chicken stock recipe

All photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman, click them to go to her site.

Last week I posted on Twitter that leaving chicken stock (recipe below) out on the stovetop all week was fine and I got all kinds of mystified tweets about how could this possibly be safe.

It is, and it’s a great way to have stock on hand all week for a quick sauce, a poaching liquid, an instant soup, add it to a stir-fry and thicken with cornstarch.  You don’t need to go through all the straining and storing and labeling of stock and cleaning a big heavy stock pot. I do like to strain it out of one pot into another to get the bones out of it, but even that’s not strictly necessary to have easy chicken stock available most days of the week. [Update 8/24/2011: I should have clarified, provided that you boil it for at least several minutes, but, according to an article in today’s NYTimes by food science authority, even this is unwise.  While simmering the stock will take care of bacteria, it does not kill spores, and it does not destabilize all toxins.  So prudence suggests that if you leave the stock on the stove top to cool overnight, bring the stock to a simmer the next day, strain and cool it then. (I’d like also to note, that the idea for Harold’s article came from me—and I’m glad for Harold’s reporting, as ever.)]

I’ll address the bacteria issues then describe how I personally make small batches of stock all year long using the leftover carcass from a roasted chicken dinner, which I do about once a week.  (You should too, Russ Parsons!)

People are unnecessarily afraid of bacteria. Once your stock is cooked, it’s safe to eat.  If there was bad bacteria in it, you’d have killed it. Let it cool uncovered (the faster the better; don’t fear bacteria but don’t give them the upper hand). Leave the pot out on the stove top (covered or uncovered once it’s cooled, doesn’t really matter).  Bring it up to a simmer for 10 minutes or so the next day and any bacteria that landed there and began to mulitply (and they multiply with astonishing speed at 90 to 110 degrees F.) will be dispatched well before the stock hits a simmer.  [Again, as the article mentioned above notes, and as a commenter below notes, this leaves the possibility for heat stable toxins to develop.]

The only issue in leaving stock out all week is flavor.  During the winter, our kitchen is cool.  In the summer when it’s hot, I can’t leave the stock out because bacteria makes it sour.  They don’t make it harmful.  I would not leave it out for a week cold and eat it without reheating it. The following are recipe and pix of how I make small batches of chicken stock all year long. It take minutes of actual labor, not hours. Having Made And Consumed the The World’s Most Difficult Chicken Recipehere’s what you do:

Easy Chicken Stock

  • Chicken bones and scraps from the devoured chicken
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 or 2 carrots chopped (I peel them for photos!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
  • optional: tablespoon tomato paste, garlic, thyme
  1. Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart pot cover with water, and cook over low heat (no bubbles, 180 degrees F/82 degrees C is ideal) for 4 to 6 hours or bring to a simmer and put it in a low oven (below 200 degrees F/93 degrees C) for 4 to 6 hours (I sometimes just leave it in overnight).
  2. If you want to strain it, strain it.  If you want to skim the fat off the top, fine.  If you don’t, don’t.
  3. Bring to a simmer before using; if not using the next day bring it to a simmer, allow it to cool and refrigerate it.

The following are pix from start to finished stock:

chicken stock recipe

Stock mise: broken up chcken carcass, onion, carrot, bay, pepper

chicken stock recipe

The stock on the left is cooking at the correct temperature—too hot to touch but not simmering. Don't boil it! Stock on right will be cloudy and have a lower yield. There are reasons you might boil stock, but generally it's not good practice.

chicken stock recipe

Depending on my schedule, I cook the bones first for 4 hours or overnight, then add the veg and cook another hour or so. Too much time in the heat and veg breaks down, absorbing stock that you lose in the strainer.

chicken stock recipe

This stock is almost finished.

chicken stock recipe

If I will be storing the stock, I strain out all the bones and veg into a 2-quart measuring cup; if I'm doing leave-out-on-stove-top for use through out the week, I strain it into a clean sauce pan. You could leave all the bones and stuff in it all week, I suppose, but it looks kind of gross, and each time you brought it to a simmer, you'd create more stock-stealing fragments.

all-strain kitchen cloth

When I want my stock very clean and refined, I strain it through a cloth. (The above is one of my All-Strain kitchen cloths, usually available at OpenSky. Their site is undergoing an overhaul, though, so if you're interested in them, email me, or see link below for info on all my kitchen tools.)

chicken stock recipe

One chicken carcass and veg give me about a quart of stock. If I'm not keeping it out on the stove for weekday cooking, I store it in the fridge, removing the layer of fat that congeals on the surface. It will keep in the fridge for a week, or you can freeze it for a few months before it begins to pick up freezer odors.

