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Chicken Stock Breakthrough!


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#1 bdevidal

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 02:08 AM

Sorry about the hyperbolic topic title, but I'm still really jazzed...

I've always had a problem with my stocks, chicken in particular. It wasn't the time, or the effort, or the process, it was that the results were always...flat. They had decent umami, good body, were serviceable for sauces, etc, but they were never "chicken-ey" enough. I tried more chicken, less chicken, more meat, more bones, different cuts, different pots, aromatics, short cook, long cook, etc; nothing seemed to get me where I wanted to be. I was looking for something like chicken au jus, that roasted chicken, straight-from-the-cutting-board-gutter chicken flavor. Then I had an idea (which may or may not be novel to some people). It was spurred by three somewhat tangential subjects: an interest in distilling, a discussion about what would happen if you were thrown out of an air lock into the vacuum of space, an a realization about my stock making practices during a prior run. In reverse order, I realized one of the reasons I like making stock is because of how good it makes the house smell. I was always disappointed that the stock never seemed to live up to that enticing aroma. In the contexts of distilling, I realized that that aroma (which is of course a large element of taste) is nothing more than a combination of volatile chemicals, each with own vapor pressure, etc. As the vast majority of the aromas come out of a stock at or below a bare simmer, most must have a boiling point below that of water. In addition, in a large stock pot you can have a fairly large variation in both temperature and pressure, which helps explain the extended release. However, you still need a fair amount of heat to free up the flavor elements from the contents of the pot, plus you have to keep it out of the danger range. The air lock discussion boiled (no pun intended) down to the fact that even in the vacuum of space your blood would not boil, due to the fact that one's skin and tissue would retain sufficient pressure to prevent it. I realized that a similar thing happens with a roasted chicken, that even though the temperature is high enough to create and free up the flavor elements, they are trapped inside the bird until it is carved. Which leads us to...

The Plan: Prevent aroma from boiling off stock with as little extra effort as possible

One easy way to do this would be a pressure cooker, but then you are dealing with 1) temperatures above boiling point of water @ STP, which may break down bones, introduce other complications, 2) an extra hardware element that not everyone has, 3) limited capacity (for most people), and 4), at least for me, an unanodized cooking vessel exposed to a heated, flavorful liquid for an extended time (my only pressure cooker of any usable stock size is a big pressure canner).

What I ended up doing was ridiculously simple - roasting bags and a low oven. I took a couple of turkey roasting bags (which are huge, food safe, and damn near chemically impermeable), put one inside the other (double layered), put those in a stock pot, loaded up the bag-lined pot with chicken bits (four or five stripped frames, plus some skinned thigh quarters, maybe five bucks total) and aromatics (going lightly on the aromatics), filled it up with boiling water from another pot, tied off the bags (inside bag, then outside bag, using twist ties), then bunged the whole thing in a low oven (180-200, not above 200) for 24 hours. I pulled it, let it cool for 4-6 hours (which would normally be muy mal from a safety standpoint, but the bags were still sealed and the contents had been heat treated), then strained. The resulting stock was remarkably clear for having not been skimmed, and all the particulate would be easy to filter out with some butter muslin if necessary. It tasted like...chicken. Liquid chicken. The bags were so good at holding in the aromas that I literally could not smell anything while the pot was in the oven, but as soon as I opened the bag it was like Chicken Soup Nirvana. Plus, b/c of the bags and the oven, there was no protein schmutz on the bottom of the stock pot, and all the bones and bits stayed in the bag to be thrown out.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with a couple of gallons of liquid gold. Where'd my matzo go?....

-B

#2 nonblonde007

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 07:05 AM

B. Thank you so much! I have had the same issues as you, and never was able to come up with a solution that satisfied me. I will be trying your method next time.
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#3 DTBarton

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 07:26 AM

Sounds interesting, I'll give it a try.

One thing I like to do to get richer stock is use roasted bones. I roast a whole chicken and roughly cut the meat off for a meal, leaving plenty of meat on the carcass. Roast the carcass at 350 or so with salt and pepper until it browns. I hit it with a broiler then for a couple minutes and use that as the base for stock with salt, pepper, onion, celery, carrot and a bit of dry bouquet garni.

