Monday, October 3, 2011

4 Working-Mama-Tips For Making Chicken Bone Broth

When I think about all the changes we have made to our diets in the last couple of years, a few stand out as more important than others. Switching from highly processed soybean oil to more stable, less processed fats like coconut oil, butter and lard is on the short list. Also making homemade stock or bone broth has been a game changer for me.

In the beginning I said that I would never make my own stock. I really did!! I was so anxious about the inconvenience of making stock that I clung to my bouillon like Thing 2 to his favorite train. I had made stock before and the result was a weak broth that needed so much salt to taste good that I figured it was easier to keep a couple of cubes on hands. That was until I was introduced to the technique of making bone broth.

To make bone broth one must take bones and simmer them for hours with aromatics like onions, celery, carrots and black peppercorns. Chicken bone broth must be simmered for a minimum for 4 hours. Beef bones must be cooked for closer to 10 or 12 hours. The resulting liquid is a dark colored, cloudy, meaty, gelatin filled elixir. Bone broth is a far cry from all those half assed recipes that call you to cook a whole raw chicken in a pot of water for an hour. Quick broths tend to be clear and even slightly bitter tasting in my opinion. The reward for all those hours spent tending to the pot is a broth so thick with nutrition and protein that it is an excellent support to otherwise meatless meals.

I have made chicken bone broth many times now. And I have done so with everything from a leftover roast bird to raw backs and necks. But my favorite chicken part to use is chicken feet. Chicken feet produce hands down the most flavorful and gelatin rich of all chicken broths. I have finally found a source for feet that is local, pastured and organic. Pastured chickens generally cost around $8 per pound. But the feet are sold off at a slightly lower cost. And fortunately the farm from which I buy my feet will sell a whole bag of feet, so I don’t have to buy a $45 bird just to get two feet for stock! My feet are approximately $6 for one and one half pounds. And that makes about a gallon and a half of stock.

Properly made bone broth should gel when cooled overnight in the refrigerator. If you have followed all the directions here and your broth does not gel then it just has a little too much water in it. Chances are when you use it to make something, like soup, it will gel up nicely after you have cooked with it. When cooking with feet, I have been told that clipping off the nails is super important. However, I generally dump the feet in frozen with no additional prep. I figure they will boil for 6 or so hours and whatever buggies the nails would have would stand no chance. Also, be sure to commit the full time and boil the feet until they are really beginning to break up and fall apart on their own. If your feet still look like they did when you dropped them in, you are throwing away a lot of goodness. If the skin looks ragged and the joints are beginning to come apart, then you have reached the zone. Keep going, it takes at least 4 hours of stovetop simmering to get there and you can easily boil them longer than that. There is no sense in throwing away nourishment!

Bone broth is super easy. But that isn’t why you aren’t currently making it right? You don’t make broth because it takes too long or you aren’t home for long enough periods of time, right? That is certainly what I struggle with. So how does a busy mama work something as simple as bone broth into her already maxed out schedule? I have a couple of tricks to share that make it easier for me to keep this important foodstuff around the house.

1) Save your vegetable scraps in a plastic bag in the freezer. Bone broth requires aromatic vegetables be boiled with the bones. But who wants to take great fresh {expensive} veggies, just boil them and finally throw them away? Now I freeze my scraps. When I chop a carrot, the nibs and ends go into my freezer bag instead of the garbage. Same with celery and onion ends. You can even throw onion papers in there. You will end up straining it out so there is nothing wrong with the papers! My freezer bag is where I throw all of the uneaten carrot sticks that come home from Thing 1’s lunch box! I generally save celery, carrots, onions or celery root. More good things to save would be ginger, garlic or garli scapes, leek trimmings, scallions or lemons that you have squeezed. They will of course flavor the broth.

2) Break up your time. Often I am busy or away from the house during the day, even on weekends. So I will start a pot of stock at 6pm and let it boil until 9pm. Before I go to bed I will stick the whole pot in the fridge. The next night I will repeat until the stock has boiled enough. When it comes to stock I am not concerned about the heating and cooling rules that apply to uncooked meats or leftovers. Stock is a food that is boiled at a high temperature for a long period of time. In the cooking phase I don’t worry much about it, and it helps my schedule to where I can make stock on a weeknight!

3) Freeze stock in smaller portions. At the end of the process I will freeze the stock into smaller 2 and 4 cup containers for longer storage. That way I don’t end up thawing and refreezing great blocks of stock. And then I can bring out exactly how much I need, a 2 cup portion for making gravy or rice or a 4 cup portion for making soup. Soup only takes 20-30 minutes with previously prepared broths, yet they taste like they have been cooking for hours! I will use 1 ½ to 2 gallons of water to boil 1 ½ pounds of chicken feet. That yields enough stock for my family for 3 to 4 weeks.

4) Put your crock pot to good use! I do think the stovetop is best. The heat is higher and so the stock bubbles. The bubbles agitate the bones and veggies making them break up and enrich the broth. BUT…I have made great bone broths in the crock pot when I don’t have enough time for a stove top job. I have even started a batch of broth at 9pm and had it cook until 5 or 6am. Then it is waiting for you when you wake up!! I don’t get as gelatin-y of a broth with the crock pot, but finishing it on the stove top might be an answer to that.

Using the above tricks I have managed to keep bone broths regularly on hand and the junk filled cubes out of the house! Considering the extreme cost of ethically raised meats, bone broth is a wonderfully nourishing addition to your diet. Plus the taste is so rich that I can always count on Thing 1 eating whatever veggies that I boil in them. When he takes a hot thermos full of veggie soup to school I always know that he is getting a healthy and nutritious lunch. I am truly thankful that he likes soup as much as he does.

If you are a stressed out lady {or fella} with too many obligations and not enough time to nourish yourself, consider making time to make bone broth. Using the tricks I mention will help to fit the task into your crazy schedule, and the nourishment will support your health!


This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays and Simple Lives Thursdays and Fight Back Fridays


  1. Thanks for the great tip about making bone broth. I need to check with the guy that sells pastured chickens at our farmer's market to find out if I can get chicken feet from him.
    I really like your blog and can't wait to see what else you post :)

  2. Hi this is Nicole from Colie’s Kitchen I just discovered your blog and wanted to drop by and say hi. I am now a new follower. I would love to have you stop by Colie’s Kitchen if you get a chance.