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Chicken Stock Question - Mine's Dark!

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
OK, I'm not a newbie when it comes to making stock, but I can always learn something. Whenever I make chicken stock, it turns out to be dark in color - not cloudy, but dark. The stock i see in some of the local poultry shops and in a couple of the restaurants is a pale yellow color, sometimes not very deeply flavored, sometimes acceptably rich flavored.

So, how can I get my stock to be a paler color - I do like that nice golden yellow - but without losing any flavor?

Last night's stock was made with about 3.25 quarts of water, just about 4-lbs of chicken (2-lbs drumsticks, 2-lbs backs and necks) and they more or less typical onions, carrots, celery, and bay leaf, and about 13 black peppercorns.

post #2 of 32
Use your chicken as you have, maybe one peeled yellow or
white onion, and 5 or 6 gloves of garlic peeled and mashed.
I use bay leaf and peppercorn sometimes as well, but for a
very light stock, just the onion and garlic. Fresh thyme will
discolor and celery will darken the color a little. Carrot is your
culprit most likely. Good luck.
post #3 of 32
Your ingredients are fine, you really do need the mirepoix for a full flavored stock. The question is, what did you do with your vegetables and protein before you began the simmering? Did you roast them? Did you sear your protein? When you began the process did you sautée your mirepoix? And if so, it is possible that some of your dark color came from that. Onions skins will also contribute to a darker color.

If you want a very light stock you can lightly roast your chicken, not so much that it browns, only just sweat your mirepoix, then add your water. I do not like to add too much to a stock that can be added later. For instance, I do not add garlic because I can add that flavor later, nor salt, pepper, wine etc... A sprig of thyme is nice, bay leaf and let it go. Do NOT boil your stock ever.

Also, remember, a dark stock is not a BAD thing, it is just a different stock. I often will make deep dark roasted chicken stocks. They are delicious. Experimenting with stock is one of the best ways to hone your chops as they are relaxing but at the same time allow you to work on real fundamentals like knife skills and flavor ratios. Do not beat your self up over your stock not looking like the one you saw in the store. Instead appreciate what you made for what it is and concentrate on how you can reproduce it if you like it, or change it to become what you want each and every time.

Good luck.
post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 

No, the vegetables were not roasted, nor were they sautéed. The onion had it's skin removed.The chicken never boiled. I started it out on low temp and let it simmer 5 or so hours. It was nicely gelatious when I removed it from the fridge this morning to remove the fat. Well, let me amend that. I quickly boiled the chicken to remove some fat and scum, rinsed it, and then put it into a pot with fresh, cold water, and set it to simmering temp, and the stock was never stirred.

Generally I don't add salt or garlic, unless the stock will be used specifically for something that can benefit from such an addition. Usually I make stock to be used as a base for something else, so additions are always kept to a minimum, or nothing at all above the moirepoix.

For the most part I don't care if the stock is dark colored, but there have been times I wished it were lighter just for eye-appeal for the finished dish.

Nah, I'm not beating myself up - just want to know how I can get full flavor with a lighter stock for those times I want that result. I'll try sweating the chicken and veggies next time and see what happens. Actually, I'll sweat one or the other and see what the results are, and then, on a subsequent stock, I'll sweat the other.


post #5 of 32

I am impressed that you went so far as to blanche your chicken first, and at the same time very surprised that you are getting a dark color. Sounds like you are doing an excellent job! Your cooking time might be contributing, perhaps five hours is too long. With light stocks that you are not planning to reduce to demi you can be done in just a couple of hours. That being said, I don't think that would make your stock DARK... perhaps darker, but it sounds like yours is very dark. From what I am hearing now I guess we need to talk about the pot you are using. Cast iron perhaps?

Well, that's all I got... cooking time or pot. You appear to be doing your work textbook and that leaves very few variables. Now, I am curious.
post #6 of 32
Thread Starter 
Ahh, blanching. So that's the term. Thanks! A Japanese cook taught me that technique around 1991 - I use it frequently.