UPDATE 4/8/11: After an email exchange with a commenter, a large-animal veterinarian who wishes to remain anonymous, I’m adding information on bacteria for those who want it. I stand by all of the above, and I left Monday’s chicken stock on the stove to cool overnight and didn’t get around to finishing it till 4 the next day.  I honestly think it’s highly unlikely that it’s unsafe, so unlikely that I won’t hesitate to feed my kids chicken soup tonight, but it is possible that bacteria could be introduced to such a stock, two of which could potentially grow and create enough heat-stable toxin to make you ill.  When I emailed the vet that it was more dangerous to drive a car than leave a stock pot out at room temperature (which it is), she advised me to wear a seat belt.  Which I do.  Also I refrigerated my stock when it was done in a quart deli container.  While I don’t think anyone is going to stir their stock with a toothbrush or pick their nose over it, then leave the stock out for several days, it would indeed be irresponsible of me not to convey as much info as possible about this issue for people who have concerns. Staphylococcus aureos is a common bacterium found on skin and in noses, where it is harmless, but it can, in the wet warm protein conditions of stock, generate a heat-stable toxin that could make you very, very uncomfortable. And there is a type of  E. coli, unrelated to the nasty 0157:H7, that can generate a toxin that can give you diarrhea, which is no fun, especially if you are dining at Paul Bocuse (which happened to me this winter, almost certainly froom food poisoning). And if you want to get really paranoid about things keep the handy chart at the bottom of this link taped to your refrigerator. If you liked this post on chicken stock, check out these other links:

    © 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

192 Wonderful responses to “Stock Convictions”

  • Lisa

    I suggest you study food safety a bit more.

    There are several types of foodborne illness. Only one is caused by bacteria that infect the body making a person ill. Other types are caused by toxins created by organisms in the food, and, those toxins are NOT destroyed by heat/freezing. And, then there are the parasites…

    Anyway, 4 hours at room temperature is the absolute maximum anyone should risk.

    • ruhlman

      I’ve been doing this for years and never been ill. I’m sure there must be toxins not neutralized by heat or freezing, but they won’t be in your chicken stock. And what kind of parasites will I find in my roasted chicken? And what ones won’t be killed at 180 degrees. I really would like to know!

      • Curt Gratteau

        I like to use Kellers roast chicken recipe on a couple of game hen every once and a while. Whenever I try to make stock with the carcasses, it comes out tasting like chicken flavored water. Even after cooking it all night. Could this be because I have been cooking it at too high a temperature? I used a cinnamon stick once, simmering it for about 15 minutes. That came out a little bit better. Kind of like Vietnamese Pho.

        • Billy Ocean

          I’ve had this experience also. Try raw bones instead of cooked (buy chicken leg quarters and bone them, use the meat for whatever, then proceed as usual). You may also simply not have enough bones for how much water you’re using.

      • boscodagame

        I’ve been doing this for at least 30 years. Glad to see someone besides myself explain this to the “fearful”. I need to make some more since I used my last stock for a batch of pozole.

    • Dr. Laura


    • mattgmann

      could you expand on the actual “toxins” and “organisms in food” you speak of? I am skeptical of your food safety knowledge as you have sighted generic terms.

  • Digging Dog Farm

    I agree that folks have become far too bacteria phobic.
    My grandmother left stock on the stove much of the time.

    I do it a bit differently, I keep a perpetual pot of stock going on the woodstove all winter long in a double boiler placed on a cast iron trivet so that it doesn’t get too hot.
    Take away finished stock and add new ingredients as needed.
    Seems you can never have too much good chicken stock!

  • tea_austen

    My family in Japan leaves miso soup in a pot on the stove for days. They say as long as you bring it nearly to a boil once a day then you’re safe (though I admit doing that with chicken stock makes me a little nervous).

  • Nancy

    Sometimes my cooking collides with bed time as in, “EEK – it’s midnight and you have a 6 am conference call for which you haven’t begun to make notes or an agenda!” and if it’s soup, stock or a pot of beans I let it cool on the stove until the next morning. Yes, if it’s a meat stock, I take out the bones and of course, make sure I bring it to temp when I’m ready to use it.

  • Mr Belm

    I’m with Ruhlman. I’ve left pots of stock on the stove for days, bringing up to temperature when needed for cooking. You have to employ some common sense: do’t stick your fingers in the stock, don’t double-dip a tasting spoon, etc., but other wise it’s perfectly safe.

    I’ve studied both food safety and biochemistry at MIT, and spent years working in cell culture laboratories. Food isn’t sterile; it never will be.

  • Jill

    I just made stock from a carcass over the weekend and now that I read this post I see all kinds of mistakes I made (let it come to a boil, adding the vegetables too early, not cooking it long enough). It still tastes fine, but next weekend when I do it again I’ll have these great tips to follow. Many thanks, as usual.

  • latenac

    I have several friends who study bacteria for a living that will have nightmares about this post. I’ll be sending this to them as my joke of what I’ll now be doing. I’m pretty sure they would point out to you that the danger is not necessarily currently in the chicken carcass but certainly can end up in the stock afterwards b/c apparently bacteria really, really love stock especially room temperature stock.

    • ruhlman

      It’s funny, people who study this stuff see bacteria everywhere and I know that what they know is scary, but they also need some common sense, awareness of their own experience and observation, and maybe even a course statistics and probability!

      • gfweb1

        Your presumption is amazing. If it hasn’t happened in your experience then you figure it won’t ever happen to anyone.

  • bloody frida

    Yes, people are way to bacteria-phobic. Actually my mom used to leave leftovers on the stove all night – we never got sick but I wouldn’t suggest this as a course of action! 🙂

  • Carole

    I agree with Lisa. Remind me not to have the chicken stock at your house. That’s disgusting.

    • ruhlman

      I assure you, it’s not disgusting. We can argue that it’s risky (I don’t believe it is), but we would be agreed on its deliciousness!

