Keep That Carcass: How to Turn Your Holiday Leftovers Into Delicious Stocks and Soups

by Matt Moore on December 20, 2013 · 23 comments

in Cooking, Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Chicken Stock Finish

I hate letting things go to waste – especially when it comes to time, money, and food. Hopefully, most of you share that same belief. After all, being wasteful is not a quality most gentlemen strive to achieve.

Fortunately my wife appreciates my frugalness with money and time. And the food part? Well, let’s just say that she feels I take things to the extreme. You see, in my kitchen, my freezer is filled with bones, scraps, stems, sticks, rinds, and other mysteries known only to yours truly.

Over the past few years, we’ve spent a lot of time here on AoM teaching you the fundamentals when it comes to cooking. From knife skills, to cast-iron cooking, to perfectly roasting a chicken – these are all skills a man needs to have in his culinary tackle box. So as I was casually perusing the grocery aisles the other day, I uncovered a culinary crime that I had to share with all you loyal readers.

Since it’s the holidays, folks were stocking up on all the essentials: turkeys, rib roasts, stuffing, vegetables, pie crusts, and especially cooking stock. After all, a bit of stock or broth is called for in almost every holiday recipe. Four cups of store-bought stock costs over $5 bucks in most places. Gentlemen, it shouldn’t be so.

Perhaps I’m partly to blame, as I’ve never detailed how easy it is to create your own stocks at home. And there’s no better time to learn than now. Christmas’ turkey carcass or leftover standing rib roast can turn into a luscious turkey or beef stock. The pork shoulder cooked on New Year’s Day can create a delicious stock for other soups and stews (and even chili!). Of course, all of that cold weather and hectic holiday travel calls for a comforting bowl of homemade chicken soup. Better yet, you don’t have to use it all right now – as these stocks keep well frozen for months in your freezer. Just pop ‘em out and thaw when needed. In this post, I’ll lay out how to make stock from four types of meat, and then give you a recipe with which to use that stock. Win-win!

So this year, I encourage you to keep ‘stock-ing’ through the holidays. Spend a bit of time to save what you typically discard and enjoy good eats and cost savings in the New Year!

Basic Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock Start

I like to pick up whole chickens when on sale at the market, often purchasing them for less than $1 per pound. Though most folks use the bones or carcasses when creating their stocks, I often just slowly braise the whole bird. I remove the cooked chicken for use in soups or stews, or turn it into a quick chicken salad for use throughout the week. Either way, this is a simple, foolproof way to perform double duty – cook a chicken while creating stock.

  • 1 4 lb. whole chicken
  • 3 carrots, cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 8 cups water

Add all ingredients into a stockpot and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Strain ingredients, discarding the vegetables and setting chicken aside. Allow the stock to completely cool and chill overnight in the fridge. Skim the fat off the surface, discard, and use stock immediately or freeze for later use.

Matt’s Avgolemono Soup

Lately I’ve been stealing a page out of your Greek grandmother’s cookbook with this lemony chicken and orzo soup. Though this dish is typically prepared without meat, you can throw in the reserved chicken if you want a heartier version. The key to making this dish silky smooth and perfect is tempering the egg appropriately. You want to slowly add the hot stock to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to create a smooth texture. Do it too fast, and your eggs will scramble – which won’t affect the flavor or ruin the dish – but your grandmother would be disappointed.

  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups orzo pasta
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 pinch fresh nutmeg

Bring stock to a slow boil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Add orzo pasta and cook for 5 minutes, remove from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, lemon juice, and nutmeg. While constantly stirring, slowly stream in about 3 cups of broth into the egg mixture – tempering the eggs slowly to bring them up to the same temperature as the stock. Add mixture into the Dutch oven and serve soup immediately.

Turkey Stock

Over Thanksgiving, my dad proudly smoked the family turkey on his beloved Big Green Egg. Needless to say, that bird was delicious, and I didn’t want that flavor to end. So, I threw the carcass into a pot and created a rich turkey stock. The next day, I made a big ole pot of turkey and sausage gumbo (below) – feeding the family again on the cheap. Simple, easy, and delicious.

  • 1 leftover turkey carcass, broken into smaller pieces
  • 3 carrots, cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 10 cups water

Add all ingredients into a stockpot and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 2 hours, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Strain ingredients, discarding the vegetables and carcass. Allow the stock to completely cool and chill overnight in the fridge. Skim the fat off the surface, discard, and use stock immediately or freeze for later use.

Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

Turkey leftovers get jazzed up in this hearty, Creole favorite. They key to making a great gumbo is all about the roux. Spend the time to slowly cook the roux as dark as you can stand it – without burning. That extra effort will yield rich, caramelized flavors that are sure to please the entire family – even if you are trying to kick out the in-laws!