I always make the stock in either a stainless-lined pot or early Magnalite, which is anodized aluminum like Calphalon. The Magnalite is getting old, so maybe the anodizing is wearing thin and that's contributing to the dark result. But the stock is also dark when made in stainless or simmered for a shorter time. This time it was very dark - darker than usual, but simmered longer than usual as well. I used the Magnalite pot, BTW.

post #7 of 32
well one thing that you can try is making a white mirepoix. celery, onion, and leeks instead of the carrots. you still get a full flavored stock and a lighter one at that. if the carrots are contributing to the darkness of it then that will help out.
post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
I was thinking along the line of parsnips ....

post #9 of 32
Are you using Chinese black chicken? :D

Actually, are you using an aluminum pot and if you are, are you cleaning it with abrasive cleaner?
post #10 of 32
I would go with rutabaga or parsnips. They are more closely related to a carrot than leeks.
post #11 of 32
This has me really puzzled. I've always made stock with basic mire poix in aluminum stock pots. I even brown the chicken for deeper flavor and have never had a problem with dark stock. At home I have a stainless pan I use with the same results color wise as the aluminum pan. I'll have to watch this thread for the solution. Also, my boss's wife made some chicken soup years ago that everyone just loved. Some customers asked me what the little black balls in it were. I had just assumed they were peppercorns until I looked closer and realized they were allspice berries. Allspice adds a wonderful dimension to chicken stock. You have to experiment with the right amount. It should be like makeup, it adds something but shouldn't be identifialble. If you taste it and can tell right away there's allspice in it, you used too much. The only way to get a deep natural yellow to my knowledge is to add chicken feet to the stock ingredients. This grosses me out, so I cheat and use egg shade to bring up the color. If you can't figure out what is causing the dark color, you could try adding a little lemon juice. Sometimes that will lighten a stock a little. If you don't use much it shouldn't really affect the flavor.
post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 

I'm just going to have to experiment a bit with different ingredients and proportions. I was thinking about chicken feet to add more flavor - they don't gross me out in the least. Allspice sounds like it might be a nice addition at times - maybe about for or five berries to a pot as a starting point.

What's "egg shade?"

Thanks for your comments,

post #13 of 32
I, on the other hand, LOVE chicken's feet. Not only for stock making, but as a dim sum goodie, with black bean sauce. Mmmmm.

So, you see. There are about as many approaches to chicken stock as there are cooks. Experiment and see what works well for you.
post #14 of 32
Pretty funny Kuan. OK so don't add the garlic. Honestly though, if
allspice seems milder, use it. I cook at home from scratch about
95% of the time. I have 3 kids. My wife is Mexican so Chicken broth
plays a big part in our eating habits. Its a by product when making many other dishes. Onion, chicken, and water will give you a full flavored pale yellow stock. 3 or 4 hours max. If you blanch your chicken thats just fine, but, if you bring it up to a simmer very slow and form that raft or layer of fat
and impurities, it will be fine. You can skim it or just strain and pour off
the fat. No big mystery that carrots and sometimes celery will darken a
stock. Another thing, remember, better chicken, better stock.
post #15 of 32
Hmmm...interesting thread.

I have the same results with almost identical cooking methods/ingredients. I've used the same method using SS, AA and enameled cast iron all with the same results.

I usually use two unroasted chickens (cut in half) with the water going an inch and a half over the chicken pieces. Two onions (skinned and halved), one large carrot, one large celery stalk, peppercorns, one halved garlic (at times) , fresh parsley, etc.

I never exceed a simmer but I do cook it for about 5 hours. I've always attributed the dark color to the long simmering time. But now I'm not sure??? The results are always a nice gelatinous rich stock...but always dark.

I'll also be watching this thread for answers. Maybe I'll also try the recommended shorter simmering time.

post #16 of 32
Thread Starter 
This morning I took a cruise around the web and found a few sites that seem to warrant reading. At each site there was at least one point or piece of information that looked to be new and/or useful, not only wrt this thread but for making stock in general. Perhaps you'll find something helpful at one of these sites:

post #17 of 32
PRobably most everybody in this thread knows, but because it hasn't been said I'll point it out.

