Simple Homemade Chicken Stock Using a Supermarket Rotisserie Chicken

In our house, rotisserie chickens from the grocery store are a time- and effort-saver. A whole fryer chicken usually sells for less than $1/pound. A typical rotisserie chicken is about double the cost, but we often get three weekday meals off it, so it’s worth it to me. The chicken meat is used in salads, pasta dishes, quesadillas, sandwiches, pot pies and stews and, when the carcass is picked clean, it’s time to make chicken stock. (Of course, you can also do this with a chicken you’ve roasted yourself.)

Chicken stock from scratch couldn’t be easier. It allows you to control the flavor and salt content, and it freezes well. You will need:

  • 1 chicken carcass with some skin/meat left on the bones
  • 1 yellow onion with skin
  • 2 carrots, ends trimmed off but not peeled
  • 1-2 ribs celery, preferably with the leaves
  • 1 bay leaf

Put the carcass in a 4-quart pot. Cut the onions, carrots and celery into a few large pieces and add to the pot. Cover with cool water. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Let it simmer away until you have about 1 quart of liquid left (about 90 minutes or so). Then cool slightly (for safety) and strain the stock into a freezer-safe container (be sure to leave room for expansion as it freezes). You can also let the broth to cool in the fridge so you can skim off the fat. Discard bones and vegetables.

A few tips:

  • The onion skin adds a rich brown color to the stock as well as flavor. The celery leaves add a depth of flavor too. I sometimes keep a Ziploc bag of onion skins and celery leaves in the freezer so I will be sure to have them when I’m making stock.
  • The holy trifecta of carrots, onion and celery is what the French call mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwah”), but feel free to experiment. If I have leftover scallions, parsley, shallots, turnips or other vegetables handy, in they go. There are no real rules for making stock — only guidelines.
  • Carrots add sweetness; reduce them if you like an even more savory stock.
  • Play with herbs and spices. Add a few peppercorns if you like a bit of spice. Thyme goes well if you’re using turkey bones. Think of what you’ll make with the stock and season accordingly.
  • I prefer to make my stock without adding salt (although there is some in the store’s spice mix) and then salt to taste later when I am using the stock in a recipe.
  • Set a timer to remind you to check the stock periodically.
  • If you’re in a climate where you can grow your own bay leaves, this recipe is even cheaper to make.

Homemade chicken stock beats even the best canned/cartoned stocks. I haven’t experimented with making beef, vegetable or seafood stock, but it’s on my list of things to learn. Maybe somebody has a recipe to share?

As a frequent beneficiary of this chicken stock, I can vouch for its quality. It’s darned handy to have a couple batches in the freezer. This is a fun and tasty recipe to use for stew, pasta, and more!

23 comments

  1. Toss the mirepoix in olive oil and then broil in the oven for a bit until just beginning to brown. This will give your stock an extra dimension of flavor and earthy fullness. This will also darken the stock so don’t do it if clear stock is needed for presentation.

  2. No need to limit yourself to chicken, either (although to my palate, chicken is the best for adding flavor to darned near anything!) – beef stock is also handy to have. I’ve tried making vegetable stock a time or two as well, but it wasn’t as satisfying as stock made with meat and bones.

    The recipes and I use are from Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything”, subtitled “Simple Recipes For Great Food”. This book contains not only 1500 recipes, but the basics about.. well, everything. From equipment to what to know about buying various foods, this book seems to have it all.

    The vegetable stock recipe was very straightforward – just roast the veggies beforehand to bring out their flavor, simmer, strain, and you’re done. If I’m able to find the time later today, I’ll dig out the book and post it.

  3. I love to make my own stocks! The overly salted grocery store stuff is way to expensive and not very flavorful either.

    Here’s my recipe:

    Once I have a gallon freezer bag full of veggie leftovers I use my crockpot and simmer with 1 and 1/2 gallons of water for 6-8 hours. For beef or chicken stock, I add 1 to 2 C of meat leftovers. I like using leftover tomatoes or tomato sauces/paste for the beef.

    I then freeze the strained stock in 1/2 cup portions using a muffin tin, then pop them out and store in a freezer bag. It keeps safely for 6 months in the freezer.

  4. usually making my own stock is the only way I can figure on having cheap, additive free soup without having to pay a bundle for it… this is the only way to go when making soup!

  5. Making beef, vegetable or seafood stock is much the same process as making chicken stock. Just substitute fish bones(white fish bones are best, or shellfish such as shrimp,crab, lobster, etc make EXCELLENT stock) for seafood stock and beef bones for beef stock.

    Another great way to add flavor to stock is to roast the bones and vegetables before making the stock. Just roast the bones in a 400 degree oven until they begin to caramelize then add your mirepoix and roast until they begin the caramelize then brush them with tomato paste. This is key and will add richness and flavor to the final stock. Roast until tomato paste is caramelized as well. DO NOT BURN.