  • 4 cups Andouille sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups fresh okra, washed with ends trimmed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 bell peppers, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 10 cups turkey stock, warmed
  • 4 cups leftover turkey meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups hot cooked rice

Preheat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add sausage and brown for 5-6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage to a plate; add okra and cook for another 6 minutes, or until slightly charred. Remove okra and combine oil and flour in the pot, reducing heat to low. Whisk oil and flour until combined, whisking constantly, until dark brown and caramel in color, 40-50 minutes. Add onions and peppers and sauté until tender, 10 minutes. Next add garlic, and sauté until just fragrant. Deglaze by adding tomatoes, followed by one cup of stock at a time, stirring to ensure everything is evenly incorporated. Bring mixture to a slow boil, adding sausage and okra back into the pot and simmering until tender, about 15 minutes. When okra is tender, add reserved turkey meat and heat through. Serve with hot cooked rice.

Rib Roast Beef Stock

Rib Roast Photo

Standing rib roast is a Christmas Day special, one which we’ve perfectly outlined before. The problem is that most folks tend to throw away that roasted rib bone – what a waste! This year, turn that leftover bone into a delicious stock for my hearty, beef + vegetable soup.

  • 2 lb. leftover roasted rib bone
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 carrots, cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 8 cups water

Add rib bone into a preheated stockpot over medium heat. Sear the bone on all sides for a few minutes. Add wine, scraping up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon. Next, add remaining ingredients into pot and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 3 hours, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Strain ingredients, discarding the vegetables and rib bone. Allow the stock to completely cool and chill overnight in the fridge. Skim the fat on the surface, discard, and use stock immediately or freeze for later use.

Beef + Vegetable Soup

This dish screams comfort cooking, not to mention the fact that it can cure any holiday hangover. I like to toss whatever fresh vegetables I have on hand into this dish – making it super filling and quite healthy too. Go easy on the carbs by omitting the potatoes.

  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 2 cups frozen lima beans, thawed
  • 2 Russet potatoes, diced

Preheat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add oil. Brown the meat, working in batches if necessary, for a few minutes on all sides. Next, add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until tender, 10 minutes. Add garlic, followed by the tomatoes to deglaze the pot, scraping up any of the browned bits in the pan using a wooden spoon. Add stock, followed by the remaining vegetables and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Pork Stock

It’s been rumored that pork is served on New Year’s Day to provide good fortune and abundance throughout the year. Truth be told, I eat pork as much as possible, often in smoked BBQ or bacon form! That being said, when its cold outside, I don’t always feel like breaking out the smoker, so I like to brown and slowly braise my pork shoulder in a Dutch oven. The meat turns out moist, perfectly stringy, and delicious when served piled atop cooked greens, rice, and black-eyed peas (a la New Year’s Day), or in my pork green chili (below). You can also use this broth as a base for making homemade pho – which seems to be all the rage these days.

  • 1 6 lb. pork shoulder
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 carrots, cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 10 cups water

Add pork shoulder into a pre-heated stockpot over medium heat. Sear the shoulder on all sides, except the fat cap, for 5-6 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon. Next, add remaining ingredients into a stockpot and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 4 hours, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Strain ingredients, discarding the vegetables and bone while reserving the pork meat for later use. Allow the stock to completely cool and chill overnight in the fridge. Skim the fat on the surface, discard, and use stock immediately or freeze for later use.

Pork Green Chili

green chili

I often get tired of tomato, beef, and bean-based chili, so I take a nod from one of Colorado’s most prideful, and fiercely debated dishes in the following recipe. Green or red chili, whatever side you stand on, I really don’t care; they are both delicious. This version is a bit sour and salty with the flavors of fresh lime and spice – a good bit of heat is also playing behind the scenes as well. Trust me, it’s a great dish and a nice change of pace when entertaining guests throughout the end of this year’s football season.

  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed and cut in half
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, cut in half
  • 6 poblano peppers, cut in half with seeds removed
  • 8 cups pork stock
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 lbs. reserved braised pork, pulled into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, diced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange the tomatillos, onions, jalapenos, and poblano peppers onto a baking sheet, ensuring poblanos are skin side up, and roast uncovered until browned and charred, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, add stock, lime juice, and seasonings into a Dutch oven and warm over medium heat. Remove roasted vegetables from the oven and throw everything into the pot, except for the poblanos. Allow the poblanos to cool, remove the outer skin, and finely chop. Meanwhile, use an immersion blender to puree the roasted vegetables into the stock until rich and smooth. Add the chopped poblanos and pork meat into the pot and bring to a slow boil. Make a slurry with the flour and 1/4 cup water, pour into the pot (bring back to boil if needed), and reduce heat to low. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired, just prior to serving.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Evan S. December 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I wouldn’t be alive if not for bone broth. My grandfather’s mother was dying from Tuberculosis when he was born, and the doctors expected him to die within the week. His father, who was stationed over-seas, contacted his parents, who lived in Tennessee. They had heard of an old black women who was known for saving babies’ lives. They hired her and sent her up to Cape Cod to retrieve the baby. She took him out to her backwoods cabin and nursed him back to health on bone broths infused with wild herbs. Three months later, he was handed over to his grandparents in perfect health. At ninety, he’s still strong, his memory intact.

