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How to make the best chicken stock in your slow cooker

Photo: Ingredients for fresh chicken stock

Photo: Ingredients for fresh chicken stock

I’d written my post for tonight. Budget, delicious chicken risotto for 62p per portion when I realised that the main ingredient – the chicken stock hadn’t been blogged.

A horse without the cart is no good for anyone who is travelling in foodie country. So here’s the cart. This stock works with cooked chicken bones or a fresh carcass. The latter makes better stock, I think. If you remember to remove the chicken when it is cooked (1-1.5 hours depending on size) you will have perfectly poached chicken to add to a multitude of other dishes such as stir fries, risotto, soup, pies, sandwiches to name but a few.

You don’t need to cook chicken from scratch for every dish especially if you have really good stock. Just use the stock (even to braise vegetables in a stir fry) and add the chicken right at the end and allow 2-3 minutes for it to warm through.

The main secret of making stock in the slow cooker (or Aga) is to add cold water. This allows the flavours to develop as the stock heats up. It may take an hour or so for the stock to reach simmering point on auto in a slow cooker but it’s worth the wait. I’ve tried adding hot stock and cold stock and the latter wins hands down every time.

The other key trick was suggested by Joanna of Joanna’s Food. Leave the skin on the onion. This gives colour and added flavour to the stock. Joanna, I thnk you from the bottom of my heart every time that I taste my stock.

The third tip is to chop your vegetables fine so that the maximum flavour is released. I’ve tried tossing in whole vegetables and the chopping is worth it every time.

The fourth tip is taken from the way most decent chefs make stock. Add a good quality chicken stock cube. This sounds crazy as you have a chicken already submerged in the pot but it works.

Fresh herbs (thyme is great with chicken and doesn’t tend to overpower), peppercorns, garlic and a bay leaf all add to the magic of good stock. Once your chicken is cooked remove it and allow the stock to simmer on for a good two or three hours. Chill the stock and skim off the fat. Then you are ready to go!

Cook your rice in the stock, use it as a base for soup, try it instead of milk in a béchamel type of sauce, simmer vegetables in it and generally luxuriate in its flavour. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals.

How to make the best chicken stock in your slow cooker

Ingredients:

  • Half a free range chicken
  • 3 stalks of celery sliced fine
  • 1 medium onion, skin on and quartered
  • 3 medium carrots sliced fine
  • 1 medium courgette sliced fine
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 10 sprigs of thyme (a sprig is a side stalk in this kitchen)
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 good quality chicken stock cube (such as Gallo organic)
  • Half tsp of dried Italian herbs
  • Quarter tsp of salt
  • Cold water to cover

Method:

  1. Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker. Set your slow cooker to auto or high until the water starts to simmer.
  2. Turn to low for an hour or so until the chicken is cooked (juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh). When the chicken is cooked, remove it and cover with foil. When it is cool put it in the fridge – the foil will stop it drying out.
  3. Meanwhile allow the stock to bubble away on low for at least another two hours. Chill and remove the fat.

If you are using pre cooked bones they can stay in the stock until the end.


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26 Comments

  1. Chooklegs

    ooops, forgot to mention, I did fry onions too – at the start before the rice went in! I used two smallish ones, I had a red one and a brown one left in the cupboard so in they went! And I may have put in chopped chives & parsely at the end, or tarragon? Not sure any more, sorry!
    🙂

  2. Chooklegs

    Hey Fiona!
    I didn’t really measure anything so here’s a rough guide 😉
    I just threw in a handful or two of butternut pumpkin, (in the USA they call it squash but where I come from we call it pumpkin!) finely chopped, into the rice as I put in the white wine for the first bit of liquid before the stock rounds start…. and made the risotto as normal, the pumpkin softens up nicely if you have cut it small enough 🙂
    Then at the end I added the chicken & chopped sundried tomatoes, just to warm them through before serving:-) I always put in lots of black pepper too, to warm me up in winter! I find that I don’t need much (if any) salt, because the sundried toms that I used are already salty enough….
    I made enough for two but because hubby is away atm I ate it all ‘cos it was so goooood… felt like a fat pig afterwards 😉
    Best of luck trying it out!
    Veronica
    p.s. You don’t have to use Butternut, it’s just my favourite and imho the best flavour! I’m sure that any old pumpkin would do the trick.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Chooklegs

      Thank you so much for this recipe – can’t wait to make it!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Chooklegs

    Great that this worked out well for you.

