I’ve gotten this question a lot recently.  What are the three things or techniques that separate the professional cook’s food from the home cook’s food?

I want to talk about Number 2: the second most important difference is the fact that professional kitchens make their own stock.

I cannot say this strongly or loudly enough: DO NOT use canned stock/broth.  Use WATER instead.  I repeat.  You DO NOT NEED to buy that crappy can of Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth!  It will HURT your food.  Use water instead.  When that recipe says 1 cup of fresh chicken stock (or good quality canned broth), please know that your food, 90 percent of the time, will taste better if you use tap water instead of that "good quality" canned broth.  Water is a miracle.

Last time I was doing a recipe for a book with one of the most lauded chefs in the country—he said to the recipe developer/writer, yes, ok to use canned if you don’t have fresh.  I said, “Really?”  He said, “yes.”  I said, “When was the last time you used canned stock?”  When he didn’t respond, I said, “Have you tasted canned stock?”  He said he hadn’t that he could recall.

I repeat: your food will taste better and fresher if you use that wonderful and inexpensive fluid at the end of your tap rather than anything that you can buy in a can or a box.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I have to say, by the end of Thursday, tens of millions of households will have the most miraculous ingredients for stock right at hand–turkey bones that have been lovingly roasted.  And most of these households will have three more days of holiday to put them to use. That roasted turkey carcass, will make an extraordinary rich delicious poultry broth.  Far superior to chicken stock.  Infinitely versatile.  Health-giving!  Yea, verily, I say unto you!

Chop up that carcass or pull it apart so that it fits into your biggest pot.  Cover it with water, enough so it’s covered by an inch or so of water.  Bring it to a simmer.  Skim off anything that rises to the top that you wouldn’t want to eat if you saw it floating in a bowl of soup.  Then, this is important, stick the pot in your oven at about 180 degrees F (or as close to that as possible).  And forget about it for fours.  Or five.  Or six.  As long as it’s not bubbling you’re good. It should not be bubbling, but it should be too hot for you to hold your hand against for more than an instant.

An hour before you want to take it out of the oven, add a couple carrots and a couple big Spanish onions, cut up, and continue cooking in the oven for another hour (if you have celery, parsely, thyme, garlic, bay, peppercorns, these are good to add as well, esp the thyme).  Strain through a colander.  Then, and this is important in my opinion, strain it through a kitchen cloth, cheese cloth if you have it, or any kind of cloth (I use ones that i can wash and reuse because I’m a cheapskate and hate to keep buying cheese cloth).  Straining through cloth makes a huge difference (chinois won’t do it in my opinon).  Now it’s ready to use or chill it and take the fat that congeals off the top.  Great to try a consomme with.  Make a risotto.  Soup, bien sur.  And it freezes great.

Don’t toss those wonderful bones!


136 Wonderful responses to “Thanksgiving: THE best time to make stock”

  • Bob delGrosso


    I think a small amount of offal adds depth to poultry stock. I personally would not add a whole raw turkey liver to a stock made from a single turkey carcass. I typically add 1/2. Liver is bitter, and a little bit of that makes it interesting, but too much is well, too bitter. Certainly I’d put in the whole heart and gizzard. Yum.

    The only way the entrails would foul the stock is if there is bile in the liver (nasty greenish-bluish stuff), too much liver (bitter), or they have not been rinsed and are loaded up with bacteria which will make the stock cloudy.

    That said, it’s not common practice for high end Francophilic restaurant chefs to add guts, because they tend to like poultry stock that is very delicate. I’m pretty sure the CIA does not condone entrails in poultry stock,except perhaps on Asian Kitchens. (Memory fails me. Ruhlman? Pardus?)

  • mirinblue

    Michael (or Bob deGrosso)
    Any thoughts on adding the livers, gizzards, heart, etc. to the water base with the bones? This is how I always do it and how my mother did it too! Does this tend to “foul” the stock in some odd way? Recomended or not?
    Thanks and Rock on Brothers~

  • Snoozer

    I bow to the master. I wish I had more freezer space to devote to homemade stock. I make a kickass chicken soup just like Grandma’s, for noodles and matzo balls. It can be used as stock in a pinch, just careful with the salt in the recipe. Next time I will try Michaels advice re adding the aromats late in the cooking. But if we are going to compare canned/boxed chicken broths, College Inn *kills* Swanson. It’s the only thing I’ve ever bought that remotely tastes someone cooked a chicken in it.

  • Claudia

    I’ve spent the last two days on stock. Then demi-glace. Then glace di viande. My world is brown, brown, brown . . .

    but good, good, good. Thanks, Michael. For years, I’ve been substituting veal stock or demiglace into recipes that called for beef broth, and it has made all of the dishes . . . . well . . . almost magical. While the hubby is totally mystified by all the brown stuff in the freezer and/or fridge, I think he’s finally figured out that that just might be why his favorite veal marsala is so damn good, and I no longer have to defend the contents of my refrigerator. Veal stock. Suitable for just about any purpose. Dab some behind your ears – what the hell. (!)

