How I Got My Chicken Stock to Gel

If you’ve delved very far into the world of stock-making, you know that gelling is one of the signs of a good stock. Gelling means that your stock contains ample amounts of gelatin, a substance that is so valuable for both digestive healing and general well-being. Which brings me to a confession: although I’ve been making chicken stock regularly for more than two years now, my stock doesn’t usually gel.

The exception is if I add chicken feet, which are so rich in gelatin that they impart some gel to just about any stock they’re included in. Whenever I make chicken stock with just raw chickens and/or roasted chicken carcasses, however, my stock remains liquid even after it’s been thoroughly chilled.

I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out what the problem is, though—and like any self-respecting traditional foodie, I am thoroughly excited about it. :)

My Stock is Too Dilute!

Last weekend I finally decided to cook up the five stewing hens that have been hanging out in my freezer for the last several weeks. My freezer was already pretty full of chicken stock, though, so after straining out the bones from the finished stock I decided that I would reduce the stock by boiling it down for a while. Several hours later, I had reduced the stock by more than half. I let it cool a bit, put it into jars and stuck it in the fridge.

When I looked at the jars of stock the next morning, I was astounded by how gelled they were. It really looked like I’d added powdered gelatin to my stock—but of course the only thing I’d done differently was concentrating the stock after it was finished cooking. Naturally, I concluded that the reason my stock doesn’t usually gel is because it’s always too dilute. That gelatin had been there all the time, but there was so much water present that the gelatin wasn’t making its presence known.

I’d always wondered whether I might just be adding too much water when making my stock, but the trouble is that I only ever add enough water as I need to cover up my chickens and/or chicken carcasses. Because of the size of the chickens, bones and my stock pot, it just so happens that I usually have to fill the pot most of the way to the top if I want everything to be underneath the water. Reducing the amount of water that I add, then, is not really a feasible solution. But, it does seem to work just as well to reduce the amount of water at the end by concentrating the finished stock for several hours, as I did last weekend.

Why I’m Feeling Encouraged

I’m feeling very encouraged by this discovery for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the fact that the gelatin appeared after concentrating makes me pretty convinced that it’s always been there in my stocks, albeit at a concentration low enough that it wasn’t causing the stock to gel. Still, it’s good to know that we’ve still been consuming it all this time.

Secondly, I’m excited about the fact that I can now further boost our gelatin and mineral consumption by concentrating my stocks after they’re finished cooking. Since we’re not always great at drinking as much stock as we should, this also seems like a good way to get in even more stock goodness while drinking the same amount of liquid. (And if you reduce the strained stock in the pot you originally cooked it in, you won’t even be dirtying any more dishes, which is a definite plus in my book. :))

This post is shared at Works for Me Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Whole Foods Wednesday, Homemaking Link-Up, Real Food Wednesday, Pennywise PlatterYour Green Resource, Thank Your Body Thursday Small Footprint FridaysFreaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Monday Mania, Meal Plan MondayMake Your Own Monday, Natural Living Monday, Family Table Tuesday, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, and Fat Tuesday

Do you make stock? What tips can you share? 

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14 Responses to How I Got My Chicken Stock to Gel

  1. Good to know-the only gelling I’ve gotten on a poultry stock was turkey stock, but I’m getting some stewing hens soon and I’ll try this. Thanks!

    How much stock should you drink?

    Here’s a tip: I keep a gallon-sized zip top bag in my freezer. As I am prepping vegetables I put the scraps into it. I call it my Soup Pack. More info here: http://www.farmfreshfeasts.com/2012/09/frugal-eco-farm-fresh-feasting.html

    This way when I get ready to make stock, I rarely need to use any additional vegetables as I’ve already collected all that I need as cast offs.
    kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts recently posted..Tangerine Waffles (Fruit Fundraiser #1)My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing, Kirsten! That sounds like a great strategy for stock veggies.

      As for how much stock you should drink, I don’t think there’s really a definitive answer. For me personally, I try to drink as much as I can…but I’ve been down on stock consumption lately so it’s only a few cups per week. I think one to two cups per day would be a better amount. But then again, that’s just me. :)

  2. Rachel says:

    I really want to make stock, but I always use boneless, skinless chicken breasts…

    Someday when I buy a whole chicken, this will be great to know! I didn’t know it was supposed to gel at all!
    Rachel recently posted..Sometimes My Tongue Hurts From Biting ItMy Profile

  3. Lisa Lynn says:

    I never thought about using chicken feet to make my stock gel! I’ll have to remember that next time I butcher chickens :)

    I’d love to have you join us over at Wildcrafting Wednesdays!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2012/12/wildcrafting-wednesday.html
    Lisa Lynn recently posted..Wildcrafting WednesdayMy Profile

  4. Dianna says:

    Wow, thanks for this post! Mine gels sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t, so I’m glad to know that the gelatin is probably still there.
    Dianna recently posted..Warm drinks with dinnerMy Profile

  5. Angela says:

    Mynstock almost always gels. I cook on low in the crock pot for at least 24 hours, or until I can crumble the bones with my hand. I think that helps get most of the gelatin out. I also break the carcass down as much as possible so I can fit a lot of bones in my 6qt crock.

  6. Great post! I will remember this when my stock doesn’t gel. I usually have good luck with getting a nice gelatinous stock when I add apple cider vinegar to the water.

  7. McKenzie says:

    Wow thank you! I’ve had a hard time with getting my stock to gel. I also have a huge stock wide stock pot and big chickens. Thanks for the tip!

  8. Robin AKA GoatMom says:

    I’ve been blessed my stock always jells. When I make head and feet stock I can cut it into cubes its so jellied!! I do and freeze on cookie sheets then use for cooking by grabbing out what I need. Before I discovered clean eating I lamented how I could never get a good gel from store chicken. I have a great GMO, soy free chicken tractor farmer who raises the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Even my hubby loves chicken now.

  9. mary says:

    I made some stock yesterday and only simmered it about an hour if that, it gelled right up nicely. I think it is because I used a smaller pot than I used to–so I only had enough water to cover the carcass really. The chicken was nothing special–it turned out I had purchased it at walmart, and I had cooked it the day before by cutting it in parts and putting it in a turbo convection countertop oven thing I bought at Aldi. I made a wonderful little Asian soup out of it and froze the rest. I had about 2 quarts of broth, all nicely gelled. :)

  10. Chris Setsuko says:

    Thank you so much for answering a question I have been trying to look up on other blogs with no answer available. Is there still benefits from the stock even if it doesn’t gel? I made one for the first time but I don’t think I had enough bones for the amount of water I used from a recipe off the Weston A. Price website. Since I am impatient, I went ahead and did it anyway with some leftover rotisserie chicken bones from ONE chicken. Soaked with APV for one hour and cooked for 24 hours and although it made a very opaque, somewhat thick, nice smelling stock, it did not gel in the refrigerator. I will use your tips next time and hopefully I will see some gelling! Thanks

  11. Margi says:

    Do you dilute gelled stock when making soup? If so how much water to gel?

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