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Homemade Chicken Stock: A Simple Guide to an Essential Cooking Staple

Published February 23, 2017. Last updated January 25, 2019 by Judy Purcell 28 Comments

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Homemade chicken stock is not complicated and you don’t have to own a stock pot or fret about doing it perfectly.

Simply use the biggest soup pot you’ve got and follow this simple guide to making, storing and using this essential cooking staple.

Basic Chicken Stock with bones, vegetables and chicken feet in a stainless steel pot.

The difference between chicken broth, stock, and bone broth?

I will forego any technical definitions here because there are so many variations (and opinions) and we need more freedom than fret on this subject. I want to encourage you to think of these terms as stages rather than definitions.

BROTH: The thinner version, usually involving more meat during a shorter cooking time (2 hours or less) and doesn’t gel when cooled.

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Cook a whole chicken or cut pieces with aromatics (Like most skills, cooking becomes easier the more you do it. You start with simple recipes first and then move on to more complicated ones. If you find you really enjoy getting creative in the kitchen, you can learn techniques that help you focus on cooking without having to follow step-by-step recipes.

Learning how to use aromatics is one of those techniques. If you’ve ever sautéed garlic and onion in oil before adding ground beef to make something like lasagna or baked ziti, you’ve already used aromatics, even if you didn’t know it.

What Are Aromatics?

(((Aromatics are herbs, spices and vegetables (and sometimes meat) that are cooked in oil as a base for the flavor of a dish. Cooking them in oil helps to release their flavors and aromas, creating a deep flavor foundation for soups, stews, sauces, meat fillings and more.

Most cuisines have a traditional combination of aromatics. In French cooking, the combination is the classic mirepoix — the holy trinity of onions, carrots and celery that are sautéed in butter as the base of so many dishes. Italian cuisine uses the same combination of vegetables sautéed in olive oil, calling it soffritto, and the same concept is called battuto in Italy. And in Spain, soffrito always includes tomatoes. Meanwhile, German cooks use uppengrün, which typically consists of carrots, celery root and leeks.

This infographic from CookSmarts does a great job of breaking down aromatics by cuisine.

Aromatics in Soup

In my own cooking, I’ve seen how using the aromatic technique can make my favorite Chicken Noodle Soup recipe better. It calls for just adding the onions, carrots and celery to the broth, but a few years ago I started sautéing the vegetables in a little olive oil first. Using the aromatics technique turned my really good soup into an even better one with deeper flavors.

It’s easy to get started with aromatics, as they’re used in a wide variety of cuisines. Get cooking today!)))

until the chicken is cooked through. The leftover liquid is used as a base for stock, lighter soups, boiling noodles, thinning sauces, etc.

It tastes chicken-y, yet lightly flavored enough to let other ingredients shine. But don’t throw those bones away!

STOCK: The thicker, silkier, next step in culinary evolution with an abundance of bones, is simmered for longer periods of time (4-6 hours) and gels when cooled.

Save all your chicken bones (from above-mentioned broth or other meal prep), uncooked backs and wing tips, as well as wilted celery or leftover roast carrots to throw in this pot of goodness.

Bones with just a small amount of clingy meat bits are ideal because you will not want to eat chicken cooked this long; it’s not dangerous, just mealy and unappetizing.

Use stock as a base for hearty soups, luxurious sauces, and gravies—the gelatin from the bone joints and the roasting process is the one-two punch of making great stock.

At this point, the decision to go from stock to bone broth is made by whether I have the time to strain and cool it. If not, it stays on the stove. Handy, right?!

BONE BROTH: When a great stock becomes even more nutritious because the bones have a chance to release more minerals when cooked up to 24 hours. Same uses, though preferred for sipping when someone is using it for medicinal purposes. Now you can throw the bones away.

What is clarified stock? Purely aesthetic in purpose, clarifying your stock will make it less cloudy for better presentation in clear broth soups. Here’s How-To Clarify Broth.

Are broth and stock interchangeable in a recipe?

Basically, yes. Keep in mind there will be differences in the texture, so you may need to adjust thickeners in some manner, but you won’t ruin a recipe if you use one or the other.

If you’ve made a beautifully concentrated gelled stock and a soup recipe calls for 4 quart of broth or stock, here is how I approach that. 