  • EdTheRed

    Schlake: cooking the stock in the oven is just a means of ensuring an even heat during the simmer. By setting the thermostat to a certain temperature, you can ensure that the temperature of the stock won’t go much below or above that temperature (you’ll have to check it occasionally, since no oven is perfect, so small adjustments may be necessary). You also are hitting the stock with heat from all sides, not just the bottom of the pan, which ensures even cooking and prevents things from burning on the bottom of the pan over the course of a long simmer (especially important when you’re making veal stock, which takes a long dang time).

    The 180F guideline is there because if you go too far over that temperature, you’ll start to extract harsher flavors from your bones/meat/aromats. Sort of like what happens when you brew coffee at too high a temperature. *cough* *Starbucks!* *cough* That, and you risk extracting the essence of your ingredients too quickly, which would still result in a decent stock, but one without the multiple layers of flavor that you’re setting out to create. I wouldn’t worry if, over the course of 4-12 hours, you see the occasional bubble.

    I’ve been using the oven simmering technique for various stews, chilis, and curries for several years, but I hadn’t thought to use it for stock until I read Ruhlman’s veal stock recipe. It did indeed work very well.

  • Bob delGrosso


    You know I was breaking them: stock in the oven is actually a very clever method. Even heating is very critical in stock making and doing it in the oven seems to nail that.

    Ah, but you were breaking them too. Right?


    I know your question was directed to Ruhlman but here’s my two cents:

    I’ve never seen mass produced stock in any form that was any good. If you cannot make it yourself the best you can hope for is to find some small shop that makes it by hand from good ingredients. Ruhlman is correct on this. If you have to chose between using canned or boxed stock and water, you are better off with water.

    Water is cheap, usually will not kill you, and you can always “juke” up the flavor by adding vegetables and meat and tuning it into stock!

  • Scotty

    I’ve actually got the second of two turkeys I am cooking for a drop off catering gig in the oven. They only want breasts, so you can imagine where the carcasses (Carcassii?) are going!

    Pursuant to delGrosso’s comment, can you make stock without putting it in the oven?

  • Schlake

    I keep containers of homemade stock in my freezer at all times, and make 170 mile round trips to the grocery store just to buy the stuff I need to make stock out of.

    In a future post, I would greatly appreciate it if you could elaborate on 1) why baking at 180F is so important, and 2) the nuances of onion types in making stock.

    I simmer my stock so that just a bare hint of bubbling occurs, and I’ve never considered baking it at 180F. What happens to the stock above 180F?

    As for the onions, I’m perpetually at a lose to know which kind of onion to use for anything, not just stock. Lately I’ve just been using red onions for almost everything because I think they have more flavor and better vlafor than the white or yellow ones.

  • Tim M.

    I’m going to dinner at my in-laws in the afternoon, then my parents in the evening…Twice the bones for double the stock! Looks like my Friday will be productive.

  • EdTheRed

    I used water instead of store-bought broth just last night to make a pan sauce from a small slow-roasted blade roast. You were right on about water (with some aromats) doing a better job (and also about the dollop of mustard in the finished sauce). I actually *had* a freezer full of veal, chicken, and beef stock from last weekend’s pre-Thanksgiving stock-making binge, but I’ve got big plans for all of that. ;-)

    hannehanne: For post-Thanksgiving turkey stock, if you want a recipe, the 1997 (All New, All Purpose) Joy of Cooking has a decent one (I think they call for adding the aromats early in the simmer, though, so if using the Ruhlman method, you’d want to hold off on adding those until 30-60 minutes from the end).

  • Kovalic

    It’s stuff like this that makes coming to this site a joy.

    What is your opinion of using something like the organic broths they sell boxed (for want of a better word – you know the kind of containers I mean) at places like whole foods? As bad as the canned stuff (which I never use).

    Now, IMHO, the worst POSSIBLE thing to use is…

    …stock cubes. Urgh. A surefire way to destroy any soup…

  • hannehanne

    Thank you for this. I make stock with my turkey every year, but I always feel vaguely inappropriate, just because I find so few recipes for turkey stock around. I just bought your book and I plan to use your model for stock (I think I’ve always boiled mine too much). Canadian Thanksgiving is already past and I’ve used up most of my turkey stock, but maybe I ought to do the turkey thing again for Christmas…. until then, there’s always chicken.

  • kitchenbeard

    Micheal, I’ve been making stock in my slow cooker for a while now. It allows me to set it off on the counter before work and come home to it done. Your thoughts?

  • The Foodist


    I remember my Ex’s mother saying once to me:
    “Why make stock, you can buy good canned stock”

    I thought to myself “Are you crazy?!”

