Homemade Chicken Stock/Chicken Broth in a Crock Pot

1 Feb
a bowl of stock

The finished product... stock!

I don’t know why I started making homemade stock (or broth… we’ll discuss the terminology in a moment). I think it was something that I grew up seeing my parents make — after any meal that involved large, bone-in portions of meat, whether turkey or chicken or ham or beef, the bones and stuck-on meat ended up in huge, silver soup pot with veggies and herbs, and then the whole house smelled great. And sometimes a few days later, we’d have delicious, rich soups.  And thus one great meal became several great meals.

And so I learned how to do the same thing. Make a big dinner, save the bones and stuck-on meat, and make stock. Waste not, want not, and all that. And also, stocks and broths are really valuable liquids to have on-hand. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t need ‘em. They add flavor to just about everything you might make: Soups, but also stews, roasts, grains like rice or polenta, sauces, curries, gravies, stuffings, braised vegetables,  braised meats, mashed potatoes… the list is endless. Frankly, anytime a recipe calls for water, you can substitute broth/stock. And, I must confess, I use them interchangeably.

Probably because, who knows what the difference is? I frankly have no idea what separates a broth from a stock. Some sources say that the difference is that stock is made with meat, bones and vegetables, while broth is made with meat and vegetables (no bones). Some sources say that browning the meat/bones/veggies is what makes a stock stock, and that broth can have all the same ingredients, just un-browned.  And even OTHER sources say that stocks are rich liquids with the meat/veggies removed, and broth has the meat and veggies in there (like a chicken noodle soup). Many people say that stocks are richer and stronger in flavor… but how do they get that way? If you know, please, take this opportunity to enlighten me in the comments below.

Well. Either way, I made some broth/stock stuff. And it was good. And so I present to you:

Challenge: Stock/Broth

Swanson 100% Natural Chicken Broth contains chicken stock (Wait. Chicken stock is PART of chicken broth? SO CONFUSING), sea salt, salt, sugar, natural flavoring, dehydrated onions, yeast extract, chicken fat, carrots, celery and onions.

The homemade stock contains:
The bones and stuck-on meat leftover from one rotisserie chicken
2 stalks celery,  roughly chopped
1 medium onion, with skin, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½-in. piece of fresh ginger, chopped
2 handfuls baby carrots, whole
Tomato skins
4 whole peppercorns
Enough water to cover

Crockpot and Veggies

Veggies + chicken + peppercorns = almost there.

This could potentially be the easiest recipe ever. You take all of your ingredients, and toss them into a slow-cooker.

slow cooker on high

I eventually changed to the 6-hour setting

Set on the high setting (for us, I started on 4 hours, then bumped it up to 6 hours). Walk away. Enjoy your day.

the finished product

All done! And very stock-y.

When you return 6 hours later, you have stock (or broth)! Like magic! Remove from heat, remove all the chunks of stuff, salt it to your desired saltiness and strain the liquid into a bowl. Cool. Skim off any fat that collects at the top. Toss in fridge, or use right away.

This recipe is amazingly versatile. No slow cooker? Simmer everything in a soup pot or a Dutch oven (which are great for browning up the meat/veggies first!).  Tons of leftover stock? Freeze it — it keeps a long time. No chicken leftovers? Use beef, turkey, veal, pork or just leave out the meat all together and make veggie stock. For me, the making of stock/broth is very much a leftovers thing, a way to make the most of the animals we’ve eaten. Whatever veggies and seasonings I have lying around get tossed in with leftover bones and meat. Rarely do I buy special ingredients for a stock. But that doesn’t mean you can’t.

Time and Cost Comparison

I purchased one 14 oz can of Swanson’s Chicken Broth for $1.10. That works out to about $0.08 per ounce. I spent a few minutes trying to decide whether to get broth or stock for comparative purposes, but, you know, shopping is easy.

For the homemade version, I spent about 7 minutes giving everything a rough chop and tossing it into the slow cooker. It cooked for 6 hours, but I was off doing my own thing. Then I invested another 10 minutes into straining and transferring and de-fatting the stock/broth.

Cost is hard to evaluate: the chicken originally cost $6.99, and I used a total of $0.97-ish worth of veggies and flavorings. (I say -ish because it’s hard to know how much 4 peppercorns are worth, and because I’m guesstimating on the weight of the onion — I forgot to measure that one.) So it could be argued that I spent nearly $8 on the stock/broth. But the chicken was actually a leftover and had already served its purpose. So, I’m going to say the total was actually $0.97-ish. And it made 4½ cups of broth, working out to $0.03 per ounce.

Ingredient Comparison

I guess it’s hard to know what went into Swanson’s chicken broth because I don’t know what went into their chicken stock. But from the list of ingredients, the major differences between the two versions is sugar and yeast extract, which is a flavoring. So… nothing too offensive there. Ingredients actually pretty similar.
*Note: I did look at a can of generic chicken broth. It was full of things that weren’t very natural. So, this doesn’t hold true with all store-bought broths/stocks.

Nutritional Comparison

The store-bought broth has 10 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 860 mg sodium, 1 gram carbs, 1 gram protein. My version has…. I don’t know. My recipe-nutrition calculator didn’t know what to do with “chicken bones” and “peppercorns”. We’ll assume it’s similar, given the similarities in ingredients.

Taste Comparison

Taste-testing

Taste-testing... a mug of stock.

The two-person taste test was split — I liked the homemade better; Rob thought Swanson’s tasted more like what he expected chicken broth to taste like. But then again, Rob doesn’t like ginger. We agreed, though, that either would make delicious meals, and that homemade had a thicker, more velvety texture. Which perhaps means we made stock, rather than broth.

PITA Factor

1. This is effortless.

DIY or Buy

DIY whenever you have the stuff on-hand to make it. It makes plenty, so freeze what you won’t use in a week and rejoice in the fact that you’ve made the most of your food and are all stocked up. (He he.)  The savings will add up after a while, plus, you know, you can flavor it any way you choose. If you don’t have the makings on-hand, and you arent’ planning a meal that requires a chicken and some veggies, I won’t fault you for buying. (Mostly.) But please, choose a good-quality stock or broth. It’s worth the extra dollar to have good ingredients.

Do you tend to make your own stock/broth? And if you’re vegetarian, have you had success making flavorful vegetable stock? I’d like to try it sometime, and would love a few pointers.

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2 Responses to “Homemade Chicken Stock/Chicken Broth in a Crock Pot”

  1. Hannah 02/21/2011 at 9:03 am #

    I come from a stock/broth-making family, and I’m really a DIY-er at heart when it comes to the kitchen…but I never make stock! And even worse, I buy generic canned stock. Shameful. You have totally motivated me to make a habit of this whenever we have a rotisserie chicken. Thanks!

  2. Jax Adele 08/15/2011 at 11:31 am #

    From a green perspective…this is probably better than using the gas to go to the store to buy the can that used energy to be made…even if you recycled it. Reusing leftovers is definitely a plus. Thanks for the post.

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