    Remove bones and vegetables and put them in the stock pot. Add red wine to the roasting pan while it is hot, it also helps to put it over some heat. While the wine is reducing scrape all the good caramelized bits off the bottom of the pan(called fond.) When the wine is reduced until almost dry add it to the pot with the bones and vegetable. Cover with COLD water and heat as usual. Add, herbs spices, etc. This can be done for dark beef, chicken, lamb stock and can be used to add more flavor to shellfish stock.

  6. If you add a tablespoon or two of vinegar, it will leech the calcium out of the chicken bones into the broth. Makes it healthier and doesn’t effect the flavor at all. I love to make my own broth.

    Jennifer

  7. Any suggestions on decent, cheap freezer containers? We make stock, but it gets freezer burnt after a few months (nasty ice crystals form inside our gladware.)

  8. I like to do this, too. But be careful about food safety. Carve up your chicken and serve it. Don’t leave the chicken on the table during the meal. It’s already travelled from the grocery store. Make the stock on the second night. Cooked chicken is only good for two days.

  9. I do this with the rotissarie turkey from the supermarket. I freeze the bones until I have a few, roast them in my oven, then make stock.
    Yummy:-)

  10. Good post. My husband makes his own rotisserie chicken on our grill. Then, once we’ve removed most of the meat for meals, I use the remaining pieces to make chicken stock (thanks for the recipe, I always just made it up as I went along!). I agree with everyone that this is much healthier and more economical than buying it at the store.

  11. Another good option is to check your local butcher (even the one in the supermarket); they will often sell chicken frames (bones with some meat left on them, perfect for making stock) for dirt cheap. You can also find fish frames (and fish heads) at most fishmongers; these are excellent for making stock. And if you eat shrimp, buy the shell-on variety and save the shells. Once you have a few cups’ worth of shells (I freeze the shells until I have enough ready), you can make a delicious light shrimp stock with them just by cooking them in water for 15-20 minutes!

  12. 1) Throw leftover chicken bones, etc., into your freezer until you have enough to make stock. Do the same with carrots, onion, celery, etc.
    2) People, you do NOT boil stock. You raise the temperature to 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit (an instant read thermometer is your friend) and keep it there for hours. Eventually, all the collagen in the bones is leached out at this temperature. The stock, once strained, will be clear. There will be minimal or no skimming required because the constituent elements of the stock (fats, collagen, etc. won’t separate. This is true for beef stock, too, which is also why your grocery or butcher sells ox tail.) Do not use chicken livers or other viscera in a stock. The giblets should only be the neck. The stock is done when you can take a relatively thick bone and snap it with less resistance than a matchstick would give.

    Keeps in the fridge a week, the freezer much longer. Use in soups (obviously) but also as a substitute for water when making rice or couscous.

  13. Homemade stock from rotisserie tastes so much better that the salty stuff in the grocery store–no comparison! I usually make it the classic way you’ve described; you can also make a Chinese-style stock this way by adding about 3 slices of ginger and some chopped green onions to the mix. This works well for hot & sour soup, etc.

    I have the same troubles as Patrick–ice crystals and bad freezing results. Any ideas out there for the perfect container?

  14. We make veggie stock all summer with trimmings from cooking, onion/garlic skins and leaves (we grow our own–it’s one of the easiest staples to grow, in my opinion). Since we have a large garden and also are part of a CSA (community supported agriculture), we do a lot of blanching and freezing for the winter. Once a week (when we get the CSA delivery) I’ll blanch the lightest/mildest veggies first (i.e. peas) (30 sec – 1 min in boiling water**, then straight into ice water or the freezer on a cookie sheet), gradually working up to the strongest/darkest (i.e. beet greens). Then I’ll add trimmings from dinner prep (plus any extras from the week before) to the pot of blanching water (and throw the ice water in too) and boil it until bedtime. Once strained, usually the next day, I’ll continue to boil the liquid down until it’s almost nothing in the pan (but don’t burn it–that’s bad!!). I have a stock ziploc in my freezer that I’ll add these batches to; when it’s full, I’ll thaw the bag out and mix it all together, and then refreeze the concentrated stock in ice-cube trays. Pop the cubes out into a freezer container or bag. When cooking, you mix a cube in with a cup or so of water to add as broth. It’s so concentrated that it doesn’t really freeze solid, but it takes up so much less space in the freezer.
    **I usually use filtered water (like from a Brita/Pur) for my blanching/icing water, since I know I’m going to concentrate it, I figure if there’s any lead, etc. in the tap water I don’t want that concentrated in my stock!
    –The only way I’ve found to really avoid freezer burn is to vacuum-seal; these machines aren’t exceptionally cheap but they preserve a lot of freshness in the freezer, and have lots of other household uses too.
    –Also, one last tip to save on AC bills when making stock: a rice steamer (large–i.e. 10 cup) can be put out on a balcony or porch and will boil away for hours without adding any extra heat/humidity to the house/apartment, which is really great when concentrating stock.

