You can start with either a chicken carcass (the remainder of Sunday’s roast chicken) or with some chicken legs or back that were on sale at the store.
If you are starting with a carcass, then you can use a Dutch oven size pot. If you just have a chicken part, use a standard size saucepan.
If there is any skin left on the carcass, you may want to remove it as the skin can be fatty. On the other hand, if you want to skim the fat later, then you can leave it on as there is much flavour in the skin.
Fill the pot with water, about 3/4 full. Bear in mind that after evaporation you will probably end up with 1/3 less water in the pot than you put in. You can always add more along the way, if you definitely want or need a lot of stock. Don’t top it up with water, though, if you are going to freeze it. It’s best to leave it concentrated so it will take less room in the freezer, and then dilute when you go to use it.
Put in the chicken that you are going to use. Salt the water lightly. Don’t go wild on the salt, as you’ll want the flexibility of adjusting the salt in whatever recipe you end up using the broth, but don’t skip the salt either, as it helps to draw the flavour out into the water.
Cover the pot, put it on the burner, and bring to a boil.
[Option] You can at this point add onion or anything you wish for flavouring. Bear in mind, though, that it will be strained out later so you will lose it. This is a good time, for example, to add cloves of garlic if you wish. When cloves of garlic are simmered for a few hours, they give an extremely mellow and gentle flavour, and you’ll want them strained out anyway as they get quite mushy.
When the water is boiling, reduce the burner to simmer. Simmer covered for a few hours. It doesn’t really matter how long. There’s no point in boiling for 4 or 5 hours; one hour might not be enough either to cook the meat, if you are starting with a raw chicken leg and back, or to loosen the meat from the bones. Check on the simmering broth periodically and add more water if needed.
When you have finished simmering the broth, place a hot mat near the sink, remove the pot from the burner, and place it on the mat. Before proceeding to the next step of draining the broth, you can let the pot cool for a while after taking it from the burner. Don’t let it get stone cold, though: you can work with the chicken better while it is still a bit warm.
Get a large bowl [it could be another pot, but we will say bowl here to avoid confusion with the pot we already have in use], a fine strainer, and 3 three plates. Put the strainer over the bowl or pot, and pour the broth into the empty pot through the strainer. Let the chicken fall out into the strainer. Pour slowly and carefully, especially if the broth is still hot. Shake the strainer a bit to drain the chicken a bit more, then place the strainer with the chicken on one of the plates.
Now, you have the strained broth in a clean pot or bowl, and the chicken in a strainer on the plate. At this point, there are procedures you can do to clarify the broth, but that is only worth the bother if you will be using it for very elaborate fancy cooking. Take the pot of strained broth away from the counter to give yourself some elbow space to work.
When the chicken has cooled enough to handle (about 20 – 30 minutes after removing it from boil & straining), you can now clean the chicken.
Put the remaining two plates in front of you side by side. You will use one for bones and other bits you are going to discard; the other plate for the meat you are going to keep.
Clean the meat off the bones using your fingers.
[Safety tip] It’s very important to use your fingers at this point, as you want to gently press each piece of meat to make sure there are no small bits of bone in it. Don’t bother trying to get meat off the neck, as there are too many fine bones in it. When you are finished cleaning the bones, do one last inspection of the plate of meat with your fingers, checking for fine bones. You can’t ever be too careful about this.
When you have finished, discard the bones in a plastic bag. Don’t let chicken bones sit in the garbage inside the house overnight, as they will sour and smell awful.
Now, you have your plate of chicken meat ready to use. If you are planning to use the broth for a soup that doesn’t require the chicken meat, put it in a container in the fridge or freezer for another use.
There is one last thing to do to the broth — skim the fat off it. If you do this when you are finished with the chicken meat, the broth should be just warm. You can remove the fat on top of the broth by trailing pieces of paper towel against the top of the broth to sop up the fat (if the broth is too cold, it won’t take as well up into the paper towel.) Or, you can suck the fat up with a turkey baster. If you’re not in a hurry to use the broth, you can set it in the fridge for about half a day, at which point the fat will probably have congealed enough to be spooned off and discarded.
When the fat has been skimmed off the stock, you can either use the stock right away, or freeze it. You may wish to freeze some batches in large containers, for when you plan to use it all for a soup, and some batches in smaller tubs, for those uses that require smaller amounts. Label and date your containers.
This procedure has left out almost all the extra flavouring and spicing that other procedures and recipes will have you do in making stock. Leaving these out allows you great flexibility in how you use the stock, especially if you are going to store it in the freezer for varied future uses. When you go to actually use it, you can then adjust the flavouring according to need.