How to Make Broth for Delicious Homemade Soups and More

Make a rich, cooked-from-scratch broth using your stovetop, slow cooker, or multi-cooker—and minimal hands-on time—with these Test Kitchen tips.

Broth (in its many forms), is a pantry staple that can be sipped plain as a nourishing pick-me-up, used as a base for making delicious soups, and adding moisture and flavor to all sorts of savory dishes. But what is broth, anyway? Broth, stock, and bouillon are all terms used for a rich liquid made by simmering poultry, meat, and/or vegetables in water and seasonings. You can purchase broth via cartons, canned goods, or cubes, but our Test Kitchen relies on making homemade broth to really control what goes into a dish—especially the sodium count. Read on to learn a few basic steps on how to make broth so you can create chicken broth, beef broth, and bone broth for all your recipes.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Blaine Moats

How to Make Broth

Chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, bone broth—there are many different types of broth. We have specific guides and recipes for each of these, but use the following steps as a general guide to making any kind of homemade broth at home.

Step 1: Choose Your Meat and Get Your Stockpot Ready

Poultry broth and beef broth are the two most common types of broth used in recipes. Bones contribute rich flavor to the homemade broth; choose about 3 pounds of meaty bones (leftovers work great for this!), such as roast chicken or turkey, beef roast, and T-bone steaks. Use a tall, heavy stockpot ($60, Bed Bath & Beyond) that is just wide enough to hold the pieces. It should also have a lid. Making vegetable broth? Simply skip this step and read more info below.

Types of Meat and Bones for Homemade Broth

You can use a whole chicken, but bony chicken pieces like 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 and usually cheaper, and the meat doesn't dry out as quickly. As for beef, opt for shank crosscuts, short ribs, or arm bones.

Test Kitchen 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.

Step 2: Add Vegetables and Aromatics

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, bay leaves, and unpeeled garlic clove halves. All of these add flavor to the broth. For the herbs, swap dried sage or basil for the thyme or use a combination. To use fresh thyme or sage instead of dried, add two to three sprigs along with the other seasonings.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you make broth regularly, keep a container of leftover carrot peels and pieces, celery leaves, and onion skins in the refrigerator or freezer to flavor the broth. Vegetables and trimmings should still be fresh but don't have to be in pristine condition.

Step 3: Add Water and Simmer

Add 6 cups cold water to the pot. Bring the mixture to boiling and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for 2½ hours. It is important to simmer, not boil, the broth. This low-and-slow cooking style allows the flavors to develop. Once the broth is done simmering, remove the meat and set aside to cool.

Note: You may choose to remove the chicken from the broth as soon as it is tender. To do this, carefully remove the chicken pieces as soon as they are no longer pink. Cool slightly and remove the meat from the bones. Return the bones to the stockpot, and continue to cook for the remaining cooking time. Set the chicken aside to cool and use it however you want.

broth separation with cheese cloth measuring cup how to
Kritsada Panichgul

Step 4: Strain the Broth

Strain the broth through two layers of 100% cotton cheesecloth ($3, Target) layered in a colander or sieve ($6, Target) set over a large bowl. Discard the vegetables and seasonings.

Test Kitchen Tip: Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings, if needed. For a more concentrated broth, return the broth to the pot and bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until it reaches the desired flavor.

broth fat separation when cold spoon bowl how to
Kritsada Panichgul

Step 5: Skim Fat from Broth

If using broth while hot, skim off the fat. To use a fat-separating pitcher ($11, Bed Bath & Beyond), let the fat rise to the top, then pour the broth from the spout. Or use a spoon to skim away the fat floating on the surface.

Step 6: Store 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.

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.

How to Make Vegetable Broth

Our Test Kitchen's method for making stock from vegetables is just like the above steps, only adding a few more veggies, water, and aromatics. Simmer all the ingredients together for 2 hours, then strain. You can cover and chill the vegetable broth up to 3 days or freeze up to 6 months.

jars of broth with chopped onions and herbs
Carson Downing

How to Make Broth in a Pressure Cooker

Cut down the time while still achieving a rich homemade broth by making it in your multicooker. For a deeper flavor, try sautéeing the meat a bit using the sauté setting before adding the veggies and water. Cook under high pressure for 1 hour. Be sure to allow the pressure to release naturally—a quick release might produce dangerous oily splatters from the release valve. See our beef broth recipe for specific measurements.

How to Make Broth in a Slow Cooker

Using the tips above, place the meaty pieces, veggies, and seasonings in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add water, cover, and cook on a low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or on a high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours. Remove meat and set aside to cool. Strain, skim, and use or store the broth as directed above.

Put the homemade broth you just made to good use in a delicious soup recipe. Run out of broth and don't have time to make more? Try one of these Test Kitchen-approved broth substitutes.

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