Poached chicken & chicken stock

Poached chicken & chicken stock

3 litres of stock and 650–700 g cooked meat
Helen Cathcart

From one chicken you can make three meals: a delicate and nourishing stock to use in a huge variety of other recipes, hot poached chicken to eat straight away, and the leftover meat to keep in the fridge for another meal. In Italy you can easily buy an old chicken that has passed retirement age for egg laying. It will have been plucked and cleaned but have the feet still intact (the birds are usually yellowish in colour as they are corn fed). The old birds are tough and need a long cooking time but have a better flavour than a young bird.

In the UK I can’t easily get hold of an old bird so I buy a whole large chicken with the giblets. The giblets are really important for a good flavour in the stock. Once a week I poach a chicken with vegetables and seasoning, taking the chicken out of the stock halfway through once its cooked (unlike the Italian way, as my chicken isn’t old so it doesn’t need as long as an old hen). I pick the meat off the carcass and put the bones back into the stock to strengthen the flavour. I use the boiled skin to make chicken crackling. We eat the juicy poached meat hot with salsa verde, or I leave it to cool and make salads, panini, meatloaf, risotto and soup. Nothing goes to waste.

If we use chicken thighs, we buy ones with the bone in for more flavour and the skin on to make chicken crackling.


Quantity Ingredient
1.5-2kg chicken, (including giblets)
4 litres cold water
1 medium white onion, unpeeled and roughly chopped
or large handful onion peelings
2 celery stalks with leaves, roughly chopped
1 leek top, roughly chopped, (optional)
or 6 spring onion tops, roughly chopped, (optional)
small handful parsley stalks, (optional)
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
or large handful carrot peelings
6 black peppercorns
1 parmesan rind
3 cloves
2 bay leaves


  1. Put the chicken in a large stock pot with the water and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim the surface frequently to remove the foam, particularly at the beginning, adding a little more water if the level becomes too low.
  2. After about 1 1/2 hours, the bird will be cooked through: look for the moment when the legs fall away easily from the carcass. Remove the chicken from the stock with tongs, allowing any liquid to drain back into the pot, then put it on a board to cool for 10–15 minutes. Removing the bird at this point means the meat isn’t overcooked but it has still given flavour to the stock. Once it’s cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bones and put the bones back into the pot to continue cooking for a further 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Strain the stock into a large, clean bowl, reserving any large pieces of vegetables and the liver to eat cold or use in other recipes. Discard the remaining peelings, flavourings, bones, giblets and cartilage. Use the stock straight away or store in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. To save freezer space it is a good idea to cook the strained stock for up to an hour longer to reduce it and concentrate its flavour.

Chicken stock from cooked bones

  • If I roast a chicken, I save the fat to reuse for cooking (roast potatoes in chicken fat are delicious), and freeze the carcass and bones for a stock. Follow the recipe above, using the carcasses and bones instead of a fresh chicken. Ideally you need 2–2.5 kg of bones, so you will need more than one chicken. Cooked or raw bones can be frozen and then used to make stock.

Chicken crackling

  • Chicken crackling is a revelation and totally delicious. Stretch out pieces of skin onto a baking tray, scatter with a little salt, and cook for 20 minutes at 180°C or until crisp. The skin can be crumbled onto a chicken salad or a chicken casserole, or served with chicken in a panino.
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