How much concentrated stock to use in soup recipes?

If making chicken soup, add 2-3 cups of bone broth first, then enough thinner chicken broth to make up the 3 or 4 quarts. Gelatinous bone broth will always make a soup thicker, so it depends on how concentrated the bone broth is and what kind of chicken soup I’m making.

For instance, chicken noodle soup (chicken, carrot, celery, noodles) is a basic soup where the broth/stock is a crucial component, so I start with 3 cups of the stock.

Chicken tortilla soup has lots of flavor and lots of stuff in it, so while the bone broth will make it better, it won’t be as noticeable because of the stronger combination of flavors so I use only 2 cups of stock and the rest would be broth or organic stock from the store.

Have a cold or recovering from surgery? You’ll feel better sipping on either one once it’s seasoned with a little sea salt. *If the stock texture is too thick to drink, add water to thin.

A Simple Guide to Homemade Chicken Stock:

1. Collect those bones. Don’t think of bone-in chicken as paying for waste, think of those bones as building blocks for a host of other recipes when turned into stock.   Every time you roast a chicken or cut up a whole to make parts, save the back, neck, wing tips and leftover bones. (I don’t save the liver or gizzards for stock because they can give the stock a funky taste.) Keep filling gallon-size freezer bags with leftover bones until you’re ready to fill a pot.   For those with an adventurous streak, it’s worth buying chicken feet to boost the gelatin for that silky, stand-on-a-spoon characteristic you want.   As you can see in the photos, I took the plunge and bought the feet. Let’s just say, I was grateful they were already cleaned and the yellow membrane removed, which I highly recommend.   Collect those spent vegetables too! Did the celery go beyond-ice-water limp? Carrots lost their vigor? Fresh thyme not so fresh anymore? Wash and peel as necessary, chop and toss in a freezer bag. Leftover pan drippings, roasted vegetables, and aromatics from are all worthy add-ins.   Stock is intended to be a foundation or base for other recipes, so mild aromatics and herbs are ideal for a clean chicken flavor to shine through. Best add-ins: onions (anything in the onion family), celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, and parsley. Just like the bones, keep filling the bag in the freezer.   How much will you need? A general rule of thumb is 4 to 5 pounds of bones to 4-6 quarts of filtered water—OR—Don’t worry about exact measurements, just put the bones and vegetables in a pot and fill with enough filtered water to cover about 2-inches above the bones. You can always add water to dilute or cook longer to concentrate.   2. Gather the basic equipment:

  • Roasting pan
  • Stainless steel soup pot—Any size pot will work, but 8 quarts or more will maximize your efforts.

Note about pressure cookers: While a pressure cooker will make stock in less time, due to the limited filling capacities and size of most cookers, I still prefer to use my stock pot. Here are two recipes using a pressure cooker: Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Bone Broth by Nom Nom Paleo and Pressure Cooker Bone Broth by Food RenegadeNote about slow cookers: Models vary widely, so I don’t recommend using a slow cooker for stock unless you are sure it will simmer with the lid off to allow evaporation/concentration.

and (optional) cheesecloth

to lay in the strainer to catch the fine sediment. Container large enough to strain the stock into and hold the stock while cooling, like a Rubbermaid Commercial Clear. Scoop to transfer the contents to the strainer. Fat separator (optional); I don’t remove all the fat from my stock, but I do remove some of it. Either use a fat separator

or wait to remove the solid fat off the top once it has cooled completely in the fridge. Containers, jars, or freezer bags

  • for storage. (Don’t forget to mark with the date.)

3. Make the Stock: 

  • Opt for organic or pasture raised chicken, organic vegetables, and filtered water for stock—whatever is in the chicken, vegetables and water will end up concentrated in the stock.
  • Roast the bones and vegetables before adding to the pot for the best flavor—this is a must.
  • Adding a small amount of acid like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • will help leach the minerals from the bones, but it’s not a deal breaker.
  • Skim off the scum that rises to the top if it seems gross to you. It won’t hurt anything, it’s just a collection of proteins.
  • Don’t boil, only bring to a boil and then gently simmer for the remainder of time.
  • Close the door to your bedroom and bathroom so your clothes and towels don’t smell like chicken soup. (Been there.)
  • To learn how to pressure can chicken stock, check out this tutorial at Life on a Homestead.

