How to make chicken stock in a slow cooker

This chicken stock recipe is part of a delicious frugality series called How to stretch a whole chicken into many healthy meals. To start this plucky series from the beginning, read the clucky introduction.

Call it chicken stock or chicken broth, either way it will warm your soul on a cold winter’s day. And if you’re lucky, a nice hot bowl of homemade chicken soup (or stew) made from your own stock might just cure whatever ails you. Well, maybe not your ailing credit card debt, so we’ll leave that one for another day. 😉

Frugal Chicken Series:
  1. Introduction
  2. 1 Organic Chicken, 22 Meals, $49 Bucks
  3. Oven baked whole chicken
  4. Homemade chicken stock
  5. White Chicken Chili
  6. Chicken Noodle Soup
  7. Chicken Stew
  8. Chicken Lentil Soup

Anyfrugalfood, making your own homemade chicken stock is a very easy and frugal thing to do. Many stock makers just boil their broth in a pot, but I like to use my slow cooker.

Brewing broth in a slow cooker is effortless since it’s a hands-free activity and you don’t have to babysit a boiling pot on your stove. Besides, there are other things I’d rather do than watch a pot of bubbling broth. If you’re in the market for a slow cooker, see How to Buy a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot for the details.


Yummy: A bowl of chicken noodle soup made from homemade chicken stock.

OK, so making chicken broth is cheap. Don’t believe me? Let’s compare the cost of buying that prepackaged Swanson chicken broth stuff to using what’s in your fridge. According to Amazon, Swanson Chicken Broth, 32-Ounce Aseptic Box (Organic, Pack of 12) costs around $38.

My organic chicken broth cost me a leftover chicken carcass and a few past-prime vegetables — all foods I would have discarded or composted without a second squawk. Plus, homemade chicken broth is far more environmentally friendly since it doesn’t require the disposal of those nasty aseptic boxes.

OK, let’s get to the good stuff!

Chicken Stock Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken carcass (neck, wings, and bones)
  • 1 unpeeled onion, halved
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch each salt and pepper
  • 6-8 cups of water, or enough to cover the carcass

Tip: When making vegetable or chicken stock, avoid using vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts because their strong flavors will dominate the stock.

Chicken Stock Recipe: Five Easy Steps

Here are five simple steps for making homemade chicken stock.

Step One: After roasting a whole chicken, remove meat for subsequent meals. Remove skin and discard.

Step Two: Place carcass in slow cooker. Add unpeeled onion, celery stalks, carrots, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Pour in water to cover the carcass and vegetables.

Step Three: Cover and slow cook on low for 12 hours, or longer.

I often place my slow cooker outside on my deck and let the broth simmer for up to 24 hours.

So by the time the snow melts, I know my broth is done. 😉

Step Four: Discard chicken. Strain stock into a large bowl using a cheesecloth or sieve.

Place bowl in refrigerator.

If your German spouse likes to drink German beer, feel free to set your broth next to the beer. Place an apple in front of the brew to distract the internets from seeing your gorgeous organic broth next to less gorgeous inorganic beer. Smirk. I’m secretly hoping that Carl will reach for the apple before grabbing a beer. Yeah, unlikely I know.

Step Five: Refrigerate stock until fat rises to the surface — about 8 hours. Skim the fat and discard.

Pour chicken stock into mason jars or containers. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

That’s it! Fresh chicken stock for all your soups and stews. Or use a cup to flavor side dishes like rice or quinoa.

Squawkback: How do you make chicken stock? Which vegetables do you add?

Your two cents:

  1. keela cleghorn January 26th, 2011

    I’ve made chicken broth/stock for years. I like to put some of it in an ice cube tray, and pop the broth cubes out into a ziplock into the freezer, for when I just need a little bit for a recipe.
    I also like to make dog treats from the chicken “remnants”:
    after I’ve used the meat and made stock or whatever, I take the skin and the rest of the unidentifiable “ookey” stuff, (not bones, though) cut or tear into chunks and put them on a cookie sheet. I freeze these, then scrape them off and keep them in a container in the freezer. Our black lab LOVES a nom-nom straight from the freezer!

  2. Elizabeth January 26th, 2011

    I do basically the same thing, so I highly recommend this method. The only thing I do differently is that I save the usable trimmings from carrots and celery in a bag in my freezer and then thrown them in when I make soup. (I can’t compost, alas!)

    Also, when I cook vegetables on the stove, I strain the water into a bag or container in the freezer and add it as well. True, it take a little effort, but I figure why waste all that veggie goodness?

