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chicken stock and a very cool shadow face

A common question in the culinary world is what is the difference between a broth and a stock? I will answer this question using chicken or poultry as the type of broth/stock, but the answer applies to any protein based broth/stock, meaning beef, fish, pork, etc. Vegetable broth, on the other hand, can only be a broth, not a stock. You will understand why in just a moment. Broth is made with the chicken meat and chicken parts, with a high flesh to bone ratio. Whole chicken, such as a fryer, can be used. The cooking time for a broth is about 3 hours.

Chicken stock is made mostly of chicken parts that have a very low flesh to bone ratio. Whole chicken carcasses or pieces such as the backs, necks, breast bones, wing tips, legs, and if you’re lucky enough to find them, even the feet, all make excellent stock. The cooking time for a stock is at least 6 hours.

finished stock

The chilled stock is so thick, rich, and gelatinous that a spatula stands up in it.

The basic difference between a broth and a stock is in its richness. This is because the stock contains more gelée than chicken broth does. Gelée is the gelatin from dissolved cartilage or collagen given off from the bones. Stock has a fuller mouth feel and richer flavor than broth and stock will bind up the pan drippings when deglazing a pan to make a sauce.  That is why restaurant sauces taste so wonderful and can be so difficult for a home cook to recreate… unless you make your own stock.

Another important advantage to making stock at home is the fact that you can avoid the higher sodium content in store-bought broths.  You will notice that in the recipe below there is no salt. That is because there are so many uses for stock (sauces, soups, gravies, bases, pasta, etc.) so wait until you’re preparing the dish you’re going to eat and salt that – not the stock.

Here are a few important tips… always start with cold water, cold vegetables, and cold bones. Be sure to wash all vegetables well before adding because there is no need to peel – onion skins, celery leaves, and carrot skins –  all add great flavor. And add just enough water so that the bones and vegetables are covered, don’t just fill up the pot to any old level.

All this is not to say that store-bought broths don’t have their own advantages, a low-sodium broth can be the busy home cook’s best friend. If you do have a couple of extra minutes you can enliven the broth by pouring it into a saucepan and enhancing the flavor by simmering for as long as you have time for and adding any combination of the following: carrots, onions, leeks, celery, celery root, parsley, bay leaf, black peppercorns, or even a smashed garlic clove. It helps the bland flavor tenfold.  In just about all my recipes, I call for chicken stock, because I always have it on hand in my freezer.  But if you don’t, it is fine to use store-bought broth. I like the Pacific organic brand found at Costco and the Trader Joe’s Organic, ironically, found at Trader Joe’s!

My easy stock recipe below uses the carcass of a rotisserie chicken from Costco. The Costco chicken is near twice the size of a grocery store rotisserie and is usually about $3 cheaper!  The minute I get home from shopping, I remove all the meat, skin, and fat from the bones.  The meat goes into the fridge for future meals and the skin and fat go in the trash.  The bones go into a stockpot.  From the time I arrive home until the stock is on the burner – only about 15 minutes.  After the stock comes to a boil and I’ve skimmed off the impurities (the froth or scum) I turn it down to a simmer and don’t have to think about it again for 6 hours, it’s that easy!

Finally, before we get to the stock recipe, I have to share this very cool thing that happened the other night.  Directly in front of where my husband parks in the garage, there is a bucket with cleaning supplies and rags.  When we pulled in with the headlights on, we saw this image made by the shadows of the rags! Not quite like seeing Jesus in a tortilla chip, but WOW, what a profile!  Who knew cleaning rags had a face!?!


the cleaning supplies and rags in the daytime…at night a face appeared!

Basic Chicken Stock

1 rotisserie chicken carcass
1/2 onion, washed well with skin
2 medium carrots, washed well, with skin and broken in half
2 stalks celery, washed well
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
several parsley sprigs, washed well

Place all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and add just enough water so that the vegetables and chicken bones are covered. Bring the mixture up to a boil, and skim off the froth. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered, for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Do not stir or you will end up in a cloudy stock.


on the stove – chilled with fat on top – fat skimmed off

When the stock is done, strain it into another pot and place that pot into an ice bath in your sink to quickly cool it down. Once it is cooled down enough, place it in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat content to float to the top and solidify. The following morning, skim off and discard the fat. Divide the stock into freezer-safe containers (such as 1-quart freezer zip-lock bags, labeled “4 cups chicken stock” with the date) and freeze for up to 6 months.

Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups)

One final note: I mentioned chicken feet and how great they are for a rich stock, locally here in Arizona, Food City stores always stock them and they’re cheap (about $1 a pound). A tip when using chicken feet to make stock – clip off the nails to allow the gelatin to escape into the water. I know, ewe! sounds nasty – but it works!

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1 Marissa { 10.12.09 at 7:44 PM }


2 Connor { 10.13.09 at 8:31 AM }

not gonna lie mom, that is pretty awesome. I wish shadow faces would show up in my room now

3 Linda Hopkins { 10.13.09 at 8:46 AM }

I know, too cool, too bad the rags will be moved when Gabby comes to clean on Friday, so you won’t be able to see it in person, like Marissa did!
Thanks for checking it out! xoxo

4 barbara fenzl { 10.13.09 at 3:23 PM }

This is the best explanation of stock/broth that I’ve ever read! My hat’s off to you for making it sound so simple. I feel guilty I don’t make stock more often!


5 Linda Hopkins { 10.13.09 at 10:12 PM }

Wow, Thank you so much Barbara for the wonderful comment! Coming from you, my mentor, means so much! xoxo

6 Margaret { 10.19.09 at 1:55 PM }

Linda, I am making the chicken stock right now. I have been meaning to but really wasn’t inspired. Until I read the ingredients on the “organic free range chicken broth” that I ususally keep on hand. One of the ingredients is evaporated cane juice. Well that explains the sometimes rather sweet taste that we have noticed when I have used it. Yuck.

I’m sure I will prefer your recipe. Thx.

7 Margaret { 10.19.09 at 1:56 PM }

Oh! And the face. That was so cool. Leave it to you!

8 Linda Hopkins { 10.19.09 at 3:51 PM }

Oh my darling Peggy, you make me so proud and happy!

9 mmm, mmm, good – soup is! — Les Petites Gourmettes { 01.07.10 at 9:06 AM }

[…] recipes call for chicken stock or broth (not sure what the difference is between broth and stock? Click HERE to find out). But now that I’m working towards the goal of eating more vegetarian, more often […]

10 Cook Once – Eat All Week (chicken) — Les Petites Gourmettes { 08.24.10 at 10:27 AM }

[…] you’ll wind up with about 10 cups shredded chicken. I then discarded the skin and string and used the bones to make chicken stock, which rendered  8 cups of stock. Tomorrow we’ll use 2 cups of the shredded chicken to make […]

11 Sharon C { 08.25.14 at 9:25 PM }

I love this post/recipe. You are so good at teaching. Something as basic as chicken broth, but we all need to learn how to make it. No one automatically knows how to make broth so yummy unless they are taught. You have a gift of teaching, writing and humor. Those are only three of your many gifts. Happy Anniversary Linda.

12 Linda Hopkins { 08.25.14 at 9:38 PM }

Wow, Sharon! Thank you! xoxo

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