The main difference between a stock and a broth is that a stock is made with bones or bones that have a little meat and a broth is made with full pieces of meat with bones...or even just the meat itself.
post #18 of 32
4-5 whole allspice berries is about right. I also forgot to tell you to remove them before serving, but I figured you knew that anyway. Egg shade is a yellow food coloring. That's what it's called, for reasons unknown to me. If you tell your supplier you want egg shade, they will know what you mean.
post #19 of 32
I taught a three hour Knife Skills Class on Saturday. When I arrived back at the house I had a whole bunch of stuff that the students had done their practice cuts on, including about 8 pounds of, peeled, diced onion, 4 pounds of peeled, diced carrots and 2 pounds of diced celery. Oh, and also seven chicken backs, carcases and 14 wings. Put it all in an 8 gallon pot (actually a large Mirro Pressure Cooker (did not use the lid), put it on low heat, put the chicken in the bottom, layered the onions, celery and carrots, added 6 or 8 springs of fresh thyme, 6 or 8 bay leaves and a handful of black peppercorns. Took about three hours to get up to a simmer - put it on at about 6 pm, continually skimmed the scum as it was heating up, let it simmer overnight, turned it off when I got up Sunday morning. Set it outside in the snow till late yesterday afternoon, strained it through a colander, then a fine mesh strainer then cheese cloth.

The strained stock is a little cloudy, but will settle out before I package it to freeze. It is a medium yellow in color and has great flavor. No salt, garlic or other flavors included.

Great thing about teaching these knife skill classes every three months or so, is that I get to get lots of veggies and chicken cut up for the stock, feed the students the legs and thighs that they separate from the carcass and save and freeze the boneles, skinless breasts for another cooking class later.

post #20 of 32
post #21 of 32
post #22 of 32
When you say dark, do you mean dark like brownish, or dark like a deep dark yellow? If you are concerned that it is darker than in some of the other places you have seen it...don't be. More than likely those places used almost exclusively bones with little or no meat. It gives you the gelatin but a much milder chicken flavor. If your stock is a nice, rich yellow/gold color, I wouldn't sweat it. Thats probably normal with using a lot of meat. What you made seems to be more of a combo broth/stock, which is awesome for soups, stews, etc. It just has maybe a little too much chicken flavor for general restaurant use, and/or they have other uses for the meat.

What proportion of meat/bones do you use? Do you cut up a whole chicken, or do you use only chicken bones? Do you seperate the meat from the bones, or just use the thighs? Are your backs and necks hacked up, or intact?

It could be a combination of the dark meat from the thighs, as well as things like blood and/or marrow in the backs and necks that darken it, though I tend to think not...just throwing ideas out there.

BTW: Did you try adding the veg for the last 1 hour of cooking only yet? I know that was discussed in another thread, but I'm curious to see if you notice a difference. I think at the end of the day you will like it more.

On a side note, I also wouldn't add any herbs, spices, etc to my stock. As you seem aware of, those things can always be added later and IMO don't have a place in a base stock. I keep mine nice and neutral, with just the mirepoix aroma and the meat/bones. I don't even put a satchet or bouquet or anything.

You could also do a clarification once the stock is made. It will give you a nice crystal clear broth.

Again, if there is nothing wrong with the flavor, why change it?
post #23 of 32
I'm going to try adding the vegetables in the last hour (like you and others have suggested). I think the carrots may have alot to do with it. I usually use two whole birds (cut of the breasts) and a few thighs or wings (whatever is on sale) if the chickens are small.

post #24 of 32
Thread Starter 
Well, it was a brownish-yellow, or yellowish-brown, and for esthetic purposes in some situations I was hoping to get a lighter, brighter yellow yet maintain the same deep, rich flavor I usually get. Frankly, for most, if not all of my home use, the color is of little consequence. Still, I want to understand the subtleties of making stock so that I can control the result more better for different situations.

The backs are sometimes put into the pot whole, sometimes broken in two. I don't often use the necks as I have uses for them outside of the stock. For the most part I use chicken pieces, mostly thighs, legs, backs, and sometimes breast bones with a little meat on them that my poultry purveyor gives away free. Sometimes I'll add a few thigh bones, or maybe wings - so the answer is that it depends on what's been saved up in the freezer and what's on sale. A few times I've gotten good deals on whole chickens, and will make a stock using one or two plus whatever else is around.

