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Chicken Stock Followup

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I went to a local community education cooking class on making chicken stock last night and have a few points I'd like to get input on.

1. Are chicken necks better to use for stock than chicken backs, because the necks have more bone and less fat than the backs?

2. Is it better to use chicken necks that are deskinned so that they will contain less fat?

3 Are veal bones very good because they contain a lot of collagen?

4. You should not stir the solids in the pot while you are simmering? (I forget why this is.)

5. It's okay if some of the solid protrude out of the liquid? If so, they can protrude the entire time that the stock is simmering (since you're not supposed to stir things in the stock pot). Will the protruding solids cook correctly, and will they be leached of their nutrients?
post #2 of 31
I prefer necks to backs. I find that backs sometimes (often) add a slight murkiness and off flavor to stock. However, I generally now only use whole chickens and completely eliminate the possible problems associated with cut up birds.

Depends on what you want. Fat adds flavor, and it can be skimmed off later. IMO, leave the skin on but don't sweat it too much.

From what I understand, the best choices for veal bones (and beef bones) are back, neck and shank bones. They have high collagen content. Collagen adds to the feel and texture of a stock. Personally, I'd stick with shank bones - easier to get.

It makes for a murky stock that will taste "off" as the crud exuded by bones and meat will incorporate into the liquid, and if that happens you have to go through the hassle of clarifying the stock. Don't stir the stock! Never mind remembering the reason - just don't do it!

They should cook fine. In many instances the ingredients will settle - if you're using pieces. Best bet is to add enough liquid to cover and before turning on the heat try to get as much as possible covered by the liquid. From Stock Tips:
The chicken goes into the pot with cold water to cover - but to cover by how much? In her acclaimed "Zuni Cafe Cookbook" (W. W. Norton, 2002) Rodgers suggests 4 quarts water to one 51/2-pound chicken and tells readers not to worry if the bird isn't submerged. (It won't be.) Cut off the wings or legs so the carcass sits lower in the pot, she suggests, but don't add more water.

Schwertner is more generous with her (filtered) water. "Don't think about ratios," she says. "It depends on the scale of the pot. You want to make sure your bones are well covered." In a narrow pot, 4 inches of water above the bones should do it, she says; add a couple more inches if your pot is wide. Keller thinks 2 inches is plenty.
post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 
What are the possible problems associated with cut up birds?

Also, on top of whatever amount of cold water I start out with, I'm still supposed to add some water during the course of the simmering?
post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 
Shel, you said that stirring the ingrediants in the stock "makes for a murky stock that will taste "off" as the crud exuded by bones and meat will incorporate into the liquid."

I guess this means that the 4 hour simmering process - if unstirred - won't enable the crud to be incorporated into the liquid? So I should not stir the stock at all during the entire simmering process?
post #5 of 31
As noted in the Stock Tips article, and as posted above, cut up birds can add a murkiness and off flavors to the stock.

Is there some reason that you're "supposed to" add more water? Adding more water dilutes the liquid. Has your instructor suggested that you do this?
post #6 of 31
Don't stir the stock. Don't stir the stock. Don't stir the stock.
Do something else while the stock is simmering. Leave the house. Go to a movie. Clean out the garage. Mow the lawn. Did I mention, don't stir the stock.

Simmer very slowly. No, slower than what you're thinking ... slower .... slower ... there y'go. You just want to see the ocassional bubble break the surface.
"a stock should barely simmer. Adjust the heat so the liquid visibly
swirls under the surface and bubbles break the surface leisurely,
not rapidly - 'a burble,' Keller calls it. 'The other great stock motion
word is that it should be 'smiling.' "

post #7 of 31
Thread Starter 
The instructor suggested adding a little liquid along the way. I realize the conflict seems to be that it will dilute the reduction that is taking place. Not sure - may it was suggested to enable the solids that are sticking up to be covered more so their nutrients can enter the stock?
post #8 of 31
Making stock isn't about getting nutrients into the liquid, at least it's not the primary purpose. If you're concerned about an odd piece sticking up, spend some time carefully stocking the pot. Maybe a smaller chicken or a bigger pot will assuage your pain. If you're thinking that you need X quarts of liquid for Y pounds of chicken, maybe that thought process needs to be changed to a more simple concept: cover the chicken with a couple of inches of liquid. If you're using chicken pieces instead of a whole bird, I cannot fathom why you can't adjust the pieces so that they are all submerged. You can even remove a piece or two.

