Once I started to get a reputation as someone who was into cooking, I realized that there were certain basics that I’d better master. The first step was chocolate chip cookies, and although it took me a while, I eventually learned how to consistently make them how I like them. (This was before I muddied the waters.) Chicken broth is a savory basic that, until now, I hadn’t quite figured out.
I had specific requirements for the chicken broth recipe I would eventually settle on. Most importantly, it had to be easy. I don’t want to be hacking at raw chicken bones or fussing over the stove. And not just easy, but flexible. It also had to be cheap. Obviously, it needed to taste good.
I’ve played around with a few recipes before this, and while the results of those didn’t get me excited, I did learn enough to be pretty sure that this would work.
All I did was buy the cheapest cut of chicken my store sells, dump the pieces straight from the package into the crockpot insert with an onion, a bay leaf, and salt, then fill the pot with as much water as would fit. I turned the crockpot onto high for a couple hours, to get the chicken through the bacteria-friendly temperature range as quickly as possible, then reduced the heat to low and let the mixture simmer away for a day or so. The whole process took about 10 minutes of effort and cost $4.
The more time-consuming part is packaging the broth up for storage once it’s made. This might be easier for me if I had a bigger strainer and more space, but usually straining liquid ends up being a mess for me. I simplified it by removing the chicken legs from the liquid first and setting them aside, then straining the smaller particles out with a fine-mesh strainer.
One of the trickiest parts of making stock is something you might not think about, but you definitely should – cooling it through the “danger zone” of bacteria growth (40-140F) as quickly as possible. If you simply took your bowl of freshly-strained hot stock and put it in the refrigerator, it will take hours to cool, plus it will heat up everything else in the fridge. Instead, I actually let it set, unstrained, still in the slowcooker insert, for several hours after turning the heat off. The temperature had cooled from about 200F to 160F (still significantly hotter than bacteria prefer) when I started the straining process. Then, I strained the liquid straight until a bowl that I’d previously added 2 cups of water to and then frozen – so not only was I adding ice, but the container was plenty cold. The liquid cooled to approximately room temperature in about 5 minutes, and I was happy to let the fridge do the rest.
So putting it together was super simple. Straining it and packaging it was relatively easy. It’s flexible – that 24 hours could easily be extended to 36 hours, and I think any chicken part would work. I avoided the main “danger zone” issues. As an unexpected bonus, the meat on the chicken legs was still fairly tasty, so I shredded that and stored it in the freezer. And, most importantly, the stock was great! Storebought chicken broth tastes like chicken broth, which is a flavor I like, but this homemade chicken stock tastes like chicken, which is pretty nice too!
One year ago: Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese
Crockpot Chicken Stock
Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups)
If leaving the slow-cooker on high for a couple hours in the beginning is inconvenient, start with boiling water, then just cook on low for about 24 hours.
Okay, so I don’t really remember how much water I used initially. I have a 5-qt slowcooker, and I filled it just about to the brim with water. My estimate of 6 cups could be totally off. I’m sorry.
4 pounds chicken legs, bone-in, skin-on
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
6 cups water (or as much as fits in your slow-cooker)
2 cups water, frozen
1. Combine everything except the ice in a slow-cooker insert. Turn the slow-cooker onto high for 1-2 hours (the longer end of that range is better) or until the liquid starts to simmer, then turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 24 hours or so.
2. After about 24 hours, turn the slow-cooker off and remove the chicken legs. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl, and strain the remaining stock into the bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the ice to the liquid. Refrigerate for several hours, until the fat hardens at the top of the liquid. Use a spoon to remove the fat.