Yields a very flavorful stock with somewhat darker color.

#4 jgm

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 07:36 AM

This is enough to get me to try stock (instead of just broth), finally. I'm a frequent broth-maker, but I've always wanted to try stock.

Questions:
Leftover carcasses from other chicken projects can be frozen until stockmaking time, right?

If so, I'd like to dismantle the frames, since storage space in the freezer is not readily available these days. Should I do that at the joints, or can I just break up the bones wherever?

#5 Qwerty

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 10:09 AM

Correct me if I am wrong but I thought that stocks were meant to have a rather neutral flavor, as to not interfere with whatever final application the stock goes through?

I like my grits or black beans to have some of the depth, umami and mouthfeel of stock, but I don't necessarily want it tasting like chicken.

#6 eskay

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 10:33 AM

I suppose it depends on the application--chicken-y stock that was destined for soup or some other chicken dish would probably benefit from this method, but as you said maybe it wouldn't be the best thing for grits :blink:
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#7 bdevidal

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 10:39 AM

Correct me if I am wrong but I thought that stocks were meant to have a rather neutral flavor, as to not interfere with whatever final application the stock goes through?

I like my grits or black beans to have some of the depth, umami and mouthfeel of stock, but I don't necessarily want it tasting like chicken.

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I think that there is no "right" right answer; it will all depend on application and context. A mostly bone stock will be different from a mostly meat stock, a stock intended as mostly a moistening ingredient (or "water++") will need different characteristics than one intended for a consumee, and the requirements for a small stock at home will differ from a universal stock in a restaurant kitchen's steam kettle. You're right, not everything that calls for chicken stock needs to taste formost like chicken, but it's a lot easier to start with the flavor and then pull back than it is to start without the flavor and then try to add it later (I suspect you could dilute this stock if necessary, or if you needed to retain the mouthfeel, you could simmer it for a little while before adding it, but intentionally driving off the Essence of Chicken makes the baby Jesus cry :biggrin: ).

-B

#8 adey73

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 01:22 PM

what are 'baking bags'? ( :huh: .......Not familiar with them here in the UK)
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#9 jgm

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 01:43 PM

what are 'baking bags'? ( :huh: .......Not familiar with them here in the UK)

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The only brand of bags I know of, is made by Reynolds; they also make aluminum foil and similar items here in the US (and perhaps elsewhere?).

Here's the website.

To quote: "Reynolds® Oven Bags are heat-resistant nylon oven bags for cooking warm, hearty dinners without basting or tending."

To commit heresy: my family usually uses these to roast the Thanksgiving turkey, and despite the fact that to do so is to commit a sin against Gully, it actually turns out quite well.

#10 Toliver

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 08:51 AM

To commit heresy: my family usually uses these to roast the Thanksgiving turkey, and despite the fact that to do so is to commit a sin against Gully, it actually turns out quite well.

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You're preaching to the choir. My mom has been using the bags for years and the turkey always turn out great.

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#11 MelissaH

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 09:28 AM

Does anyone know whether these bags can be sealed with a FoodSaver? I'm thinking in terms of hedging bets against leakage.

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#12 fiftydollars

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:54 PM

Does anyone know whether these bags can be sealed with a FoodSaver? I'm thinking in terms of hedging bets against leakage.

MelissaH

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You can seal them on the "seal only" setting. Just don't try to suck the air out...

#13 MelissaH

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 01:21 PM

Does anyone know whether these bags can be sealed with a FoodSaver? I'm thinking in terms of hedging bets against leakage.

MelissaH

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You can seal them on the "seal only" setting. Just don't try to suck the air out...

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Yup, that's what I had in mind. Thanks!
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#14 ducphat30

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 06:00 PM

You can seal them on the "seal only" setting. Just don't try to suck the air out...


