One of my goals in 2020 has been finding ways to reduce waste around my kitchen. I’m trying to learn how to cook and meal prep more efficiently, and find creative ways to use up every ingredient in my kitchen. One of the easiest ways to do that is by making Homemade Stock.
I personally am a huge fan of this DIY kitchen staple. Chicken stock is pretty much always in my fridge anyways, and I know I’m not alone. We use stock and broth in so many recipes from soups and stews, to braising meats, slow-cooker specialties, and so much more.
Making a homemade version rather than buying stock at the store means adding so much more depth of flavor to any recipe you’re making. Plus, it’s such an easy and ingenious way to extend the life of your veggies and herbs.
In this post, I’m breaking down all the reasons why you should try making homemade stock, plus all the things you’ve got in your kitchen that can be used to make a flavorful, nutritious cooking base. I’ll also share some tips and tricks to making and storing homemade stock. Plus, my favorite kitchen hack to make sure I’ve always got good stock ingredients on hand.
Why bother making homemade stock?
- The Flavor! Homemade stock just tastes better than store-bought, hands down. Store-bought chicken stocks and broths are watered down, and have way less concentrated flavor than a homemade version. Many professional chefs say you’d actually be better off just using tap water over store bought stock in any recipe. If you want to go full force on the flavor, turn to a homemade version, which will add so much more depth to whatever you’re making.
- The Substance! Homemade stock tastes so much better because it’s got so much more substance. Next time you’re at the stock, check the labels on the boxes of chicken stock. Chances are, you’re going to find a bunch of artificial ingredients that you don’t recognize. That can affect the overall taste your final dish. Not to mention, most store brand stocks are packed with tons of added sodium. When you make your own stock, you control every ingredient that goes in to it. That means you can add extra herbs, aromatics and more to beef up the taste or the nutritional value of your stock (and leave out some of that extra salt).
- It’s Frugal! Stock is one of those ingredients that I always need on hand. That meant that it was on my grocery list pretty much every time I went to the store. That cost adds up over time, but it doesn’t have to. Stock can be made from the leftover scraps of whatever meat, veggies and herbs you already have at home. So rather than spending more money on new boxes of stock every week, you can make yourself a batch at home using what you already have without spending a dime. Then you can store it for weeks or even months to use when you need it.
- It’s More Sustainable! I think the most important reason to consider making your own stock is that it can make your kitchen a little more green. There are so many scraps that we throw away when we’re cooking, thinking we have no use for them: carrot ends, celery butts, onion and garlic peels, herb stems, kale and chard stems too, and maybe even fully intact veggies that are just a little bit past their prime. All that stuff that would end up in the trash is actually full of flavor and nutritional value that’s going to waste. Hanging on to it means you get double the life out of your produce, and that’s better for you and the planet.
Typically, stock is made from bones, usually from chicken or beef. But you can absolutely make homemade stock with just vegetables. Personally, I find that I turn to chicken stock much more often than I reach for veggie stock when I’m cooking. I like the depth of savory flavor that chicken adds to stock. So I like to make more of a hybrid stock. It’s packed with tons of veggies and herbs alongside chicken or turkey bones.
My favorite hack for homemade stock is to use a leftover rotisserie chicken. After I bring it home and shred the meat off the bones for whatever recipe I’m making, I’ll store the leftover bones and carcass in the freezer until I’m ready to use it to make stock.
PRO TIP: Try to shred off most of the chunks of fat before freezing your chicken carcass. You don’t want to get it in your stock. It will just break down and become impure, and then you’ll end up skimming it off or straining it out anyways.
If you have a leftover turkey carcass (like after the holidays!) that also works really well. Additionally, you can make homemade stock using pork, beef or lamb bones.
Veggie and herb scraps that make for great stock:
When choosing produce to include in your stock, you want to aim mostly for things that have neutral, savory flavors. But the possibilities are pretty much endless. The one thing to keep in mind when choosing your stock ingredients. Try and keep the flavors balanced by using roughly the same amount of each ingredient if possible. It’s not an exact science, but you probably don’t want to make a stock with 1 carrot and 6 onions, if that makes sense.
