Should You Make Or Buy Chicken Stock

Homemade chicken stock is easier to make than you think and way more flavorful

It's easy to grab chicken stock off the grocery store shelf. But if you make lots of soups and stews at home, having the homemade stuff on hand is decidedly worth it: It's cost effective, and with a robust chicken flavor and tons of nutrients, it tastes infinitely better than anything from the supermarket.

Homemade stock doesn't have to be a big project—no need to make a special request for bones from the butcher and no need to stuff three whole uncooked chickens into the biggest pot you have (à la Ina Garten). All that's required is a picked-over roast chicken, be it the carcass from Sunday dinner or a store-bought rotisserie, and a pot of cold water. A couple of hours later, you'll have eight to 10 cups of homemade stock—truly one of the best examples of cooking magic out there.

Stock Up

Though you'll get a perfectly respectable stock out of a single roast chicken, the more bones you have, the better. Spend a few weeks packing a freezer bag with leftover bones from chicken thighs or wings; meanwhile, add vegetable odds and ends (like carrot tops and peels, onion ends and skins, and parsley stems) to another freezer bag.

Add Flavor

All you truly need for stock are bones and cold water, but you can use veggie scraps to amp up your concoction. It's also common to add in a handful of whole peppercorns, smashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf or two.

Simmer Away

To really get the best flavor, simmer the stock for at least two hours. While it cooks, occasionally scrape off the gray foam that collects among the bubbles and discard. You'll know the stock is ready when it's a deep golden color and rich with chickeny flavor.

Store It Right

Once you've strained the stock, you can use it right away as the base of a soup or stew. Otherwise, pack it up and store it in the freezer; quart containers work well if you typically use stock in big batches for soups. Short on space? Reduce the needed freezer real estate by measuring cups of the stock into Ziploc bags and freezing them flat. And if you anticipate needing only a splash or two, freeze the stock in ice trays until solid, then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag. Once thawed, the little flavor bombs can help enrich everything from rice and quinoa to pasta sauces.

Margaret Lunetta is an NYC-based freelance video producer, editor and writer with a focus on capturing all things food, drinks and travel. Follow her on Instagram at @margaretlunetta.