Broth and stock are staples in our home. Nutrient dense broths and stocks are not only superfoods with legendary healing properties, they are also a great way to use up every part and get the most nutrition out an animal.
Lately, instead of making my regular supply of broth from fresh, pasture raised chickens on the stove (with this recipe), I’ve been making chicken stock in the slow cooker just from the carcasses of pasture raised chickens I roasted for dinner. And while the slow cooker stock tastes different and has less healthy fat than my original broth recipe, it’s yummy, as well as much easier and cheaper to make!
What’s the difference, you say?
Broth vs. Stock
Both broth and stock start with the same basic foundation: water, onions, salt, pepper and seasonings. Often both broth and stock include carrots and celery to make a mirepoix as well. Broth is then enriched with the meat of a chicken—usually a whole chicken. The mixture is simmered and strained (and the chicken is great to use for salads, tacos, etc.). Broth should be light with a clean and clear flavor.
Stock starts with the same ingredients as broth, but rather than simmering it with meat, stock is made with lots of bones. Sometimes the bones are first roasted in the oven, and then added to the stock pot, creating a much deeper flavor.
The bones contain a lot of natural gelatin in them so they give stock a richer “mouth feel” as well as significantly more nutrition. Stock is sometimes colloquially called “bone broth,” but chefs and cookbooks will always refer to it as stock.
Since I roast a chicken two or three times a month, I freeze the necks and organs (usually packaged inside the cavity of the chicken), and then after we have eaten all the meat from the bones, I put the carcass in the freezer, too. When I have two medium or three small carcasses collected, I make the following stock.
Easy Crockpot Chicken Stock
Makes 4-6 quarts
- Slow cooker or crockpot (here’s the one I use)
- Cheesecloth, nut milk bag or Bouillon strainer
- Mason jars or other storage containers (I freeze broth in these)
- Carcasses from 2 or 3 roasted chickens (no more than can sit on the bottom of your crockpot)
- 4 organic or pasture-raised chicken feet (These are essential to getting a good gel. I get mine at Whole Foods or online)
- Hearts, livers, necks and other organs from inside the chicken, if not otherwise using. (Optional.)
- 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
- Handful of veggie scraps including carrot tops, celery ends, onion skins, etc. (Optional. Don’t use broccoli, kale or related veggies, as they will make the stock taste bad)
- Small handful (10-20) whole black peppercorns
- Small handful (10-20) whole allspice berries
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tbsp. sea salt, or to taste
- 2 tsp. white or other mild vinegar
- Pure water
- If you want a deeper, richer stock, roast the bones and veggies in a 400 degree oven until they are really well caramelized, about an hour.
- In the bottom of your crockpot, place roasted chicken carcasses, chicken feet, onions, veggies (if using), peppercorns, bayleaf and allspice berries.
- Cover everything with pure water to the maximum level your crockpot will hold.
- Add just 1 Tbsp. of the sea salt and 1 tsp. of the vinegar. Stir gently.
- Set crockpot on high for 3-4 hours, then reduce to low and simmer for 8-10 hours.
- When done, draw the stock off with a ladle and strain it through a cheesecloth, nut milk bag or Bouillon strainer into Mason jars or other storage containers.
- After you have drawn off as much stock as you can, fill the crockpot again with pure water, and add the last Tbsp. of sea salt and 1 tsp. of vinegar. Repeat the cooking cycle once more.
- Again, draw off the broth with a ladle and strain it through a cheesecloth, nut milk bag or Bouillon strainer into Mason jars.
- After two cooking cycles, the chicken bones should be very soft. You can discard them, or for a super mineral boost, purée them with a blender into a soup recipe.
- Use your stock in place of water to add richer flavor and greater nutrition to everything from rice to beans to soup!