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Stock: Poultry

This isn't really a recipe so much as a how-to. 

Once you've made a chicken, a pheasant, a flock of quail, a game hen - whatever (but if you have a water bird like a duck of a goose, click here) - never throw away the bones!  You can make some really fantastic stock from it that you can use in any number of recipes.

There are two basic methods for making poultry stock. 

Stovetop Method

The tried-and-true method that i use most every time is to take all of your leftover birdie bits (bones, gizzards, gristle, whatever else - especially feet if you have them!) and put them into a large soup pot.  Fill with enough water to cover all the bits.  (Add an onion or some garlic if you like, but I generally like to keep my stocks really simple and save the spices for whatever recipe i'm using the stock in.  If you do want to add something, though, my favorite stock spices for poultry is the very cliché but delicious: sage, rosemary, and thyme... parsley optional.) Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down as low as you can get it. Cover the pot and keep simmering the stock for at least four hours.  Check in and stir it now and then.  Add more water if necessary, but not too much! 

At some point after two hours, you'll notice any remaining meat separating nicely from the bone.  I like to strain out the chunks at this point and set aside any "usable" bits of meat for soup.  If you're really concerned about getting every last morsel of goodness out of your bird, you may also want to break some of the larger bones so the marrow can get into the stock.  Put the whole thing back in the pot and keep boiling for as long as you can stand it.

Oven Method

The second method I recently learned from my dear neighbor Maryn.  This is particularly great if you need a really clear stock for clear soups or consommés.  Like the above recipe, add all your bits to a baking pan (with an optional onion or two) and enough water to just cover them.  Set the oven to 200ºF and leave it in there, just below the boiling point, for about eight hours, or overnight.


When you're done boiling or unboiling your stock, strain the whole mess through a cheesecloth or a other fine mesh.  (I use a nylon boiling bag intended for steeping grains when brewing beer - you can get them for a couple of dollars at your local homebrew supply store.) 

If you have immediate plans for your stock, use it! 

If you're not sure what to do with it, it will keep in the fridge for four or five days.  (Don't be alarmed if it takes on a squidgy gelatinous quality as it cools - that's normal!)

Failing all else, you can pour the stock into ice-cube trays, the put the stock-cubes into a freezer bag and keep them for a year or more.  (I just used up a bag of pheasant stock from November 2006, and it was delicious!)

If you end up with an inordinate amount of stock, you may also want to consider canning it.  Believe it or not, it's perfectly safe and an easy way to store it, even though canning is one of those pain-in-the-ass things to do if you're not making a giant batch. 

You must use a pressure-canning method to can any sort of meats.  To can your stock, ladle it while still boiling, into canning jars and cover with fresh lids and rings.  (Rings don't have to be new, lids do.)  Cook the jars at 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes (25 if you're using quart jars).  Release the pressure gradually, then remove the jars and leave them to cool upside-down.  Give each of them a tap on the bottom every once in a while.  When cool, just stick 'em in the cupboard.
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