Use ice for your liquid-and push the seal button when you start to vacuum the air otherwise you may compromise the integrity of the bag (create leaks elsewhere).
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#15 Chris Amirault

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 06:49 PM

This is fascinating. We need more trials. Volunteers, please step up and document, with photos if possible.
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#16 Shalmanese

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 07:13 PM

This is brilliant and I don't know why I never thought of this before. I floated the idea of stock Sous Vide before but people thought the small yield wouldn't make it worthwhile.

Once, when I cooked stock, I put strainer on top and pressed it down using a cast iron pot to keep the aromatics below the waterline. I filled the pot with some cold water to weight it down and only after I made stock did I realise that the water inside the pot came to 100C without boiling. In theory, you should be able to make a perfectly clear stock using this method because there's no agitation whatsoever in the inner pot. I've been meaning to experiment in that vein but never found the time to do a proper investigation.

Thanks for suggesting a much easier way of achieving the same thing.
PS: I am a guy.

#17 maggiethecat

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 07:33 PM

It's on our schedule for this weekend. This all makes sense. Will report

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#18 bdevidal

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 07:44 PM

Does anyone know whether these bags can be sealed with a FoodSaver? I'm thinking in terms of hedging bets against leakage.

MelissaH

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You can seal them on the "seal only" setting. Just don't try to suck the air out...

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Actually you can't (at least the turkey roasting bags). The turkey roasting bags are made of BoPET (aka Mylar). The property that makes it perfect for a roasting bag (stability at high heat) also make it very hard to heat seal. When used in commercial food packaging, it's actually combined with polyethylene to make it sealable.

Of course, you can use the same process with actual sealable vacuum bags, should work the same way. If necessary, you can freeze the contents with the water, then vacu-seal it. But this does have a couple of problems:
-Vacuum bags are boiling rated but not oven rated, so you would have to be very careful about oven temp
-Since you have to seal it, you can't use the pre-boiled water method. This means you have to bring it up to temp in some other way, preferably a large boiling water bath. The contents have to be hot before you put it in the oven because a low oven would take forever to bring it up to temp (danger zone), a higher temp will compromise the bag either through melting (vacu-bag) or through gas expansion/steam pressure if you overshoot (both bags). If you do it in a water bath, you have to make sure that the bag is suspended off the bottom of the pot or the bag will melt (from contact with the metal w/o the water). Then once at temp, you would either have to put the entire water bath vessel + bag in the oven, or pull a now boiling multiple gallon bag out of the bath and into another container. Don't forget, vacu-bags are boiling rated but they also lose most of their structural integrity around that point (become "stretchy").
-For a fair amount of stock, it would get pretty expensive.

As far as the roasting bags go, I double bagged it, but I didn't notice any leaks. There were a couple of tablespoons of liquid in the stockpot when I pulled out the bags (did I mention how easy the cleanup was?), but it did not smell like stock and may have just been condensation of some sort. When emptying the stock, you just fold the bags over the rim of the stock pot and either ladle or pour out the stock; the bag is just the seal with the stockpot doing all the support. The only two things I can think of to be especially careful with are to make sure the oven doesn't go much over 200F (check with actual thermometer, not dial; >212F+water=steam, steam=pressure, pressure=bag that goes pop) and to be careful about sharp bones from the chicken or whatnot.

-B

(EDIT: It appears I may be mistaken on the makeup of the bag material. It looks like there may be both BoPET and Nylon roasting bags, but I don't know enough about polymer material sciences to say if BoPET may be a subset of Nylon and/or if they are using the word "Nylon" in a non-standard way. I'm still pretty sure, given their heat resistance, roasting bags of either sort won't be heat-sealable with a consumer sealer.)

Edited by bdevidal, 19 September 2007 - 08:02 PM.


#19 bdevidal

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 08:09 PM

In theory, you should be able to make a perfectly clear stock using this method because there's no agitation whatsoever in the inner pot. I've been meaning to experiment in that vein but never found the time to do a proper investigation.

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Perfectly clear might be hard; what you gain in low agitation you loose somewhat in the lack of "scum" formation, which normally aids clarification. I would say my stock came out to "servicable clarity", with most of the turbidity from fine particulate matter and not from completely emulsified whatnot, and that was just through a corse sieve. Of course, there's nothing preventing one from doing a cold gelatin clarification on the product.

