Once you taste this easy, homemade chicken broth, it will be hard to go back to the store cans and cartons. Not only does it taste so much better, but this homemade broth also has amazing health benefits. It's a money saver, too.
Broth or Stock? Well, that depends on who you ask. I read numerous reputable sources and found widely different opinions on this. Some said that broth is made with only chicken meat, others said that broth is flavored with both chicken bones and vegetables. But wait, someone else said that describes stock, not broth. Really? My conclusion is that (1) there isn't consensus, (2) the terms broth and stock are used interchangeably by most people, and (3) it doesn't really matter which term you use. So, take your pick.
Listen to Grandma--she knew. In my mom's kitchen, and my grandma's before her, chicken broth (or stock) was made by simmering the carcass of a cooked chicken with a few veggies and herbs. That means just the chicken bones--not the meat. That means it costs almost nothing to make it, because you can use the bones that are leftover after a chicken dinner. That's what my frugal grandma and mother did, and that's the way I've always done it.
When mom used to say that chicken broth (her version made from bones) could "cure what ails you," it turns out she knew what she was talking about. Without knowing the science behind it, my grandma and mother knew that chicken bone broth had big time health benefits. Turns out there is good science to back up that old kitchen wisdom.
Why is bone broth such a super food? As the bones cook in water, a number of good tasting, health boosting vitamins and minerals are released into the broth. The natural gelatin, collagen, glucosamine, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus have numerous healing powers; and, they are in a form that is easily absorbed by the body. Here are some of the health benefits of eating bone broth:
The Washington Post recently called bone broth, Winter's New Miracle Drink. Many nutritionists advise making chicken bone broth a regular part of your dietary routine. Use it in recipes, or drink a hot, soothing mugful as is. Your body will thank you. You can read more about the health benefits of chicken bone broth here: Dr. Mercola, Whole9Life, Mind,Body,Green
Bone broth tastes like chicken broth (because it IS chicken broth). Only homemade bone broth tastes even better. So, use it in any recipes that call for chicken broth.
Store bought broth isn't as nutritious. It is cooked at extremely high temperatures that destroy many of the natural nutrients and health benefits. The store brands often have MSG, mega amounts of salt, and other additives. Make your own for better taste and better health.
Use good quality ingredients. I prefer to use organic chickens and veggies, especially since I don't peel the carrots, onions, and garlic. Their peels have lots of nutrients that can contribute to the healthy profile of the broth. If you like the convenience of already cooked rotisserie chickens, look for stores that use organic chickens. (I'm excited that my local grocery store has just started using them!) I usually roast my own chickens, but rotisserie chickens are a great option for a quick meal. The flavor of the broth will be better if the chickens have been roasted, but you can also use raw bones or bones from chickens cooked a different way.
Works for turkey, too. You can use this exact recipe using turkey bones. After our Thanksgiving turkey meal, I always cook the turkey carcass this way; although it has to be broken into several pieces to get it to fit inside my slow cooker. The broth is the perfect base for turkey soup--a great way to use up those leftovers!
It's best to cook low and slow. A slow, low heat is the healthiest way to extract the nutrients from the chicken bones. It takes a good 10-12 hours in the slow cooker, which makes this very convenient to make overnight while you sleep. Or, plug in the slow cooker in the morning, and your broth will be ready to strain by dinner time. Mom and Grandma always made their broth in a big pot on top of the stove, but I've found a slow cooker to be even better.
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients.
view on Amazon: organic apple cider vinegar
Why no salt? I prefer to make my broth salt-free so that I can adjust the amount of salt I want depending on the recipe I'm using. Also, the leftover chicken bones, skin, and drippings may already be somewhat salted from when they were first roasted, so the amount of added salt needed may vary. You can certainly salt the broth from the beginning if you like. To avoid over salting it, add a little salt at a time and taste as you go. I'd start with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and go from there.
