Making Stock but soup chicken or fowl are not available

I would like to make chicken stock this weekend but soup chicken or fowl are not available. Has anyone used a roaster instead for stock?

Lucia from Madison


Gammy January 13, 2022
You could also use chicken necks or backs, which would be cheaper, or cut up a large whole bird and remove, then freeze, the breasts for a different purpose.
702551 January 13, 2022
Interestingly, Judy Rodgers specifically says NOT to use extra backs.

"Still, you can substitute a small whole chicken and make up the balance with fresh chicken wings, which deliver bright flavor and viscosity. Don't supplement with backs."

That was her stance and she was a very opinionated cook. She also uses salt in her stock and there's a camp that believes that salt inhibits flavor extraction. If I want salt in my stock, I add it at the end.
Gammy January 13, 2022
She possibly says NO BACKS as there is a certain amount of "guts" attached to those backs and, like the recommendations against using livers, probably add a certain amount of stronger flavor to the broth. Never bothered me. I also add a dozen or so whole peppercorns and 3-4 whole cloves to a pot of chicken stock. They add a bit of heartiness to the pot.
702551 January 13, 2022
Like I said, she was very opinionated.

She did run an excellent restaurant kitchen (some locals think of it as Chez Panisse West) so she certainly had highly trained line cooks who would follow her explicit instructions had she wanted to use chicken backs. The cookbook is meticulously detailed to the point where she would have put those same instructions in print.

While Judy was alive, that's the way chicken stock was made at the Zuni Cafe.

I'm not saying you can't make good stock with chicken backs (I use them myself). As I often say, it's really up to the individual cook.

After all, you're putting on your dinner table for your guests. If you want to put aromatics in your stock, go right ahead. Many cooks do.

Curiously her peer Paul Bertolli (chef de cuisine during the early years at Chez Panisse and co-author of the early Alice Waters books) doesn't use any aromatics at all in his meat broth. No onions, no carrots, no bay leaves, no salt, no pepper, no spices, nothing. It's just meat (combination of beef, chicken, and pork) and water. That's it. He's even more exacting than Judy was.
702551 January 13, 2022
Absolutely. There is no rule stating that only larger chicken carcasses can be used to make stock.

In her book the Zuni Cafe Cookbook (2002), the late Judy Rodgers uses three pages to describe the restaurant's chicken stock; the recipe as presented calls for one 5.5 lb. chicken.

In the headnote she mentions that a smaller chicken can be used and the balance made up with chicken wings which she wrote adds brightness and viscosity. The latter certainly makes sense since the wing tips are mostly collagen.

So yes, go ahead and buy that roaster and consider adding some wings if you want a more viscous final product.
Nancy January 13, 2022
I haven't done it in a long-time, but yes a roaster chicken should work fine, and give you cooked meat to use in salads, etc.
A quick check if various reliable sites also confirms this.
And, while roasters aren't the oldest or largest chickens on sale, keep in mind that older, larger ones were used for the classic Coq a leekie soup.
Go for it and enjoy your soup!
KLS January 13, 2022
Do they even make that distinction anymore?
Nancy January 13, 2022
Which distinction?
Gammy January 13, 2022
I remember, too, when one could buy broiler/fryers AND roasters in any supermarket. B'Fs were smaller, usually around 3-4 pounds and the roasters were larger, but not as large as some of what I see today. A chicken was never meant to weigh 7-8 pounds! The much older stewing chickens were exactly that.... and usually tasty, but very tough old birds that made great stock. You might be able to find them at a large enough farmers market or if you have an egg facility in your area.
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