This recipe will create several cups of juicy shredded chicken along with approximately two quarts of rich and flavorful chicken stock. This recipe is a weekly staple in our busy house as it provides the basis for many of our other quick-cooking recipes.
Jump to the bottom of this post for the printable recipe but you may want to read through the detailed step-by-step description if this is your first time dealing with a whole chicken.
Making your own chicken stock might seem like an obvious step to opt out of in life, but let me see if I can maybe change your mind. Now to be fully honest, I only made this change myself out of necessity about a year ago. I don’t tolerate the onions and garlic in store-bought broths very well so going the homemade route was a necessity. However, I am now sold on the quality that homemade stock provides especially in simple recipes like chicken noodle soup. It tastes so much better and will make your soups and stews go from good to exceptional. And if you are curious, more info here on the difference between stock and broth. Basically you can use the two interchangeably, though stock is considered more rich and flavorful.
You can google and find many techniques for making stock and the usual methods involve simmering bones and veggies (generally a mirepoix – onions, celery and carrots) for several hours while skimming off the foam that rises to the top every once in a while. While in theory that is a manageable recipe, it can be fussy. I only did it once years ago and never did it again. So my method has been adapted to what my life requires. I need to leave it and forget it. I need something that I can attend to at random. I need lots of room for error. This crockpot stock method allows for that.
First things first: place a whole chicken in a crockpot. Take heart if you find whole chickens absolutely terrifying – I certainly did at first. It has gotten less scary over time for me. Also note that you should not rinse raw chicken as that will actually increase the chance of spreading salmonella. Any potential salmonella will get cooked off from the heating process (chicken needs to reach an internal temp of 165° F). Okay, so stick that raw whole chicken in the crockpot making sure no giblet bags are in the chicken cavity and also ensuring that the alarming chicken maxipad thing isn’t still stuck to the chicken. #SorryNotSorryForSayingChickenMaxipad
You don’t need to add anything else to the crockpot – no water or other liquids or veggies or spices or anything. “WHAT!?” you may say. I promise it will be okay. Remember, we are striving for simple and easy and delicious here, not award-winning crystal-clear broth with nuanced layers of flavor. However, if you want more seasoning from the start, then you can certainly add roughly-chopped onions and carrots and celery and garlic and parsley and salt and pepper or whatever your heart desires. (Note: make sure to skip the onions if you follow a low FODMAP diet like me!) But as for me and this recipe – I add nothing but the chicken. I find my stock and the chicken tastes plenty flavorful and I can season it later depending on the recipe.
Okay, so the chicken is in the crockpot. Now put the lid on and cook it on low heat for about 7 hours. Or 6 or 8 or 10. I don’t think it matters all that much. I have simply found 7 hours to be a good spot.
Once it’s cooked the chicken will pretty much be falling apart on you. Remove all the meat and bones – I use a large slotted spoon and a second wooden spoon for this maneuver – and set it aside. I like to use a 9×13 pan to hold the chicken while it cools so it can hold any juices.
Now the liquid that remains in the crockpot is the basis of your chicken stock. This is your concentrate. You need to strain it by pouring it through a fine-mesh sieve or a colander with cheese cloth. If you aren’t in possession of cheesecloth or a larger fine-mesh sieve (I’m not!) you can create the same set-up by pouring your stock through a colander lined with a clean dish towel. I just give the dish towel a quick rinse with cold water before adding it to the laundry pile.
And that right there is some lovely concentrated golden stock. Actually, that is straight-up bone broth as it is full of gelatin. Look at you being so cutting edge with making your own bone broth! And about the gelatin, please do not be alarmed when your stock turns into jello in the fridge. This is normal and desirable – the gelatin is great for healing purposes. I will admit to tossing a batch of chicken stock the first time that happened years ago – I thought something had gone horribly wrong! You can find more information about the benefits of bone broth (and an alternative recipe for making chicken stock/bone broth) on Danielle Walker’s website Against All Grain.
Now you have a couple choices when it comes to the amount of fat in your stock. If you prefer a very low fat or fat free stock, then you can run it through a grease separator (affiliate link) or place the stock in the fridge for several hours and then skim the fat off the top. As for me, I keep the fat in the stock most times. I don’t mind it and it adds flavor. However, if you aren’t using an organic chicken you may want to avoid eating that fat as it will be higher in toxins.
In the final step to making your stock, you simply need to reconstitute it by adding water. I prefer a ratio of 1 cup concentrated stock to 2 cups of water. So if I end up with 2 cups of concentrate from the crock pot, I add 4 cups of water to it to end up with 6 cups of stock. Taste and adjust to your own preferences. I also add salt at this point and I usually add 1/4 tsp of salt per quart of reconstituted stock. So again, if I have 6 cups of reconstituted stock, then I add 1/2 tsp of salt to season it.
And now you can go back and make even more stock with those bones and chicken scraps! Throw it all back in the crock pot and this time add a teaspoon or two of vinegar (such as apple cider vinegar) to help extract even more gelatin from the bones. Add 4 cups of water and turn the crockpot back on to low for another 12-24 hours. Strain that and you have another quart of high quality stock!
What to do with all that shredded chicken and the stock? You could go for basic but amazing chicken noodle soup. Or maybe a white chicken chili or mexican chicken soup. Or a quick chicken curry and you can use the stock to cook the rice for added flavor. You can sip on the stock on its own for healing purposes – sometimes I add a squeeze of lemon and a bit of soy sauce (or tamari sauce) to give it an Asian flavor. And for the cooked chicken I still have many more ideas: add barbecue sauce and put it on a bun for super quick BBQ chicken sandwiches, make curried chicken salad, add it to chicken enchiladas or quesadillas or other Mexican food. Enjoy!
- 3-5 lb whole chicken, ideally organic/humanely-raised
- Place a whole unrinsed chicken in medium-sized crockpot. Be sure to remove any packaging or giblet bags that might be in the chicken.
- Cook on low for 7-10 hours
- Remove the chicken from the crockpot and set it aside to cool before removing the meat.
- Strain remaining liquid in the crockpot through a fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with a clean dishcloth. This is your stock concentrate.
- Optional: If you prefer a lower fat stock, use a grease separator or place the stock in the fridge for a several hours so that the fat can rise to the top and be easily skimmed off.
- Reconstitute strained concentrated liquid with water using a 1:2 ratio (so 2 cups of concentrate will need an additional 4 cups of water)
- Add salt as desired (Recommend ¼ tsp per quart of reconstituted stock)
- To make a second batch of stock, return chicken bones and scraps to the crockpot along with 4 cups of water and 1-2 tsp of vinegar (this will help extract gelatin from the bones). Cook on low for 12-24 hours. Remove bones and chicken scraps and strain the remaining liquid.