not roast your bones.
TIP 3: Start from Cold and manage heat
I like to make my stock in a pasta boiler. I put the bones and veg in and top with cold water. Heat to a gentle simmer. If there is too much evaporation, I will top up with cold water.
Above all else, I try to not to let the stock boil, especially if I am using bones as fat will disperse through the stock and be impossible to skim off. Regulate the heat so that a few bubbles rise to the surface. Cook uncovered for 3-4 hours.
If you do wish to boil your stock hard to intensify the flavour, be sure to strain it well. That way the flavours won’t get muddy and scum won’t integrate.
Tip 4: SKIM SKIM SKIM
Skim regularly and keep the ingredients covered by topping up with cold water. You can go crazy for hours and hour of skimming to make a perfectly clear stock. I don’t.
If you really want clarity bring the bones to a boil, drain the liquid and then rinse the bones very well. This technique will dramatically reduce the scum from forming and will also help eliminate any “bad meat” flavour. If I am making pho from scratch or if I feel that the bones are particularly scuzzy (i.e. covered in bone dust etc.) I will do this step.
You may also wish to skim the fat of the top of your stock. This can be done once the mixture is cool as the fat will rise to the top.
Key Tip: Save the leftover fat in a small glass jar in the fridge. It will make the greatest roast potatoes you have ever experienced. The fat can be kept in a sealed jar in the fridge for approx. 2 weeks. It will solidify.
Tip 5: Freeze
The majority of the times I make stock I will freeze it right away. The best containers that I use are the large 1L plastic containers. I also use 500ml re-sealable yogurt containers as well. When using plastic containers be sure to cool the liquid to room temperature before packaging and freezing. This will keep you safe from any chemicals in the plastic and also will help the stock freeze faster. Also, be sure to label you stock with the date and the type before freezing. Cataloging things is key.
This is because I typically use stock for soups and I don’t normally make sauces that require small amounts of stock. If you do want to use it for that purpose, freeze into ice-cube trays.
To reheat your stock, remove it from the container by running warm water on the bottom to release.