Making Chicken Stock

Dec 30th, 2011 | By | Category: cook something, show tips, the show

Tips from “Taking (and Making) Stock” with Chef Josh Watkins

Chopping onions with a sharp knife.

Image courtesy of ampersandyslexia, Creative Commons

Chicken stock is one of those culinary staples that everyone (who eats animal proteins) ought to learn to make–even if in the end home cooks opt to use canned stock for convenience.

It’s still nice to know.

Chicken stock isn’t terribly difficult to make, but it does take a little patience and a little finesse.

Now, unless you’re a home cook who’s thoroughly committed to handling yourself like a professional in the kitchen, then the tip below that deals with “crashing the stock” may seem wasteful.

I’ll explain what it is a little later.

Nevertheless, Chef Josh Watkins, Executive Chef at the Carillon restaurant int he ATT Education and Conference Center on the UT Austin Campus–and the chef we sought for tips on making great stock– insists that crashing the stock makes for a sublime end result.

I will make stock per Chef’s directions–at least once– to understand the process.  Even so, I refuse to discard the first cook of the stock.  Okay, so there are a few “impurities” in it, but it’s still usable, right? How would you make use of this superfluous poultry product?

While you consider the possibilities, here are Chef Watkins tips for making chicken stock:

  • Meat stock is an all day and sometimes all night affair; do not be in a hurry.
  • The meatier the bones, the more flavorful the stock.
  • Always begin with cold water, this will slowly and efficiently release impurities from the bones.
  • Place the pot filled with cold water and bones on medium-high heat.
  • Do not boil stock, it will emulsify impurities and fat into the liquid.
  • Drain the first cook of the stock (this process is called crashing the stock) and then refill the pot with cold water and place it over a medium-high heat (do not crash vegetable stock or fish fumé).
  • During second cook, bring to heat, skim scum, and then add the mirepoix.
  • Use classical mirepoix: 50% onions, 25% carrots, 25% celery.
  • How much mirepoix? The most vegetables in the least amount of liquid will provide a richer, more intense flavor.
  • Using a sharp knife will prevent tears when cutting onions.
  • Peel the carrots otherwise the skins will impart a bitter taste to the stock.
  • Do not scrape off the carrot skin as that leaves too much of the essential oil, or flavor, on the cutting board.
  • Cut all vegetables the same or similar size so they cook at the same rate.
  • Add fresh thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns and fresh parsley stems to the pot with the mirepoix.
  • Never salt your stock, because if it’s been salted, and then used in a reduction, it could intensify the saltiness and ruin your end product.
  • When sufficiently cooked (6 to 8-hours for chicken stock), drain out all the solids, and you have a foundation for your soup, and even some sauces.
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