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I've heard that you should not let chicken stock get over 170 oF because it will “allow bitter flavors into the stock” or something like that. But later when I went looking for any reason for this, I couldn't find one.

When making stock, what temp should I shoot for and is there a temp I should never go over? I usually shoot for 160 oF.

This is different than the “how hot” question because:

  • it's about a maximum value
  • whether such a value exists
  • if going over that value impacts the flavor of the stock

How hot does the water need to be when cooking stock? is about the target value, not the upper bound. Please don't vote to close in favor of that question again, as I've edited this twice to address the same concern both times.

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    Do you have a source for the "don't let your stock get too hot" advice? It's quite common to make stock in pressure cookers, which get to much higher temperature than 170F.
    – AMtwo
    Mar 4 at 19:15
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    Does this answer your question? How hot does the water need to be when cooking stock?
    – AMtwo
    Mar 4 at 19:15
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    The only way I make chicken stock is with a pressure cooker. That's about 250F...I've never noticed bitterness.
    – moscafj
    Mar 4 at 22:14
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    @AMtwo not really because it doesn't talk about changes to flavor as a function of temperature
    – jcollum
    Mar 8 at 18:19
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    Not all pressure cookers make good stock. See this article from Cooking Issues: cookingissues.com/2009/11/22/…
    – Joe
    Mar 9 at 14:17

1 Answer 1

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I don’t know if a specific temperature to aim for, but there are some legitimate reasons for not letting your stock get too hot:

  1. Every compound has different rates of extraction based on time and temperature. So you’ll get different compounds (and resulting flavors) based on the temperature of the solution.

  2. Compounds may denature (cook) into other compounds if heated to a certain temperature. The most common example is sugar, where you cook it to a caramel to improve flavors, but if you cook it too far, it can burn and get bitter. But this can also happen with some gels, and cause them to break down and stop gelling, changing viscosity and mouthfeel.

  3. If you heat the stock too much, you will generate bubbles, which will agitate the stock. This can both cause some items to break down faster and make the stock murky, but bubbles will also cause some compounds to come out of the solution (which smells great, but means less is in the stock; similar to the issue mentioned with some pressure cookers in the comments)

It’s also important to consider that the temperature isn’t going to be the same through the whole batch. It’s going to be hotter at the bottom (near the heat) and cooler near the top ... so the recommendation for 170°F might actually be to keep it from hitting some other hotter temperature at the bottom of the pot... so you’re avoiding scorching the bones or similar (which does make the stock nasty and bitter)

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  • Good answer thanks; I'll mark it as accepted if no one else answers
    – jcollum
    Mar 10 at 18:55
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    @jcollum you don’t have to. Leave it open as someone might not have a better answer til months or a year from now
    – Joe
    Mar 11 at 15:01

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