I can't recall ever using anything but a classic mirepoix, although not always in the classic proportions by the time the veggies are trimmed, or depending on what's in the fridge. Heck, I only recently learned of the classic proportions. However, this thread has given me the impetus to more accurately weigh/measure those ingredients. Sometimes I'll add a Turkish bay leaf or two, depending on their size, but never Bay Laurel, and rarely a clove or two of garlic, depending on what the ultimate us of the stock might be. Likewise pepper, bouquet garnis or sachets, and those infamous sprigs of parsley - although two or thre sprigs sometimes towards the end of "brewing."

post #25 of 32
Now that I'm reading more of this, it sounds like the problem isn't that your stock is dark, but pale. Let me know if this is a wrong assumtion. Chicken stock in the past could be quite yellow because they used older stewing hens for stock. Older chickens had a deeper yellow fat, and that's what gave the stock it's yellow color. Almost nobody uses stewing hens any more, so there's nothing there other than carrots to give the stock a natural yellow color. The truth is, the only way I know to get that bright yellow is the chicken feet I mentioned in an earlier post, or coloring from either chicken base or food color. There might be and probably are other ingredients that would add yellow color, but I don't know what they'd be. Someone else might have some ides.
post #26 of 32
Huh...I just got done simmering one whole chicken (breasts cut off) and four thighs for five hours. Nothing else in there. My stock was a tint of yellow, but almost clear. Full of chicken flavor. I've now no doubt that the deep dark color I was getting was due to the vegetables (carrots etc.) and the time I was simmering them.

My reasons for simmering the chicken alone was just to see how much "color" had been added from the vegetables, which I found out.

post #27 of 32

Chicken stock question

Ok, I'm reading all this advice and now I'm really confused, lol. When I make stock, I use a stewing hen if I can get one, throw beef bones and beef in and sometimes oxtail if I can get them. I then throw in some meatballs.
(I know that sounds strange) but everyone who ever tastes my soups swear it's the best they ever had. I also throw in vegetables, onions, etc. I have to skim alot but the end result the next day is really worth the work. I also have several soups, beef, meatball, chicken soup, oxtail and vegetable all from one pot. (this saves me a ton of time in the long run and I have several soups from this one pot). I also take what I thought was plain broth (I use it as broth but I dilute it alittle).'s my questions?

why doesn't any one use stewing hens anymore? Is it the fat content or what? What I'm doing with the stock by diluting and straining it alot isn't broth??? See what you profesionals teach an old woman? lol. :look:
post #28 of 32
There is nothing wrong with what you are doing nofifi. Just making an all purpose, flavorful stock for soups--sounds fine to me.

A lot of people like to seperate their "animals" for stock...beef/veal, chicken, fish, etc. In a professional kitchen they all have different applications, but at home I imagine they make an excellent base for soup.

Stewing hens, from what I know, are great for flavor but lack the gelatin necessary for a truly great stock. You don't notice because you add beef bones, oxtails, etc, but a general rule of thumb is the younger the animal the more collagen it will have in the bones.

Generally speaking, a broth is made from meat, and a stock is made from bones. You make a kind of hybrid, which again is fine, but might not necessarily find it's way into a pro kitchen.

You cna invite me over for dinner anytime you want, though...sounds like a great pot of soup.
post #29 of 32
Come on down, Someday, there's always soup in the freezer here, lol. Thanks for the difference between a young chickie and an old hen....funny how that plays out in real life too, us old hens do have more flavor, just less geletin in our bones, lol. Not bragging here but it really does make great
soup(s). I strain some of it over and over and dilute it and use it for chicken/beef broth for most of my dishes that need broth and it works well. It would probably be way to expensive to use in a commercial kitchen also. A 20 qt. soup pot usually costs me around $40 but again, it's really not expensive when you consider all the soups involved and the servings. I learned very young watching Julia Child NEVER throw away those bones, etc. My friends know that when they carve that turkey or ham, that I get the bones before they reach the table, lol.
post #30 of 32

Why stewing hens aren't used anymore

The reason most kitchens don't use stewing hens any more is lack of availability. In a larger city you might have a supplier who would handle them, but most general restaurant suppliers don't. Not much demand I suppose. That, and I think Campbell's buys them all (ha, ha!). Restaurants really don't prepare food the way they did when I was first in this business. Now, if they don't buy their soup frozen, they're likely to make it with frozen cubed chicken and chicken base with pre-cut, vacuum packed mire poix. The public doesn't seem to mind, and it's all about cost and profit. Labor being a high cost, it gets cut at every turn. Interestingly, there are some doctors who treat arthritis that feel the disease is on the rise due to current cooking trends where everything is cooked boneless.
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