  • Adrian

    I totally agree, anything that is left at the end of the night is put into containers and “fridged ” by my wife, even though i implore her, ‘it won’t kill you to leave it overnight” , or of course longer.

    • Emilie

      I can’t get my husband to “fridge” anything. If it’s left out over night or even up to 24 hours, it’s good to eat, but if I “fridge” it he won’t touch it no matter what. Yet if I show him homemade stock, even only half hour after done it’s not safe enough to eat. People have fears that no one can make them get rid of, even if I am with Ruhlman on this one.

  • Digging Dog Farm

    Interestingly, my grandmother was born in Cleveland Heights when my great-grandfather worked for the Cleveland Department of Public Health & Sanitation as an inspector around 1920. They never seemed to have a great fear of household bacteria…LOL

  • Mike

    Should skin be removed from the carcass or does it go in too? Also in “Ratio” you mention a 3:2 ratio of bones to water. For a first-time stock maker (e.g. me) would you recommend weighing to ensure the stock isn’t too diluted? I’m excited about trying this and have been freezing carcasses from roasted chickens; since there was less than a pound left from each I didn’t think it would be enough yield to be worth making stock until I had a few so I’m glad to learn that’s not the case.

    • David

      @Mike – good questions…. Curious for Ruhlman’s take re: skin too. I used to remove it, but now I leave it on for the flavor it adds (I might remove any particularly fatty sections to keep the grease level down a bit). I spend a few more minutes skimming the fat as it cooks to compensate. I do the same thing too… freeze the carcasess and make a larger batch of stock when I have time. As far as weighing anything, I don’t bother for stock. Just add enough water to cover the chicken parts by a few inches, leaving enough room for the veg to fit in there too.

    • ruhlman

      for newbies, yes, 3:2 is good ratio but learn to do it by eye. skin loaded with collagen = gelatin = stock with good body

  • gfweb1

    Were you asleep in the food safety lectures at CIA? Stock is a great growth medium. Could you get away with leaving it out on the stovetop? Yeah, most of the time.

    But not always. Heating , even to a boil, won’t destroy all toxins or spores. Good practice is good practice

    • ruhlman

      i agree on the good practice, and it’s always best to cool fast and refrigerate immediately, especially in a restaurant doing heavy volume. and flavorwise this is best too. but at home, other factors come in to play.

  • latenac

    Listeria is one of the bacteria that loves chicken stock. I’m not germphobic by any stretch but I’m not really keen on listeria. And that is one bacteria that multiplies quickly and doesn’t necessarily go away upon reboiling. You’re never going to get rid of bacteria, true. But also don’t need to leave a wonderful bacteria breeding ground on my stove all week either.

    • ruhlman

      do you or does anyone know the time-temp death points for listeria? also, listeria not common in homes. more common in floor drains of food factories.

      • Marcy

        Listeria, however, is a big risk for pregnant moms. It is one of the few true risks (sushi is fine, bad soft cheese/cold cuts…that can harm the fetus.) I’d advise against it for any of the pregnant readers. I’d also reconsider it for the very young, very old and anyone who might be immunocompromised.

    • Pat

      But what are the practical implications of this? Is Listeria really a threat? Of course, someone could get sick by eating raw egg whites too but it is rare. And on my commute tomorrow I’d probably stand a good chance of a rollover given Chicago’s bad drivers.

  • gfweb1

    You can play on railroad tracks for hours and never get killed. But then that unexpected train comes along.

    • ruhlman

      true. I can give you countless reports of train accidents. can you or anyone point me to case studies of food bourne illness from stock that has been brought to a simmer?

      • gfweb1

        Oy. You can really be a knucklehead. No I can’t give you a paper reporting this. You argue like my teenage son.

        • ruhlman

          I don’t disagree with the knucklehead comment, nor would my wife and kids. But: I would like to hear of someone, anyone, anyone at all, who has gotten ill from stock that’s been brought to a simmer. Until I do, it’s my common sense against yours.

          btw, mcgee notes that gelatinous stock is remarkably similar to the gel they put in petrie dishes to grow bacteria. and I still think you’re wrong. [sound of bedroom door slamming shut]

  • Jen

    I stumbled upon this and I’m not one to tell someone not to do something if they’ve done it for so long but I have worked in a lab dealing with bacteria/viruses/parasites/fungus and am wary of cooking methods. If you leave a cooked steak out overnight, you can’t eat that (even if you reheat it). With soup, even if you boil it, there’s still ways to get sick (especially those that are immunocompromised). Here is a tidbit of an article I found:

    There are really two ways for microbes to make you sick. One is through infection, the other through intoxication. In an infection it is the microbes themselves that make you sick, and yes boiling the stock for a period of time would kill them off. But an intoxication is where the microbes make you sick from the waste products they produce, through feeding, respiration and reproduction. These toxic substances are not always destroyed by boiling. One example is the botulism toxin. It will survive most normal boilings, and there are many others. Chances are your stock would be safe, those little bugs are not that common, but why risk it. The few dollars and little time you spent making it, doesn’t justify making yourself or someone else sick. And the potential for really making someone sick, or even killing them is there.

    • ruhlman

      I don’t know how you’d get any botulism bacteria into a stock that has boiled. I was also under the impression that cooking did in fact neutralize the toxin. Is this not true? I know the spores that give life to the bacterium that generates the toxin is very hard to kill, thus the need for care in sterilization for canning. But do you know the actual time-temp at which the toxin would be neutralized.

