Hack my chicken stock!
August 19, 2012 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I want to make the best chicken stock/broth imaginable (and thereby, the best risotto). I have a pressure cooker, I have a recipe to start with. Any other hacks to amp up the flavor?

I'm starting out with Heston Blumenthal's "brown chicken stock" recipe after seeing the corresponding episode of his show. Basically, the "hack" there is to dust chicken wings with skim powdered milk (that's what "skimmed milk powder" means in the UK, right?) to boost the Maillard reaction, then roasting them. The roasted wings and sautéed veg go into a pressure cooker with a chicken carcass like normal.

But I know I've heard of more tricks for great chicken stock. I think one was to blanch the chicken first, then dump the water, which gets rid of the need to skim off gunk, apparently. But would I do that before or after roasting? Before, right?

I already plan in adding a turnip and a cheesecloth-wrapped bouquet garni to the recipe. Anything other tricks or ingredients for awesome stock? (I do want to keep it pretty simple- just "chickeny" instead of tasting like a million other things.)

posted by supercres to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I have had success with this:

1- Roast a chicken. Eat the meat for dinner, save the bones.

2- Roast the bones (and skin and everything else), then simmer.

3- When the carcass appears to be spent and the flavor fully extracted, pull it out and roast it again, maybe smashing it up a bit and then simmer this some more.

4- Combine both batches.

5- Also, after roasting both times, treat the drippings on the bottom of the pan as if you are going to make gravy (simmer them and scrape them up).

I would also not add the spices until late in the process. Very heavily cooked spices will oxidize and get stale tasting.

Also, reducing the stock will concentrate the flavor.

Also also, watch your cooking temperature. If it says simmer, don't let it come to a boil. Boiling ruins a lot of flavors.
posted by gjc at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2012

I've made pressure-cooker stock and it's okay, but traditionally stock is made at low temperatures. About 180F/82C. The idea is that it never comes to a boil, which changes the way proteins behave and makes the stock cloudy. Just skim it after it comes to a simmer and let it go for hours, like six or more.

Now that cloudiness may not matter with risotto, but I do think the best tasting stocks I make are the ones where I watch the temp using a probe thermometer and set the alarm for just under the boil. They're like pure clear golden chicken essence, with none of that dishwater quality my hard-boiled rushed stocks get.
posted by werkzeuger at 9:59 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interesting method. I don't use a pressure cooker, and I use a potato masher to break up the bones as it simmers. Instead of sieving with muslin, I strain mine, then refrigerate. Any solids end up in the bottom of the container, and are easily removed, and there's no loss of stock. It's also quite easy to remove the fat. If I want more concentrated stock, I reduce it by simmering. For risotto, I like to add some combination of wine, sherry and/or port, as well as mushrooms, and the flavor is excellent. I have also 'cheated' and added good quality bouillon (the paste variety from Trader Joe's) with good results. In risotto, the extra salt is not a problem.
posted by theora55 at 10:03 AM on August 19, 2012

Well, I'm inspired by quotes like this, wherein pressure-cooker stock is touted as bother easier/quicker AND better. So I'm definitely going to give it a try, especially since I have never been bowled over by a traditional homemade stock.

Also, it's summer (a hotter-than-usual summer at that), so a 200 degree pot on the stove all day sounds less than appealing.
posted by supercres at 10:04 AM on August 19, 2012

Best chicken stock I ever made in my life was as follows:

Leftover carcass from a roast chicken
1 pound chicken feet
Onion, carrot, celery
Fresh thyme, fresh parsley, fresh marjoram
A head of garlic split down the middle
A single tomato that had the gunky spot cut out of it
four bay leaves
about 12 peppercorns

simmer for about 6-8 hours, skimming the crud. Strain, de-gunk, and freeze. I've never managed to equal that stock, and I make my own stock all the time.
posted by KathrynT at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2012

You might find this interesting as the type of pressure cooker can affect the flavour.

I prefer to start with a raw chicken carcass or wings and when i doubt I always follow an Alton Brown recipe.

When it's done you might want to reduce it a little more in a pan on the stove, I like my stocks to set like jelly when in the fridge though so I know the flavour is nicely concentrated otherwise it's pretty much just broth and I prefer the stronger flavour for risotto. Taste the stock though first if you like it don't worry.
posted by wwax at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2012

The only 'hack' i know of to truely amp up the flavor of chicken stock is a technique i've seen used with Ramen broths. Start with a Dashi base, then make your stock as usual. If you're willing to go Pork, adding a trotter to the mix can really amp up the collagen in the soup, and increase things like body, taste, and umami.

Also, just reduce it after straining out all your particulates. This will concentrate flavors pretty intensely.

I love stock.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2012

I'm about to give up a secret. Chicken feet. Really. They're pure chickenyness and gelatin.

