These are the five chicken stocks we tasted:
Homemade Stock (Zuni CafÃ© Cookbook recipe, below): Full-bodied, pure chicken flavor, well-seasoned. The standard-bearer.
Swanson Natural Goodness: Good chicken flavor and no off-flavors. Salty. Not bad at all.
Imagine Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth: Underseasoned and practically devoid of flavor. Don’t bother.
Better Than Bouillon: Good as far as reconstituted products go: tastes like chicken with a lot of celery. Chicken meat is first ingredient. Great when you need just a small amount of broth for a recipe.
Knorr bouillon cubes: Smells horrifying, but brews up into a reassuringly salty and MSG-laden broth. Remember vending machine chicken soup? This is the stuff.
Loosely adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook, by Judy Rodgers
One whole chicken (about 5 pounds)
About 4 quarts cold water
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 stalk celery, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 to 1½ teaspoons salt, or more if using kosher
Remove the giblets from the chicken, if included. If you have time and a sharp boning knife, remove the breast meat for another use. If not, don’t worry about it. Slash the thigh and leg muscles to encourage the release of flavor during cooking. Place the chicken in a deep 8- to 10-quart stockpot that holds it snugly. Add the cold water. It should cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer over high heat, and skim the foam. Stir the chicken under once to allow the foam to rise, then reduce the heat and skim the foam carefully, taking care to leave behind the bright yellow fat that may be starting to appear on the surface. Add the vegetables and salt and stir them under. Simmer very gently until the stock has a rich, chickeny flavor, about 4 hours. While the stock cooks, don’t cover the pot, don’t stir, and don’t skim the fat; just let it do its thing.
When the stock is ready, use a wide ladle or bamboo skimmer to fish out the carcass and vegetables. Nibble at them if you want, or discard them. Then carefully pour the stock through a strainer to remove any remaining solids. If any small solids remain, you can filter them out by pouring the stock through dampened cheesecloth, or through a clean cotton dishtowel moistened with water.
Cool the stock to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Before using, scrape away the cap of solidified fat.
Yield: 8 to 10 cups