Homemade chicken stock is rich and flavorful, and made extra easy in the Instant Pot, though I also have instructions for making it on the stove or in the slow cooker.
Just about every cook knows to keep at least one can or carton of chicken stock on hand. It’s a reliable pantry staple that many of us use on a weekly basis in everything from soups to gravies to pastas. While store-bought chicken stock works fine in recipes that don’t call for much, no one can deny there’s nothing like homemade chicken stock for adding the ultimate flavor. There’s just a certain kind of magic that happens when water, chicken, veggies, and aromatics mingle together in a stockpot, simmering away for hours. The water gets richly infused with fat and flavor, transforming into a savory, golden elixir.
Homemade chicken stocks (and turkey too) lend a richness and complexity to dishes that the store-bought stuff simply can’t match. So if you find yourself with some leftover chicken bones from last night’s dinner and a little hands-off cooking time on your side, make a vat of stock to stick in the fridge or freeze for later. Pinky swear, you won’t regret it.
What’s in the Best Chicken Stock
- Roast chicken carcass—from a 5-6 pound roasted chicken, or bones from 2 bone-in chicken breasts, 2 bone-in chicken thighs, and 2 chicken wings
- Parsnip or leeks
- A whole head of garlic cut in half
- Bay leaves
- Fresh Italian parsley
- Fresh thyme
- Chicken Bouillon—my secret ingredient is adding 3 chicken bouillon cubes for a bit of extra chicken-y-ness.
- Black peppercorns—use 6-8 peppercorns. If you add too many the stock will be extra spicy.
- Kosher salt–seasoning the broth with kosher salt is important as that is what provides the pronunciation of its flavor.
How to Make Chicken Stock
Making chicken stock is actually incredibly easy. Not much is more comforting than walking into a room to the smell of simmering stock on the stove. But for convenience sake, this recipe is just as easily made in a slow cooker or Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, too. To cook in either appliance, start with these steps for the stovetop and get the specific cooking instructions in the recipe box below. (You can also do this with turkey for equally great results.)
Roast your bird. The best time to make chicken stock is after you’ve roasted a chicken or purchased a rotisserie bird from the store. After removing the meat, you’ll want to save the carcass for your stock. Don’t worry about stripping the bones clean—those extra nuggets of leftover meat and connector stuff add flavor. Ideally the bones or carcass from 5-6 pounds of chicken works fine.
Wrangle up the supporting cast. Vegetables and aromatics are two important flavor building blocks for your stock. Bonus? There’s no need to even peel them! Just cut it in half and toss it in, papery skins and all. Cut the larger vegetables into large pieces before adding to the pot.
Simmer down. Add all of your ingredients and water to your stockpot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a gently rolling simmer for at least 1 ½ hours up to 3 hours. The stock will reduce quicker if you simmer it uncovered, but I like to cover my pot 80% of the way with a lid so the liquid doesn’t evaporate so fast.
Strain and discard. Place a large colander over a Pyrex 4-cup glass measuring cup and slowly drain the stock from the rest of the aromatics. The colander will catch any veggies or bones that may fall from the pot. Next, use a fine-mesh strainer and strain the stock into your next recipe’s soup stockpot. Or, if storing to use later, strain into 1 quart glass canning jars and cool before adding a tight fitting lid (these are my favorite).
If You Don’t Have Leftover Chicken Bones…
If you don’t have a carcass handy, get busy and roast a whole chicken or 2 bone-in chicken breasts plus 2 thighs and legs. It only takes an hour at 450°F and is incredibly easy to do. Try this recipe or this one and make it perfect every time.
If that still doesn’t fit into your plan, ask the butcher at the meat counter for chicken bones or scraps. Or, you can purchase bone-in chicken wings (they’re cheap!) and brown in a bit of butter or oil in the same stockpot you’ll be making your stock in. Last but not least, you can always make it super simple and use a rotisserie bird from the store.
Alternatively, you can go ahead and throw the whole, raw bird in. Just know your stock will not be as rich or hearty as if cooked with just the bones (it will be more like a broth). Then follow the directions below.
What is the Difference Between Chicken Stock and Chicken Broth?
Stock and broth are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different. Chicken stock has a deeper, richer chicken flavor and thicker consistency. It is always made with bones, but not always meat. It often simmers longer than broth, for a more substantial flavor and thicker consistency. Stocks are best for recipes where the liquid is more prominent (like hearty soups, stews, and gravies).
Broth is made from meat simmering with water but tends to be more basic and it usually doesn’t simmer for as long. Therefore, it has a more mellow flavor. Both stock and broth typically feature veggies, herbs, and spices. If you need liquid to add to something that already has a lot of flavor, such as tomato soup or risotto, use broth.
Is Raw Chicken or Cooked Bones Best for Making Homemade Stock?
For years I followed the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe that calls for using whole, raw chickens in my stock. But after adapting this recipe and testing it endless times over, I’m convinced using the carcass and bones left over from Sunday night’s dinner delivers a much richer stock.
It seemed counter-intuitive to me that using just bones would yield more flavor than a raw chicken with both meat and bones. But my testing proves roasting the bones purges more collagen and gelatin directly into the stock as it stews, creating more flavor. The stock is also cleaner, less fatty, and less greasy since the skin has typically been removed.
Tips for Making the Best Chicken Stock
Go the extra flavor mile. You can sauté or roast your veggies beforehand to impart even more flavor, but I rarely if ever do.
