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I plan to make a sizable quantity of chicken stock this weekend. Since I can't actually eat that much chicken, I just bought several pounds of bones, figuring I'd save the effort and expense of cleaning and butchering entire chickens.

But now I'm wondering: Can I roast the bones by themselves?

Most resources seem to agree that stock made from roasted bones is richer than stock made from bones that were boiled raw. However, every "recipe" I've looked at assumes that whole chickens are being used. I've never been taught or seen instructions on how to roast just the bones.

So I have a few questions related to roasting the bones:

  • First, is it actually practical? Is there any reason I shouldn't consider this?
  • What would be the recommended oven temperature and cooking time for about 5 pounds of bones?
  • Assuming I use butter as the base, how much would I likely need?
  • Does it make any sense to brine the bones, or to season them at all before roasting?
  • Should I bother including vegetables or other flavours in the roast, knowing that it's just going into a stock afterward that will have its own separate flavours?

My intuition is that any special preparation, seasoning or additives would be pointless, but I'd prefer to go by facts rather than intuition. And even if I'm correct I'd still like to get some rough guidelines as to the oven settings, because if I accidentally burn them then the whole endeavour is a bust.

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2 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Roasting the bones will give you a darker brown stock than using the raw bones. To roast the bones, just stick them in an oven on high heat, around 450 for about 45 minutes, or until they are a nice golden caramelized color. Though you will want to make sure to keep an eye on them the first time, I'd check every 5 minutes after half an hour. Roasting the veggies with the bones will also add a slightly sweeter roasted flavor. It's like the difference of putting slices of raw onions on a burger compared to caramelized onions. You get a slightly sweeter, richer roasted flavor. Though it does turn down some of the other flavor notes, it's up to you which you'd rather have. Without roasting, you'd have a clearer "white" stock.

If you are using the butter as a base to roast the bones, I would set it aside and go with a higher smoke point oil like a peanut or corn oil. The low smoke point of the butter could leave a bitter, slightly burned flavor, especially with the longer roasting times.

I would leave the seasoning for the stock. Most spices will burn at a lower temperature, and salting the bones before you make your stock, could make your stock overly salty. It's easier to add more toward the end, than try to figure out what to do with salty stock.

I hope that helps!

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Just to confirm: my reference says 45-60 minutes at 425 Fahrenheit, a little shorter for the mirepoix, and even shorter for the leeks in the mirepoix. –  Erik P. Nov 6 '10 at 15:04
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Seems to have worked pretty well. The chicken "bones" I bought actually had a fair bit of meat, so I had to increase the cooking time to almost an hour, but aside from that, I'd say that this was the right advice. –  Aaronut Nov 6 '10 at 18:23
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I bake my chicken bones, fat & skin 45 min to 1 hr. @ 425. Remove from oven & place in a stock pot, making sure to get all the drippings ( I usually place hot water enought to loosen the rich drippings) pour in with bones, just cover with water ans simmer for about 1 hr. Drain through a sieve. Results , a wonderful rich broth. I either use right away or freeze in a qt. jar for later use!

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