chicken stock methods

I've been reading Michael Ruhlman's "The Making of a Chef", and while I don't think I'll be making veal stock any time soon, it has got me thinking about chicken stock, which I WILL be making soon (mainly from carcasses I've harvested from previously roasted chickens).

I find myself confused about blanching bones vs. roasting bones vs. browning bones in the pan, as well as optimal heat level for browning mirepoix (in the book one of the instructors insists that the mirepoix -- for brown stock, in this case -- be roasted in the oven at relatively low heat, which is a new idea to me).

Wondering how these various methods affect final product differently (and what applies to raw vs. previously roasted bones) and which is best for a home cook trying for a good-quality, all-purpose chicken stock.

Kristen W.


Benny June 3, 2012
I never roast anything for my chicken stock. I try to keep the flavor as nuetral as possible. I'll add extra flavor when I using it for other dishes. I always simmer my bones first for about two hours at a super slow simmer while I skim the impurities that rise to the surface. after two hours, I add my my mirepoix, bay leaves, peppercorns, dried thyme and parsley stems. Then it simmers for an additional 2-4 hours.

As for cooling quickly, I always keep a couple frozen plastic water bottles in the freezer which I use to stir the finished stock until it cools enough to put in the refridgerator.

Also, If they are available for a good price, I will purchase a couple pigs feet to add to the stock. This GREATY increases the amount of collagen in my stock. Once completely cooled, its as solid as jello jigglers. This is great because you can thicken pan sauces made with your stock naturally through reduction for a really beautiful sauce.

Brown stocks are different. Bones are roasted, and my vegetables are heavily carmelized in a large skillet. Once the vegies are heavily caramelized, I'll add a blob of tomato paste to the pan, toss to coat all the veggies, and then caramelize the tomato paste for another minute (be sure to continuously stir/toss so you don't burn the paste).
Benny June 3, 2012
one more bit of info... when roasting/browning bones or veggies, be sure to de-glaze the pan with water and add to your stock pot!
Kristen W. June 3, 2012
This is great information, thanks.
ChefOno June 3, 2012

Nope, you just named both reasons. A big pot of stock simply cools too slowly for safety without assistance. Even putting it into the fridge won't bring it though the danger zone quickly enough and the whole refrigerator, and its contents, will be warmed in the process.

Reiney June 3, 2012
Cooling it down rapidly is purely a food safety issue - in commercial kitchens you may even have large ice wands to stir through and cool the interior of the stock.

Blanching bones - is done for an ultra-clear stock to remove the impurities before getting to work extracting flavour + gelatine, but risks removing some flavour in the process. For home uses it's probably not necessary, and if you want an ultra-clear stock you could always go the next stop and make a consommé from it. Given you're using the bones from already roasted birds, it will add no value to you.

I'd suggest keeping mirepoix + bone prep methods the same - if you're using roasted bones, roast the mirepoix. You can even toast up some tomato paste for a minute before adding the lot in with the bones. This is going to produce a flavourful stock but won't be as gelatinous or clear.

If you're using raw bones, keep mirepoix raw so the stock stays clear and fresh. Following the proper procedures (bring just to the boil then reduce, skimming frequently, long slow simmer) you should get a stock that, once cooled, is very gelatinous and will have a lovely body.

Browning bones in pan vs. roasting - for a small boned animal (chicken, rabbit, duck) just do what's easiest, which is most likely stove top. Beef/veal works better in the oven because they're larger. The objective is to get a nice caramel sear on the outside - this is the flavour.

Browning mirepoix in pan vs. roasting - the pan is going to caramelize the outside but still leave the inside raw. Roasting will cook through more thoroughly and start to convert the sugars in the interior of the vegetables, probably result in a milder flavour. Experiment to find your favourite but to be honest, I'm not sure my palate could tell the difference and I'd go with what's easiest.
Kristen W. June 3, 2012
Chef Ono, I've heard this about the ice bath and prompt cooling, but I've never heard an explanation as to why. I understand that there can be a bacteria issue if the stock sits at room temp. for too long, and that putting a piping hot stockpot in the fridge will disperse heat into the fridge, making it less efficient, but are there reasons that have to do with taste and/or body of the stock itself, etc.?
ChefOno June 3, 2012

Thomas Keller's all-purpose chicken stock is very light on flavor -- from bones, meat, herbs and vegetables all. His approach is to add additional ingredients later as you assemble the finished product.

I don't have sufficient time, patience or staff so I take almost the opposite approach. My all-purpose stock is essentially soup without the chunks. If I want a lighter stock, I simply dilute it down.

With those differences in mind, the process of stock making is designed to extract two things: flavor and collagen. Unfortunately, there's a trade-off involved. Roasting adds flavor though the Maillard reaction, but cooking also denatures proteins resulting in less gelatin. A Keller style stock uses raw bones, an Ono stock utilizes roasted carcasses. I mitigate the tradeoff by keeping the pot over a sub-simmer overnight, extracting everything the bones have to offer.

I don't roast my vegetables for chicken stock, but do for beef. It's a color and flavor thing between the two products. 40 min. at 400F to caramelize; can't think of why a lower temperature would be better. Nor do I know anything about blanching bones (?)

However you make your stock, use an ice bath to cool it and get it under refrigeration pronto. I don't know what Ruhlman advises in that book but his personal practices are insane (see related thread).

Pamela731 June 3, 2012
I usually roast wings and backs, along with halved carrots, onions, and definitely celery for both chicken stock and soup. I then simmer on very low heat with about ten peppercorns and about a one inch piece of fresh ginger, skimming as needed for about two hours fir soup and about six for stock. I then strain , and strain again. Then I allow to cool and refrigerate. Next day I remove all solidified fat and proceeedwi whatever direction I intend to make use of it.
petitbleu June 3, 2012
I always roast both the bones and vegetables I put in my stock. Usually, they go in the oven at 400 degrees (by "they" I mean the bones and chunks of carrots and onions) until richly fragrant and visibly browned--this could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 40. Some recommend simmering the bones for a while, then adding the veggies, but I sacrifice perhaps a little finesse for less fuss and just throw everything in the pot together. I also add chunks of celery (some, including the inimitable Thomas keller, disagree with the use of celery in stock--I like it) a few sprigs of parsley, a few peppercorns, perhaps one clove, and a bay leaf. If I'm feeling frisky I add a star anise. I use a pressure cooker to make stock, but that's not necessary. Simply simmer the stock slowly for a couple hours. Freeze flat in quart zip-top bags. This makes the stock all the easier to thaw and use in a pinch.
Bill F. June 3, 2012
There are many ways to make your stock. But it all depends on what you are planning to do with the stock. If soup is your aim then using raw bones will extract the best flavor. If a glacé de voille is your aim which is a potent thick style of stock then roasting the bones is best b/c this will help promote optimal color. And as for the mire-poix the same rule goes. For soup just throw it in the water. For a darker richer stock roast it first then add it to your stock. But 100% main rule is NEVER EVER boil your stock. Slow and low is best method. Kinda long answer but I hope OT helps.
TheNuttyFoodLover June 3, 2012
While I won't venture into the deep dark realms of what's going on and what's best, I've found that roasting them draws out a bit more flavor and a slightly darker stock.
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