My secret flavor weapon. My husband started adding two chicken bouillon cubes to the stock for a head start on the chicken flavor. They’re probably not essential when using roasted bones, but they do help if using the whole, uncooked bird.
Know your chicken and veggie to water ratio. You don’t want to dilute your stock, otherwise it will be weak in flavor. Make sure the carcass and veggies are covered by at least an inch or two of water, or between 12-20 cups of water (that’s at least 3 quarts or up to 5 quarts). It will need to fit into a large stockpot with a lid, and won’t overflow when it boils. I typically hit it right in the middle and use about 16 cups of water.
Season and taste as you go. The real test for knowing when your stock is done is by taste. Sample as you cook and look for it to be a rich, amber color. Add ½ teaspoon more kosher salt at a time if needed to amplify the chicken flavor.
How Long Does Chicken Stock Stay Good In the Fridge?
Homemade stock will stay good in the fridge for 4-5 days. Signs it’s time to discard are when the broth gets cloudy or doesn’t pass the smell test.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a gelatinous layer of fat form on the top of your stock as it cools in the fridge. Gelatinous blob=more flavor, and more flavor is good. It’s just collagen rendered from the chicken bones, and it also helps preserve the stock while in the refrigerator. However, if you plan on freezing it you’ll want to scrape off the fat before doing so, and freeze it for up to 6 months.
Tips for Freezing Stock
- Make sure to leave an inch of space between the stock and the top of the container you’re freezing it in. This allows enough room for the liquid to expand in the freezer.
- Freeze stock in freezer bags, in 4-cup portions, since that’s the amount of stock or broth many soup recipes call for. Fill the bag and lay flat on a shelf until frozen, then stack upright like little chicken stock soldiers.
- If you want to freeze smaller portions of broth for recipes that don’t call for much, ice trays or 1-inch muffin tins are the perfect vessels, and each one is roughly equivalent to ¼ cup. Tip: These reusable silicone liners will make this a snap.
- Always remember to label and date! And don’t forget, homemade stock will stay good in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- To thaw your stock, simply place it in the fridge 1-2 days before you want to use it.
10 Ways to Use Chicken Stock and Add Flavor
Chicken stock is a workhorse that lends tremendous savory flavor to any dish. Here’s some inspiration for how to use this lovely liquid gold:
- Use chicken stock as a base for soups and stews. Obvious, but essential.
- Keep it on hand for making gravies or binding sauces like in my favorite Curried Turkey Pot Pie.
- Instead of water, use it when cooking rice, grains, or even pasta that acts like a risotto, like in my Easy Lemon Orzo Faux Risotto recipe.
- In lieu of oil or butter, add a generous splash to a vegetable or chicken sauté or stir fry for a lower-fat option that holds the crunch.
- When a recipe calls for wine and you’re fresh out, substitute it with chicken stock.
- Use as the braising liquid for slow-roasted meats or vegetables.
- Poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts or even turkey or chicken meatballs (like in this skinny slow cooker recipe) in chicken broth or stock to add another layer of poultry flavor.
- Substitute chicken stock or broth for part of the cream in your next recipe of mashed potatoes and lighten up the calorie load.
- Or, make this creamy and dreamy mashed cauliflower with chicken stock and skip the cream completely.
- Cook dumplings or matzo balls in chicken stock instead of water for more infused chicken flavor.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
How to Make the Best Chicken Stock
- Carcass from a 5-6 pound roasted chicken , or bones from 2 bone-in chicken breasts, 2 bone-in chicken thighs, and 2 chicken wings
- 4 carrots , unpeeled and cut into halves
- 2 ribs celery , cut in half
- 1 yellow onion , cut into quarters
- 1 head of garlic , unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
- 1 parsnip , unpeeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
- 1 bunch of fresh Italian parsley
- 6-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6-10 whole black peppercorns
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
- Add the chicken carcass or bones, carrots, celery, onion, garlic halves and parsnip to a large stockpot. Add cold water, covering the chicken and veggies by at least 1-2 inches—about 12-16 cups of water. Add a handful of the parsley (with leaves and stems intact), thyme sprigs, peppercorns, bay leaves, chicken bouillon cubes and kosher salt.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a lightly rolling simmer and cook partly covered for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the stock is amber brown and tastes well flavored. Add more salt to taste if necessary.
- Turn off the heat and allow the stock to cool or if using immediately, place a large colander over a Pyrex 4 cup glass measuring cup and slowly drain the stock from the rest of the aromatics so the colander catches any veggies or bones that may fall from the pot. Then, use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the stock into your next recipe's soup stockpot. Or, if storing to use later, strain into 1 quart wide-mouth glass canning jars and cool before adding a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze in gallon bags for up to 6 months.
- Hot to Cook Chicken Stock in the Instant Pot or Electric Pressure Cooker
- Place all of the ingredients in the insert of a 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot and add enough water to cover the veggies and bones by 1-2 inches. Select High Pressure or Soup and set the timer for 30 minutes When the timer sounds, use a Natural Pressure release, allow the valve to drop and carefully remove the lid. Continue with the directions for the stove top method.
- How to Cook Chicken Stock in the Slow Cooker
- Place all of the ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker and fill with water until it is 2" below the top. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Continue with the directions for the stove top method.
7 Recipes That Will Make Your Homemade Chicken Stock Sing
Now that you have your stock, it’s time to start cooking.
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
- Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup
- Curry Turkey Pot Pie
- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- How to Make the Best Steamed Clams
- Lemon Chicken Stew
- Matzo Ball Soup Chicken Meatballs and Homemade Chicken Broth
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