Just curious - how much chicken is sticking out? What piece is above the liquid line?
post #9 of 31
The best reason I got for why veal bones are better than beef bones for making stock....is....

wait for it..

veal tastes better!

hahaha. I laughed when I first heard a chef say that, but then I thought, well, yeah, that's a pretty simple explanation. Having tried both, homemade (not by me) I can say that beef stock will taste like beef stock....an "older" tasting stock, where as veal stock will taste...."fresher". I'm not a chef (IANAC - my new acronym, like IANAL I am not a lawer) so I can't offer any legitimate expertise, so take it with a grain of smoked salt. I once heard a chef say that compared to veal stock, beef stock tastes like veal stock that has been boiled with a mirepoix of a smelly gym sock and a bum's leather shoe. (yeah, I think we was going overboard)

to me.....sure I CAN taste the difference, but for conviencence of being able to get cheap beef feet/shank/tails is still 10x better than the best boxed store stuff.

same with chicken stock....to me.....i think you can make stock 10 different "expert" ways until tuesday and its STILL going to taste better than storebought....and the differences in taste above that, are going to be something you should be concerned about "at the next level" if you know what i mean.

kind of like how when i first started drinking wine (lets save the cheap wine isn't necessarily bad wine rants!) It was SILLY for me to think about buying a 50$ bottle of wine....heck even a 25$ bottle...

a couple hundred bottles later, and I can surely appreciate and taste a 20-25$ bottle, as opposed to a 9.99 bottle, but still....even though I still do splurge a little bit and go to tastings with 100$ bottles...i can't appreciate them.......yet.
post #10 of 31
IANAC (see definition above!) - but.....the reason to add more liquid is to just keep the level of stock/water up.

throw some chicken carcases/necks/feet whatever...in a pot....cover with a couple of inches of water.

MY rule of thumb? if you have a big pot......try to fill it with as much chicken, so that when you fill it with water, the water comes up to almost the top....why?

well....because it will generate more stock!! haha. :crazy:

to me...just like I can't "appreciate" a 100$ bottle of wine quite yet......I made stock with 1$ each chicken carcasses (necks included) and a 2.99 big package of chicken feet.
post #11 of 31
Amen....... Why is life so complicated?
post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 
I'm glad you made this comment. If the main purpose of making stock isn't about getting nutrients into the liquid (though it might be my main purpose), then what is the main purpose of making stock for most people?
post #13 of 31
wait for it.....

because it tastes better! :p
post #14 of 31
Thread Starter 
Ah ha! I figured.:lips:
post #15 of 31
As a basis for other dishes, like soups and sauces, or to add flavor when braising, sauteeing, etc. Speaking only for myself, when making stock I don't think about the nutritional value, although it's somewhere way in the back of my mind. I think about how it will taste and how it will enhance the other dishes that will be prepared using the golden liquid. I sometimes wonder just how much nutritional value is left after all that simmering and processing.

One of the main reasons I make stock is to enjoy the comforting smell as the rich aromas waft through the house on a cold, grey morning.
post #16 of 31
Thread Starter 
It's funny...I am coming from a completely different orientation. I'm am very very interested in it from a nutritional value viewpoint. I'm very glad that it can taste so good though, once I learn to make it correctly.

I've been practicing making stock and I've figured out at least five ways not to make it.:lips:

I also have ongoing consultations with what I'll call an alternative nutritionist - she's interested in using the food we eat to try to address health issues.

At the risk of incurring wrath from the very skilled members of this bulletin board, she cautions me that chefs have a different orientation that what she has. She says that chefs aren't focusing on nutritional value of food but, rather, on how appealing the food is - its appearance (which I think is huge), its taste, its textures.

I'm guessing there's some merit to what she says, but I think these things are extremely important - especially when you're cooking for others - especially when some of these others are children - and I don't want to ignore them while I am very focused on maximizing nutritional value.

So, the major difference between soup stocks I've seen on this site and my nutritionts is that she advises to keep the lid on the stock pot while simmering because without the lid some nutrition will be lost. I don't know if that's true or not.

Anyway, I do greatly appreciate all the advice I get from this site and consider it one of most valuable sources for learning how to cook!
post #17 of 31

Cows are sort of like people. Well, really any mammal on the planet for the purposes of this comment. Everyone knows that as people get older their bones tend to get more brittle, more easily broken [ Help, I've fallen and I can't skim the stock! ]

Younger bones tend to be more dense with more collagen, marrow and such contained within. They have more of the stuff that makes good stock. And veal is just young cows with good, solid, flavorful bones.