  3. Christine January 27th, 2011

    I love the crock pot idea! I’ve also been making broth for years, and save daily vegetable trimmings and skins in a bag in the freezer until I have a carcass…bits of mushroom, garlic, ginger, greens, everything except broccoli, cauliflour, peppers and brussel sprouts. I’ve always thrown in 3 – 5 cloves. Also, I put the strained broth HOT right into Mason jars. A little fat will congeal at the top of each jar, and often the Mason jar will vacuum seal while cooling. This preserves the broth for longer in my fridge – a couple weeks even. Also, remember to fill your jars only 2/3 if you are going to freeze….I’ve had a couple of messy frozen broth jar breakages.

  4. Kelly January 27th, 2011

    Keela, what a great idea! (Icecube trays 🙂

  5. Wendee H January 27th, 2011

    I have always used a Crockpot for everything, including stock. Your explanation makes it simple for everyone. Thanks! A caveat though… German Beer is held to a very high standard. If the beer manufacturer is not following the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law; it would be on the label) then it has to conform to the Provisional German Beer Law which allows allows constituent components prohibited in the Reinheitsgebot, such as wheat malt and cane sugar, but which no longer allows unmalted barley. Also, the EU tends to avoid American grain that is genetically “enhanced”.

  6. Wendee H January 27th, 2011

    The beer I see is Warsteiner Premium Verum. Premium Verum, a pilsener style beer, is Warsteiner’s most popular beer, and is exported to over 60 countries. The ingredients are forest spring water, two-row malted summer barley and all German hops. The alcohol content is 4.8 percent.

    All Warsteiner beers are brewed in strict accordance with the Germany Purity Law of 1516.

  7. Mike H. January 27th, 2011

    I can’t help but notice a Squawkfox violation: Snow=winter=cold=heating=money. The crockpot placed outside for 12-24 hours could be better used heating the indoors plus adding a little welcome moisture to dry winter air.

  8. Janet January 27th, 2011

    Campbell’s can’t compete with that. 🙂

    Think this would work with a dutch oven, too?

  9. Jace January 28th, 2011

    OK well now at least I could go out and get the chicken as I would be able to freez the left over meat and am sure that would be ok. Plus I love the idea of making the stock in the crock pot. Sadly as an apartment dweller I will have to forgo the placing of said crock pot on the deck. Am looking forward to trying this out next weekend.

  10. Sarah January 28th, 2011

    I’m also of the group that saves veggie trimmings & any “extra” veggies (i.e., the rest of the celery when I buy it to use 2 or 4 stalks) in a freezer bag. When I’m either extra lazy or don’t have the time, like if we’re heading out of town after our chicken dinner, I will also put the carcass in the freezer bag with the veggies for the next use. I just throw it all in a pot with some seasoning when I have the time to do it – of course this is all on the stove. Who doesn’t have time to do it when you don’t have to babysit it! 🙂 Will definitely be doing it in the crockpot next time!

  11. Heather @ Significantly Simple February 1st, 2011

    I do this all the time, but I have yet to can it for later use – I must figure that out!

  12. Nadia Heyd May 17th, 2011

    Great description of stock making. You can be even more frugal about it by skipping the chicken entirely and making a veggie stock (I’m vegetarian!)

    A nice tip I learned: to enhance the flavour of your stock, roast your veggies first to get them caramelized. To be frugal about it, throw your stock veggies in the oven when you’re roasting something else. If you haven’t immediately got time for stock-making, freeze the roasted veggies for later.

    Mushrooms add a “depth” to any stock, and stock is a great way to use up mushroom stems that you may have otherwise discarded (well, I don’t usually discard them, but I know some people do).

    I agree with a previous commenter: no brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts). Those make yummy soups, but not nice broths.

  13. ChristineB May 17th, 2011

    Question: re the chicken “carcass”. You mean, once you’ve roasted a chicken and eaten it, then you make the stock on what’s left over–bones, cartilage, etc.?! (To be honest, that’s a first for me! We cook the fresh chicken to get the broth; then add some of the meat to the soup, remainder to dog…:) So is this a matter of use of “cooking chicken” vs “roasting chicken”?

  14. Caroline Hanna December 8th, 2011

    Love the tip! Do you use your crock pot all the time? Is it safe to leave it on for 12 hours if you are at the office? hmm…will have to try this!

  15. ANNIE WATERS December 27th, 2011

    I make my chicken stock using every bit of the chicken bits after I take the good meat off. I also ask my local chicken supplier to give me the head and feet -which I add to my broth mix. I also add a Tb of vinegar or wine to it, and a lot of water to begin melting the bones into calcium, and after A day in the crock pot, I smash that all up to release more calcium into the broth, and cook it another day. I also leave the healthy fat in the broth, I don’t strain it out. I then ‘can’ it all up and store just like canned foods for several months. I use it for making beans, rice, soups, and add into stir fry too. The Weston Price Foundation explains about why the fat & bones are so good for you.

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