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. Learning how to make your own chicken bone broth not only saves you money at the grocery store but will also makes recipes using chicken broth more flavorful.
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. Your broth is only as good as the chicken, so use fresh, good-quality chicken pieces.
Tip: Do not remove the skin from chicken pieces; 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.
Tip: Use a tall, heavy stockpot that is just wide enough to hold the pieces. It should also have a lid.
Place about 3 pounds bony chicken pieces into a large 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.
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. See Step 6 for more on how you can use the cooked chicken.
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 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.
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, add two to three sprigs along with the other seasonings.
Tip: You can choose to 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 aside the chicken to cool.
Strain the broth through two layers of 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth layered in a colander set over a large bowl. Discard the vegetables and seasonings.
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.
If using broth while hot, skim off the fat. To use a fat-separating pitcher, 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.
If you're not using the broth immediately, chill the broth about 6 hours, then lift off the fat layer with a spoon. Place the broth in a container. Cover and chill up to 3 days or freeze up to 6 months.
Tip: After the broth chills, it will take on a jelly-like appearance. This is from the collagen in the chicken bones. Once heated, the broth will become liquid again.
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 up to 3 days or freeze up to 6 months. You can add the chicken 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.
Chicken broth is always useful to have on hand in your kitchen, and so is beef broth! The process for learning how to make beef broth is similar to chicken broth, but it begins with roasting the bones for added flavor. You can use bone broth just like chicken broth as the base for soups, or sip on it as a hot beverage.