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I followed Alton Brown's recipe for stock in which he gave a rough estimate of 8-9 hours at a low simmer to extract maximum flavor. At one point, he said, paraphrased, "How will you know you've extracted the maximum amount of nutrients from your bird? Well..." at which point he fetches a rather large leg bone from the discarded remains and easily snaps it in half. Alas I couldn't do that. I'm wondering if I did something wrong or if my results are typical.

I had a half carcass including wings, neck, back, gizzards, skin, and bones. They were raw and I froze them. For the stock, I gathered 3 carrots, 3 ribs celery half a bulb of garlic, and some thyme. I skipped on any salt or acids. I threw these with the frozen chicken into cold water, brought it up to a low simmer, and left it as such for 9 hours. The flavor was tremendous. Certain smaller bones became mushy toward the ends. However, I couldn't snap my bigger bones.

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3 Answers 3

With all respect to Alton Brown, "snapping" the bones is not a test I have ever heard of. He does not mention that in the official recipe on the Food Network site.

I just watched the entire episode on youtube, and he does show the snapping thing with a very frangible bone. I think this result will depend on the age of your chicken and the size of the bone.

In general, the thinner bones and younger chickens may be somewhat rubbery when a chicken stock is done.

8-9 hours also seems excessive for poultry stock, although that is actually in his recipe. You should get the vast majority of the flavor (and nutrition) in 3-4 hours (plus maybe a little bit to thaw, if you are starting from frozen), especially if you have chopped your carcass up into pieces or chunks (which he did not discuss in the episode).

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Interesting. Makes me wonder whether this is why veal stock is so preferred by the experts, given younger bones could conceivably be more rubbery and saturated in a matrix of gelatin. –  ashkan Jun 24 '13 at 19:01
    
Veal stick is preferred because when highly reduced, it has a huge amount of gelatin, and a very deep unctuous meaty richness without screaming of veal--so it can be used as a basis in a lot of classic French dishes. –  SAJ14SAJ Jun 24 '13 at 19:06
    
Age of the chicken is definitely a significant factor. Most chickens are sold relatively young, since at a certain point, there are diminishing returns with respect to additional muscle mass in response to additional feed. Some markets do sell "old" chickens, which are supposed to be more flavorful when making stock. These chickens have very hard bones. I'm not entirely sure if it is related to the breed or the age. –  erichui Jun 25 '13 at 1:33

I wouldn't hold too much stock (pun intended) in the snap the bones thing. Chicken breeds vary, some bones may be stronger depending on breed, size of the chicken, and whether it was frozen or not. The important thing is you liked the result. If smaller bones were getting mushy that's a pretty good indication that they'd been cooked plenty.

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Very good point. However, I'm trying to nutritionally soup up my diet (pun also intended), and getting additional protein through gelatin seemed like a good reason to pursue the fuss. Because I don't have a proteomic lab, I was curious whether there's a way to determine that you've sucked all the life giving force you can out of the leftovers. –  ashkan Jun 24 '13 at 18:50
    
Question about freezing: how does this affect stock making? –  ashkan Jun 24 '13 at 18:51
    
Freezing in general makes chicken tougher, when I've frozen bones to make stock they have seemed harder when I've made stock out of them later. That's my personal experience, I don't know of any corroborating sources. In any case if you haven't gotten all the goodness out in 8 hours of simmering you're never going to get it! –  GdD Jun 25 '13 at 9:18

If you can't snap the bones, you may simply have a good chicken! I've certainly noticed a big difference in bone strength between cheap battery-farmed and more expensive free-range chickens, when breaking up chicken carcasses to make stock; I've had to get the cleaver out to fully break down a good strong well-fed chicken skeleton.

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Would hacking the bones up help the carcass stew done more efficiently? –  ashkan Jun 24 '13 at 23:36
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Yes, it helps release the collagen from the bone marrow. It also makes it easier to get the bones into my stock pot. –  vincebowdren Jun 25 '13 at 6:41
    
Plus... sounds fun! –  ashkan Jun 25 '13 at 17:12

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