      Also, if this is actually something to worry about, there must be case studies describing such food bourne illnesses. Do you know of any?

      • Mark Tigges

        Botulism spores are pretty much ubiquitous in our world. If you accidently slip a garlic skin in to your stock and fish it out immediately you will almost certainly be fine but there remains a chance that you just innoculated your stock with botulism.

        Fortunately, it takes a long time for a botulism spore to colonize and begin to produce toxin in any appreciable amount. If you reheat to boiling each day then a colony that may have begun to grow (and produce toxin) will be destroyed. The boiling will not destroy the spore.

        And I believe that boiling has no effect on the toxin.

        I would eat your stock … but I would also say, if you have the room in your fridge … you may as well put it in the fridge.

        • Caroljay

          Actually, most Gram-positive toxins (exotoxins), such as botulinum toxin, are heat-labile, due to their proteinaceous nature. This means that it requires 15 minutes of boiling to fully denature (destroy) the toxin. Also, botulism requires low to no-oxygen environments, since the source bacteria, Costridium botulinum, are obligate anaerobes.

          • Caroljay

            Water can be anaerobic, if it lacks dissolved oxygen gas. However, if water contains dissolved oxygen, then it would not be anaerobic. Clostridium bacteria would most likely require conditions with less oxygen than in a pot of stock. When we cultured Clostridium bacteria in the lab, we had to use a special anaerobic chamber – no oxygen present at all. The problem with botulism lies in storing food in sealed, low-oxygen, low-acid conditions, such as jars or cans, without adequate heat treatment (such as with pressure canning). Since the spores are so resistant, they can survive and sprout under these conditions, and begin to produce toxins. I am fairly sure that botulism (for one) would not be a problem with the stock at room temperature, unless you were to can it without using pressure.

  • Digging Dog Farm

    If you want to see something real scary and potentially troublesome, grab a microscope and take a good gander at that cutting board that you thought you cleaned well!!! LOL

  • Sonia

    Love this post. I am constantly fighting for room in my small fridge. I think this might be a good time to lists other things that are safe to leave out of the fridge. We eat a lot of eggs, and I bake, so I never put the eggs in the fridge. Mustard is quite happy in the cupboard. Jams don’t need to be refrigerated, simply remove surface molds. Milk will be ok if you leave it out while you take a shower. A stick of butter on your counter will not go rancid. 🙂

    • Bart

      Where I live, in Belgium, it is actually quite difficult to find a refrigerated egg — room temperature is the norm even at most supermarkets. The only issue is that the egg ages faster, making the yolk more fragile. Still, it freaks a lot of our American visitors out when we take them to a street market and they big piles of eggs sitting out in baskets at whatever temperature the street happens to be that day….

  • E. Nassar

    Thank you for some common sense I do that all the time and we’ve never been sick. Not very scientific, I know, but I probably have more of a chance of getting hit by a car than getting sick from my own stock. Most toxins (if by any small chance there were any to begin with) are neutralized by high heat. Lets do a post on refrigerating -or not refrigerating- eggs next please :-), I leave those on the counter for long stretches of time as well, then I use them to make a good cocktail or 3.

    • ruhlman

      gabrielle hamilton notes how her italian family left eggs out all the time too and wondered why we didn’t do it in america. I’ve always heard that if theyre if you gather your own eggs and don’t wash or refrigerate them, then you can keep them at room temp. but we have so many problems with salmonella, i’d never feel comfortable doing that in this country, not with store bought eggs.

      • MessyONE

        I know the egg answer! Eggs have a thin membrane over the shell when the hen lays them. It’s this invisible membrane that prevents bacterial nasties from killing chicks before they hatch. It also allows you to keep fresh eggs in a cool room (we used to keep them in the mud room at the farm) without refrigeration without them going bad.

        Eggs that are sold in grocery stores have been scrubbed and soaked to make sure the shells look pristine in the cartons, so that membrane has been removed and the eggs must be refrigerated.

      • Mike Romeo

        When I got stationed in Italy, a little over a year and a half ago, I was surprised too see all the eggs I buy here just sitting out in little six pack cartons in the market I go to. All the different brands, didn’t matter. Doesn’t freak me out, but I still throw them in the fridge when I get home!

        BTW, love the timeliness of the post! I just made a couple gallantines for a dinner party last week and have a pot of stock sitting on my stove top because my little European fridge is too small!!!

      • Sue Hanson

        Eggs are in their own perfect container. We are the only country in the world where eggs are routinely refrigerated. As long as they are not cracked – they’re fine.

  • latenac

    Eggs are a little different than just leaving meat or stock on a counter. Eggs actually have defense mechanisms in them to prevent bacteria from taking hold while stock doesn’t.

  • cadbxny

    I agree with you 100%. I learned years ago that foods should be cooled completely uncovered. The condensation created when hot food is covered is a prime spot for bacteria to grow. I also leave my butter out on the counter too.

    • ruhlman

      other issue is that it keeps the temp in the serious danger zone longer, that 100 to 110 degree playground for bacteria

  • Jane C

    We have been doing this for years without a single problem! My older kids now do it in their own places and it is never wasted. Their freinds appreciate something homemade rather than out of a box or can. Something so simple is a thing of beauty!