On the other hand, I've never really noticed much age related difference in chicken stock - but I did say mammals, and chickens are not mammals. So maybe I'm off the hook on that one.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #18 of 31
You might if you had a chance to make stock with older chickens and roosters. Even roasters and stewing hens are relatively young, but make a stock from an old barnyard rooster and you might be surprised
post #19 of 31
Thread Starter 
I'm getting old and I need an operation on my knee!
post #20 of 31
Thread Starter 
How do you know how old the chicken is when you buy it in the store?
post #21 of 31
The age for "supermarket" chicken seems to vary a bit by location and processor. Eight to ten weeks is a good approximation for much of that plastic-wrapped protein. Some of the poultry packers here (the better ones) are sending out older birds, but I forget their age right now

Of course, that doesn't actually answer your question, does it? The best way to determine age seems to be to talk to the poultry seller. Ask him or her. Over time I've gotten to know the people who supply my birds, and which breeders are producing what I want. If I want something specific, it's a simple matter to ask for it. Sometimes it may take a while to fill a specific request, but there's never a hurry to cook something special.
post #22 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks. I didn't know if there was some industry-standard marking of the age of the chicken.
post #23 of 31
The standard is confusing and not particularly reflective of actual practice. In general, birds with soft, flexible breastbones and smooth, thin skin will be more tender and less flavorful than birds with hard breastbones and thick, tough skin.

What else? Oh yes. Major misunderstanding going on. The reason to top off the pot now and then is to keep the chicken covered. Stock is not primarily a reduction, it's primarily an extraction/infusion. The rules are very similar to the rules for tea and coffee.

From a technique standpoint, you can do your extracting and infusing before reducing. Once you've got everything you want from your stock ingredients into the water, you can go ahead and reduce the stock. But in the meantime keep the meat and bones covered.

If you want to push the process, you can use a pressure cooker.

post #24 of 31
Thread Starter 
My son's nutritionist (my son has crohn's) says that a good chicken soup - where I make my own stock - is one of the best things he can eat for his digestive health. I'm supposed to make it myself so I can control the ingrediants.
post #25 of 31
Everyone knows it's knaidlach and kreplach which make chicken soup healthy.

post #26 of 31
Grandma Bessie used to make great knaidlach, reminiscent in some small way to Budino di Pollo in Brodo, which I think was a very famous dish in the Jewish settlement of Pitigliano in Tuscany. Anyway, geography aside, that's a GREAT chicken soup, and I'd be happy to post the recipe if I can dig it up. It may be on my other computer - too many computers, too may recipes <sigh>

Anyway, Grandma Bessie made her knaidlach by finely chopping a chicken breast, adding eggs, some broth, schmaltz, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and, of course, matzo meal. She'd combine and mix the ingredients well using her hands, and then let the balls rest in the "frigidaire" (actually she had a Crosley Shelvador, but all refrigerators were called figidaires by grandma) for a while before completing the soup. This was a real treat because in the old country chicken was hard to come by and expensive, and even in the new country enjoying chicken was something special, especially before WWII.
post #27 of 31
I am sure that a nutritionist and a chef will have opposing views on what's healthy and what's not. A nutritionist will look at a pot of stock and count the nutritional value along with calories and fat.

But a chef will know how to make a very nutritional stock. All the difference in the world is in the ingredients. You can add nutritional value with organic chicken and veggies, skimming the scum and fat, and adding herbs. Any way you look at it, your stock will not contain loads of ingredients and additives that you can't pronounce and what could be more healthy than that?

By the way, I just made a chicken broth tonight using a whole organic chicken. I took some pointers from Gordon Ramsay's stock recipe (although he uses bones instead of a whole chicken) and really liked it.

- 1 onion chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- fresh thyme (I omitted because I didn't have)
- 2 tbsp (I used 1)
- 2 tbsp flour (I put 1)

I sauteed the veggies in a little olive oil, then added the tomato paste and flour and bay leaf, and then put the chicken in, covered with water, and simmered for 1.5 hours. I had never tried tomato paste in my chicken broth before. It didn't add tomatoyness to it, but it added depth and a little richer color.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #28 of 31
Thread Starter 
Our nutritionist definitely recommends using an organic chicken. She's recommending it to help heal his GI tract. But I recall reading somewhere that there science support for chicken soup being very helping when you have certain respiratory ailments.
post #29 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the recipe. One thing - What's the second to the last ingrediant on your list?
post #30 of 31
Good point ... I stand corrected, although I can't recall when I last had to top up the liquid when making stock or broth.
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