Mkay so if someone can tell me how to take appetizing pictures of chicken carcasses and congealed stock please leave a comment. Otherwise, I’m going to ask you to please ignore the fact that this post is not going to have the most beautiful pictures. We’re dealing with bones and chicken juice today people. There is no room for pageantry. What we do have is the easiest ever way to make chicken broth right in your slow cooker.
Prior to making slow cooker chicken broth, I had never before made chicken broth (or stock. We’ll talk about the difference in a minute). At some point I became really annoyed with how much chicken broth I was buying. It’s not that it’s super expensive, but it’s a couple bucks a carton when it’s not on sale. Depending on how much you are cooking with it, that can really add up when a recipe calls for more than one carton. It’s also high in sodium even when you grab the reduced sodium versions. All of these things combined made me really interested in learning how to make my own.
Now you can definitely make chicken broth on the stove top but it requires some babysitting and that’s just not my thang. Enter the slow cooker chicken broth. Not only is this version completely customizable but it’s totally hands off once you’ve thrown everything together in the slow cooker.
If you don’t already have a slow cooker, I really recommend this Crock Pot. You can cook in it anywhere from 30 minutes to 20 hours in 30-minute increments and once the cook time is done, it automatically switches over to the warm function which is great if you aren’t going to be home the exact moment your recipe is done. It has a nice big six-qt capacity and a locking lid so you can actually take the whole thing with you for pot lucks, game days, or general food travel. The lid features a rubber gasket around the rim which keeps liquids from bubbling out and over and creating a mess on your counter. The great reviews and price point were what made me push the buy button.
Before we move on, I want to talk about the terms chicken stock and chicken broth. Many use these terms interchangeably so let’s not get obsessive here. Basically chicken stock and chicken broth differ only in the fact that broth is seasoned and stock is not. Stock relies purely on bones, meat, and vegetables for flavor. Stock can be bland but is a good base for soups and other recipes. Broth usually has some added salt, pepper, spices, or flavored liquids like wine. It can be delicious on its own on a cold winter day or when you have a cold and is of course also perfect for any recipe needs. So broth is really just seasoned stock. I’m going to stick with using the term broth for this recipe since we are seasoning it (albeit very simply) but you can use whatever term you feel comfortable with.
Today we are going to make the very simplest broth with only a few added ingredients. You should use this recipe as a stepping stone and add whatever your little heart desires. While my recipe gives you some specific ingredients to use if you are just starting out, my recommendation is to keep a gallon-size bag in your freezer where you can save up ingredients for your stock. As soon as it’s full, throw everything in the slow cooker and then put the empty bag right back into your freezer for your next batch. I recommend keeping any and all chicken bones (both cooked and uncooked) and any vegetable scraps like tops of carrots, onion, celery, fresh herbs, and even apple cores. The other day I almost threw out a whole pile of delivery chicken wing bones before I remembered to put them in my stock bag. Everything is fair game here including salt and spices. My broth leaves those out since I’m going for basic here today but get creative! Throw in some cajun seasoning. Throw in some peppercorns. Be sure to leave a comment telling me what your favorite ingredients are to add to your chicken broth.
Ok so you’ve cooked your chicken broth in the slow cooker, drained out all the bones and vegetable bits, and now you have a bowl full of delicious broth. Now what? Now it’s either time to reduce the fat that’s cooked into the chicken broth or it’s time to store it. Let’s talk about the fat first. You can certainly use a fat separator if you have one handy. Those things are great and I love this one that drains the broth from the bottom. If you don’t have one, I recommend putting your cooled chicken broth into the fridge for a few hours. When you take it out the fat will have solidified on the top and you can easily remove it with a spoon. After that, you are ready to store.
This broth will keep in the fridge for about four days. For longer term storage, I like to divide mine up into 1-cup portions and freeze. This method will keep your chicken stock safe and fresh for about 6 months. If you have the storage room you can definitely keep the broth frozen in plastic or glass containers. I like to use plastic containers as a mold and then, once frozen, I pop them out and place the individual servings into a plastic bag for more compact storage. I also like to freeze a few tablespoon size servings in case I just need to add a tiny bit to a sauce or recipe.
So there you have it. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to buying chicken stock. It’s just too easy and economical and more environmentally friendly than buying those cartons every other week.
- ~2 lbs chicken bones, cooked or raw
- Water, enough to cover
- Salt, to taste-optional
- 2 medium onions, quartered
- 2 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 1T whole peppercorns
- Any additional add-ins or substitutions
- Place all ingredients into a 6-quart or larger slow cooker and add enough water to cover fully, leaving at least an inch between water and top of slow cooker crock.
- Cook on low 12-24 hours.
- Remove bones and large solids using tongs.
- Strain broth with a wire strainer to remove any remaining solids.
- Optional-Remove fat utilizing a fat strainer, or cool, refrigerate, and skim fat once solidified.
- Keep in refrigerator for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
-You can use this exact same method for turkey broth using turkey bones instead of chicken. It’s great for those Thanksgiving leftovers which will be here in no time flat!
-If you have a smaller (3qt) slow cooker, you can still make this! Just use about 1lb of bones instead.
-If you end up storing this in the fridge, do not be concerned if this turns into a gelatinous goo. That is actually a great sign that you cooked all of the nutrients out of the bones! It will go right back to a nice liquid with just a touch of heat.
-I make my broth without salt, but it will be bland on its own without some seasoning. If you’re using the broth in recipes, it’s fine for the broth to be bland because it will be seasoned along with the rest of the recipe. If you’re planning on having the broth alone as a soup, you’ll most likely want to add some salt.
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