Let's talk about stock...

I probably should have cut up the chickens, but I was being lazy.

For what it’s worth, I’m pretty happy with the stock. I let it cool in the fridge overnight, and there’s not all that much fat on the top - I would have expected MUCH more given the amount of skin/fat that was on the chickens. So maybe the low heat thing does help with some of that.

Taste-wise, it’s good. Nice good meaty taste, even without salt. I’m simmering it now, I want to reduce it some to both concentrate the flavor and get it a little more gelatinous. Thinking about whether or not I want to do some Glace. I don’t use chicken glace all that much, but it is handy to have around at times.

I also pulled out the Harold McGee this morning and read up on what he says about stock making. He pretty much says the flavor of the stock comes from the meat, the body/thickness comes from the skin & bones, then goes on to say that the skin is pretty much essential for getting good collagen into the stock. He also says “low heat” but mentions simmering, so maybe not as low as Ruhlman likes.

So there you have it: it seems the experts are now advocating the “low heat/leave the skin in” method of making stock. As Chefguy notes, it didn’t always used to be like that, I, too, have read many times that you should not put too much skin in stock. Cooking, like everything else, goes in waves. Which is why every single time I make stock I seem to do it differently. Might as well experiment!

One trick I [del]thoroughly researched[/del] discovered through laziness is to leave the skin on the onion. Just quarter the sucker and plunk it in, skin and all. Doesn’t add much taste, but of course it adds a beautiful color to the stock, just like it does to easter eggs!

I love the low method. I keep two probe thermometers in it with alarms - one set at 180 and the other at 185. As long as neither is going off, it’s in the perfect zone. Wonderful rich clear gelatinous stock without having to add more water all the time! And because I do a big pot, once I get it up to the right temp and turn down the heat to almost nothing, it doesn’t fluctuate in temperature much; it’s pretty thermally stable.

I usually make a full stockpot worth with two or three frozen carcasses and one whole chicken. I cook with the meat on the bones for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through, and then I take the meat off the bones, throw the bones back in the pot, and keep simmering the bones and aromatics for another 7 hours or so. Then I’ve got poached chicken meat to use, as well as stock. I know there are quick-stock recipes out there, but I’m suspicious. :dubious:

Also seconding the cold water bath in the sink suggestion. In fact, I make it ice water.

Question from a very amateur cook:

So, you all make stock from the whole chicken, not just the remainders? I’ve made stocks and soups with what’s left of the turkey or ham or chicken, but never used a fresh one. Do you take the meat off the bone afterward and still use it for things?

I hesitate to answer, since I’ve been beaten down on the fat issue :wink: but my personal preference would be to either remove the meat soon after it’s cooked through (20-30 minutes or so should do it, if you’re using chicken pieces) or trim most of it off the bones before you start the stock and cut the bones up. The dark meat will add some body to the stock, however. Cooking it too long just turns it chewy and stringy. For leftovers, I’m not sure I’d bother trimming it too rigorously. Cut it up, roast it with the veggies and go from there.

Personally, I just trash it, because it’s been leeched of almost all of its flavor if you cook it for the full time. Or, if I am planning to use it for something (like, say enchiladas), I only cook it for part of the stock cooking time.

I agree with Chefguy and pulykamell: if you want to use the meat, take it off after it’s cooked through. The stuff left at the end is pretty bland.

If I could get enough remainders, I’d use those (and I do keep any carcasses or big bunches of bones I end up with). The problem is that we’re not big chicken eaters here - I go through much more stock than chicken, so I’ve been trying to perfect my stock-from-whole-chickens recipe.

Always a good plan. :slight_smile: The man’s a real authority; he knows his stuff but his loyalty is not to hidebound tradition but to what works. Check out the book-length back-and-forth about the “proper” way to make a brown sauce in Making of a Chef.

Re the stock method, I absolutely swear by the low-heat method, but here’s where I do things a little different: I don’t make it on the stovetop; I do it in the oven. I use a big heavy enameled-cast-iron vessel to brown my aromatics, I add the roasted bones with the liquid and herbs, and then I cover the pot and put it in a very low oven for three hours or so. I find that by surrounding the pot with ambient heat, rather than heating it from below on a burner, I avoid even the slightest possible chance of a disruptive bubble, and the resulting stock is, after skimming, as fresh and clean and pure as it can be.

The book is at home now so I don’t have the exact wording, but Ruhlman’s suggestions for chicken stock options finished with saying that using the carcass makes a good stock, seeming to imply just the carcass would be fine. I assume you’d want to chop up the bones, and throw in any leftover skin and other bits you may have. I do this each time I host Thanksgiving - I strip down any decent extra meat off the bird for leftovers, leave the smaller bits of meat and bottom/back skin on, chop or break the bones, and the chopped-up carcass goes into the pot.

On a slightly different topic, he mentions for vegetable stock that you should use good, sweet vegetables, and mushrooms for the savory/“meaty” flavor. Any suggestions for proper vegetables to use, and maybe ratios? My thoughts on reading his suggestion headed right towards sweet potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, and other starchy root veggies, and I don’t want to accidentally make a weird starch-laden porridge or something instead of a more delicate broth.

I try to stick with a mirapoix (or mirapois, if you prefer) of equal parts carrots, celery and onion. Other veggie options are normally added when you make your soup.

Oh yeah, my man Ruhlman writes a mean book; I’ve got just about all of his cooking-related books. It might be time to re-read a few of them.

And he’s a nice guy to boot!

Good to know. His description of his first French Laundry meal in Soul of a Chef is one of the very best pieces of food writing I’ve ever read. Nice to hear he’s as genuine as he comes across on the page.