    I’d love a copy of that recipe – it sounds superb and pumpkins are in season here in the UK – Halloween here we come 🙂

  4. Chooklegs

    Oh my goodness, this is soo good! I made it today and although I didn’t follow the recipe quite exactly – I had too much other veg in the fridge that had to be used up – but it still turned out wonderfully!
    I used the still-warm stock & meat straight away in a pumpkin/sun dried tomato/poached chook risotto which is also to die for yummy! 🙂
    Thank you for the fab recipe!
    Veronica

  5. Shelley

    A great spice for chicken stock that gives a nice round rich flavor is whole allpice… just about 5 or 6 whole allspice to this amount makes all the difference!

  6. thank ou for the tip of not having to peel the onion. I use freezer cube bags instead of ice tray i measure 1/2pint ito each bag

  7. If you add 2T of vinegar to the cold water, this helps extract calcium from the bones, making the broth more beneficial to your body. (remember the elementary experiment, where the egg shell turned rubbery in vinegar?)

    See this article for more interesting info on the beauty of broth:
    http://www.westonaprice.org/foodfeatures/broth.html

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Mrs Green

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I just wanted to make really good stock but didn’t want a whole poached chicken.

    It worked very well and the chicken was great for adding to other dishes and not nearly as dry as two day old roast chicken.

    Hi Casalba

    It’s worth giving it a twirl. Joann’s tip for leaving the skin on the onion has transformed our stock making.

    Hello Lindsay

    Our fridge is very cold so it keeps for several days but I agree with Veronica, it’s best to freeze it after a day or so just in case.

    Hello Veronica

    The cubes are a brilliant idea. Thank you.

    Hi Claire

    Yes, you are right. I meant poached and have updated the post. Thanks for pointing this out.

    I agree, Danny’s pork belly recipe is great.

    Hello Kate(uk)

    I agree with your comment about the slow cooker. For years I thought they were an unnecessary item. Now I wonder how we existed without one. They are cheap to run and really bring out the flavours of the food. Making stock in them is a doddle and everything that we cook in the slow cooker just seems to taste better.

    Hi Sylvie

    Chopping the vegetables makes a big difference.

    Hello Z

    Thanks for this tip. Too late for me at the time but following your advice I did put the carcass back in the stock when I was making cock-a leekie soup and the flavour was superb.

    Hi Amy Jemima

    Hope that it works well for you when you try it.
    Hi Scott

    That’s a real shame as a slow cooker is a great workhorse in a busy kitchen.

    Hello KarenO

    Our poached half chicken was perfect. Tender and succulent. Better than cold roast chicken if you’re going to add the meat to other dishes. I must admit I was surprised how good it was.

    The onion skins work well.

    Hi Mike

    I’d be really interested to hear how you get on with using cold water and onion skins. Sometimes if I need a really dark stock I save onion skins from ordinary cooking in the fridge and then bung them into the stock when the time comes.

  9. I usually keep any chicken bones for stock, but I’ve always made it by pouring boiling water over the bones and veg to speed up the procedure. I’m definitely going to try the cold water way next time. I’m also going to leave the skins on the onions too. I’m intrigued by that – I’ve never heard of doing that before.

  10. Thank you again Fiona. I think I’ve read a couple of times recently in your posts that you cook chicken from scratch to make the stock & haven’t really fancied ‘boiled chicken’ but used in the way you describe it’s exactly as I do with my leftover roast chicken anyway & sounds as though it would be nice & tender this way. I keep forgetting about the onion skins – lifelong habit of peeling & discarding (I thought they were poisonous as they are to rabbits). Thank you too to Z – sounds like a useful tip to try.

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