Make it Yourself: Homemade Chicken Broth from a Whole Chicken

Last week I bought a whole organic chicken for the first time.  It has taken me a while to get up the gumption to do it, because I’ll be honest, I don’t want to be touching chicken offal. I also have no desire to do anything resembling butchering. I understand that to get food on the table, someone has to cut up the chicken parts.  Here’s the thing, though — the privilege of having someone else butcher meat costs money. Organic whole chickens are priced at my grocery store for $3.49/lb, which is considerably less than organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which are $7.99/lb.

Since watching Food, Inc., my husband and I have made it a priority to buy organic meat whenever possible. We don’t do it 100% of the time, but when I find strategies like this one to make it more affordable, the little bit of extra work is worth it.

Thankfully, I finally found a way to prepare a whole chicken to maximize the meat yield, while decreasing my exposure to anything resembling guts. I was inspired by Heavenly Homemakers, which describes how to make one chicken stretch for 6 meals.  I ended up with enough meat for three “stretch meals (where chicken is the supporting player rather than the star), 3 jars of chicken soup, and 2 jars of broth from that one chicken.

Today I’m going to describe how I made the broth. It literally could not be easier. In a future post, I’ll tell you what to do with all that delicious chicken meat

Homemade Chicken Broth
1 whole organic chicken
Lots of Water (I didn’t measure)
Carrots, Onions, Garlic, and Celery, roughly chopped
1/4 cup kosher salt (use less if you want low-sodium broth)

First, unwrap the chicken, and place it in a large, tall stockpot. Fill with water until the water is just covering the chicken. Dump all the veggies and the salt in, and give it a little stir.

Turn the burner on to medium-high until the water is boiling. Then turn it down to low and simmer for 4-6 hours.

You know it’s done when the meat is falling off the bone and chicken parts are floating around your pot. Lift the chicken out, and place on a large tray.  Separate the good chicken meat from the bones and the organs.  This is the only slightly icky part, and trust me, it wasn’t that bad. The chicken was cooked so well, all the meat came off the bone easily and I didn’t have to touch organs or anything.

Set the meat aside (I put it into 3 freezer bags for future meals), and throw the bones, guts, etc, back into your stock pot. Add another 4-8 cups of water and simmer on low another 6 hours. 

When you’re done, place a large strainer inside a larger bowl, and dump in the whole she-bang.  The bones and yucky stuff will stay in the strainer, and you’ll have several servings worth of savory, delicious broth — 100% organic and free from preservatives and additives.  Place in mason jars, let cool, and freeze for up to 6 months.  There will be a layer of fat on the top of the broth when cool, and you could easily skim it off. I like to leave it on, though, especially when using the broth to make soup, because it gives the broth a rich, hearty flavor that my family (well, my husband) loves.

NOTE: You could easily do this from start to finish in a crock pot. The only reason I didn’t is because I have 2 small crockpots, and neither would fit my chicken. :) If you have cooked a whole chicken in a slow cooker before, I’d love to hear about it!

 

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Comments

  1. Megan Gillander says:

    I always cook my whole chickens in the crock pot. In fact I just did one 2 days ago with that yummy Ravioli and Squash Sauce. I usually wash it well and remove all unwanted parts first. Then I put the whole chicken in the crock and add some water. I sprinkle the chicken with thyme, poultry seasoning, garlic and herb Mrs. Dash and a tiny bit of paprika. I let it cook on high for 7-8 hours and it is a hit at my house.

  2. Thank you for this. I am quite squeamish about meat preparing processes! This sounds do-able to me, and like you, would allow us to do more organic. When you are simmering the bones and all to make broth, is the pot covered, or are you reducing it as it simmers? Also, you can put the glass mason jars in the freezer?

  3. Glad you survived your first cooked whole chicken! :) I do this once every other week because I like having the chicken precooked and on hand to throw into meals the rest of the week. Plus, I buy Swanson’s chicken broth to pour over my dog’s food. The smell is sooooo gross – it smells like dog food. My broth doesn’t.