Step 2. Roughly chop the celery & carrots into 1-2 inch pieces. Leave the nutritious peels on the carrots and leafy ends on the celery.
Step 3. Roughly cut the onion. Leave the skin on--it has valuable nutrients. Plus, the skins add rich color to the broth. Read about the health benefits of onion skins here.
view on Amazon: my favorite go-to knife
Step 4. Cut the entire garlic head in half crosswise. That's all the prep it needs. Easy, huh? As with the onion, you should leave the peel on, because it has health boosting nutrients.
Step 5. Add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker. A full batch of this recipe requires a 6 quart (or larger) slow cooker. If yours is smaller, it's easy to half the recipe using 1 chicken carcass instead of 2, and half of the other ingredients. Add enough water so that everything is immersed--approximately 12 cups of water for a full batch.
view on Amazon: my favorite slow cooker (top rated by Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen)
Step 6. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours. Honestly, the time is very flexible. It's hard to overcook this; some people cook it as long as 24 hours. I normally make mine after we've eaten the roasted chicken for dinner. Then I throw the carcass and other ingredients into the slow cooker and let it cook overnight. I don't even normally time it. The result the next day is a healthy chicken broth with amazing flavor.
Step 7. Rest a wire mesh strainer over a bowl, and pour the cooked liquid through it to remove all of the bits and pieces from the broth.
Removing the fat from the broth is optional. So, you can skip step 8, if you don't want a fat-free broth. I like to remove the fat from mine. Here are 2 ways.
Step 8a. Removing the fat--refrigerator method. Pour the strained broth into a large container, cover, and refrigerate overnight or until completely chilled. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, so it's easy to scrape it off. The result is fat-free, healthy, delicious chicken broth.
OR, you can remove the fat while the broth is still hot.
Step 8b. Removing the fat with a grease separator. While it's still warm, pour the broth into a grease separator, let it rest for a few minutes to allow the melted fat to rise to the top. Use a grease separator to pour the broth from the bottom. There are several types of grease separators; the one pictured below is the one I've found works the best. It has a trigger in the handle for releasing the fat-free broth through the bottom. Release the trigger (to stop the flow), when the layer of liquid fat gets close to the bottom.
view on Amazon: grease separator
The color of the broth may vary from batch to batch. You can see in my photos (taken over the course of several batches), that sometimes my broth is a golden color and sometimes it's a darker brown. That's because of how the chicken was cooked, how much it browned when it was roasted, and if there were any darkened pan drippings to add. For example, when I use the carcass and drippings from my Slow Cooker Chicken with Caramelized Onions recipe, the resulting broth is particularly dark and rich (see the photo below on the right).
The gel is the thing. Unlike the less nutritious store bought broths, this homemade bone broth transforms into a gel consistency as it chills in the fridge. (No worries, it dissolves back into a liquid as soon as it heats up again.) That gelling is a good thing--it's a sign of the big health benefit of making broth using chicken bones. Those bones have natural gelatin that nourishes your body in several ways (explained earlier in this post).
Freeze it. I make this chicken broth frequently from our leftover chicken bones. It's great to have it on hand for use in a multitude of recipes. Although it's possible to can it (using a pressure cooker, NOT a water processor), it's easier to freeze it. I portion it into 1 or 2 cup containers. You can use plastic storage containers or freezer safe wide-mouth pint jars. If I need to free up some containers, I first freeze the broth in 1 or 2 cup plastic containers, remove the frozen blocks of broth, and vacuum seal them with a Foodsaver. I also freeze some broth in ice cube trays, and transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer ziploc bag. Those smaller portions are convenient to have on hand, too.
Use this homemade broth to add flavor and nutrition to any recipe that calls for chicken broth. Of course, it makes great soups and gravies. It's so flavorful and good for you, that you can also drink a mugful all by itself to give your day a healthy boost. Grandma's chicken soup really can heal you when you're sick, especially when it's made with bone broth.
Make it a Yummy day!