I'm an avid crock pot-ter. My favorite recipe by far is my dad's famous chicken soup. It calls for bone-in chicken. I usually use drumsticks because that is what my dad uses, but I ALWAYS end up with a ton of little pieces of bone in my soup and it makes this amazing soup kind of disgusting. I'm wondering if I'm doing it wrong? I always get out the big bone, but those little ones are hard to find once the soup is made and everything is just falling off the bone. Is there a better cut of chicken that I can use to minimize the bones I have to fish out of it? I've tried it with boneless chicken and it isn't near as good.
I generally make chicken soup in two phases. Phase 1 is chicken stock, simmering (roasted) bones with aromatics for a long time (often, overnight), followed by straining. Phase 2 is chicken soup, combining the strained stock with chicken meat, vegetables, and other ingredients.
Because the stock is strained, it has no bones, big or small. There can be vegetables in the stock as well, which will be cooked until they are mushy, giving up their flavor but no longer something you want to eat; they are also strained out. If you're using very meaty bones, or even whole birds, you can salvage the meat by picking it off the bones, and adding it to your soup (though most of the flavor will be cooked out of it.)
The bones and the meat don't have to come from the same bird. You can take bones leftover from a roast chicken or other meal, and make stock out of that. You can even save the bones in the freezer, accumulating them from a number of projects, then make one big batch of stock. Freezing the stock means you'll have it on hand any time.
Then you could make chicken soup by buying drumsticks (or whatever part you like), and removing the meat. That will turn into soup fairly quickly: it will take just half an hour or so to cook vegetables to the right point, and just a few minutes to incorporate the meat. The bones you removed can go into the freezer, and the process continues.
Welcome! I would suggest using bone-in chicken thighs. You would still have the dark meat and the flavor is pretty much the same as drumsticks.
Additionally, the thighs do not have the additional small bone that can separate and they usually have have less gristle or cartilage at the ends of the bone. And none of the nasty tendons that you sometimes see in the larger drums.
Note that if you decide to try thighs, buy them without the back portion or remove the back portion. The back bones can be worse than anything you get from drumsticks.
Here's the thing - you want the bones and chicken parts when making the soup because it adds so much flavor. However, I generally don't use the keep the meat from that process for my soups, because all the flavor from the meat has been extracted into the liquid. That makes things much easier. You can avoid the pieces you don't want by:
- Straining everything through a mesh strainer or through a collander lined with cheesecloth. This also allows you to squeeze a bit more liquid from the vegetables/carcass melange.
- Wrap the meat parts in cheesecloth (spread out the cheesecloth, put it in, wrap the cloth around and tie a knot in the end of it) or a muslin cloth bag before putting it into the pot. This allows you to remove it all at once. Bay leaves, parsley and any other things just for flavoring the stock, to be picked out and discarded later (or, if they aren't currently included, they can be flavor-adding enhancements now that you have an easy way to remove them when it's done), can all go in there.
Then, when you've taken it out, have some cut up leftover chicken meat ready to go back in. The meat will have more flavor than the stuff used to make the stock, and you'll have a more flavorful end result.
This might run contrary to the whole point of using a crockpot (simplicity and less steps for preparation), which I normally don't do for soups. Another option -
- Do some knifework before adding the chicken - cut away most of the meat, chop it up, throw it into the crockpot, and then wrap the bones, gristle, cartilage and skin, separately, into a cheesecloth packet as mentioned in option #2. Then you don't have to bother with having a separate bunch of meat ready to add, but you can remove the stuff you don't want in one step.
The marrow in the bones add the flavor that boneless is missing. My mom had the same problem you are having. You are right about it being disgusting. It kept me away from making crockpot meals for two decades.
The disgusting part isn't that the taste is funky...for me. My disgust comes from the thought of accidentally swallowing a small bone that sticks in my throat. That, and the thought of biting into gristle...had that happen once and I never ate crockpot chicken soup again unless it is made with boneless chicken.
First, I would ask your dad what he does to eliminate the small bones. I suspect he is cutting those pieces out so they are not a problem. Or, maybe he cooks them into the broth(I've heard that this can be done, but since I use boneless, I don't know for sure).