The secret to foolproof meat stock every time: use your slow-cooker

I sort of have a love/hate thing going on when it comes to slow-cookers.

I recognize that they’re quite convenient, but there are only a few recipes where I feel that the result is actually better for having been prepared in a slow-cooker.

One of those things is meat stock.

Freezing delicious turkey stock from our leftover Thanksgiving turkey bones

Freezing delicious turkey stock from our leftover Thanksgiving turkey bones in an ice cube tray

Here’s the thing: slow-cookers cook liquids at a magic temperature — just hot enough to extract all the flavour trapped in the bones, but cool enough not to evaporate or boil up a scum.

And you don’t have to babysit it, skim it, partially cover it, or any of the other annoying things that can come with making stock. Just bung in the ingredients, turn it on and leave. A slow-cooker is really a stock-making machine, if you ask me.

So here’s how to make The Easiest Stock in the World:

  • throw a bunch of chicken, turkey beef, veal or a combination of bones — raw, cooked, refrigerated or even straight from frozen — into your slow-cooker (the bones should come about 1/3-ish of the way up the side of the insert)
  • fill up the insert the rest of the way with cold water
  • add a tablespoon or two of white or cider vinegar (this supposedly helps extract nutrients from the bones. This may just be an old wives’ tale, but whatever — old wives know their stuff)
  • put the lid on
  • turn it on low and cook for 12 to 24 hours (depending on when you can get around to dealing with it — the stock waits for YOU!)
  • strain and season to taste with salt and pepper before using

That’s it. Seriously.

Let’s explore some questions that might be popping up in your mind, shall we?

Do I need to add seasonings to the stock before the cooking starts? If you have them on hand, and want to add a halved onion, a few peppercorns, a leek or two, a couple of bay leaves, some parsley stems… go for it.

Does it need any of that? No. No it does not.

Why? This bad boy cooks for so long that the rich flavour from the bones is enough to make it extremely flavourful. Nothing but the pure essence of the chicken, turkey, beef, veal, etc. is required.

And the intoxicating smell it’ll create in your kitchen? Don’t even.

What do I do with the fat that floats to the surface? Skim that delicious fat off the top and keep it for cooking! Chicken fat is a delicious fat for roasting potatoes, for example.

How do I store it? If you’re planning on using the stock within a couple of days, leave a thin layer of fat on top — it will keep longer in the fridge with that protective layer. If you’re going to freeze it, you can skim all the fat off and freeze the stock in recipe-friendly portions in freezer-safe jars. Remember to leave a little headspace at the top of the jars, since liquids expand when they freeze.

You can also boil the stock down until it’s syrupy and freeze it in ice cube trays (in photo, above). They’re like little ready-to-add bouillon cubes! Just pop them out and freeze in airtight freezer bags.

I heart homemade stock. It’s the best medicine for both body and soul. And it’s the basis for so many good recipes. It was literally day 1 of chef school. For good reason.

Do you make your own stock?