How to make stock

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I admit that the last several times I’ve needed stock, and that is about once a week for me as of late, I just bought it in the store. For making Amanda’s soup, which she brings to school, I combine one large container of vegetable stock, one large container of some sort of meat stock, and one large container worth of water, and go from there.

But making stock is fun, and sometimes necessary, especially if you have certain ingredients building up in you home and would rather have things go to waste than waist.

Here are my stock guidelines:

  • Get a good stock pot. They range in quality and price from nearly $400 to the $100+ range to under $50. In my mind, the cheaper the better for a stock pot. It is more about how you watch the pot than how much you spent on it.
  • If you wouldn’t eat it by itself, consider not using it in the stock either. This does not apply to things such as onion skins, which are a great addition to stock. But don’t use anything that is off.
  • Use excellent water preferably clean tap water.
  • When using meat, start the meat in cold water and warm the water up very slowly. Ideally, your first bubbles indicating boiling will not appear until at least an hour after you’ve started the stock, if you’ve got three or four quarts (or more) of water in the pot. You can rush the meat if you have to, but always start with cold water.
  • Vegetables can be boiled in stock as quickly or slowly as you like.
  • Include some bunches of fresh spices. Just rinse them off and throw them in.
  • Avoid certain veggies that tend to have overpowering flavors, unless you really want the stock to be dominated by those flavors. Broccoli and asparagus come to mind.
  • Ditto with spices. If you use oregeno, use only a little. Avoid cilantro, that is better added fresh later.
  • Match the spices with with the meat. Rosemary goes with beef. Thyme goes with bird. Etc.

I first posted something on making stock ten years ago almost to the day and since then, readers have contributed additional and excellent suggestions. Here are some of them:

  • if you’re using a chicken or turkey carcase to make stock, watch out for seasonings used to roast the bird. I made a stock with bones and leftover meat from a chicken I had roasted over the barbeque with jerk seasoning. I almost threw up my GI tract when I tasted it! . T. Bruce McNeely
  • The cold water, slow heating start is especially important if you want a clear stock. -chezjake
  • Besides the herbs mentioned, most stocks benefit from the addition of a bay leaf, a couple of whole, peeled garlic cloves, and 6-8 whole peppercorns. -chezjake
  • In addition, I’d add that I’ve had some excellent results for both the dinner and the subsequent stock from smoke roasting turkey or chicken in an outdoor smoker. The downside being the lack of good drippings for gravy. -chezjake
  • A cool way to clarify the stock is to add a little gelatin while it’s hot, make the gel, then freeze it and then put it in the fridge in strainer over a bowl. The ice crystals will separate the clear liquid from the gel and when they melt, the stock will drain into the bowl below, leaving the fat and solids trapped in the gel. -Mr Gunn
  • Instead of using gelatin to clarify the stock, I strain the stock of the veggies and herbs (use a bouquet garni), return the now strained stock to the simmer, add several egg whites and continue simmering it for a bit (30 minutes or so). The egg whites will solidify, absorbing the impurities. Then _carefully_ strain the stock through a cheesecloth, being careful not to break up the “scrambled” egg whites, now a greyish icky layer on top of your stockpot. This will give you a beautifully clear stock, ideal for consomme. Time-consuming? Yes. But definitely worth your while, especially if you make LOTS. – andy
  • PS: Discard the bones, but use the meat for curry. -andy
  • I’ve heard that a little acid (apple cider vinegar is often recommended) will help to break down the connective tissues further. I can’t verify if that is true, but I usually add a little anyway. Just go easy on it if you plan to use the stock for cooking dried beans or lentils. – Marnie
  • I also keep some ox tail in the freezer to add when I’m making stock. That stuff is just lousy with collagen and gives the stock a great silkiness. I use it even in chicken stock. I’m not a purist. – Marnie
  • The egg white way was how I was taught to clarify a stock. Greg I would recommend roasting the bones first before making the stock from them – much more flavour that way. – Doug Alder

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3 thoughts on “How to make stock

    1. Or just let the stock chill overnight and lift the fat lid off the next day. In the colder months of the year, I put the stock pot outside (too big for the fridge, really) with a bungee cord through the handles and over to keep food critics out.

      @ Greg – for chicken stock I usually add fresh chicken wings to the carcass (or just use wings if I’m not following on from a roast bird). They’re a great base for a chicken stock.

      For ‘western-style’ stock, add onions, celery, carrots and black peppercorns, bay and thyme (pretty much per chezjake). Sometimes a few whole, bashed cloves of garlic. For asian-style clear stock (noodle soups etc), I add root ginger, garlic, peppercorns and bashed spring onions to the chicken bones. For a thick, dark chinese-style stock I use pork ribs, star anise, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and a couple of hot dried chillies. Thicken the finished soup with potato starch mixed to a paste with cold water.

      Apart from skimming the scum I don’t bother clarifying unless making consommé , which I very rarely do as too lazy.

    2. Forgot – add rice wine and a little light soy (Kikkoman or other decent quality) for the asian-style stocks.

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