2 Suzan December 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

I make chicken stock in my crock pot set on low overnight with a recipe similar to yours. In the morning, it’s done, house smells delicious. Freeze them up. I’ll try the beef and pork recipes now too. Thanks.

3 Miguel Ibarra December 21, 2013 at 8:35 am

Awesome story Evan S. Here in Mexico broths are very common and in the ancient times they were used (and are still use) as remedys at middle Asia

4 Caleb December 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

I was with you right up to the Green Chili recipe. That is not green chili and I am disappointed that you would call it such. It much be made with Pueblo Chilies, or at least some other part of the Anaheim Chili family. No one purees the ingredients either.

5 Dave McLeod December 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

No argument with the idea that a homemade stock is a great way to punch up the flavor of many dishes. But it always seemed that the concept is inherently wasteful due to the standard practice of discarding the vegetable component. I understand the reason for this but it still nags at me. The other thing I would mention, no fish stock?

6 Jeff December 21, 2013 at 3:52 pm

@Dave, put the vegetables in the compost pile and use them in the garden.

Waste problem solved.

7 Rob December 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Colorado?!? The red v. Green debate is wholly New Mexican! Darn Coloradans! Everyone knows you all like red, it’s in your name!

8 Chad Burgundy December 21, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Thanks for the recipes, I’ve always tried to use every bit of roast chickens and turkeys, but I’ve never tried making stock before. I’ll have to try it soon!

9 Michael December 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Dave, I’m not sure how making stock is a wasteful process. It certainly is not the way I do it. I always make stock with my leftover carcass from roasting a chicken, Thanksgiving turkey, etc. If I included vegetables in my roasging (for flavor) then of course I include those in my stock as well. Making stock this way is an efficient way of making full use of an animal because it’s using something that would otherwise be discarded. It also saves money because I’m not buying stock and tastes fresher because it is. I do freeze most of my stock and I get away with that easily because I have a chest freezer in my basement.
To be honest, I don’t really find the above stock recipes that useful because they’re about making stock with the whole chicken or other usable cut of meat. For me, the value of making my own stock is in the more complete use of the animal.

10 MKL December 22, 2013 at 1:10 am

To really kick up chicken stock I like to add some star anise. It adds a outstanding flavor to it.

11 OGRE December 23, 2013 at 8:53 am

I have to agree with Michael. That seems like a poor way to make a chicken stock. In fact, that would actually be considered a “broth” and not a “stock” as you are relying on the meat itself to flavor the liquid and not the bones. Given the process used and the short amount of time its cooking, you aren’t really getting ANYTHING out of the bones. So you are basically making boiled chicken and a chicken broth–not that theres anything wrong with that. But the point of stock is to extract as much flavor and gelatin from the bones, and thats not what is going on here.

I’d suggest taking a carcass from an already cooked chicken (or if you have boned a chicken, use the raw bones but roast them first). Throw the bones in a pot and fill the pot with water till the bones are covered, then heat it to just about boiling. Skim off the gunk that forms, then add your vegetables and herbs. Let that simmer for 4 to 6 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the bones covered. Strain it and you are done. Let the bones cool off before dumping in the track, they will eat through most trash bags if they are still hot.

Final thought, do not add salt to your stock. Ever. That is not necessary, and you run the risk of making the stock over salted. The liquid will reduce as it simmers, thereby concentrating the salt (along with the other flavors which is what makes it taste so good). You then could end up with a stock thats too salty, and if you try to use that in another recipe without paying attention you could easily end up ruining your dish due to too much salt. For the same reason don’t add salt to soups and other slow cooked liquids until they are done. Its far easier to add more salt at the end than to rebalance the salt if theres too much.

Otherwise, a very good article as stock making is a key difference between making very good food and just being an ok home cook.

12 Mike December 23, 2013 at 8:58 am

Best use for leftovers ever. There are all sorts of lovely minerals and vitamins to be had from bone broth, and a large pot of soup can feed a bunch of people on a budget. It’s great. If you’ve got a crockpot, it’s even easier, just be sure to start with cold water!

13 tim_lebsack December 23, 2013 at 11:37 am

Great ideas. I do not discard the skimmed fat. It is used to fry my eggs every morning.