-B

#20 Marlene

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 05:53 AM

This is enough to get me to try stock (instead of just broth), finally.  I'm a frequent broth-maker, but I've always wanted to try stock.


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Isn't chicken broth just chicken stock with herbs and flavourings added? I'm confused.
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#21 Qwerty

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 09:16 AM

Broth is made with meat and stock is made with bones....most "stocks" made at home are usually hybrid...that is with varying rations of meat and bones. Generally speaking, a broth has more flavor of the product, while stock has more body.

#22 Marlene

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 09:22 AM

Broth is made with meat and stock is made with bones....most "stocks" made at home are usually hybrid...that is with varying rations of meat and bones. Generally speaking, a broth has more flavor of the product, while stock has more body.

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Thanks! I learned to make stock using Fat Guy's course, and of course, he's using both meat and bones so that's what I always do!
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#23 roosterchef21

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 01:50 AM

At work, we poach 5kg of chicken maryland's 5 times a week in a stock. The thing is we reuse this stock over and over again like a chinese masterstock. It's gone from a pale chicken stock to this incredibly intense, deep dark brown stock. It has so much flavour. It's like having 10 chickens in your mouth at once! It's at the point now where it's actually making the chicken sweeter once it's cooked. And it's solid when cold. We could cut it like a terrine! About 15 litres of stock. It's 6 months old...

#24 britcook

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 03:03 AM

what are 'baking bags'? ( :huh: .......Not familiar with them here in the UK)

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You can get them in most UK supermarkets, but we call them roasting bags.

#25 Peter the eater

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 04:56 AM

It's like having 10 chickens in your mouth at once!


Now there's a mental image that will be with me for some time!

Count me in for the "liquid gold test kitchen". I have a giant tray of fresh chicken fragments in the fridge, and a dozen frozen Meat Kings from the farm. Photos and comments to follow . . .
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#26 Khadija

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 07:38 AM

I will try this method as soon as I get a chance. I make a lot of chicken broth-based noodle soups (e.g., Pho Ga) in the winter, and I always want my broth/stock to be more chicken-y.

#27 Mallet

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 06:46 AM

I'll investigate doing this on a small scale (i.e: tonight's leftover roast chicken).
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#28 nathanm

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 10:25 AM

The key issue in this method is sealing the container so that the volatile flavor compounds do not escape. To do that you need to have some way of making an air tight (and ideally water tight) seal.

Note that you must NOT bring the temperature to a boiling point if you have a sealed container - otherwise the pressure from the steam will burst the bag or seal.

Roasting bags, as listed in the first post are one good way to do this. The only issue is that the bags cannot be heat sealed, so you need to double bag them and try to make sure that the seal is done tightly with the supplied twist ties.

This approach to stock making could be done sous vide, however to do that you need to have a large chamber style vacuum sealer, and large bags.

You could also use sous vide style bags and heat seal them without a vacuum. For example, a Food Saver vacuum packer, or other edge seal vacuum machines will let you seal bags. Food Savers work poorly for liquids - they tend to get sucked up into the machine. However, you don't really need a vacuum at all in this case, just dial the vacuum down to zero and use the food saver to seal the bag with air in it.

A sealed sous vide bag (with or without vacuum) will get a much better seal than you can get with the roasting bag approach. You can turn it upside down and the seal won't break. I would NOT try this with roasting bags - the seal you get with the twist ties is not that good.

If you use bags (either roasting or sous vide), there is a useful trick once you are done. Instead of dumping the whole bag out the top, hold the bag at an angle and snip one of the lower corners off the bag with kitchen shears. The liquid will drain out and leave the meat, bay leaves etc in the bag. It also acts as its own funnel. This makes clean up simpler. Fat will rise to the top - if you don't want it in the stock you can keep it n the bag by pinching off the cut corner just before it drains out.

