One thing that I wanted for this blog from the beginning was not only to share some of my favorite family recipes, but to share cooking and baking tips and tricks. I know for many, if you are an avid cook or baker, this may seem unnecessary and you would rather just see a recipe for a hearty and spicy chili or trashed up brownie, but I feel like for most, you come to food blogs and recipe sites not just for recipe inspiration, but to learn too.
In fact, after years of blogging, teaching cooking classes, and sharing my love of food with others, I have learned that a TON of people are still learning their way around the kitchen, or because of our super busy lives, looking for tips and tricks on how to get a home cooked meal on the dinner table with not so much fuss.
Over the years, I have shared many cooking how tos, kitchen tips and tricks, and a lot of information. Maybe these aren’t necessarily the most popular posts (I know we all LOVE looking at a pic of a big gorgeous chocolate cake), but I feel like these posts are important to helping you all to be successful in the kitchen!
So one of my goals for 2016 is to share more of these informational posts with you all. I have several of these posts already planned and more in the works (seriously you should see my Kitchen Concoctions 2016 planner with filled with so many ideas); BUT I want to know, are there any kitchen tips or basic recipes you want to learn more about? Like how to properly clean your cast iron skillet? Or a recipe for a homemade Cajun/creole seasoning blend? Or have you ever wondered how to properly and quickly chop an onion (yeah, through my years of teaching people how to cook, this is the number one cooking skill that people are doing wrong!)? Let me know what you want to see or learn more about in this cooking basics series!
The first tip/homemade recipe I have to share with you in 2016, is how to make homemade chicken/turkey stock. If you were to ask me the number one ingredient you should have stocked in your pantry/fridge I would say stock/broth. I use it in EVERYTHING to add a rich nice pop of flavor. Not only is it great for chili and soup (of course!), but I always cook rice, quinoa, etc. in broth and use it to make sauces or braise meat/veggies.
There are a lot of great brands of boxed or canned stock or broth on the market, and depending on what I am making do often buy store bought stock. Beef and seafood stock are the varieties I tend to stock up on from the store (always look for low sodium varieties), however, I almost always make homemade chicken or vegetable stock because it is pretty much FREE since you just use leftover trimmings you would normally tend to throw away. Plus it is so easy since all you do is dump everything in a large stock pot or slow cooker add water and walk away. Not only that, with homemade stock, YOU control what is going in there. So if you are on a reduced sodium diet you don’t have to worry about any added “extras” that store bought might have.
Read: There is no reason why you shouldn’t be making homemade stock!
So whats the difference between stock and broth?
Broth- Broth is technically any liquid that has meat cooked in it, however, it lacks the color and flavor of stock. Think of when you boil chicken breasts in water to shred or make chicken noodle soup and boil a whole chicken or chicken breasts and thighs. The end result is a lightly colored and flavored broth.
Stock- Stock, on the other hand, is typically made from a chicken carcass or bones, that has had most, if not all, of the meat picked off the bones. Classically the bones have been roasted before simmering with water to achieve the most flavorful stock, however, this isn’t necessary. Since the bones contain a lot of gelatin, when boiled they release this gelatin and cause the stock to be richer and deeper in flavor and color than broth.
Most store bought broth and stock are very similar but when made properly at home there is a significant difference. However, they are pretty much used interchangeably in cooking.
What can stock/broth be used for?
Most recipes will reference broth or stock and either would work. I recommend always, of course, matching your broth/stock with the protein in your dish. Stock is of course called for in many chili, soup and stew recipes, sauces and casseroles. However, I typically use it (especially when I have homemade on hand), whenever a savory recipe calls for water, like to cook rice, quinoa, to braise meat/vegetables, in marinades, etc. Stock can also be used a a substitute in any savory recipe that calls for wine or beer.
Tips For Making Homemade Stock:
Stock Ingredients- Using a whole chicken/turkey carcass is ideal. Whether it is leftover from a store bought rotisserie chicken or from an oven roasted turkey or chicken you roasted at home. You can also use a carcass from a grilled or smoked chicken/turkey, however note that the smokey flavor will add flavor to your stock. Bones from grilled chicken thighs or drumsticks will also work. They key is to pick off most, if not all of the meat (although a little meat won’t hurt anything!!).
While I have a recipe below, stock is pretty versatile. You must start with your chicken carcass/bones and water, but then you can add an assortment of herbs (fresh or dried) and veggies. I usually use carrot, celery, yellow onion and garlic for veggies, but you could add leeks, corn cobs, tomatoes, etc.; basically what you have on hand. I typically just wash whatever vegetables I use, and don’t worry about peeling and only chop them up if they won’t otherwise fit in my stock pot. Regarding herbs, again I use what I have on hand; usually an assortment of fresh herbs, parsley, thyme, or oregano; but dried are ok too.
Slow Cooker- I typically make my stock in a large stock pot, simply because I can make more stock. However, you could also use a slow cooker.
Freezing Homemade Stock- Homemade stock freezes wonderfully. Since it makes so much I’ll pour a few cups worth in a large glass jar to keep in the fridge for 2-3 days, however, if you will not use the stock in 2-3 days it should be frozen. Frozen stock can be kept in the freezer for 8-12 months. Fill sturdy plastic food storage containers, with tight fitting lids, with cooled homemade stock, leaving at least 1-inch of space at the top. I usually measure the stock before filling the storage containers, typically filling the containers with 2 cups of prepared stock. Before covering and freezing, make sure stock is completely cooled.
Thawing Frozen Stock- Thaw frozen stock in the refrigerator one day before using, or microwave container for 15-30 seconds then dump contents (still semi-frozen) into a small sauce pan over medium heat, heating until completely melted. Thawed/reheated stock should be used immediately.
- 1 whole chicken or turkey carcass, with excess meat removed
- 1-2 large yellow onions, halved and skin removed
- 3-4 celery stalks, halved
- 2-3 large carrots, halved
- 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme or oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
- 1 cup packed parsley sprigs (or 2 tablespoons dried)
- 1-2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt*
- 6-10 quarts of water
- Large stock pot or slow cooker
- Fine mesh strainer
- Liquid measuring cup
- Large bowl or pitcher
- Resealable glass jars or sturdy plastic food storage containers
Place the chicken carcass or bones in a large stock pot, using chicken shears to cut up chicken into pieces, if need, to fit into the stock pot.
Add vegetables, fresh herbs, black peppercorns and salt (if usinto pot.
Cover chicken carcass and vegetables in pot with water, filling the pot within 1-2 inches from the top. Bring pot to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer, un-covered for 1-3 hours.
Once stock has cooked, skim off any foam or film that has formed during the cooking process. Remove stock pot from heat and cool.
Using tongs, remove large pieces of bones and vegetables from pot and discard.
Place fine mesh strainer over a large bowl or drink pitcher. Using a liquid measuring cup, transfer the stock from the pot to the strainer a little at a time. Once the bowl/drink pitcher is full, pour strained stock into glass jars or plastic food storage containers.
If freezing, allow stock to completely cool before sealing and labeling.
*Note: Due to dietary restrictions, omit salt if needed.
Slow Cooker Version: Add all ingredients to a large slow cooker. Cover carcass and vegetables with water and cook, covered on low for 6-8 hours. Continue with recipe as directed.
Now that you have made some delicious homemade chicken stock, check out all these recipes you can make!