Learn how to easily make healing, delicious chicken bone broth. I prefer to make bone broth on the stovetop, but instant pot and slow cooker variations follow.
What is bone broth?
What exactly is “bone broth?” I’ve been saving chicken bones in my freezer to make soup for my entire adult life. I always called what I was making “chicken stock,” but I began to wonder what the differences were. According to Bon Apetit, bone broth is stock. It might be simmered for longer, or incoporate techniques designed to extract the most collagen, but “broth” is a misnomer.
Stock is traditionally made from long-simmered bones (with or without meat attached), mirepoix (chopped carrots, onions, and celery), and water. Broth, on the other hand, is any liquid in which meat has been cooked. Stocks are usually cooked for longer periods of time, and contain significantly more collagen than broths. Stocks are typically unsalted, but I occasionally break that rule if I intend to use mine for soup. I tend to use the terms stock and broth interchangeably, but what I mean is stock/bone broth.
Rules for making bone broth
What are the rules for making bone broth, or stock? If you do a little research, you’ll learn that there are plenty (here and here, for example). Fortunately, most of these rules are OK to break in most circumstances. What rules do you need to follow? Well, you can’t make bone broth without bones. I keep gallon bags in my freezer for beef, pork, and chicken. I intentionally buy bone-in meat most of the time, and just let the bones accumulate. We include even bones from our table, but if that bothers you, cut the meat off before serving. I buy family packs of bone-in chicken parts whenever they’re on sale, because I think stock gets more flavorful when there’s a little meat in the pot. For a typical pot of stock, I’ll use a carcass or so plus two thighs or couple of wings with the meat still attached.
You also can’t make a good stock without vegetables. I generally use carrots, onion, celery, and garlic, but if you’re out of one the stock will probably survive. I always use fresh vegetables, but many people save scraps in their fridge and get good results. Leeks, ginger, and scallions can also be good additions.
Skimming the stock
Following traditional rules will produce a very clear stock. You’ll read that you must cover your bones with cold water, and that you must skim the fat and scum layers off of the soup as it cooks. If you’re making consommé for an exam in culinary school, absolutely do this. If you’re making bone broth to drink or to add to soups or sauces, a perfectly clear result isn’t mandatory. I rarely skim my stock. Instead, just strain it through a fine mesh sieve at the end of cooking – that removes nearly everything you would have skimmed. You can also line any colander with cheesecloth or a double layer of paper towels if you don’t have a fine mesh strainer. If you refrigerate the stock overnight, the next day you can remove the layer of fat that accumulates on top. If you want to use the stock right away go ahead, there isn’t a significant amount of fat in chicken stock anyways and what there is will just add flavor to your soup.
Vinegar and collagen in bone broth
What is the purpose of apple cider vinegar in a bone broth recipe? This one I had to look up. My mom and grandmother never put vinegar in their stocks, so I wasn’t sure if it was a random internet trend or if it actually had a basis in science. The purpose, apparently, is to help break down collagen in the bones. Any acid will do the trick, but stick to a mild one if you don’t want to change the flavor of your soup. White wine, any light-colored vinegar, or even lemon juice will do the trick, and increase your chances of getting a good gel once you move your broth to the refrigerator.
Why does bone broth gel after refrigeration? It’s a sign of a high quality broth with plenty of collagen that will have excellent mouthfeel when used. Chicken bones contain less collagen than beef, so your broth won’t gel every time. It will still taste great and you should definitely still use it, however. If you want to increase the collagen content in the future, add chicken feet if you can get your hands on them, or throw in some extra backs, necks, wings, or thighs.
How long should you cook your bone broth? Well, more is generally better. I don’t think it’s worth making it on the stovetop if you won’t have at least 3 hours of simmer time, and 4-6 is preferable. I usually start mine in the afternoon before starting dinner, and let it simmer until after the kids are in bed. You can get a decent broth in an hour from your Instant Pot or pressure cooker, or go the other route and let it simmer away unattended in your slow cooker for 24.
What is bone broth for?
Finally, what should you use your bone broth for? Many people like to drink it straight. I primarily use mine to make soup, like my Norwegian Chicken and Dumpling, or to add to sauces. Bone broth freezes well, and a great trick is to freeze it in muffin tins and pop the circles into a freezer bag (place the bottom of the tin in a sink of warm water and they’ll come right out). Then you can add it to sauces or soups later in whatever quantities you need.
So what are you waiting for? Roast a chicken or pick up a rotisserie, and you can have delicious nutrient-filled bone broth the very next day.
Chicken Bone Broth
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped Include skin and ends
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped Include peel and ends
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 head garlic, halved
- 2 Tbsp black peppercorns, whole
- bones from one chicken, including back and neck
- 2 chicken thighs, bone-in skin-on May substitute chicken feet, wings, or single leg quarter
- 2 Tbsp apple cider or other mild vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, oregano Optional if you have on hand
- Put your largest, tallest stockpot on over medium heat. Add vegetable oil.
- Add mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) to oil. Sauté for 2-3 min or until slightly softened. Add garlic and peppercorns. Add chicken bones and parts (frozen is fine). Add vinegar. Add at least enough water to cover 2 inches above ingredients. Add bay leaves and herbs.
- Bring pot to a boil. Leave partially covered and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for a minimum of 3 (preferably 4-6) hours. If desired, skim debris periodically from surface of stock.
- Taste stock. Add salt if desired (only if using for broth/soup base). Remove bones and strain through fine mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth/double layer paper towels.
- Cool stock, preferably in ice bath in sink. Cover and refrigerate overnight if not using immediately. On the following day, remove fat layer that forms on top of stock and discard.