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I'm making stock from 1 whole chicken's bones. After straining with a cheesecloth, I'd like to adjust the volume to be equal in strength to commercial stocks. What final volume would produce the equivalent strength of flavor?

(Note I'm using an onion, 3-4 garlics, 2 bay leaves, 10 peppercorns, a little thyme from the windowsill garden, and a bit of celery seed to make up for the lack of celery. If this changes the answer, I'd like both answers.)

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There is no such ratio. You have to adjust it by taste.

First, there is no single physical variable which can be considered to be the "strength of flavor". Making a stock will extract thousands of different compounds from the bones and vegetables, in varying ratios. It's practically impossible to measure these concentrations, much less to map some combination of them to a subjectively perceived flavor strength.

Second, there is no single "strength" of commercial stocks. Some stocks will taste stronger than others. And since taste is subjective, it may even happen that not everybody agrees that stock A is stronger than stock B.

Third, even if you have a commercial stock with a flavor you like, there is no guarantee you can imitate it with dilution. They may be processing their stock differently from you, or may be using different ingredients.

But just because taste is subjective, it doesn't mean it isn't real. Your tongue is a great instrument for cooking - so you should simply take your stock and slowly dilute it (or reduce it!) to the concentration you need.

See also Optimum Bone To Water Ratio For Pork and Beef Stocks for a question from somebody who basically wanted the same as you, but framed their question a tad differently. The answer is still the same - adjust as much as you need, and not by some predefined amount of water.

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  • Fair enough, but I'm happy for an answer that's even in the ballpark or range. 1cup? 2cups? 4? Nov 14, 2023 at 20:45
  • When I make stock I add the chicken/veg to the pot and FILL the pot with water and then add more as it boils off. It all depends on the size of your pot and amount of ingredients. I never measure, instead I fill muffin tins with stock, freeze them and pop them in a bag. Make as much as you can reasonably fit in your soup pot. Nov 14, 2023 at 22:24
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    @SwissFrank The answer is always going to be it depends. Chickens come in different sizes and thus will have different amounts of flavoring compounds and collagen to convert into gelatin in the stock. Older chickens may have stronger, even gamey flavors. Just use enough water to cover the contents of the pot, and adjust at the end for the flavor and texture you want by thinning it out with water or boiling some of the water out. Commercial stocks even vary in strength. A couple of quarts is reasonable, but so is 1 quart or 4 quarts.
    – Bloodgain
    Nov 15, 2023 at 1:55
  • @SteveChambers' method works even better in a slow cooker - no need to top up - but even taking that approach you have choices: do you squash down the carcass first? Do you reduce the stock afterwards?
    – Chris H
    Nov 15, 2023 at 9:00
  • @SwissFrank the ballpark is maybe reducing it to ca. 75%. Ideally, home cooks would produce "optimal" stock, and commercial producers would aim to imitate that optimal stock, and recipes would assume that optimal stock. So if you follow good practice in stock production, you'd be close to the commercial ones. But since 1) the commercial ones probably have options to extract more than you do, 2) they will likely work with additives, and 3) any recipe that is good with best-practice-stock tastes better with more concentrated stock, then reducing it some (without taking it to demi-glace) (cont)
    – rumtscho
    Nov 15, 2023 at 9:17

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