  • Peter

    Back when I was a poor grad student I would often keep a big soup pot on the stove all week, adding a few new things to it and reheating it for dinner each night. I never even caught a cold, let alone got food poisoning. I think this is a great post, but if it grosses you out, by all means feel free not to do it.

  • Jason Logsdon

    I had a quick question. You say that 180F is ideal. Do you think if you cooked the stock sous vide (using a PID in a crockpot, no sense getting stock in your circulator), that you could toss in all the veggies at the same time (since I believe they break down at 185F) and just let it do it’s thing for several hours?


  • Nancy@acommunaltable

    Hi Michael!!

    Well, I am sure you are going to get quite a “discussion” on this one!! Just a couple of points. First, not all bacteria are killed at high temperatures. Also, some bacteria, such as Costridium perfringes (which is associated with poultry and meat) can form spores which are resistant to heat so even re heating the stock will not destroy them and could certainly cause a food borne illness. Secondly, stock is one of the best environments for bacteria – it contains protein, has a high water content and has low acidity – all ideal conditions for bacterial growth which increases the probability for a food borne illness.
    I think you are doing your readers a bit of a disservice here Michael. While this practice may be perfectly “safe” for you (since you obviously have a very strong immune system or have been inordinately lucky:-)) it certainly could result in a food borne illness for someone else – especially if their immune system is compromised.
    Now, having said all that, I do think that you have brought up a very good point. Trying to apply a general approach to individual situations is tricky – cholesterol and heart disease, “processed” food and obesity, etc., etc. I think it really boils down to this – people DO need to understand the facts and then make their own decision by weighing the risks/ rewards. based upon their own personal situation. For you, the risk of illness (based upon your own experience) is negligible and the reward (convenience) outweighs the risk. The problem of course is that not everyone has the same “risk” factor that you do and that is where the problem lies.
    For those with an immune compromised system, this would not be a wise practice since the risk, by definition, is higher and the reward simply doesn’t justify the risk.

      • Brian Silvey

        Along similar lines as Nancy I was watching Bizzare Foods the other day. Andrew was in Madagascar and as he walked through the market that was swarming with flies he passed a pot of what looked like fetid water and fish parts he commented, “If I ate this it would put me in the hospital, but the locals have built up an immunity and can eat it without getting sick.” I paraphrase a bit, but the sentiment is accurate. If true this speaks to the differences in each of us based on what we’re accustomed to eating and appropriate care should be taken. That said I know I am overly cautious about germs and bacteria. Mostly because I don’t really know where the line is between delicious convenience and “This bowl of soup is going to make you sick” Buon appetito! As I learn to cure meats I hope to overcome, or rather learn where that line exists for myself.

        On another note, I have always read that you shouldn’t make stock from cooked chicken as all the flavor has been cooked out. What is the difference, pro and con, to using fresh vs cooked?


        • Mantonat

          If all the flavor gets cooked out of a cooked chicken, how come cooked chicken tastes so good?

  • Victoria

    I love how you made this chicken stock in your two-quart pot. I usually roast a chicken once a week and never make use of the carcass as I often go to the trouble of making Zuni chicken stock, which includes going somewhere where I can get a chicken with its head and feet still attached, and then freezing it in one-cup increments. As a result, I don’t ALWAYS have chicken stock on hand.

    Now I will.


  • Christine

    My mom did this all the time when we were kids, her kids are the most sickness-tolerant of all. She said as long as it’s brought to boil once a day, it should be fine. We don’t own a microwave so most of the food we eat have been sitting for at least 4 hours but we never get sick. Now with my kids, I do the same thing. Do they ever get food-borne illness? Nope. I really think it’s good way to build up immune system.

  • Three-Cookies

    I agree with Nancy, some of us have stronger immune systems than others. If in doubt put it in the refrigerator. Around 80% of foreigners travelling to India get stomach bug within the first few days, and they take extra precaution, but the locals are fine. Another example: Some people get meningitis from salad while most of us are fine.

  • Bob & Doug MacKenzie

    Dude, why not just put it in the fridge ? Other than that, I do beleive you have an iron stomach and a colon like an 8 inch pipe .

    • ruhlman

      agree, better to fridge it. i’m just saying that you don’t have to at home depending on your situation. I do have an iron stomach and consume lots of bacteria in my yogurt every day.

  • Jeffrey

    A lot of the objection seems to be along the lines of “bringing it back to boil won’t kill everything.”

    Ummm…not even the initial cooking kills *everything.* If you want to be 100% safe from bacteria/etc., just don’t eat. Good luck with that, though.

    • Russell

      Actually, you can kill everything this way.

      At least, everything that could possibly make you sick. If I came along and inoculated your boiling chicken stock with Pyrococcus furiosus, it would probably grow as long as you kept the heat on. Then, as soon as you ate it, it would freeze to death at your body temperature.

  • Lisa

    thanks! That is easier than the way I make stock. I put the stock in one cup plastic containers with lids and pop them into the freezer when I have too much. They thaw fast in the mirco if I need it.

  • Brenda

    Well, the bacteria debate aside, it’s worth noting that it’s not hard to freeze stock for later use. I do it all the time. It takes no more time to thaw stock out on the stove than it would to re-heat it to kill off bacteria. I save all sorts of stock that way (just last night, I defrosted the stock from my last corned beef braise, and used it for the backbone of a beef stew. It rocked, I tell you). So, don’t avoid making stock just because you’re germ-phobic.