Sometimes you can find them with the frozen raw dog food at a health food store. Maybe an Asian market, but I'm thinking I'll have to develop a relationship with a poultry farmer soon. I mean, I save all of my flavorful scraps for general purpose stock, but this is miles beyond an old chicken carcass. I hate the word "unctuous," but if that word is ever appropriate it's in description of chicken foot stock.

Scrub them, blanch them for 5 minutes, and pull off any skin that came loose. Don't worry about the weird pad thing on the bottom.Then just make your stock low and slow with whatever flavors you like. Ideally you want to keep it just short of simmering. Hot, but no bubbles, or as few as possible. Heat destroys flavor over time and you're gonna do this for a long time. I did it overnight, and they still hadn't given up everything.

I did it with sake, lots of spring onions, soy sauce, a cinnamon stick, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce. Probably some fish sauce in there, but I don't remember. Cooked that down with the feet until everything stuck to the feet, then added the stock water. Probably not what you want for risotto, but it's incredibly good.

I imagine this is horrifying to some people, but I assume that if you're serious enough about food to want to make an Ultimate Risotto, you're serious about food to have dropped arbitrary hangups.
posted by cmoj at 11:13 AM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Collagen. That's the word I was looking for.
posted by cmoj at 11:16 AM on August 19, 2012

My chicken stock got loads better when I started using all the chicken-y bits--gizzards, feet, head. It can make it pretty creepy when it's time to drain it, as sometimes the eyes open while cooking or the feet look like they're reaching out of the pot, but if you're looking for flavour, use as much of the chicken as you can.
posted by wallaby at 12:25 PM on August 19, 2012

I add some fresh ginger root and a few cloves. subtle, but adds more depth of flavor.
posted by annsunny at 4:15 PM on August 19, 2012

parmesan rinds! seriously, adds a richness to the stock that is really nice. (decrease any salt you add to the stock if you do this.)
posted by jambina at 4:33 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

As long as you maintain the correct temperature (and pressure) your stock will not boil in the pressure cooker. I don't think gunk will be a major issue.

I would think that soggy skin would take a lot longer to brown, so I would not blanch first. The only tweak I'd consider is adding more umami. The Parmesan rind suggestion is great. A small amount of anchovy or fish sauce would also work.
posted by O9scar at 4:49 AM on August 20, 2012

For an even cleaner profile to an umami boost along the lines of anchovy or fish sauce, I might try a stick of kombu... kelp. That I'm pretty sure you can just get in the "ethnic" aisle at the grocery store. Really, for a generally American or European style stock I'd use worcestershire. No reason not to try everything!

But yeah, don't blanch a chicken, but do blanch the feet. Feet won't get soggy.
posted by cmoj at 8:28 AM on August 20, 2012

I've made stock multiple ways, and always on the stove top over long periods of time. (Raw chicken, roasted chicken, whole chicken, parts, etc.)

I recently made it in the pressure cooker for the first time and it was the BEST DAMN STOCK EVER. I drank pint jars full of it, it was so savory and so good.

I put a whole chicken in the pot (raw, didn't remove the giblets). Added a halved onion (did not peel), a head of garlic (did not peel), a carrot, a stalk of celery, and a bay leaf. Brought up to pressure, cooked for 20 minutes, let pressure reduce, poured it into my Oxo gravy separator.

I was skeptical, and I thought of it only as an experiment, because I needed some stock but didn't have a lot of time after getting home from work. I will never make it any other way and am now a complete convert.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:05 PM on August 20, 2012


Ok, yeah, I know, you all just screamed in horror, but this recipe has been in my family for three generations (legend has it my Italian grandma learned it from her Jewish neighbor in Pennsylvania, back in the day) and everyone loves it - even the anti-ketchup types. The end product doesn't taste like ketchup, it just tastes...rich.

The recipe (stovetop, not pressure cooker. I don't work with pressure cookers, but I'm sure this could be adapted):

Whole chicken (with meat still on is how I do it, though I imagine bones would work too)
1 white onion, quartered
1 potato, quartered
1 bunch of celery
1 bag baby carrots (about 8 oz? Whichever the "small" size bag is)
1 cup ketchup
1 tbsp salt

Dump chicken in large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil, skimming off fat as it foams off.

When water is boiling and little foam is coming off, stir in salt. Skim more foam if necessary.

Dip out some of the stock liquid and mix it into the ketchup to thin it out, then stir this mixture back into the pot. Add vegetables.

Simmer for 3-4 hours. Strain out solids. Add chicken meat back into the broth for storage, if desired. Or do what I do and have freaking EPIC chicken salad for lunch the next day (shred the chicken, add mayo, chopped apple, and chopped rosemary. Nom.)
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 1:10 PM on August 21, 2012

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