4. Strain and Cool the Stock:

  • When ready to strain the stock, grab that pan you used for roasting the bones for the discards to cool in—throwing hot bones in the trash can melt the plastic bag (trust me on this).
  • Transfer the contents with a 2 or 4 cup scoop rather than trying to pour from a heavy pot with splashy hot bones into a strainer precariously balanced over a bowl.
  • Don’t press the contents when straining, let gravity do the work to avoid tiny bits of sediment pressing through. *You can eat the strained vegetables and meat left behind, but it’s rarely appealing.  
  • Cool as quickly as possible using an ice water bath in the sink, or add a few ice cubes and pour into a shallow container to cool within 2 to 3 hours. Don’t put hot stock in the fridge, it will bring down the temp in the entire fridge to potentially dangerous levels.

5. Storing Stock:

  • Homemade stock can be stored in the refrigerator 4-5 days, frozen 6-9 months, or pressure-canned for 1 year, for best results.
  • Once cooled, freeze stock in various increments—ice cube trays

work great when needing a few tablespoons; 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 2 cups are common in recipes; 6-8 cups work best for soups. Containers and jars should not be filled to the top so the liquid has an inch of space to expand. Only use glass jars with straight sides (no shoulders like the one in the photo) in the freezer to avoid risk of breakage. Storing stock in freezer bags that can lie flat is ideal.  Remove as much air as possible before sealing. To prevent the bags from sliding into lumps, place the filled bags flat on a rimmed baking sheet. Once frozen, stack the bags more efficiently in a plastic magazine file

or organizer tub

  • .

Note about freezing stock in bags: Stock in a freezer bag will almost always leak when defrosted and in my experience bags can’t be trusted, there’s always a compromised corner.

It’s important to not over-fill the bags—2-4 cups per quart and 6-8 cups per gallon bag doesn’t stress the seams and defrosts quickly.

Defrost in a rimmed pan

to catch leaks and resist the urge to defrost in a bowl of water unless you want your stock watered down (remember, bag corners can’t be trusted).

This recipe is adapted from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook.

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Homemade Chicken Stock

A basic recipe for chicken stock, including tips for better gel and storing. Prep Time50 minsCook Time6 hrsTotal Time6 hrs 50 mins Course: SoupCuisine: American Servings: quarts Author: Judy Purcell


  • 1 whole whole chicken — or 2-3 pounds of chicken bones such as necks , backs, wings, and breast bones
  • 4 to 6 quarts filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3-4 stalks celery , coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 large carrots , coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 large onions , quartered
  • 1 bulb bulb garlic , cloves separated and halved
  • 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bunch parsley

US CustomaryMetric


  • IF USING A COLLECTION OF BONES, SKIP TO STEP 4.Divide the chicken into 9 pieces — 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 breasts, 1 back. (If the chicken neck is included, cut or break into several pieces.) Place chicken pieces in a large (6-8 quart) pot with water and salt. 
  • Boil for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Skim off any brown foam from the broth. Transfer chicken to a platter and allow to cool until easy to handle; reserve broth in the pot.
  • Strip meat from bones and reserve for other recipes. NOTE: I do not recommend using the meat for the stock because the texture becomes dry and mealy when cooked too long and doesn’t add to the quality of the stock.
  • IF USING A COLLECTIONS OF BONES, START HERE: Place bones, celery, carrots, onions, and garlic in a roasting pan with 1/2 cup of water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake at 400°F for 30-45 minutes or until bones and vegetables are a dark golden brown.
  • Be sure to check periodically to add a little water to the pan so the bottom does not burn. When the bones are dark golden brown, transfer bones and vegetables to the pot with the broth. Add 1 cup of water to the roasting pan, stirring and scraping to loosen any browned bits.
  • Pour this roasting liquid into the pot and add the apple cider vinegar and thyme. Fill the pot with enough filtered water to cover the contents plus about 2 inches above. (If starting with just bones, there will not be broth to add water to, just fill the pot with filtered water.)
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 6 to 24 hours (remove any brown foam with a slotted spoon). The longer it simmers, the richer and more flavorful it will become. Add the parsley the last 10 minutes of simmering.
  • Allow the stock to cool slightly, then strain. Discard solids. Use a separator to remove fat or let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. NOTE: I do not recommend using the solids for soups or other recipes when they’ve been cooked so long due to texture, lack of flavor, and the nutrients have already been released into the stock.
  • Stock can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for later use.


