Homemade chicken stock is so much better for your body (and your wallet!) than the store-bought variety. And it’s really quite simple, too! Here is a step-by-step guide for making and canning your own homemade chicken stock.
Earlier this year, I started a real food journey that led me to start making almost everything from scratch. I
already cooked almost all our meals at home, but a lot of my ingredients were from a can or a box. Once I started learning about the benefits of real food and the dark side of processed food, I jumped into the made-from-scratch lifestyle with a new passion and energy.
One of the changes I implemented was making my own chicken stock at home. I came across a recipe for it in one of my Instant Pot cookbooks, and I thought I would give it a try. I found it surprisingly simple to do. And once I started researching the benefits of homemade stock, I was hooked.
None of that is to say that I will judge you if you stick with your Swanson stock (or SimplyNature, if you’re an ALDI girl like me). Absolutely not. To each his own, and not everyone has the time or inclination to make their own stock.
But I hope that you will read this post with an open mind, and at least consider the idea of making it from scratch. It’s one of the simplest, easiest real food changes you can make, and one your body, wallet, and taste buds will thank you for!
5 Reasons to Make Chicken Stock At Home
Making my own chicken stock costs me next to nothing, because I make it almost completely from leftovers and scraps. At ALDI (my store of choice for basics, and the cheapest I can find it) a 32oz (1 quart) box of stock costs $1.39. During my last round of chicken stock cooking, I got 4 quarts out of it for pennies. Granted, that doesn’t seem like big savings, but it certainly adds up over time!
It’s made of real ingredients
Another big reason I make my own chicken stock is so I know exactly what is going in it, and I can make sure it’s all real food.
It’s more nutritional
I’ve never bought chicken stock from the store that had the nutrition-packed gelatinous goodness in it. In fact, the first time I made my own, I thought I did something wrong! After it cooled off, it became almost completely solid gelatin. I asked my MIL (my resident cooking expert) what I did wrong, and she said, “Oh no – that’s the good stuff!” You never ever see that in store-bought stock, but using my methods, you will get it every time at home.
It tastes so much better
Homemade chicken stock has a richness and deep flavor that store-bought stock doesn’t even come close to touching. It will make everything you use it to cook even better. (Side note: I once made chicken stock from the bones of a chicken that my husband smoked, and oh. my. goodness. That was the best chicken stock we have ever seen, smelled, or tasted!)
If you’ve been too intimidated to make your own stock, or thought it sounded like a waste of time, let me assure you, it really is very simple and easy. And if you have an Instant Pot like me, it doesn’t take the hours upon hours that you might have heard about.)
Stock vs. Bone Broth
So far, I have been referring to what I make as chicken stock. That’s what my recipe calls it. But after making several batches and seeing how rich it is, and after hearing about the wonders of bone broth, I began to wonder what the difference was, and whether mine was stock or bone broth (not to be confused with straight-up broth).
Here is a helpful site that explains the difference between broth, stock, and bone broth:
Because I make mine in the Instant Pot, I can’t go by the times they give, as those are for stovetop or slow cooker. The instant pot drastically reduces necessary cooking time, so it won’t take as long to achieve “bone broth” status. I do know, however, that when all my cooking is finished, I can crush the bones by pressing lightly with my fingers — one of the indications of bone broth given by the article above.
Benefits of Gelatin
So I don’t know if my stock is technically bone broth or just really good stock, but regardless, it’s full of highly-nutritious gelatin. And that gelatin has a host of health benefits.
Here are a few of them:
- Supports skin health
- Improves gut health and digestion
- Protects joints and lowers joint pain
- Improves sleep quality
- Improves cognitive abilities
- Helps maintain heart health
- Maintains strong bones
- Helps you feel full
How to Make Homemade Chicken Stock (or bone broth)
Before you begin (either method):
I make my chicken stock with mostly leftovers and scraps. I have two gallon-sized Ziploc bags in the freezer: a chicken bone bag and a vegetable scrap bag. I toss in our scraps to their respective bags, and as soon as I fill a chicken bag, it’s stock-makin’ time!