  • Shannon

    First, how can you possibly fit a chicken carcass, vegetables and a quart of water in a two-quart pan and have as much space as it shows in the photo? Is that really a two-quart pan? And second, why is taking up one burner with a pot all week long more convenient than storing four cups of liquid in your refrigerator?

    • ruhlman

      I usually cook the bones first, then add the veg and fill it to the brim. It’s a tight fit sometimes, almost always comes out. it’s easier because it’s an extra step. that’s all. also, I like seeing it out reminding me to use it in a soup or a sauce and not forget about it in the freezer, or letting actually go bad in the fridge from neglect.

  • Kimberly

    Bittman has said that superior chicken stock is made from raw bones and that cooked bones make a less than stellar stock. I have always used leftover cooked bones as you do. Do you find there is much or any difference between raw and cooked bones for stock? Thanks.

    • ruhlman

      Yes, one tastes roasted, one does not. Matter of preference. Neither is superior to the other.

      • Dervin

        Well according to the Mayo Clinic,
        “325,000 Americans are hospitalized for food poisoning every year and 5,000 people die.”
        “Observe the “two-hour” rule. Foods requiring refrigeration, including poultry, meat, eggs, cooked seafood, produce, leftovers and takeout food, shouldn’t be at room temperature longer than two hours. ”

        But obviously your lit degree is more important than any those hacks at the Mayo clinic. I bet they haven’t even been on TV like you.

        • Bart

          Honestly, that’s pretty meaningless data — all it says is that a lot people got sick from eating. What did they eat that made them sick? More to the point, how many of those cases of food poisoning came from reheated homemade stock? How many came from eating prepackaged fresh spinach, or fast food? I’ll bet the number for the latter is FAR greater than for the former.

          • Dervin

            The main question, which relates directly to the hubris express by Ruhlman and others is how many of the victims thought the food they ate was “safe?”
            Nobody goes “This looks nasty, smells spoiled, it’ might make us sick. Let’s dig in…”
            It’s the same thing with drunk driving. Nobody goes “I’m really drunk, I’m probably going to get into an accident, let’s roll…”

  • David

    More chicken stock topics!

    1) Chicken soup vs. chicken stock. Recipe’s for chicken soup almost always begin with adding fresh veggies and chicken pieces to stock. All my life though, my family has made huge pots of chicken soup using about the same procedure that you use for stock, just with more veg and a much greater proportion of chicken meat to bones. Usually 6 breast pieces (3 whole breasts, each split in half), maybe 6-10 whole, small yellow onions, 1 to 2 lbs. carrots, 6 celery ribs or so, and a bunch of parsley. This cooks for around 3 hours and amazingly yields 10+ quarts of clear, light broth, with a fresh, if not overly rich, chicken flavor and still edible veggies (the carrots anyway)–no stock necessary. Interesting thing though, after reading your stuff…. I tried to make it without letting it come above a bare simmer. But, I found that if this preparation doesn’t boil lightly (rapid, but not rolling bubbles) for a while, it doesn’t ever seem to come together. What gives?

    2) I first encountered the lack of celery in the stock recipe in Michael Symon’s book. I have to admit, at least for stock, leaving the celery out is an improvement. But, again, what gives? When did the classic mirepoix get thrown out the window?

  • Russell

    If you live at high altitudes, boiling may not be quite as effective at sterilizing the stock (it will boil at a lower temperature).

    I would point out that there are plenty of fungi that grow happily at refrigerator temperatures, especially if you keep your fridge on the high side or open the door frequently. Keeping the stock in the refrigerator is also no guarantee that it won’t make you sick.

    My guess is that leaving it on the stovetop and reheating it is about as risky as keeping it in the fridge and not reheating it, and that neither are particularly risky. The ol’ sniff test is actually quite an effective diagnostic, too.

    There are other things you can do to make it harder for bacteria and fungi to grow in an unrefrigerated pot of stock. Salt, for example. Also, many plants have some pretty powerful antibiotics, so the spices you add could reduce growth rates significantly (though I’m not sure how active these enzymes will be after boiling).

    And, of course, just our own bodies, chickens produce a ton of antimicrobial peptides, including tons of defensins. Defensins are very short proteins, and survive boiling better than more complicated enzymes. So… think about that. The chicken’s immune system is still fighting bacteria after you’ve killed the chicken, dismembered it, roasted it, dismembered it some more, and then boiled it into broth. And then, if you proceed to eat the broth, part of the chicken’s immune system will keep fighting infection inside your body. Cool, but gross.

    • dan

      defensins? nice try, but that isn’t really happening. defensins have between 18 and 45 aminoacids. Our intestines won’t absorb anything longer than 4… stick with cooking, mister R 😉

  • mirinblue

    Wow! As always, a nice debate. Would I do it? Never. Do I leave butter out for weeks? Yes. Would I drink sewer water? Never. Do I drink unfiltered well water? Yes. Are they different? Who the hell knows-probably not so much. It’s all about what you are used to and what your immune system is used to. (MR also drinks like 3 yr. old eggnog too!)LOL

  • AntoniaJames

    Really great to see this. Wish I’d known it the last time I tossed a really nice pot of stock, made after dinner but forgotten overnight, when left to cool. Been using handkerchiefs as straining cloths, by the way, since first I read your mention of doing that. The hankies we use for other purposes are much smaller, for convenience; we get the extra large size that come by the dozen (purchased at the haberdashery) for using in the kitchen. ;o)

  • Heather

    I’ve left the bones in poultry stock for longer than 12 hours during cooking (turkey, if that makes a difference, maybe?) and it made the stock taste like bones. I use it for brine, where it doesn’t matter as much.

