Simmering a pot of homemade chicken broth takes minimal hands-on time and rewards you with its rich, cooked-from-scratch flavor and pleasing aroma. Follow these instructions and tips for stovetop and slow cooker versions.
Broth, stock, and bouillon are all terms used for a rich liquid made by simmering poultry, meat, and/or vegetables in water and seasonings. Sip broth plain as a nourishing pick-me-up, or use it as a base for soups and stews. Broth also adds character and moisture to pastas, casseroles, and vegetable dishes.
Step 1: Choosing good bones
You can use a whole chicken, cut up, for broth, but bony chicken pieces -- such as wings, backs, and necks -- are ideal because most of the flavor comes from the bones. If you want meatier pieces for your broth, opt for bone-in dark meat pieces, such as thighs or legs, over bone-in breasts. They are more flavorful, don't dry out as quickly, and are usually more economical.
Tip: Your broth is only as good as the chicken, so use fresh, good-quality chicken pieces.
Tip: Do not remove the skin from the chicken pieces because it adds flavor to the broth. You will skim the fat from the broth later.
If using chicken wings, cut each wing at the joints into three pieces. This exposes more bone, resulting in a broth with richer flavor. Place about 3 pounds bony chicken pieces in a large pot.
Tip: Use a tall, heavy stockpot that is just wide enough to hold the pieces. It should also have a lid.
Step 2: Seasoning and Simmering
To the pot add cut-up vegetables, such as celery (with leaves), carrots, and unpeeled onion, as well as seasonings, such as salt, dried thyme, peppercorns, fresh parsley sprigs, bay leaves, and unpeeled garlic clove halves. All of these flavor the broth.
Tip: If you make broth regularly, keep a container of leftover carrot peels and pieces, celery leaves, and onion skins in the refrigerator to flavor the broth. Vegetables and trimmings should still be fresh but don't have to be in pristine condition.
Tip: You can substitute dried sage or basil for the thyme or use a combination. To use fresh thyme or sage instead of dried, use add two to three sprigs along with the other seasonings.
Add 6 cups cold water to the pot. Bring the mixture to boiling and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for 2-1/2 hours. It is important to simmer, not boil, the broth. This low-and-slow cooking style allows the flavor to develop. Once the broth is done simmering, remove the chicken pieces and set aside to cool.
Tip: You can instead remove the chicken from the broth as soon as it is tender. Carefully remove the chicken pieces as soon as they are tender and no longer pink. Cool slightly and remove the meat. Return the bones to the stockpot, and continue to cook for the remaining cooking time. Set the chicken aside to cool.
Tip: Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings if needed. For more concentrated broth, return the broth to the pot and bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until it reaches the desired flavor.
Step 5: Storing the broth
Chill the broth about 6 hours, then lift off the fat layer with a spoon. Place the broth in a container. Cover and chill for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
Tip: After the broth chills, it will take on a jellylike appearance. This is from the collagen in the chicken bones. Once heated, the broth will become liquid again.
Step 6: Using the chicken
When the chicken pieces are cool enough to handle, remove the meat by pulling it off with your fingers or using a paring knife. Chop the meat, discarding the bones. Place the meat in a container. Cover and chill for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months. You can add the chicken back to the broth when making soup, such as Chicken Noodle Soup or Kale, Lentil & Chicken Soup Or, save it to use in a chicken pot pie, a pasta dish, or a casserole.
Slow Cooker Directions:
Place the chicken pieces in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients, including the 6 cups water. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Strain, skim, and use or store the broth as directed.