Easy homemade chicken stock recipe (AKA garbage stock)

This is the easiest recipe for homemade chicken stock I can give you. It’s the cheapest, too.

Why? Because it’s made of garbage.

Not real garbage, of course. Food scraps. Scraps that just as easily might see the trash as they would a pot if you’re not thoughtful about it.

Save your scraps and turn them into a delicious, comforting base for anything from amped up quinoa to risotto to soup.

I keep (at least) a gallon size zip-top freezer bag in my freezer at all times to save food scraps for homemade chicken stock. In fact, I usually have several—one for chicken stock, one for veg broth, and one for beef or pork stock.

Any time I cut a carrot, an onion, some celery, and other aromatic veg, instead of putting the not-so-nice bits in the trash (or even compost) they go into the stock bag. After roasting a chicken (or other bone-in meat), that goes into the bag(s)  as well.

Then, whenever I want to make homemade chicken stock—or vegetable broth, or other “what’s in the freezer?” stock or broth, I simply pull the bag out of the freezer, dump it into a pot, cover it with water, and let it simmer away.

Here’s a go-to homemade chicken stock recipe you can use, and alter, to your kitchen’s content.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen kitchen scraps, ideally including:
    • Bones (with stuck-on meat and maybe a few bits of skin) of one whole chicken (raw, roasted, or a combo)
    • 2-ish carrots
    • 2-ish celery stalks
    • 1-2 onions
    • Bits of garlic
    • Bits of shallot
    • Bits of herbs like parsley, thyme, and green onion
  • Any supplements you might need to round out the above
  • Small handful fresh thyme
  • Crushed garlic clove, if you only had little bits in your bag
  • 1 T peppercorns, crushed (I crush them in the bag the scraps came out of, using a cast iron pan)
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1-2 T tomato paste

Method:

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT tomato paste in a large pot, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and keep the stock at a just-below-simmering temp for a few hours. (I usually aim for 4 hours, sometimes I stop after 2-3 depending on timing.)

When your kitchen smells delicious and you’re ready to move on to step 2: Turn off the heat and strain the stock. My favorite tool for this is a chinoise, but a strainer, or a colander with cheesecloth or a tea towel, will also do the trick.

homemade chicken stock in the pot

Pour the stock back into the pot, bring back up to medium-high heat, and stir in the tomato paste. Boil or simmer the stock for another hour or so, until it reduces by whatever amount you feel appropriate.

Strain the stock one more time, then divvy up and use as you wish, or freeze in small-to-medium portions for use at any time.

homemade chicken stock strained

Pro tip: If you want extra bad-ass delicious stock, be sure to use bones with a fair amount of fat and collagen on them. This might mean roasting some bones with a little meat on them specifically for your stock. Then, after your initial straining, reduce the stock fairly significantly.  This makes a super gelatinous and umami-packed stock, but due to the additional cost and effort, I typically only make this for recipes that really need it (think pho) and for Thanksgiving. 

What to do with homemade stock

Your options with homemade stock are many. Make soup. Make stew. Make risotto. Make gravy, pan sauce, meaty dips (jus), or other yummy sauces. Amp up the flavor on your beans, rice, or other grains. Etc. etc. etc.

Side note: What’s the difference between stock and broth?

I’ve admittedly Googled this myself several times, so here are the basics with sources:

  • Stock is made with bones—often roasted; broth is a liquid that meat and/or veg are cooked/poached in (Alton Brown, Good Eats episodes Behind the Bird / Remains of the Bird and special Romancing the Bird)
  • “Broth is something you sip and stock is something you cook with,” says Kate Heddings of Food & Wine. Meaning: stock should be bland and used to add body to dishes, and you should be able to season liberally as needed for the dish you’re making—not beholden to a salty liquid that you have to season around.

… So WTF is bone broth, then?

My answer: Rebranding that encourages people to pay far too much money for something we’ve been making and enjoying for years.

Less cynically, Epicurious says: “Bone broth is a hybrid of broth and stock. The base is more stock-like, as it is usually made from roasted bones, but there can sometimes be some meat still attached. It is cooked for a long period of time—often more than 24 hours—and the goal is not only to extract the gelatin from the bones, but also to release the nutritious compounds and minerals … It is then strained and seasoned to be enjoyed on its own, like broth.”

Semantics aside:

Homemade stock or broth of any kind is really, really easy—and can be made literally for free using ingredients you’d otherwise waste. So why not give it a shot? If you do, or you have any questions before you try, leave a comment below!

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