I can’t remember the last time I made chicken stock in anything but a pressure cooker. It’s fast; it’s convenient, and the stock itself is superb.
Lots of us have chicken bones from rotisserie chickens or from cutting up chicken pieces. Freeze those, and make a batch of stock when you have enough. It’s so easy, washing up is the hardest part.
PRESSURE COOKER CHICKEN STOCK
If you are using an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot, all you have to do is throw everything in there and program it. You can even leave it on overnight because the “keep warm” setting will keep the temperature in the safe zone without cooking it any more.
- New to the Instant Pot? Check out our post How To Use an Instant Pot: A First-Timer’s Guide.
Unlike stocks cooked on the stove, with a pressure cooker there’s no evaporation; all the liquid stays in the cooker. In fact, you’ll likely wind up with more liquid than you started off with, because some of it will cook out of the bones and meat.
I don’t add a lot of liquid when I make my stock. I don’t even measure it; I just eyeball it, adding enough to barely come level with the bones. It’s a method more than a recipe, one that gives you a very concentrated stock with a robust flavor.
This photo by Alison Bickel
WHAT BONES MAKE THE BEST CHICKEN STOCK?
You can use bones from a raw chicken or a roast chicken. I usually make stock from roasted chickens because of the frequency with which we consume grocery store rotisserie chickens in my house; it’s a good way to put the leftover bones and scraps to use in future meals.
I stockpile bits and pieces in the freezer. Roasted carcasses, leftover leg bones, wing tips, and chicken necks add up over time. Just be sure to label those bags of bones so you don’t pull out frostbitten mysteries a year later.
You can also sometimes buy bones or leftover chicken parts at grocery stores and markets, like the bones, backs, necks, or feet leftover from butchering. These parts have a lot of cartilage that make great stock with a velvety body.
Oh, and make sure to add any chicken fat or skin you can. Yes, it makes a fatty stock, but the fat will float to the top as the stock cools and you can skim it off later. What skin and fat adds is a cheery yellow color and tons of great flavor. Remember, if you don’t want the extra fat, you can always remove and discard it later.
In general, don’t sweat it. Just make stock, and use it.
WHAT AMOUNT OF CHICKEN BONES DO YOU NEED?
While I recommend a whole chicken carcass in the recipe below (about one pound of bones), that’s just a suggested amount.
You can really use any amount of bones that fit in your pressure cooker—feel free to pack them in! I’ve used anywhere from one pound of bones to five pounds. Just make sure you don’t fill your pressure cooker more than 2/3 full, or above the “Max Fill” line.
Then, add enough water to come nearly level with the bones (again, do not exceed the “Max Fill” line). A rough ratio is five to six cups of water for every pound of bones. The less water you add, the more flavor and body your stock will have.
ADDING VEGETABLES TO YOUR STOCK
The classic trio of onions, carrots, and celery (a.k.a. mirepoix) adds some personality to stock.
But are you ready to have your mind blown? Sometimes I don’t add anything extra. Just the bones! I don’t always want the flavor of mirepoix in there. Plus, if I’m using roasted carcasses, they often already have so much flavor by themselves.
If it’s summer and I have fresh herbs on hand, I might throw in a thyme sprig or a few parsley stems. If I have carrots or onions handy, I might add them. If I want a more straightforward stock (or I am simply feeling lazy), I leave them out.
HOW LONG TO COOK STOCK IN THE PRESSURE COOKER
For years, I cooked my stock for 30 minutes at high pressure, because that’s what the recipe booklet from my very first pressure cooker said. But then I saw all kinds of different times in other recipes—even up to two hours! That’s quite a range. What gives?
I made a slew of batches with various cooking times and found out.
- 30 minutes is the minimum. Any less and you won’t get good flavor or body; the different tissues won’t have time to break down and release gelatin or flavor with a shorter time. Stock cooked for 30 minutes is lighter in color, but still has a gelatinous body. (Ever had homemade stock set up like Jell-O in the refrigerator? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s a good thing). The flavor is clean and straightforward, but not lacking in chicken character.
- 60 minutes gives you a stock that’s darker and not as clear. It has more of that slightly fatty “boiled chicken meat” taste and smell. But it is indeed more chicken-y.
- 45 minutes is a good compromise. This stock has good color, body, and flavor without tasting too boiled.
I still prefer 30 minute stock, though to some it might taste a little wan. This is actually great news! Whether you cook your stock for 30 minutes or one hour, it’ll still be chicken stock, and still better than anything you buy. Experiment with cooking times, and see what you like best.
HOW TO PROPERLY COOL YOUR STOCK
When stock goes sour, it’s often because it wasn’t cooled properly before refrigeration; in that case, it’s ruined. Don’t pop steaming-hot stock in the fridge, because that can create perfect conditions for bacteria to grow. Get your stock down to at least room temp before refrigerating it.
The fastest way to cool a few quarts of stock is to strain it into a wide stockpot or bowl—increased surface area lets it cool more quickly. To speed things up, fill the sink with ice water, and put the stockpot in there.
HOW TO SKIM THE FAT
After the stock has cooked and the pressure has come down, strain out the bones. You’ll probably see a decent amount of fat at the top of your strained stock. How much will depend on what chicken bones or bits you used. I’ve had up to an inch before!
There’s an easy way to handle this. Let the stock cool to room temperature on your counter, then refrigerate it. The next day, there will be a cap of solidified fat at the top. Scrape it off and do what you will with it (I’ve used it instead of butter when I make pastry for a chicken pot pie). If you keep the fat, refrigerate it, and use it within a week.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SALT YOUR CHICKEN STOCK?
I prefer to leave stock unsalted until I cook with it. That way if I’m using salty ingredients in my recipe—like soy sauce or ham—I can easily make adjustments.
BONE BROTH VARIATION
Use the vegetables, since you’ll be enjoying this on its own. For every pound of bones and quart of water, add one tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Lock on the lid and cook at high pressure for two hours, letting the pressure come down naturally. Strain, cool, and refrigerate. Skim off the fat. Season to taste with salt before serving.
HOW TO STORE AND FREEZE CHICKEN STOCK
I like to funnel my cooled stock into jars and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. The stock is often good for another week after that, but if that’s the case, I recommend boiling it before using it. That tends to give it a fresher taste.
To always have stock on hand, freeze it for up to one year.
MORE CHICKEN STOCK!
- How to Make Chicken Stock on the Stove Top
- Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
- How to Make Stock from Chicken Feet
- What’s the Difference Between Stock and Broth