Kitchen Hacks

The Obvious but Brilliant Tool for Simpler Stock-Making

March  3, 2017

Homemade stock is one of the backbones of cooking—one of the first things you learn in cooking school—but there are plenty of hoops to jump through in the process: time, hassle, lots of ingredients, a big old pile of wet bones at the end. Thanks to this smart tip from the revered cooking teacher Patricia Wells, however, that homemade stock will be less of a strain (pun intended—just you wait!).

One of the most cumbersome parts of making stock is the final step of straining the stock. Some people will upturn the enormous, heavy, hot pot of liquid into a colander sitting in a big bowl. Others with a little more foresight will remove the bulky ingredients from the stock pot with tongs, and then dump the still-heavy pot of liquid into a colander sitting in a big bowl. Either option results in a steamy facial for you and potential for spillage of precious stock around your kitchen. Not ideal. Others will use a skimmer, fishing each object out of the stock, but this can take awhile.

the fix

In the introduction of her new book My Master Recipes, Patricia—the genius who brought us Fake Frites and the be-all lentil salad—lists her essential equipment. After the nonstick frying pans and before the copper, she says:

"A pair of stainless steel pasta cooking pots (5-quart and 10-quart) fitted with colanders are my favorites. I use them not just for pasta but for all my stocks (just lift out the colander and all the stock has been filtered out!), as well as for blanching."

Hello! Yes! Also, duh! The colander insert, which is usually marketed just for making pasta or steaming vegetables, can also act like an enormous tea bag or herb sachet: Your ingredients can still swim freely, but when it's their time to be strained out, all you have to do is lift the insert out, shake shake a bit to rid all the liquid, and dump the spent ingredients. Many stock pots come with inserts, or you can purchase one that fits into the pot you already have.

It’s time to make and cook with some stock, don’t you think?

Patricia Well's new book, My Master Recipes, is filled with smart cooking ideas just like this one. It's out March 7 and available wherever books are sold.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Olivia Bloom
    Olivia Bloom
  • AntoniaJames
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Olivia B. March 3, 2017
Much more efficient than the skimmer basket method I currently use... my stock pot does have a strainer insert but I'm a little confused as to how to use it. It doesn't fit in the top like the one shown here; it slips all the way to the bottom so it seems unusable (it's this one: Am I missing something?

On another note (and this is somewhat off-topic), but I was making vegetable stock recently and intended to use some dried kombu. I noticed that the package had a warning that said, "This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer." It freaked me out, but I used it anyway. Interested to know more about this...
AntoniaJames March 3, 2017
Also quite handy for processing small batches of jam, pickles, etc. when canning. I've been doing that for decades, but have never seen it mentioned anywhere; it's so obvious, I've always wondered why. ;o)