Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock is a fantastic “set-it-and-forget-it” technique for delivering a rich, flavorful stock in a fraction of the time you’d spend doing it the old-school way.
Since one of my favorite Flipped-Out Food playbook strategies is the pantry raid, I always keep lots of good-quality, store-bought stock on-hand. However, weekends present the perfect time to make my own stock. In a weekend cooking project involving stock-making, I can put a big pot of bones on the stove to simmer with aromatics and herbs, and then forget about it for a few hours while I do something else: for instance, working in the garden. Or drinking spiked coffee while watching Food Network in my pyjamas—one of my all-time favorite activities.
After several hours, I remove the solids from the liquid, picking any meat from the bones to be used in soups, pastas, or other dishes. I strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer: I usually also strain a second time through cheesecloth or paper toweling to remove any grit. This step also catches some of the fat: bonus! Then I cool the stock, load up my freezer containers, and I have a supply of awesome stock for a few months.
Homemade stock is a beautiful thing. You’re in total control of the flavor profile and salt level. Because of the long simmer time, collagen and gelatin melt out of the bones, resulting in a luscious broth that solidifies into a meaty, Jell-O-like substance upon cooling. The fat rises to the top, which gives you the option of scraping it off to make your stock even healthier.
Although “stock” is technically made with bones (as opposed to “broth”, which is made from meat), I like to simmer cut up or even whole chickens, which brings the added bonus of stewed meat that can be used in a variety of applications throughout the week: from soups and salads to quesadillas, enchiladas, and much more. I frequently find a raging sale on whole chickens or chicken leg quarters that sets off a stock-making orgy—like what happened here:
With Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock, high pressure substitutes for long cook time. 45 minutes at high pressure are sufficient for delivering a rich, flavorful stock that will have you wondering why you ever bought it from the store. Also, since Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock doesn’t call for fine chopping or dicing, there’s very little prep involved (although, admittedly, the straining step more than makes up for that!). I use baby carrots to avoid having to peel.
Yes, I know: many say that carrot peel, onion skin and roots, and other flotsam don’t matter because the stock gets strained anyway. Maybe it’s just a quirky hang-up of mine, but I find the idea of roots and peel in my broth repulsive. I can’t believe that it doesn’t change the flavor—even if it’s ever-so-slight. I mean, how long does it take to cut the root end off an onion?!
For this Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock, I use 4 pounds of whatever chicken parts happen to be on sale: sometimes it’s a whole cut-up chicken, sometimes chicken thighs, and sometimes chicken leg quarters. If I happen to have a backbone stowed in the freezer, I’ll throw that in too. I tend to shy away from chicken breasts because they’re the most expensive part of the bird, but also contain the least amount of collagen. I have never actually tried chicken feet, but that will change in the near future because—though horrifying in appearance—they are loaded with collagen.
I like to remove as much fat from the meat as I can, since every bit I remove saves me having to skim it off or use a fat separator later. I also remove the skin, if at all practical.
I usually use Vidalia onions in pressure-cooker chicken stock because of their delicious sweetness, although I’ve used red onion in most of the pictures here because that’s what I needed to use up. (Ah, I should mention: Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock is a GREAT way to use up droopy vegetables or unused onion halves that might otherwise find their way into the dustbin.) A few cloves of peeled garlic are a must; dried mushrooms are a great umami enhancer.
Of course, a ton of the flavor in any broth comes from the addition of fresh herbs. I usually stick to Simon & Garfunkel: parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. (And I usually do sing the song when I add it.)
Other than that, I add a few black peppercorns and a bay leaf. Then I closer ‘er up and let the pressure-cooker do its thing. (Pressure-cookers do take a while to come up to full pressure, so plan accordingly.) Just a smidge over an hour later, I have my “crude” stock. I fish out the larger solids with a skimmer, discarding the spent aromatics and herbs. I save the chicken to be picked over later, and at least do a strain through a fine-mesh strainer before cooling and storing the Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock.
Clearly, Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock is still not a project that you’d undertake on a weeknight. Rather, it’s a work-ahead strategy that will really come through for your later. If you work from home, this is a great multitasking project to have going in the background. Instead of an all-day affair, you’re now looking at 2 hours, tops. I made the stock this past weekend, and I now have plenty stock and stewed chicken to turn into easy meals this week. I’m planning to use the chicken in curried chicken salad and red enchiladas.
So stock up on chicken parts and plan to make some truly bangin’ Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock. The luxury of being able to pull a container out of your freezer whenever you need it will make it all worthwhile.
- 4½ lbs. chicken parts (e.g., thighs, leg quarters, feet, wings, etc.), skinned
- 1 lb. yellow onions, skinned, trimmed, and cut in half
- 4 baby carrots
- 4 ribs celery, cleaned
- 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- Several sprigs of fresh herbs (I like a mix of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
- ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Remove as much fat as practical from the chicken meat. Add all ingredients to pressure cooker and cover with approximately 2 quarts of water, making sure that the surface of the liquid does not go past the cooker's maximum fill line.
- Close cooker and bring up to high pressure per manufacturer's instructions. Cook at high pressure for 45 minutes.
- De-pressurize cooker, either by allowing it to equilibrate on its own, or by using the pressure release valve (see note).
- Remove larger solids with a skimmer. Reserve chicken for another use. Discard spent aromatics and herbs. Using extreme caution, filter stock through a fine-mesh strainer. For extra clear stock, repeat this step, but line the strainer with cheesecloth or paper toweling (you'll have to change out the paper towels a few times).
- Allow stock to cool for 15-20 minutes. Portion stock into your favorite freezer containers (leaving 1 inch of headroom at the top). Cool completely in the refrigerator, then store in the freezer. The stock will be good for several months.
|Pressure-Cooker Pho Ga: this classic Vietnamese chicken noodle soup is done in a fraction of the time required for stove-top methods. Load the healthy broth up with your favorite garnishes for a truly craveable meal!|