    As for whether to leave it on the stove – I have more room in my freezer than I do on the stove or the counter! Ah, the joys of a tiny kitchen. O_o

  • Allen

    I am drinking 2 year old egg nogg this Xmas because of you, so I will try this. Treating it like a toxic substance, cleaning with bleach and washing the counter and hands 5x to freeze it is a big pain – I do it once or twice a month, sounds scary but so did the egg nogg and cured raw meats and I’m still kicking.

  • Terrie

    I make most of my family’s food from scratch and stock is no exception. This past Saturday morning, I cut up a whole chicken and put it on to simmer with onions, carrots, celery, a tomato, and spices. When it was nicely poached, I removed it to a plate to cool and added a couple bags of chicken parts I had thawed from out of the freezer. Mostly feet, necks and backs (we raise our own meat chickens, so I always have plenty). I deboned the meat from the chicken and put the bones back in the pot. The chicken went in the fridge. I let the stock cook all day and strained it before bed.

    On Sunday, I kept half the stock for chicken and dumplings for dinner. The remaining stock I boiled down into demi glace and froze, as I usually do. That way it takes up almost no room in the freezer and I just pop the appropriate number of cubes into my dish, with or without additional water. For me, this is the easiest way. Plus, I am slightly germophobic. Although…I never check my shoes for chicken poo when entering the house…so maybe not so much!

  • Andrew

    We are, as a society, far too concerned about bacteria, but I’m a bit confused – why not refrigerate stock?

      • Andrew

        What about tomorrow? Is there a rule for refrigerating it either “tonight or next week”?

        Also, are there any disadvantages to doing this in a crock pot on a low setting as opposed to the stove?

  • David Tucker

    Pot-au-feu. Another dish that was left on the stove for many, many, many days without the entire French bourgeosie expiring from bacteria.

  • Mark

    I’m not a microbiologist, and I don’t even play one on TV. But here’s what I was able to dig up from what seem to be authoritative sources

    “Microbes are killed by heat. If food is heated to an internal temperature above 160oF, or 78oC, for even a few seconds this sufficient to kill parasites, viruses or bacteria, except for the clostridium bacteria. The toxins produced by bacteria vary in their sensitivity to heat. The staphylococcal toxin which causes vomiting is not inactivated even if it is boiled. Fortunately, the potent toxin that causes botulism is completely inactivated by boiling.”

    Ok, risk of botulism is pretty darn low in stock since the dangerous production of toxin only happens when that bacteria is growing in the absence of oxygen. But what about staph?

    Potentially bad news there. “Foods that are frequently incriminated in staphylococcal food poisoning include meat and meat products; poultry and egg products… Human intoxication is caused by ingesting enterotoxins produced in food by some strains of S. aureus, usually because the food has not been kept hot enough (60°C, 140°F, or above) or cold enough (7.2°C, 45°F, or below).”

    So use your judgement. My personal take on this based on putting the 2 articles above together is that the method Ruhlman proposes introduces no *new* danger. Think of it this way; your food before turning into stock either has enough staph toxin in it to make you sick, or it doesn’t. It may also have some staph bacteria alive in it. The preparation of the stock is going to kill all the bacteria. So all that’s left to hurt you is the toxin already present before you made the stock, and whether you rush to cool it and keep it in the fridge or follow Ruhlman’s method it doesn’t make any difference. The only caveat would be if you follow Ruhlman’s method you’d want to keep any *new* staph bacteria from contaminating it, which you can do simply by covering the pot.

  • bob del Grosso

    Ruhlman is right. It’s fine to leave out stock that has been boiled and remains covered. But never do this for any more than a gallon’s worth and never do it if you are cooking for the public.

    • rockandroller

      But wait, I thought he said to UNcover it. Is it covered, or uncovered? Or do you uncover it til it’s room temp, and THEN cover it? Color me confused.

  • Ed

    Bacteria question aside – I am too lazy to fish out that text book and refer to all the time and temp levels right now, I have a question about technique. Why no celery? Is it just your personal preference, or do you have another reason for not using the classic mirepoix?

  • Judith Klinger

    Well, you’ve certainly stirred the soup pot on this one.
    My biggest objection is that I would never have the stove top space to leave a stock pot out all week. That, and the cat.
    But a question: I was always told vegetables begin to absorb flavor after two hours, which in the 9 million pots of stock I’ve made, does seem to be true. So, wouldn’t leaving the vegetables in the pot lead to soggy, mushy, vegetable particles and maybe less flavor?
    BTW, if you want to buy eggs in an Italian grocery store, don’t look in the refrigerator area, they’re probably by the baking supplies.

