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Knowing when stock is finished

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I like to make home made stocks but I am never quite sure how to tell when they are finished. I usually cook by time and if the stock doesn't congeal when cooled, I know I didn't cook it long enough. So , it's back on the stove for an additional reduction to fix the problem. I sure could use some tips from the pros on how to test my stocks.

Many thanks!

Cooking_Sherry
post #2 of 18
There is no absolute test. It is done when it has the strength of flavor/color/body you want for your purposes. If congealing is the stage right for your purposes, that's good.

Remember you're working with natural ingredients here. These ingredients vary greatly from specimen to specimen and with the seasons. So your stock will vary each time too.

My tap water varies a bit seasonally too. With the drought out here, the water has gotten harder. That changes things too.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 18
What timings are you using now?
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #4 of 18
Taste it! A stock won't be gelatinous if it doesn't have lots of bones in it. And that may be fine if you are using it for soup, for instance. A broth (more meat than bones) tends to be thinner but will still have great flavour. If you are using your stock for sauces, that's different.

I always test my stock. I taste a spoonful with a grain of salt (literally) in it to see if it's palatable. Sometimes I adjust the content a little or pull out ingredients that I find too strong, and let it cook for another 20 minute or so. Trust your taste buds!
post #5 of 18
I'll never forget the Good Eats episode (on Food Network) where Alton said something like "The true test is...", took a bone out of the stock, and broke it apart easily with his fingers. I think he said he does it at least 8 hours. I haven't made a stock since seeing that, and i usually do mine 4 hours tops, but I am going to try it for longer, as soon as I have 8 hours to spare... :(
But yes it does depend how strong you want it, what it's for, etc.
post #6 of 18
What type of stock are you referring to?
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm making chicken stock for sauce applications. I'm going to be making a white chicken stock. I have about 5 pounds of boned chicken carcasses. Not a lot of meat left on the bones. Which makes me think I should add some additonal meat to balance the flavor. In this instance, will the chicken part used make a difference? Would love to get rid of some drum sticks this way as my family is not real fond of them.

Regarding cooking time, most of the recipes I've used call for 4 hours cooking time. Will have to give a bone a snap to see it they break but I'm not sure I'm willing to cook white stock and additional 4hrs just to see if the bones snap.

Thanks for sharing your salt tasting technique. I'm going to use that suggestion.

cooking_sherry
post #8 of 18
If I'm right, the flavor comes not from the meat but from the bones. I hear wings are good for stock. Drumsticks probably are good too.
post #9 of 18
Drumsticks are good but drumstick bones are better! I concur: flavour does come from bones. Think about a piece of chicken that's been boiled for four hours: not much flavour to give...
post #10 of 18
Chicken bones have very little flavor by themselves. The primary source for both flavor and texture is collagen, which can be found to an extent in connective tissue, but is concentrated in the skin. That's why chicken wings make the best stock - because they've got the most skin.
post #11 of 18
The dilution rate is as much a factor as cooking time. For example, if I have 5# bones and 1 gallon of water vs 5# bones and 10 gallons of water I will get a different result.
When I do chicken stock I use a ratio of 5# bones to 1 gallon of water and 1 # of mirepoix (plus a couple of bay leaves, a few pepper corns, some parsley stems and a few sprigs of thyme.)
I usually cook the chicken at least 2 hours on its own before adding the veg. I have found that if the veg is cooked much more than an hour or two it starts to break down and cloud the stock.
I used to buy chicken bits (breast, thigh, etc.) as needed but I learned that I can buy the whole bird for less than the parts and still have much more left for another meal. I freeze the carcase until I have enough then make stock. I'm told the back bone has a lot of collagen too.

Jock
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Jock -
I'm basically using the same ratios as you. I like your suggestion of cooking my chicken a couple of hours before adding my vegetables to avoid clouding. In addition to allowing me to adjust my overall cooking time, without killing my vegetables,I can prevent my stock from clouding... great tip.

However, are you boning out the whole bird and saving the carcass to make stock or are you using the whole bird when making stock . You're right about the cost. Purchasing a whole bird , per pound, can be cheaper than buying parts.

Scott123-
I never understood, until now, WHY chicken wings were such a preferred part when making chicken stock... now I do. Thanks for your posting.

Cooking_Sherry
post #13 of 18
Yes, I believe you're right. It's just a theory, but I think it's the pointy soft cartilidge of the back bone that has the collagen. That's one of the reasons why I try to simmer my stocks until all the pieces of cartilidge are completely melted.
post #14 of 18
I bone out the bird and keep the meat to cook separately. I save the carcases for stock.

Jock
post #15 of 18
Sherry -- just had a thought: regardless of which parts you use for your stock, and even how long you cook it, why not test it the same way one tests jelly? When you think it's close to being done, drip some on a cold plate and see how well it holds together and what the cold stock feels like to your fingertip. A good, gelatinous stock will, well, gel, and feel sticky instead of just wet.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #16 of 18
IM (not so) HO, the secret to great chicken stock or broth with flavor and added mouth feel is chicken feet. Add about 4-5 to a large vat and see the difference. Because chicken feet require a lot of preparationa nd cleaning before sale, many vendors will not carry them. However, I have seen and bought them in almost any Asian market with a meat department.
Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
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Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
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post #17 of 18
And why chicken feet are even better!
Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
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Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
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post #18 of 18
Good point :)

You mentioned extra prep/cleaning on the butcher side. Do you take any special cleaning steps before adding them to your stock?
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