Does the idea of making your own chicken broth intimidate you? Sound too complicated and time consuming? If so you're not alone!
My big hang-up with making my own broth used to be the time factor---even as a full time stay-at-home mama, I was already juggling so many homeschooling tasks and activities, in addition to the usual meal planning, prepping, and cooking. When in the world do busy humans find the time to babysit bones in a stockpot for hours and hours??
Two things won me over: first, realizing I was practically throwing away a superfood (and money!) every time I tossed leftover chicken bones; and second, the crockpot method.
One of our favorite soups with a chicken broth base
Let's start with the first! Chicken broth is known universally as the foundation for soup and all manner of other comfort foods---and as cold weather season is fast approaching you know we are all about that soup! But did you know that this humble bone broth also stands on its own as a superfood? It's a rich source of gelatin and collagen, as well as a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and the amino acids glycine and proline.
Glycine, it turns out, is present in large amounts in gelatin, and is beneficial not only for digestion but also for maintaining a healthy nervous system, regulating blood sugar levels, supporting muscle repair, and assisting the body in detoxification. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (aka the "Paleo Mom") chalks up chicken broth's superfood status to its abundant levels of both glycine and proline and the ease with which broth allows the body to absorb those nutrients.*
Historically speaking, bone broth earned a reputation over the centuries as a traditional medicinal, used in some cultures as a remedy for colds, asthma, and the flu.**
From my perspective, if the majority of the immune system lies in the lining of the gut, then it makes sense that nourishing the intestinal tract with gelatin-rich foods could have protective benefits for a number of health concerns. In other words, chicken broth is liquid gold and well worth my time to figure out how to get it on my table!
Which brings us to the second thing that finally won me over to making my own broth---all it really takes to make this flavorful, nutrient-dense liquid is a few simple ingredients and---if you're following my favorite method---a slow-cooker. Sure, you could buy your broth in the store; but it can be both challenging and expensive to identify a quality source with ingredients you trust, that doesn't have preservatives or additives like MSG.
And frankly, since I'm already investing in whole, beyond-organic, pastured chickens, it's worth a few minutes of my time to prepare them in such a way that maximizes their use and benefits for my family!
Pretty much anytime I cook a whole chicken I either save and freeze the leftover bones and any "innards" for making broth later; or more often, I just immediately throw it into the crockpot to start a batch of broth right away. Traditionally, broth is made in a stock pot on the stove by adding the chicken bones, covering with cold water, bringing it to a boil, then simmering on low anywhere from 4-40 hours.
What I found with that, however, is that I had to watch that pot carefully to maintain the appropriate heat temperature to yield a quality result. Which also meant being stuck at home for the next day and a half until the broth was done and I could turn off the stove!
What I love about the slow cooker method is that (1) it maintains an even temperature without my tinkering; (2) you can pretty much set it up, turn it on, and forget it until the broth is done; and (3) I'm free to leave the house if needed without worrying about burning the place down! (
I'm also told you can make broth in a similar way with the InstantPot. I've not tried that yet, but stay tuned...! UPDATE: I'm so excited to tell you that I recently gave the Instant Pot method a go, and it turned out beautifully! I'm sharing how I did it below under "The Instant Pot Method.")
Here's the simple method that's worked for me:
Simple Homemade Chicken Broth
Bones, carcass, and gizzards from 2-3 chickens (gizzards optional but highly recommended!)
Feet from one chicken (optional but, again, highly recommended because those feet are full of gelatin!)
Cold filtered water to cover
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. real salt
Chopped onion, carrots, and celery (optional but recommended for flavor and the additional vitamins and minerals--a great way to use up those carrot tops and celery leaves that might otherwise be discarded)
Fine mesh strainer
Large bowl or Pyrex measuring glass (like the 8-cup Pyrex in the picture above)
- Add the chicken bones, carcass, feet, and gizzards to the crockpot.
- Cover with cold filtered water, and stir in apple cider vinegar.
- Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. (This helps the vinegar to begin its work drawing minerals from the bone and cartilage into the liquid.)
- Add salt.
- Turn the crockpot on low heat, and set for 20 hours (or the max time limit your crockpot will allow, up to 48 hours).
- Check your broth after several hours have passed just to make sure it's simmering properly. Skim any foam off the top, discard, and let it continue cooking.
- Once the 20 hours is up, add your chopped vegetables (if using), give your broth a stir, and reset the crockpot for an additional 4 hours (or longer if you prefer).
- Once the broth has finished cooking, place the strainer over the large bowl, and pour or ladle bone broth into the large bowl, straining ingredients.
- *If desired, at this point you can return your ingredients to the crockpot and repeat the process above for a second batch of broth!
- Let the broth cool, and then spoon into jars.
- Refrigerate and use within one week; or label and freeze in Mason jars (or freezer bags) for future use.
*If you want to learn more about the importance and critical function of these amino acids in the body I highly recommend reading Dr. Ballantyne's detailed description here.
**Sally Fallon talks about this in her book Nourishing Traditions, a tome of knowledge and a fantastic resource for learning more about the healing powers of traditional foods.
Update: The Instant Pot Method
- Add bones, leftover carcass, feet, neck of chicken to Instant Pot.
- Add veggie scraps and herbs (I used the tops of carrots, celery, and beet stems I’d saved in the freezer, plus a couple of Bay leaves.)
- Cover the bones with water and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (with “the Mother,” if available); make sure your water level does not exceed the pressure cooker max fill line.
- Let sit for about 30 minutes to allow time for vinegar to work on the bones.
- Seal valve and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Open valve and let vent.
- Strain the bones and cool. Use immediately or store in fridge and use within one week.
- Once you’ve strained your bones, test them to see if there’s any life left—give ‘em a good pinch with your fingers. If they crumble, toss them or donate them to a pig farmer; if they hold fast, you can use them in another batch of broth.
- FYI: After pressure cooking my first round of broth, my bones were still in good shape, so I made a second round of broth using the same bones and the Instant Pot’s slow cooker setting (per my usual). I didn’t get quite as much gelatin from this second batch, so if you opt to do this, I recommend adding fresh chicken feet and/or necks.