14 Yamada Taro December 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Great

15 Duke December 23, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Ogre is right. What is being described is not a stock. When you boil chicken with spices, etc, you are making chicken soup. Subsequently separating the solid parts from the broth doesn’t equal stock. It equals making soup then subsequently making it ‘not-soup’. Why would you do that? You cook the bird first, make a meal of that, then make stock from boiling the remains of COOKED bird. This allows for maximum gelatin extraction and yields a totally different product. And why would you skim and discard the rendered fat? These fats are protein packed and as healthy as anything you can eat. They are also a well known health secret in many circles for keeping your skin young looking and elastic. Ever see a wrinkly old Chinese woman? Never. This is why.

But hey, no harm no foul, we’re men. These things don’t come as easy to us. But it is a topic that’s right up our alley and despite a few technical errors, I applaud the effort. I have reached a point where I can turn a $6 grocery store rotisserie chicken into 5 full meals, with this knowledge. And you’ll never find stock from a can that can touch the flavor of real stock made this way. What bachelor or college kid wouldn’t be well served knowing how to do that? I taught a single friend this trick and 2 years later he still calls once a week to thank me. Waste not want not!

16 Matt Moore December 24, 2013 at 10:31 am

@Michael, @Ogre @Duke – Fellas, I agree with y’all that true stock comes cooked bones and other solids. In the chicken headnote, I included that sentiment. Like always, my goal is to get as many folks as possible into the kitchen, teaching them to make, by hand, as much of their own food as possible without being wasteful. Appreciate your comments and enthusiasm – Perhaps y’all could all share some of your own stock recipes with the readers so that they can try them out!

Cheers and Happy New Year!

MM

17 Carol December 25, 2013 at 11:24 am

It seems wasteful to discard all the fat from these broths. Much of the flavor in any dish is carried in the fat, and the past demonizing of fat has now been discounted. Retaining some of the fat in the broth will improve its flavor AND its nutritional value, and saving the rest of the rendered fat provides a natural source of non-hydrogenated fat/oil for sautéeing and for seasoning.

18 Greg December 29, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Some may disagree with me on this, but I picked up this tip and I use it, so it might be helpful to someone.

About wasting the vegetables used in stock or composting them, I actually save the tips, ends, peels, and scraps of vegetables in my freezer for the purpose of making stock. Every time I top and tail carrots, peel potatoes, remove celery tips, etc. in other recipes they go into the stock bag. Then when I make stock, I use the vegetable scraps in the freezer.

Then I compost even those vegetable remains after making the stock. I guess these odd pieces may have a slightly different or mealier, dirtier character, but it works well enough for me.

19 Kent January 2, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I agree with Greg. My wife and I routinely rinse use the ends and husks of onions, carrots and peppers and put them in the freezer for stock later. This way, we don’t have to use the immediately edible parts for something as basic as stock. Works just fine.

I wouldn’t, however, compost the vegetables after the stock is made since it would have proteins and fats from the meat all over them and that’s just not good for the compost since it could attract the wrong kind of bacteria.

Same goes for carcass bones for pretty much everything after they’ve been broken down. The bones go into bags in the freezer for stock later.

20 Matthew January 5, 2014 at 8:59 am

I can see the thought of it being a bit wasteful. However, as with many other things we use in our daily lives, making it yourself will most likely still be LESS wasteful than the processes manufacturers use to make the stuff you find on the shelf. Another trade-off to consider when making your own stock (or almost any food at home), YOU control what’s in it; e.g. how much salt, seasonings and no preservatives. I rarely make boxed rice, mac n cheese, etc. anymore.

Anyhow, thanks for the article! Great stuff! I saw hint somewhere about freezing things like stock, fresh herbs in water and other stuff like that in ice cubes trays – pop em out and you have smaller portions, so you don’t have to thaw out a bunch of stock for one recipe.

21 Kyle January 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

Great post! Just like with a lot of other things once you make them from scratch, it’s amazing how hard it is to go back to “off-the-shelf” store-bought broth once you’ve made your own stock.

22 mike day January 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Recommend to all buy 1 qt ball canning jars , 1 large pot that can cover jars , 12 pack of beer , pour what ever you have left over into your jars , boil for 3 hours in a boiled water bath , when beer is done you job is done . keep it simple stupid also know as the kiss theory .

23 Marc January 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Agreed with all the guys here that use the bones of already-cooked proteins; it’s giving your “scraps” another use and there’s no difference in flavor (if anything, it’s more flavorful, due to the roasting process). I also use the odd and ends of vegetables – just collect them all in a bowl as I cook and then dump into a ziplock freezer bag. Everything is all ready for stock day.

I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but I like making my stock in a slow cooker. Just cover the bones with water as normal, put it on low, and you can let it cook for as long as you want with no smell and without having to watch the pot. I like to let the bones simmer for 48 hours and get a really richly colored broth.

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