- Onions – including their peels!
- Garlic peels (the actual garlic itself is probably too strong, but the peels also carry flavor)
- Green Onions
- Bell Peppers
- Radish Greens
- Asparagus (in small amounts)
- Squash peels
- Chard (kale, spinach and chard stems work so great in stock!)
- Leaves and stems from most herbs including: parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, dill, oregano (cilantro stems also work well but the leaves can be a little too strong)
Things to avoid using in homemade stock:
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes and turnips will get mushy over time and make your stock cloudy and gummy. Avoid using squash flesh too, but the peels are okay!
- Beets are just a little too strong and will likely overpower the other aromatics in your stock.
- Zucchini, Green Beans and Broccoli will all become bitter when simmered too long.
- Corn can also make stock cloudy and it doesn’t add much flavor.
PRO TIP: I keep a few large ziploc bags in my freezer that I use to store my veggie and herb scraps. Any time I’m meal prepping or whipping up a recipe, instead of discarding any peels, stems or other produce leftovers, I just dump them in the bags instead, and keep them in the freezer where they will stay fresh. That way, I’m constantly stockpiling ingredients that I can pull out whenever I need to make a new batch of stock.
Scrap stock in a few simple steps…
Making homemade stock truly couldn’t get any easier.
All you really need to do is gather all the scraps you want to use for your stock, and dump them in the biggest pot you’ve got. If you’ve got any whole or huge pieces of produce, give them a rough chop so everything fits snuggly. I also like to toss in some bay leaves, fennel seeds, and a handful of whole black peppercorns. They help pump up the flavor and spice of the stock.
Next, fill the pot up with water. You want to make sure everything is covered, but leave a few inches of room at the top, so the stock doesn’t spill over when it starts bubbling up as it cooks.
Crank up heat and bring everything to a rolling boil. Then, lower the heat, put the lid on the pot, and simmer your stock for 4-5 hours.
PRO TIP: Make sure to check on your stock at least once every hour or so. If you see any clumps of fat or impurities floating on the surface of the water, use a spoon to skim them off.
After several hours, your kitchen (and maybe even the whole house) will smell absolutely divine, and your stock will be a deep brown color. Turn off the heat and let the stock cool down significantly, before draining and tossing all the scraps in the pot.
Finally, don’t forget to strain the stock. Even after you’ve drained it, run the stock through a fine mesh strainer to catch any other small particles. You can also pour the stock through a coffee filter, which works really well.
If you’re not planning to use your stock immediately, then divide it up into mason jars or air-tight storage containers and let it cool completely. Then you can store the stock in the fridge for a few days. You can also keep in the freezer for up to four months, and pull it out when you need it.
COOKING NOTE: The size of your pot and the amount of water you can add to it will determine how concentrated your stock is. If you aren’t able to get at least 3 quarts of water into the pot when making your stock, the finished result will be more concentrated than store-bought brands of stock you might be used to cooking with. In that case, consider diluting your finished stock with water when you use it in recipes.
Let me know if you give this Homemade Scrap Stock a try! I love to hear from you in the comments, or tag me on instagram @eat.think.live and let me see your creation! Plus, you can check out the rest of my recipes HERE.
Homemade Scrap Stock
- 1 Chicken or Turkey Carcass or at least 1-2 pounds of leftover bones
- 4-6 Cups Vegetable and herb scraps
- 1 Tbsp Whole Black Peppercorns
- 2-3 Bay Leaves
- 2 Tsp Fennel Seeds
- Add the carcass, all the scraps, peppercorns, bay leaves and fennel seeds to a large, deep pot.
- Fill the pot with water, stopping at least 2-3 inches From the rim.
- Bring to a boil. Then lower heat, cover lid and simmer stock for 5 hours. Check the stock at least once every hour, and if any chunks of fat or impurities have risen to the surface, skim off with a ladle or spoon.
- Turn off heat and let stock cool down. Drain stock to remove all scraps and pour over a fine mesh strainer to remove smaller impurities.
- Store the stock in mason jars. Keep in the fridge and use within 4-5 days… or freeze the stock for up to 3-4 months.