I have also started saving the cooking liquid from when I cook a whole chicken to use in place of some of the water for my stock. (I skim the fat off of it first.) I figure, why waste all those wonderful nutrients when I can make my stock even more nutrition-packed!
Method 1: Instant Pot
As I said, I make my chicken stock in the Instant Pot, so this is the method I’m familiar with. It speeds up the process by hours, and it’s really quite simple.
- Chicken bones and parts (I make a batch when I fill up a gallon Ziplock bag)
- 1 onion, quartered
- A couple cloves of garlic, smashed
- A handful of vegetable scraps (carrot peels, pepper stems, celery ends, etc.)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (this helps get all the good stuff out of the bones)
- 8 cups water
- Add all ingredients to the pot and pour the water over. Secure the lid.
- Select manual and adjust time to 1 hour (or longer!).
- Once cooking is complete, use a natural release.
- Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. If you want to remove the fat (I don’t), let the stock cool and skim off the fat on top.
- Store the stock in the fridge for a few days, freeze for up to 3 months, or pressure can it for a long shelf life.
After doing this a couple times, I wondered if I could get a second round out of my bones. I googled it and found that, yes! You can do two rounds from the same bones. You may want to add new veggies scraps and/or seasonings, though.
Method 2: Slow Cooker
I haven’t ever made chicken stock this way, but if you don’t have an Instant Pot (though I think you might want to ask for one for Christmas, because they’re awesome), you can certainly use your slow cooker. It’s just going to take a lot longer.
(And, knowing what I know about pressure cookers vs. slow cookers in general, I wouldn’t be surprised if this method doesn’t quite get out all the goodness from the bones like the Instant Pot does.)
To make chicken stock in your slow cooker, simply use the recipe above and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours, and strain as above.
When I first started making my own chicken stock, I froze it. This is definitely the simplest and quickest way to preserve your stock. I froze mine in mason jars with these plastic caps.
IMPORTANT: Only use jars with completely straight sides, like wide mouth pints or regular mouth half-pints. DO NOT USE JARS WITH ANY SHOULDERS, even wide mouth quart jars. Even slight shoulders will make the jars more likely to break in the freezer. I’m warning you in all caps because I know this from experience. And it was not fun. Not fun at all.
The other downside to freezing the homemade stock, besides not being able to use quart jars, is that you have to thaw them in order to use them. That requires advance planning … and remembering to pull them out. Something I am notoriously bad at.
So I decided to try my hand at canning my homemade stock instead. And I found out that it is so much simpler than I was expecting. Now that is how I preserve all my stock. (Added benefit: the shelf life is longer, too! Not that my stock lasts long enough to test that, though…)
Canning Homemade Chicken Stock
- Bring your stock to a boil on the stove (just to get it hot).
- Ladle into a hot, clean jar, filling to 1” headspace. (Pints or quarts will work)
- Wipe the rim with a clean damp cloth. Place a lid and screw on a band to fingertip-tight.
- Place the jar into a pressure canner partially filled with water (Follow the manufacturer’s instructions of your particular canner for how much water to put in your canner. I have a Presto, and only a few inches are necessary. It’s not like a water bath canner, where you have to cover the jars completely.)
- Repeat steps 1-4 with the remaining stock.
- Process according to your manufacturer’s directions at 10lbs of pressure for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts).
- Turn off the stove, and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Once it is fully released, take the weight off the release valve, and open the lid.
*** Make sure you read the instructions for your particular canner. If it differs in any way from what I just said, follow those instructions instead!
- Let your jars sit for a bit to allow them to settle. (Moving them too soon may cause them to boil over, a lesson I learned a time or two.)
- Remove to a towel and leave them for 24 hours before moving them to their final storing spot.
I hope you now see that making your own chicken stock is not only good for your body and your wallet, but it’s not all that hard on your clock, either. Though it requires a few hours total (depending on your cooking method), most of that time is cooking time and doesn’t require you to do a thing. You can just sit back, put your feet up, and allow your appliances to do all the work. (I’m kidding … you’re a mom, so you’re going to use that time for cleaning, cooking, and conflict resolution, if your house looks anything like mine. 😉 )
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask, and I wish you all the best in your chicken stock adventures!
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