Instead of bags, hard containers can also be used. Mason jars like those used for canning work well - the gasket in the lid is made to take 250F and above so it will work fine at lower temp. Just seal the meat and liquid in large mason jars, and put them in the oven, or in a bath of water in the oven, or even a bath of water (big canning pot) on the stove. You must keep the temperature below boiling. Note that the result is NOT "canned stock" because the temperature is not high enough for canning.

Instead of an oven one could use a sous vide water bath. Or, you could probably use a crock pot, set on low. Mason jars, or sous vide bags set in water in a crock pot would work very well. Just check the temperatures - crock pots and slow cookers often have inaccurate thermostats.

However, the simplest way to do approach to stock making is with a pressure cooker - many people already have a pressure cooker in the kitchen, it is larger capacity than mason jars or sous vide bags and is made to seal tight.

Normally you use a pressure cooker above the boiling point of water, so it is actually under pressure. However, if you use a pressure cooker BELOW the boiling point of water, it is essentially an air and water tight sealed container, which is just what this techinque requires.

In this approach you load the stock ingredients in the pressure cooker, then put the whole thing in the oven at low temp (190F to 200F).

Some pressure cookers have plastic composite handles, and may not be OK in the oven, but most would work as long as the temperature is 190F or lower. The metal part of a pressure cooker routinely gets to 250F when it is pressure cooking, so the handle has to be able to take that - and usually some margin above it. So, even if if your pressure cooker says it is "not oven safe" - what they really mean by that is 350F and above. If you are 190F to 200F, it should work fine.

You could also use the pressure cooker on a stove burner, but only if you can turn it down low enough that it does not boil. Try the lowest setting and find out.

Using a pressure cooker for low temperture sealed stock making begs the question of why not turn up the heat and save a lot of time? Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck uses a pressure cooker for stock making (as discussed in many threads on eGullet). People often say that a pressure cooker will make a stock cloudy or have an off taste, but this does not occur if you do it right.

The key to doing this is to pressure cook the stock very gently by controlling the heat so that the the pressure valve barely reaches the point you want it to be. The pressure relief valve should not be whistling like a tea kettle. If you do that then there is some loss of volatile compounds, but very little. The time is cut dramatically - instead of 12 hours, an hour would suffice. However, if you prefer low temperature that is fine too.

In all cases you should cool the stock quickly after cooking unless you are going to use it immediately. The best way cool it is to put the bag, jars, or pressure cooker, into a large basin (or stopped up sink) with cold water and ice. Or, filter out the meat and bones and then either use it, or chill it.

Letting it sit and cool slowly is a bad idea from a food safety standpoint - there are some species of bacteria that have spores that could withstand the long low cooking and there is no point letting them germinate.

Although the topic of this thread is chicken stock, the same methods work for fish stock and meat stocks, with some adjustment of the time. Vegetable stocks can work as well. In all cases you are trapping the volatile flavor compounds. It means that your kitchen will not have that incredible smell in it during the stock making - because you are saving the smell and flavor for the final product.

One final point. All stock making works better if the meat and bones are cut up finely. This increases the surface area, and helps promote the flavor compounds leaching out into the stock. The best is to grind it with a meat grinder - bones and all. This has been discussed previously in other threads on eGullet.
Nathan

#29 Peter the eater

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 07:01 PM

This is fascinating. We need more trials. Volunteers, please step up and document, with photos if possible.

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Here's what I did today:

1. took out a dozen chicken thighs, skin and bone intact:
Posted Image

2. removed the bony bits with a paring knife:
Posted Image

3. vacuum/heat sealed the bones with a litre of liquid water:
Posted Image

4. cooked them in a big stock pot for 4 hours at 60 C:
Posted Image


The bag is now cooling. It will be filtered and then refrigerated until tomorrow. I am a bit surprised at the brownness of the liquid, its not at all that lovely "chicken yellow" colour. There has been zero odor from this process so I'm thinking all those elusive volatile flavour compounds must still be in the bag.

Finishing and taste test tomorrow . . .

BTW I was so pleased with the outcome of the actual thighs I'm going to post them on the Dinner! forum.

Here's a teaser:
Posted Image
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I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
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#30 Jensen

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 10:46 AM

Peter, what type of bag did you use?