    Good pointers on post-turkeyday stock!

  • logicalmind

    I’ve been making my own chicken and beef stock for years. I have a large freezer in the basement full of various size containers. I am in the process of acquiring veal parts to do a veal stock as per your book. But I have to confess on how I sometimes cheat, and how I do it.

    Yesterday I was making a broccoli soup. I cut up the broccoli florets and peeled the stems. I then cooked them in a large pot of salted boiling water. Without shocking them I put them into a blender with enough cooking water to blend and made a nice smooth puree. FWIW, I set the cooked stems aside and diced them to later garnish the soup. The taste was very broccoli but it was lacking body. I did two things. I added some msg, sold as Ac’cent in stores. And I added some xanthan gum for viscosity. These two additions turn a watery body-less soup into something extraordinary. That’s one way to turn water into a sort of cheating stock.

  • nondiregol

    I have to agree that making stock by sucking the life out of bones is my favorite kitchen task. Yesterday I roasted bones for tonight’s onion soup gratinee. I need to get the chill out of my own bones.

    The only reason that we have turkey on Thanksgiving is because the effing pilgrims were a bunch of turkeys. That said, I will cook turkey on any day but Thanksgiving. The stock is good for a hearty mushroom and barley soup.

  • kevin

    Two words: lentil soup

    Turkey stock makes the best lentil soup you’ve ever had (and smoked turkey stock is even better).

  • Marlene

    Funny, I just took veal stock off the stove. I’m with Jeff in that I find making stock an extremely relaxing thing to do. Our Thanksgiving (Canada) has long since past, but I certainly made stock from the carcass!

  • Burnt Lumpia

    I’m happy to say that I make turkey stock every year, but I’ve never thought to leave it in the oven. What a great tip! That sounds a lot better than having to watch the pot on the stove all day.

    I have a question though. Should I put the lid on the pot in the oven, or leave it uncovered?

  • Genuwine

    Thanks for the stock advice and recipe. I admit, I’ve already “stock”ed up on turkey broth but can’t wait to make your recipe and start using it.

  • jsmeeker

    I feel like a criminal now….

    I freely admit to use the Swanson’s boxed low sodium (or sometimes their Organic) chicken broth fairly frequently. I just do.

    Of course, I do make stock at home. But I only have a pot so large, so I can only make so much. Plus, I pretty much have to do it on a weekend day. And doing that seems to kill my whole day.

    Is it time to suck it up and just make more stock more often? employ both of my largest pots at the same time to produce more at once? I could reduce the heck out of it to save freezer space.

  • Matthew Bin

    It’s a long-standing family tradition to make stock from the turkey carcass, and then to have turkey risotto the weekend after Thanksgiving. For me, that beats a turkey dinner, hands down. I hope others follow your advice… having stock on hand is truly a great thing for a home cook.

  • David Dadekian

    I have stock in the refridgerator and freezer at almost all times, but I know sometimes after making risotto (4 cups used) I run low and the Trader Joe’s Organic (same price as non-organic) stock is slightly better than water. Kitchen Basic also works in a pinch. I’ll never debate the wonders of homemade stock, which I’ll be making this weekend after I wipe out what’s in my fridge making Thanksgiving dinner. It’s really easy to make and I’ll add a huge vote for straining through cheesecloth.

    One question, is there that much value in adding the onions, carrots, herbs, etc. toward the end? I’ve never done that but will this weekend. Thanks.

  • Kathryn

    You know, I’ve never tried to make stock, but I just might have to steal the turkey remains from my aunt’s house this weekend. I hate canned broth — it’s always just too, too salty.

  • Annie

    Michael, my cuisine rests firmly on a basis of Swanson’s low-sodium chicken broth, but I don’t use it in place of water–it’s broth, not stock. I learned the difference from reading your books!

  • Jeff

    What a coincidence, I just sat down from skimming the fat off the chicken stock that I made last night. It may be kind of strange, but I find making stock very relaxing and calming.

  • JD

    Hmmmm….consomme….what does that even mean in these troubled times?

    I will agree and say that crappy 79¢ “broth” is really just chicken-scented salt water. And the low-sodium cheapo broth is….nothing.

    However, I think that some of the more expensive products that label themselves as “stock” are pretty good. The Kitchen Basics brand, which comes in convenient 8oz “juice boxes”, is a big helper, especially when you’re trying to give more depth of flavor to a dish that you’re preparing in a hurry.

    That being said, yeah, there is no substitute for homemade stock or demiglace, and I’ll definitely be swiping the carcass from my mother-in-law’s table before it can go in the trash can. I’ll use half of it for delicious turkey soup. The other half I’ll reduce even more, then freeze in ice cube trays for adding a few extra tablespoons of flavor to recipes over the next few months.