When I make chicken stock from scratch, I like to include whole spices like mustard seed, coriander, star anise and black pepper. I put these in right at the start when the water is still cool, so they can slowly add flavor as the stock simmers for hours.

I only run into a problem when skimming foam. Many of the whole spices float to the top and I find it very tedious to skim the foam without taking out spices as well. I use a metal spoon or ladle for skimming.

How can I skim the foam without catching the floating spices as well? Is there a technique or tool specially suited to this task?

  • I wouldn't worry about skipping the spices out if they've cooked for a long time as the flavor will be out of them. Unless you want them in there for aesthetic reasons.
    – GdD
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 11:11
  • Two alternatives (i) only get the worst of the foam off, avoiding the spices, until the end. (ii) use a slow cooker - you get very good stock with next to no effort and you leave it closed. If you want to concentrate the stock at the end by boiling you will get foam - but you can do that after straining.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 13:13

5 Answers 5


I tend to just stick the spices in a tea egg tea egg

I do this whenever I think the spices will get in the way during my process or when I want to remove them before serving, such as in case of a bouquet garni, cloves or juniper berries.

Should you be reluctant to use metal in your recipe you can of course use loose leaf tea bags.looseleaf tea bags

Either way you can just lift the spices out whenever you want to skim the top of your broth.

  • Hmmm, same theory but better. +1
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 6:50
  • 1
    Or, if you are afraid the papery tea bag might tear, the very classic piece of cheesecloth, tied up. I usually choose the tee egg, because it can go into the dishwasher. Stainless steel is pretty neutral.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 7:05
  • 1
    Cheese cloth is the way I go. Have done since the very first day I worked in a kitchen the chef called it a bouquet garni which I now know is wrong but I still think of it as the same.
    – Doug
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 13:32
  • 1
    I feel a little silly for not thinking of this, since I use cheesecloth for easy removal of the galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves when making Tom Kha. For some reason it never occurred to me that this would also solve the skimming problem. (Maybe it was the Dogfish Head...)
    – Air
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 16:59
  • I've got two of these for birthday: www.nennmann.com/index.php?cat=RIIS&product=RII_SPI_1840 Same principle but these are called SPICEBALLS. No ordinary tee eggs.
    – eckes
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 17:35

Its called a Sachet and are often used so that they can remove all the spices when the soup hits the right amount of flavor.



In my chicken stock-making experience, skimming the foam really only needs to be done near the beginning of the process. By the time the stock comes to a simmer, I've already skimmed off most of the scum and within 10-15 minutes of the beginning of the simmer, there is very little scum still rising to the surface. So I'd suggest just waiting until there is no more foam to skim, then adding your spices.

To put it another way, you said:

I put these in right at the start when the water is still cool, so they can slowly add flavor as the stock simmers for hours.

That isn't really necessary. If you're simmering it for 5-6 hours, the spices' presence or absence in the first 20-30 minutes isn't going to make a difference, especially since the water is cold at the beginning. Warmer temperatures are better for extracting flavors than cold temperatures.

  • Most of the foam does come up at the start, but it seems to vary from batch to batch. I'm a little obsessive about foam so I prefer the sachet solution but this is a very simple and straightforward alternative.
    – Air
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 17:01

You can use a strainer (mesh style, like this:)

enter image description here

Skim the foam, strain it, then add the spices back to the stock.


Saute your veggies with the spices before adding to the soup and they will not float on the top.

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