If using a 12-quart stock pot, double the recipe. Any time you have bones leftover from a baked chicken or turkey, freeze them until you are ready to make a stock. It is not necessary to roast the bones and vegetables, but the flavor is well worth it.


Calories: 441kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 142mg | Sodium: 1924mg | Potassium: 575mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 5535IU | Vitamin C: 8.7mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 2.5mg

Here’s just a few recipes for using Homemade Chicken Stock:

Smoked Turkey & Been SoupChicken & Corn ChowderTuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli RabeChicken Tortilla SoupSalmon Dill ChowderCorn & Green Chile ChowderChicken Pozole ChiliChicken and DumplingsRed Beans & RiceSausage & Split Pea Soup

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Filed Under: Chicken & Poultry, Keto Diet Foods, Paleo Diet Foods, Recipes, Soups / Stews Tagged With: basic stock, chicken stock, turkey stock 0 Recipe Rating Subscribe Login 28 Comments Newest How Long Can Chicken Stock Stay In The Fridge? – The Whole Portion 1 month ago

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[…] Homemade Stock makes all soups better—make it with chicken, turkey, or beef stock. […] Reply Smoking Guide: Smoking A Turkey In Electric Smoker [April 2020] – Simply Meat Smoking 1 year ago

[…] Clean Your Turkey: After the turkey is defrosted, make sure you clean your turkey. Start by removing the neck, gizzard, and the insides. Once the insides have been removed, give the inside a good rinse.Tip: Save the neck and gizzard for an amazing soup later on! […] Reply Spring in the Rockies and Salmon Dill Chowder Recipe 1 year ago

[…] 2 cups chicken stock […] Reply Jackie 1 year ago

im confused, in the stock guide above the recipe, you say to roast bones and veggies before making the stock, but in the recipe you dont roast before adding to pot….

Is the roasting of bones for the LEFTOVER bones from the initial stock made? Confused, sorry… Reply View Replies (2) matt 2 years ago

I just made about 3cups of gelatinous bone broth. When I go to use the stock/bone broth in my chicken soup, say 3 to 4 qts. of soup, how much stock/bone broth should I use? Reply View Replies (2) Insatiable Gypsy 2 years ago

Hi! Great article and advice! I can not find an answer to my question anywhere, maybe you can help! I’ve been saving chicken bones from the organic whole chickens I buy at the store as well as leftover bones from cooked ribs. I have several baggies full in the freezer. My question is….how long can they stay frozen before I use them? I’ve been collecting them since May, in separate baggies with the date. I wasn’t sure how long I can keep them frozen. Thanks!! Reply View Replies (1) Judy Garrett 3 years ago

Could I leave out the salt for a low sodium and potassium version? Reply View Replies (1) Mary 3 years ago

I’ve looked everywhere but can’t seem to find an answer to my question. If you want to make soup from your homemade gelled stock, do you dilute it? And if so, what is the ratio? Reply View Replies (3) Maureen | Orgasmic Chef 4 years ago

5 stars This is a terrific post and will be helpful to every home cook. Everything we’d want to know about making our own chicken stock. Reply mjskitchen 4 years ago

WOW! You really put a lot of effort into your stock. I bet it’s awesome! I’m a lazy stock maker and very basic with ingredients and process. I’m sure mine isn’t as flavorful as yours, especially with the roasted vegetables, but it’s quick and good enough. 🙂 Some day I’ll have to set aside some time to do this so I can experience the difference. Great details and information! Reply Liz (Good Things) 4 years ago

An excellent post, Judy. I hadn’t thought of using chicken feet in my stock. Thank you x Reply View Replies (1) Karen (Back Road Journal) 4 years ago

You did a terrific job with this post Judy. Anyone who has never made broth or stock has all the answers right here. Well done! Reply View Replies (1) John/Kitchen Riffs 4 years ago

Excellent discussion of the differences between broth, stock, and bone broth. And love the chicken feet tip! I used to see them in grocery stores all the time when I was a kid; rarely see them now. There are stores where I can get them, of course, but they’re just not standard at most stores these days. Good post — thanks. Reply View Replies (3)

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