Why bother making chicken stock at home when there are so many respectable versions at the supermarket? Because the stock you pour out of a can or a box just can’t touch the homemade variety.
The difference is in the flavor and the texture, both of which – but particularly the texture – come from the long, slow simmering of bones. Homemade has it. Store-bought doesn’t.
I make my chicken stock from chicken wings because each one boasts equal amounts of the three components you need to make a good stock: meat (which contributes flavor), bones (their gelatin provides body) and lots of skin (its fat amplifies the flavor). And you need to start the wings in cold water to get the most out of them.
Making a clear stock requires skimming off the scum that rises to the top of the liquid during the initial part of the cooking process. What is that stuff? As the wings boil, the protein solids and the fats coagulate, get trapped by fat, and float to the surface. Do your skimming with a slotted spoon or, better yet, a skimmer. Once the scum is gone, you can add vegetables and aromatics.
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Making stock at home requires four hours of simmering.If you like, you can make the stock one day and chill it overnight. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to scoop off.
After scooping off the fat, you’ll need to boil down the stock to concentrate its flavor. Then you can season it with salt and pepper, and divide it into 1- and 2-cup amounts and freeze it. Don’t add any salt or pepper before this final stage or you might end up with a salty stock.
Homemade chicken stock
Start to finish: 2 hours 45 minutes (20 minutes active)
Makes about 8 cups
The trick to this recipe is avoiding a sustained boil, which results in a cloudy stock. The method below calls for bringing the ingredients to a boil twice, but then immediately lowering the heat to maintain just a simmer. The goal is to bring the ingredients up to temperature, then quickly level them off at a simmer.
5 pounds chicken wings
2 medium yellow onions, quartered
2 small carrots, halved crosswise
2 medium celery stalks, halved crosswise
Handful fresh parsley
Handful fresh thyme
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 Turkish bay leaves
In a large stockpot, combine the wings and enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring the mixture just to a boil over high heat, skimming the surface with a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, skimming frequently, for 20 minutes.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, parsley, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 4 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the chicken covered.
Strain the stock through a colander into a bowl and discard the solids. Let rest, then skim off and discard any fat that rises to the surface. Alternatively, cool the stock and chill it overnight. The fat will harden on top of the stock and is easily scraped off and discarded.
Once the fat is discarded, return the stock to the pot and simmer until reduced by one third, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate or use as desired.