I’ve been skimming through dozens of recipes for chicken broth recently and I’ve been trying to come up with the quintessential chicken broth recipe used in most American cook books. This, I imagine, used to be a simple excerise. You would just open up the one cookbook you had, find the recipe, and go from there. That doesn’t really work any more. Now there are many different approaches to that ‘perfect’ broth.
Here at Chicken Broth Recipes, we’re trying to bring you a collection of all the different ways to make broth, so for this recipe, I’ve distilled the most common elements into one recipe. From what I can gather, most ‘traditional’ recipes include chicken, carrots, celery, onion and some fresh herbs. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can used dried herbs, but be sure they are large enough to be caught by your strainer when making the finished product. Here is the recipe that I came up with for Traditional Chicken Broth:
- 4-5lbs chicken parts (bones, feet, or a whole chicken are best)
- 1 large onion, halved and sliced thinly
- 1 leek cut lengthwise in half (discard the green part)
- 3-4 carrots cut lengthwise in half
- 3-4 ribs of celery cut lengthwise in half
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme (dried works too but see note above)
- 8 sprigs fresh parsley (if you don’t have fresh, leave it out)
- 2 bay leaves
- 15 peppercorns
- 4 whole cloves garlic cut in half
As with most stocks, this is going to simmer for a LONG time on the stove. This process gets all the flavor out of the chicken meat and bones. You don’t want the water boiling vigourously as that tends to break too many small pieces off of the chicken parts, leaving a sometimes grainy broth.
To get started, divide your whole chicken into major pieces (legs, wings, etc.). I always cut the breast meat off to save for other recipes since the flesh doesn’t add too much to the broth flavor and chicken breasts can be expensive.
Prepare the vegetables according to the directions above:
Put all of the ingredients into a six quart pot and fill with water until there is about 2″ of space remaining at the top.
Now, take a vegetable steamer and turn it upside down and place it on top of everything in the pot. This makes it easier to skim off an foam that might form and also keeps all of the ingredients submerged.
Bring the pot to a simmer. You don’t want it to be boiling vigourously as this can make a somewhat grainy broth. Also, if it reduces too fast, you lose out on TONS of flavor.
For the first hour, check the surface of the water – you’ll want to skim off any foam that forms – be careful not to skim off any fat!
After 4-5 hours, the liquid should have reduced by nearly 50% and you’re left with a mess of chicken and vegetables. Ladle out a bit of the broth into a clear glass container and let if sit for a few minutes to cool. The broth should be golden in color and a bit cloudy. Don’t worry if it seems really cloudy, that just means you’ve got a lot of great flavor.
Taste the broth. At this point you’ll be adding salt to bring out the rich chicken-y flavor. I don’t like to fully salt the broth at this point since it’ll be used in other dishes and I don’t want to have other recipes end up too salty. If you need salt, add about 1 teaspoon to the whole pot and stir for 30 seconds. Wait another 2-3 minutes, stir again and then taste again (you want to make sure the salt has a chance to distribute evenly). I also suggest taking 1 cup of the broth in a b0wl and add just a little bit of salt at a time so you get an idea for what well seasoned broth tastes like. This way you also know what slightly-under-salted broth tastes like
Once you have the salt at the perfect point, strain the broth through a medium-mesh wire strainer into another bowl. Place this bowl into the refrigerator for a few hours (it takes FOREVER for the broth to cool).
After the broth has cooled a bit, you have the option to skim off the fat. I NEVER do this – I think the fat adds to the flavor. But, if you’re looking for a low fat version of chicken broth, just scoop off the fat at this point. Finally, we save our chicken broth in plastic bags, 2 cups at a time.