  15. I don’t know if that counts as REAL chicken stock, though. But, if it works for you…

    I spent a whole weekend making beef stock for sauces. It’s just great. You can freeze it and use it for up to a year. It does take the whole weekend, though. It involves crushing or splitting bones and baking them and then slowly simmering the stock for a whole weekend. You start with 50 quarts and end up with about 10 quarts, but it so thick that you only need to use a couple of tablespoons to make your final sauce.

    I think the name of the book I got it from was The Complete Saucier, but I don’t remember the author.

  16. Ice Cube Trays.

    To the people who asked about a good container for this, here is your answer – I would make stock, but as a single person I rarely had reason to use the entire container at once, so it would get freezerburnt, etc.

    By making small, easy to handle frozen pieces of stock, I could use just as much as I needed. AND I would use it faster.

    For example, I could pull out a single cube and cook my frozen vegetables in it, or a big handful to make a pot of soup for two.

  17. Do you have leftover strong coffee? Dump it into the stock for a fuller flavor, browner color. The flavor blends as well as wine.

  18. for those who keep leftover veggie peels and/or have commented that veggie stock isn’t as full flavored…

    1) roast the veggies first as Miles said; and
    2) when you use peeled potatoes for other meals, scrub the potatoes first and freeze/add the peels to stock minus bad parts, of course, and any sprouts. The minuscule amount of potato adds that extra heartiness to an all-veggie stock.

  19. Thought for the day! Buy a pressure cooker at a yard sale! Make sure you get the metal cap which fits over the steam vent. Put in chicken bones, chicken skin, vegetables, put metal cap over steam vent, heat on HIGH until the cap begins to jiggle. Lower heat to simmer (very low), the metal cap will jiggle occasionally but not constantly. Cook for an hour or hour and 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow steam to come down slowly, DO NOT REMOVE METAL CAP. When pressure is down, pour contents through collander (lined with cheesecloth if you want a clearer stock, I’m not fussy and hate to BUY CHEESECLOTH so I don’t bother with the cloth!) into a deep bowl. Put bowl in refrigerator to chill. The fat will rise to the top and seal the contents so that if you don’t get to the broth quickly it will stay good longer. Then flake the bones with a fork, they’ll dissolve into mush which is an excellent dog or cat food, animals like very much. You can make pressure cooker turkey carcase broth, but do not attempt to cook down turkey bones and do not feed turkey to dogs or cats as it has a chemical, I think it’s spelled “triptophan” which is dangerous for pets. You’re going to LOVE pressure cooker chicken broth! It’s a strong broth with lots of calcium. The pressure cooker is useful for meat broth but don’t try to cook down the bones, that only works with chicken bones. A pressure cooker is useful for quick cooking of potatoes, carrots, other hard vegetables. It’s great for stuffed cabbage or stuffed peppers. It’s handy to tenderize tough meat quickly, makes stew in a hurry. It’s also useful for pressure sealing jams and jellies for home canning. It’s my post, so you KNOW you’re getting a plug for buying your pressure cooker at a yard sale. Get one of the old ones, they’re heavier in weight and sturdier. Gasket shot? Get a new one at the hardware store. New pressure cookers are RUINOUSLY expensive, lightweight and flimsey. Save the environment and your money, buy used at a yard sale for $1. to $5.00. I’ve got three pressure cookers and they are great for saving energy (short cooking time), tenderizing tough meat, quick cooking vegetables, precooking dried beans and of course stock. NEVER FILL MORE THAN 3/4 FULL OF ANYTHING AND YOU’LL DO JUST FINE WITH YOUR PRESSURE COOKER ! daylilydiva

  20. Dear Friends, OOOPS! When using the stock recipe made with chicken bones in my previous post, ADD A QUART OF WATER OR TWO QUARTS DEPENDING UPON THE SIZE OF YOUR PRESSURE COOKER, WITH THE CHICKEN SKIN, BONES AND VEGETABLES. You must add water with your ingredients for this to work as stated! Never, never, never dry cook things in the pressure cookes, you must add water.

  21. Are you kidding? Rotisserie chickens are pumped full of salt water to make them look plump. They’re much worse for you than buying a whole chicken & adding water & mirepoix & seasonings. You end up with delicious chicken. I use Pioneer Woman’s recipe.

  22. Thanks for the recipe! I made a batch yesterday but I used the crockpot instead of the stove. It turned out awesome 🙂

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