  4. I love this idea – I will do this – I do cook chicken parts all together when they are cheap and use it for meat but I need to make stock now to make it all get used! Love your blog!

    Can you really freeze mason jars? I usually use empty 16-oz cartons of sour cream – it’s a perfect 2 cups

    • You can freeze Mason jars, just make sure to leave some “head space” because the liquid expands when it freezes. Good idea for the sour cream containers though — I’ll have to try that!

  5. Melissa Sterling says:

    I cook my whole chickens in the crock pot all the time. I generously season them with whatever we feel like that day.(Tony’s seasoning is my husbvands favorite) Add just about 1/4 of water in the bottom Place them in and cook for 8 hours. They taste like a roasted chicken. Alot of people put a foil tent over them while cooking them. I havent found the need to do that. Question about freezing the chicken. My chicken always seems to freezer burn. Im not sure why. Do you just freeze in a zip loc bag?

    • I freeze either in a Ziploc freezer bag OR in a mason jar. Make sure the seal is tight?

    • Annette Martin says:

      Nearly everything you put in the freezer needs to be double wrapped unless you’re going to use it fairly quickly. For example: When I make bread, I slice the fresh bread and put each slice in the cheapest sandwich bags I can find. Then I put all the sandwich bags in another large plastic bag, seal it and put it in the freezer. Of course, I can do this because there is only my husband and I at home now.
      When we buy meat, we do the same thing. Measure the meat into 1/2 pound portions, put them in sandwich bags and then in a larger bag and freeze. (Actually I freeze the little bags first on a cookie sheet then the next day I double bag them.)

    • Freeze the chicken with a little bit of broth in the bags and they won’t freeze-burn.

  6. Michelle says:

    Can you take the guts out before cooking the chicken? That just seems nasty!

    • You can take the guts out but you don’t have to. Honestly, I don’t; I just boil it, then take off the meat when I’m done and throw the rest back in the pot to make stock. I’ve bought my whole chickens at Wegmans and sometimes they have the guts in them and sometimes they don’t

    • Annette Martin says:

      Ladies, there are no “guts” in whole chickens bought in the store. The guts are taken out at butchering. What is inside are things like the heart and liver. You can use them or throw them away–but they are not guts.

  7. Total newbie question here. Do you take your vegetables out of the stockpot once the chicken is cooked? And some broth for the chicken soup if you’re using some for that? If I’m understanding this correctly, then you put the rest of the chicken back in with more water and simmer to make broth. I just got a whole chicken today and want to try this. :)

    • Hi Lisa! Once the chicken is cooked, I generally keep the vegetables in the stock pot and use them to make stock. Once the stock is made, I strain everything out and toss it (b/c they’ve been simmering for HOURS by then and I often throw in scraps to make my broth). When I make soup, I use the strained broth and new vegetables.

  8. Debra Welch says:

    Just wanted to share that I’ve become a fan of seasoning the chicken well, double wrapping in plastic wrap, refrigerating overnight and then slow roasting in oven with quartered onion in cavity. Once cooking is completed, I remove the meat (saving for future use) and transfer remains to crock pot or stock pot with vegetables to make stock. I like the flavor and texture of roasted meat better. Basically, it is the same… just with roasting the meat.

    • Debra — that sounds like a good technique too. I’m just too lazy to roast it. :) Except if I’ve already made a roast turkey for a holiday or something.

  9. A friend of mine that makes the BEST chicken soup I have ever had told me that her trick is to put all of the veggies (onions, garlic, celery, carrots) in the blender afterward and add them back to the stock.

  10. FOLKS
    that stuff in the chicken is not………. GUTS………….good heavens… that is the neck, and gizzard, and liver……….that is all…………….NO GUTS ………….so do not look at it like that.. and most of the time they are in a paper wrapper………the neck i use for stock.. the other things can be tossed…
    just enjoy making the chicken and stock and know it is the very best…………

    • Sjwnana…. I’m with you! Soon I’ll have my own chicken flock and I’ll be butchering them. I used to watch this when I was a little girl. It’s life, girls. Get over it.

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