Good soup starts with a good stock. Fortunately, making your own requires very little effort and will take your homemade soups - and all recipes calling for stock - to a far higher level than can be reached with store-bought versions.
We are going to share some tips and secrets for how to make great stock at home. It’s so easy and makes for a great little project on a weekend afternoon. But first, what actually is stock?
Stock is a liquid made from simmering ingredients (or even just one ingredient) in water. The resulting liquid forms the base of soups and sauces. Most commonly, stock is made by combining bones, vegetables, herbs, and spices and simmering everything in water to extract flavor. Bones aren’t absolutely necessary, however, as great vegan stocks can also be made with ingredients such as mushrooms and seaweed. Here, we will focus on two versions that do use bones.
This method could not be easier. You’ll get all the ingredients simply by saving the scraps from food you’re already making and eating.
Let’s start with the bones. Save the extra ones from any dish and freeze them until you have one or two quart-sized bags. What kind of bones are we talking about? Literally any bones at all. Did you roast a chicken, or buy a rotisserie chicken from the market? Save the carcass. Had a pork chop at a restaurant? Have them box up the bone and take it home. Made bone-in ribeye at home? Save that bone! (You see where this is going). You could keep bones of strictly one type to keep your stock pure, or combine a variety to make a good mutt stock. We are fans of both, but most frequently go with the mutt version at home. When you’ve got one to two quart-sized bags of frozen bones, you’ve got enough to make 4 quarts of stock, which is plenty for your typical homemade soup. You’ll use some now, and put the rest in the freezer for when it's time to make soup next.
Next, the vegetables. We recommend saving the scraps from the vegetables you’ve prepped for other meals. Celery tops and ends, carrot ends, onion skins and pieces - save them all. The rest of that parsley bunch that you didn’t use? Throw it into a freezable bag. Keep saving your vegetable scraps until you have a quart-sized bag full. If you’re not cooking often at home, then simply quarter an onion, roughly chop one carrot and two celery stalks. Go ahead and add in a couple of garlic cloves too, and some sprigs of thyme and parsley, or whatever herbs you have lurking in your fridge.
You’re ready to make stock! Skip to “NOW WHAT?” Below for the next steps.
You could also make stock from totally fresh ingredients, which is the way we make it for our restaurants. The ingredients you’ll need are:
4 lbs chicken bones
1 large onion
1 large carrot
3 stalks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
Half a bunch of parsley
5 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
2 tsp black peppercorns
Now it’s time to make the stock.
Short version: throw all of the ingredients into a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for a couple of hours. Simply strain out the solids, and Voilà! - you’ve made stock.
STEP 1: Take everything except for the thyme and parsley and throw it all into a large pot. Cover with about 4 quarts of water, and turn the heat up.
STEP 2: When the water comes to a boil, lower the heat. You’ll want a gentle simmer, not a rolling boil. A gentle simmer means you should see small, steady bubbles breaking the surface of the water. Let that simmer for two hours. You could let it cook for up to six hours, if you’ve got the time, but it’s definitely not necessary.
STEP 3: Twenty minutes before the stock is done, toss in the thyme and parsley. Adding them later allows the herbal flavor to really come through.
STEP 4: Using a mesh strainer or chinois, strain the stock into a clean pot.
STEP 5: If you’re using the stock immediately and fat has collected at the top, remove the fat with a small ladle. It’s totally OK if you remove a little of the actual stock with the fat. It’s also OK to leave a little fat in the stock, as fat helps to transfer flavor.
STEP 6: If you’re using the stock later, let your stock cool on the counter for about an hour, or toss some ice cubes in there to kickstart the cooling process. Then separate into small containers that fit in your fridge, and refrigerate overnight.
STEP 6: Fat may solidify on top of your stock, which is natural and a good thing. The next morning, simply pull that fat off. It usually will come off in one or two solid pieces. (Pro tip for you home cooks: save that fat for roasting potatoes, sautéing vegetables, or anything else you’d cook in oil. No waste + plus extra delicious).
Now, you’ve got stock! Use immediately, or freeze and save it for later - it’ll be good in the freezer for at least 6 months. You’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff again (unless it’s Good Stock’s, of course)!