A good quality homemade chicken stock is the foundation for so many recipes, its importance in the kitchen could not be understated. My normal routine is to buy some chicken every week, either a whole bird or a pack of legs, and unless I'm doing a whole roast chicken, I'll joint and de-bone it so I can use the wings, thighs and breast meat for different recipes, then make stock from the remaining bones and carcass. Cutting the bones and carcass up into small pieces first will allow more efficient extraction of flavour. If you're using the leftover carcass from a whole roast chicken, it's also beneficial to chop it into pieces.
Cooking for 2.5 hours or so will allow the bones to completely break down and yield the maximum amount of gelatin, giving the stock body – especially useful when using it to make sauces that will be reduced in order to thicken them. Optionally, you could add the wings to the stock instead of using them for a different recipe. They have a high gelatin content and so are good for the stock.
Chicken Stock Recipe
Using kitchen scissors or a heavy knife, cut the chicken carcass and/or bones into approximately 1 inch pieces. Place in a generously sized saucepan or pot. You'll want space for a decent amount of liquid, giving the bones plenty of room to cook effectively. Cover with cold water, then drain off to briefly rinse the bones. Refill with cold water, then place on the stove over a medium heat. Bring to the boil slowly.
As the stock begins to come to boiling point, skim off and discard any scum or fat that rises to the surface, using a ladle. Once the stock is boiling, turn the heat down to a barely trembling simmer. Keep skimming and discarding any scum and fat that rises to the surface. Do not let the stock boil vigorously – any impurities will emulsify into the liquid, making it cloudy and dirty, which you do not want: you are aiming to produce a beautiful clear liquid. Roughly chop the onion, celery and leek and add to the stock. Add the thyme, bay and garlic. Cook uncovered for 2.5 hours, skimming frequently and topping up with more water to ensure the bones are completely covered. When you add water, always use cold water. This will help the fat rise to the surface, making it easy to skim off. Strain the stock through a fine sieve. You can use it immediately, or optionally boil to reduce it and intensify the flavour.