Do you believe in the dinner fairy?
Gorgeous meals do not magically appear on my dinner table every night. I’m still waiting to meet her, just so you know. By the time 5 o’clock rolls around I’m dragging. I’m hungry. On a good day dinner is thoughtfully planned out and ready to go. Other days, I wish for her to swoop down and wave her magic wand (clean my dishes) and bring me wine.
That’s why I batch cook.
For this method, I use my slow cooker to braise 3+ pounds of bone-in, skinless chicken thighs.
The bone keeps the meat juicy and adds flavor to the broth. The meat is simmered with just enough water to cover and plenty of aromatics; carrots, onion and rosemary. Celery and bay leaves would be nice too.
Braise the chicken in your slow cooker for about 4 hours on high heat or 8 hours on low. If you choose high heat, after 3 hours you can easily cut the chicken into chunks. The 4 hour mark is perfect for shredding. The meat is so tender you can do this with your fingers (but don’t- it’s really hot).
When the chicken has cooled completely, freeze and label whatever you’re not using.
And here’s the best part-
Not only do you get juicy, tender chicken to use at your convenience you also get homemade stock.
This is liquid gold.
Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the braising liquid using a cheesecloth or sturdy paper towel. You do own a cheesecloth, right? ;) A fat separator would work too. Then pour it into a container. When the stock has cooled down, refrigerate overnight. Any residual fat will rise to the top and harden. Skim this off with a spoon. Voilá! You now have low-fat chicken stock.
Chicken stock will vary in color, so don’t be alarmed if yours doesn’t look like mine. They also vary in texture. If yours is a bit wobbly (like jello) after it’s been refrigerated don’t freak out. This is a good thing. The technical term is ‘gelatinous’ and this happens when the stock has been reduced for a lengthy period of time. It adds wonderful viscosity and flavor to your stock. It will liquify once heated.
Store in small jars to use during the week and freeze the rest. Homemade stock tastes like no other.
Time is something you either have or you don’t.
That is the beauty of batch cooking. With a slow cooker your time is mostly hands off. You don’t have to babysit the stove and there aren’t a million ingredients to round-up. Think about all the money you’ll save too- no last minute take out orders to solve your dinner crisis and no overpriced chicken stock. Your freezer is stocked with homemade chicken ready to use whenever. Just defrost! I like it with soup, fajitas, risotto, and tomato sauce. But when I’m really lazy, I just eat the chicken out of the pot with salad.
Believe in the dinner fairy and good things will happen… Do you batch cook?
Hi, this looks great! I’m wondering if you would describe the process of braising? Do you just cover the chicken in water, add some pepper, salt, thyme, and a few stock veggies (as shown in your photo)?
Hi! Thank you! Yes, the chicken thighs are simmered with water (not too much, maybe 1/2 way up the sides or just enough to cover), and the aromatic veggies shown in the pictures (onions, carrots, thyme, etc). You can add salt to taste, if you want. Then I just let it cook in the slow cooker. The idea is to let it cook ‘low and slow’ so that the meat becomes really tender. That’s it! Once finished the chicken be used as a base for all kinds of recipes. Enjoy!
Thanks so much! Had it in my slow cooker today, and it tastes delicious! Will be checking back to your website for more recipes/ tips :)
Andy Chestnut says
Great idea…and, if time permits, can be done with whole jointed Chickens which can work out even more economical. (Jointing a chicken is easy and, with practice, takes minutes.)
You can freeze joints or batch cook and remember to use the carcass in the cook to add substance and flavour to the stock.
Hi Andy! I agree- cooking with whole chickens is a very economical tip. Plus, you get a delicious soup for all of your hard work ;) I actually made this same recipe today using chicken wings for stock. The skin will be discarded and I’ll freeze the meat for a future recipe. Gotta love multi-tasking!
What a beautiful, nourishing idea Emilie. I don’t have a slow cooker but I do think that I need to invest in one. They are such a useful invention for busy (or just time-effective!) people. I love how this is a multifaceted concept; delicious meat and also awesome stock for other uses. Lovely photos too xx
The good news is that you don’t need a slow cooker to do this! You can easily achieve the same results my braising the chicken, low and slow, for a couple of hours in a heavy bottom pot such as a Dutch Oven. I would do 300 F for 4 hours or so. I happen to like my slow cooker because it has a timer. If I’m out and about I don’t have to worry abut burning the house down :)
Yes lovely, I batch cook. Your chickens looks delicious, but as you say, the stock is gold! I love it when it goes all hard and gelatinous. Freeze the fat too – you can use it to fry rice in, then add it to the rice cooker with chicken stock and you have instant Hainanese chicken rice! :)
I know you do ;) I think Santa needs to bring me a freezer chest this year. I almost prefer a stocked freezer to a fridge, if that even makes any sense. I love all this prep ahead stuff but I could definitely use more space. I will take you up on that Hainanese rice- sounds delish. xx
The Blonde Chef says
This is the perfect post for me! My husband has been home sick and I’ve been going through soup recipes left and right! I obviously need to make a batch of this!
So sorry to hear about your hubby! It’s that time of the year, right? The same is going around in our house as well. There’s nothing like a warm bow of chicken soup to soothe the soul. ;)
No wonder you call your site The Cleve Carrot with info like this. You are so right about homemade chicken stock being like no other. And the same can be said threefold for beef. Isn’t it wonderful to have these things in one’s freezer all the time? What to some might seem like “big projects” come together in a snap with a well stocked freezer. That shot of the soup is particularly enticing. It finally feels like fall here in Southern California, and some soup sounds good tome.
Ha ha… not always! I’m still learning everyday with plenty of blunders under my belt. That’s what I love about cooking- there’s always a new technique, tip, and method to explore. In school we made vats and vats of beef, chicken, and veal stock. They were stored in GIANT tubs and we were free to use them at our convenience. How spoiled! I don’t make homemade stock as often as I would like, but this braising method kills two birds with one stone. Initially, it might seem like a big task but as you point out, it’s not. Prep ahead and you’ll be rewarded with time when you really need it. xo
A great idea. Thank you
You’re welcome Liz! Have fun with this idea… you can play around with the ingredients to suit your taste and to use up whatever you have in the fridge. With a little planning, you’ll have meals (and stock) for the rest of the week. Enjoy :)
Brilliant. I will definitely be doing this today to help save time next week. Thank you!
That’s great! I think it only took me about 10 minutes of prep time to get this going (not even), then I was free to go about my business for the day. You can switch up the aromatics based on what you have too. I like to throw in any sad looking vegetables from the drawer- no waste! The more the merrier. Happy cooking Rachelle! Enjoy the weekend :)
Julie @ Lovely Little Kitchen says
This is so very smart, and I really need to do it. How much better would I sleep at night if I knew all of this was packed away for me in my freezer!
Oh I know! I’m never this organized on a weekly basis, but having a stocked freezer certainly saves the day when I can’t catch up with dinner duties. The best part is that the chicken is cooked, which means you can just build a simple meal around it. The boys like it in their quesadillas and it’s great for a quick soup or chili during the week.
Every time chicken thighs are on sale I buy a couple of packs and do this same thing. I usually use half water and half chicken stock to cover them up though. I love having bags of cooked chicken in the freezer that I can easily grab and add to pasta or make fried rice or a hash, etc.
Hi Julie! Absolutely- when chicken is at a great price it’s the best time to batch cook. It feels like your getting ahead! I like your tip of using half water and half chicken stock to braise the meat. What a great way to fortify the flavor of the broth :)