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I have a big pot full of chicken necks and backs on the stove which I need to separate into (a) stock and (b) everything else.

I'm wondering the best way to go about doing this. I've previously laid cheesecloth into a fine-mesh strainer and poured it through that, but the cheesecloth always seems to kind of clog up, making straining 4 litres of stock a very lengthy process. I also tried a coffee filter laid inside a strainer and got more-or-less the same results.

Alternatively, I ditched the cheesecloth and just used the fine-mesh strainer by itself, but, unsurprisingly, this method leaves some bits I'd rather not have.

I'm wondering: is there a better way? Or should I stick with the cheesecloth and work on being more patient?

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Possibly of interest:… – SAJ14SAJ Nov 4 '13 at 9:10
Unless you are making an aspic where perfect clarity is required, it may not matter very much. I strain my stock through a medium strainer because I don't have the patience to continuously unclog a finer one. I am sure the difference has never been noticed in a gravy or sauce or soup or whatever. – SAJ14SAJ Nov 4 '13 at 14:18
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Fine mesh sieve is the usual way, but the way you describe it, yours is not fine enough.

Look in professional stores for a "chinois", this is the kind of sieve you need. But yes, it will take a long time.

In classic restaurants, the stock will be cleared before going through the chinois. This is done by floating a rack of eggwhite which bounds the stray proteins. It is at least as slow as the cheesecloth, but more nerve wracking, because you have to do it manually, and it is rather finicky and can easily go wrong.

I remember reading about a modern trick of clearing which used gelatine and freezing the stock without a mesh or a rack, but don't know any more what it was. Maybe somebody else has read it and can supply the details.

Edit I returned home and looked the freezing method up; it is listed in the book "Cooking for geeks". It contains the sentence

As the water in the stock freezes, it will push the impurities into the gelatin

The book also has pictures. They show that you don't end up with fine protein sediment clogging your sieve and finest slit in the stock. The first picture shows the drip-freeze filtered stock compared to the same stock filtered at 100 microns, the difference is large. The second picture shows that after the procedure, what stays in the sieve are cohesive pieces of gelatine with the particles trapped inside, not a film of the scum. So it seems that there is a reason for freezing first.

For home use, I just don't bother clearing my stock, I just use a tea sieve to remove the worst of the protein. When simmered without allowing it to boil, this produces reasonably good stock without all the fuss.

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Yeah, ice filtration is the clarification method where you freeze the stock: Only problem there is that the more gelatin in your stock, the less yield you get and you lose the body that the gelatin gives. Some people add powdered gelatin back in to compensate. – Stefano Nov 4 '13 at 16:57
@Stefano Is that the link you intended? It only talks about letting thawing stock filter through a coffee filter, which seems to be only deferring the filtering. – SAJ14SAJ Nov 4 '13 at 17:14
My mistake, I misread the last paragraph there, didn't catch the 'without mesh' bit. Afaik, you have to suspend the frozen stock in some sort of strainer for this to work (at least that's the way I've always done it). – Stefano Nov 4 '13 at 17:47
@Stefano I found it, and they do use a mesh after all, it must be the same idea. It is just that I have never done it, so I had forgotten the details when I wrote the answer. – rumtscho Nov 4 '13 at 17:49

Perhaps you could consider straining it twice? Use your strainer the first time to get out the larger particles and then do a second time with the cheesecloth so that it doesn't get clogged as easily. I imagine this wouldn't be any faster, but you'd have to fight with the clogged cheesecloth less.

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I like to use a lint free surgical towel. It works much better than cheesecloth and is not as slow as a coffee filter.

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If you want a clear stock, cheesecloth (and a healthy dose of patience) is the way to go. I would speculate that you might get better performance by first getting the big bits out by using a colander, and then go on to the fine-mesh sieve, finishing off with another pass through the sieve lined with cheesecloth. At that point, you can also use a little pressure on the cheesecloth to get the liquid out quicker.

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I run mine through a colander first, then through a sieve.

Then I lay a single layer of cheese cloth over the top and press down wirh a spoon so its submerged a little all the way around. Put it in the fridge overnight.

Next morning remove cheese cloth, which takes most of the coagulated and chilled fat with it.

Run through clean folded cheese cloth in the sieve to remove remaining material, sans clogs.

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A dish drying towel, folded double, held with elastic bands onto a juice pitcher works for a much clearer broth. Should you choose, you can dig out any bits from the residue (which I do for my dog's snack). Its quick. When the dripping slows a lot, gently slide a spoon over the surface of the towel, it pushes the "stuff" away enough to improve the flow.

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The best way to strain stock is actually to siphon it off, that way you don't agitate the liquid as you pour the whole lot out. It's a simple process:

  • Find a vessel to hold the strained stock and place the stockpot above it at a higher level. (I normally put a wide bowl in the sink and then the pot on the counter top; I've also used a stack of cookbooks before.)
  • Put a fine mesh sieve in the bowl
  • Place a long, thin tube into the the stock and make sure it's touching the bottom of the stockpot.
  • Place the other end of the tube in your mouth a suck out some of the stock and as soon as it's flowing direct it into the sieve sitting in the bowl.
  • This can be left unattended (providing your bowl is big enough) until all the stock is siphoned out.

I can't claim credit for this idea, I read it in Modernist Cuisine but unfortunately I don't have my copy handy so I can't give a page reference.

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