One of the most important things I learned in culinary school was the difference in the quality of my cooking when I made my own stock rather than buying cartons of it at the grocery store. Because stock is made with bones that contain gelatin, real stock thickens when it’s reduced making for a wonderful sauce or soup, unlike supermarket boxes that remain watery no matter how long you simmer them.
The bones you use for your stock can be any kind really, but you will get the best results from bones that have a lot of connective tissue. I like to use chicken necks and wings for chicken stock. Sometimes I will even throw in a package of chicken feet. I have, however, made plenty of great stock from a few leftover chicken or turkey carcasses I’ve stored in the freezer. For beef stock, I use oxtails. It’s worth seeking them out for the gelatinous results they produce. If you can’t find them a trip to a butcher for any kind of beef bones they have on hand will also work. The picture below shows 10 pounds of oxtail ready for roasting.
I make and use a lot of stock, especially chicken. So I keep a plastic box in my freezer in the kitchen for vegetable scraps. Celery going limp? Into the stock box. Mushroom stems? Ditto. The left over green parts from trimming leeks? Into the box they go. You could also use those two leftover scallions or that parsley or thyme that have been in the fridge a week too long. Those turnips you were going to turn into a gratin, but never got around to it. Sound familiar? Just don’t use broccoli or peppers. The flavor is too strong. And celery leaves will make the stock bitter. Of course my method will make your stock taste slightly different each time you make it, so if you are a stickler for absolute consistency, you might not want to do this. If you decide to, you will need to adjust the amount of vegetables you add to your stock accordingly.
I make this stock with these ingredients in a 16-quart stainless steel stockpot. After I make it, I place it in various sized plastic containers and store it in the freezer. If you don’t have a stockpot this large or don’t want to make this much stock, this recipe can be scaled for any amount of bones you want to use. You could even just use a chicken carcass from a roast chicken. Just adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly. Some people prefer to store their stock in plastic bags. I would have a disaster on my hands if I attempted to pour stock into plastic bags, but it does save space in the freezer.
Beef or Chicken Stock
Yield: 5.5-6 quarts
The technique for making any type of stock is pretty much the same so I am combining both beef and chicken here. Differences between the two are noted, but basically the differences are that I roast the beef bones and use tomato. When I make chicken stock I do not roast the chicken bones. You can certainly do so. The results will be a darker more robust stock. Chicken stock also cooks for less time – 4 hours versus 6 hours.
10 pounds beef or chicken bones
3 pounds onions, peeled and cut into chunks
2 pounds carrots, cut into chunks
1 pound of celery, cut into chunks
3 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 handful fresh parsley
2-3 tomatoes, cut into chunks (beef stock only)
To roast the beef (or chicken if you desire) bones, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large roasting pan and place the bones in it in one layer. Roast the bones for 1 hour. Place the bones in your stockpot. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the roasting pan and use a spatula to scrape up as much of the fond (brown bits) off the bottom of the pan as you can. Pour the water with the fond into the stockpot with the bones.
Add enough cold water to the stockpot to cover the chicken or beef bones but still leave room for the vegetables. Bring the bones and water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer. You want the liquid to be barely bubbling. Use a slotted spoon to skim the scum off the surface as it bubbles up.
When the liquid is fairly clear of scum add the remaining ingredients to the pan, but do not stir them in. They just go in a big pile on top of the bones and water.
Keep the stock at a simmer for 4 hours for chicken stock and 6 hours for beef stock. Do not stir the stock, or it could become cloudy. Do not boil the stock for the same reason. You don’t need to watch it constantly, but check on it periodically to make sure it’s still simmering or has not become too hot. I find I am adjusting the temperature slightly throughout the cooking process.
When the stock is done strain it through a fine strainer into a very large bowl. Skim the fat off the stock. Or, you can do as I do and refrigerate the stock overnight and just scoop the fat off the next day. Your stock is now ready to use or freeze in containers of your choice.