  • Abigail Blake

    I lived on a sailboat for several years and we had no refrigeration. The only way to keep anything cold was on ice in an igloo. I learned that there are a lot of things I would normally refrigerate that do just fine at room temperature. Eggs are a big one. My husband has done many ocean passages with unrefrigerated eggs and they’ve kept for a month or so. To keep them that long does take a little special care (give them a light coating of vaseline, then wrap in paper and turn them regularly). And commercial eggs don’t keep as long as farm fresh.

    We kept butter, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes and condiments at room temperature, including commercial mayonnaise. Just make sure you always use a clean spoon in the mayo so you don’t contaminate the product. Fresh produce, yogurt and certain cheeses also keep for quite a while at room temperature. Salumi is a good keeper. And, as you say, stocks, beans, stews, curries, etc., can be kept for several days, even in the tropics. Though I usually brought them to a good strong boil each day.

    I admit I keep all this stuff in the fridge now that we’re land-based. But I know it can be done. If there’s one thing a cruising sailor can’t afford, it’s to get sick at sea. No emergency room in the middle of the Atlantic.

  • Christa Richardson

    My mother is from Germany and she leaves food out like you wouldn’t believe! She is tiny and never gets sick. The double dipping is not just for stock. I make roasted garlic in olive oil and it’s good for weeks in the fridge unless a dirty spoon introduces bacteria. I’ve been making chicken stock for AGES and never thought to add the veggies later but it makes beautiful sense!! I can tell you that in addition to your ingredients, I add some turnip, fresh thyme and parmesan rinds. Incredible flavor! Thanks so much for the blog, I’m going to follow!
    Note: My mother leaves beef dishes out for days because she is so energy ‘conscious’ she doesn’t want to open and close the fridge. It’s a bit much but works for her….

  • Kim Koch

    My husband and I started building our house 2 years ago. We’ve been living in the house for 1 1/2 years with very limited electricity. We have a tiny freezer/fridge in the motor home, but no refrigeration in the house. We live on the Oregon Coast where the temps are very mild in summer and well below 40 deg average in winter. We have wood heat and the house is usually between 60-70 deg. We don’t refrigerate anything. We haven’t even had the little fridge in the motor home charged up for 3 months. We keep some things cool sometimes, but mostly everything just stays on the counter or in a bin or pot outside on a bench. I cook everything from scratch every day with unrefrigerated milk, butter, eggs, cream. Cheese, of course is much better at room temp. I cook the meat I buy within 24 hours and it’s fine outside at 40 deg or less for a day or 2 anyway. All the good organic dairy lasts longer on the counter than it takes to consume, yes 1/2 and 1/2 too! I get fresh eggs from my neighbor and the are kept on the pantry shelf. I do put pots of cooked beans, soup and such outside until the next day or sometimes 2. We don’t keep food around long and eat what we have before I buy more because we don’t have room to store it. I have completely changed the way I buy food and the way I think about refrigeration: it is largely TOTALLY UNNECESSARY. We have never been sickened from any unrefrigerated food. If you cook it and EAT IT it’s usually not around long enough to go bad. Fresh veggies LOVE being in the rubber-maid bin outside. They stay crunchy and fresh. When we do make the choice to have a fridge, it will be small. I think a good chest freezer is much more useful. Thanks Michael for bringing the subject up in a legitimate cooking forum. Many of my friends think I’m crazy when I tell them they don’t need to refrigerate much, though they don’t seem to notice there’s no fridge when they come over for dinner!

    • Digging Dog Farm

      I’ve lived basically this way for many years, raw milk, unrefrigerated home grown eggs, etc. etc. etc.
      I think that many folks have twisted sense of fear…I’d be much more worried in not developing a healthy and resilient immune system by being so bacteria phobic!

      We all know it’s impossible to sterilize or even sanitize all our food and surroundings!

      What happens when a wild bird which are known for carrying countless forms of disease relieves itself on fresh vegetables in the garden? Simply washing the food isn’t likely enough to render it harmless!!
      Best to build up a good immune system!

  • karen downie makley

    oh…but bad stock is so very bad…!

    keep in mind…everyone’s intestinal flora varies. you may have an ironclad gut. your dinner guests may not. c’mon…it’s 4 bucks worth of chicken bones, some water, and a few veggies. better to NOT be penny-wise pound-foolish. just sayin’.

  • Susan

    Regarding the 110F germ breeding’s the ideal temp for proofing yeast. Sour dough starter it left deliberately out on counters to sour and collect with spores of wild yeast to develop more power and flavor for days at a time. Know that these yeasts are also finding other mediums to grow on.

  • Robert Blessing

    Yeah, yeah, leave it on the stove if you need to, I get it. I think all these germaphobes are just weakening their immune systems by never exposing themselves to a single germ. That being said, I have an important question. Where the hell is the celery in your stock?

    • Arturo

      I believe Tom Keller started-popularized the no celery thing. I think someone we know worked with him. Maybe he’s not a fan of the bitterness.

  • ruhlman

    the celery issue. i sometimes like celery but it’s not sweet. I like sweet things in my stock. who’s idea was it anyway to put celery in stock?

    • Digging Dog Farm

      “I like sweet things in my stock.”

      I assumed so when i saw those big chunks of carrot! LOL
      I’m exactly the opposite, I don’t like an overly sweet stock.

    • chris k

      Taste aside, celery contains nitrates. I wonder if that has a natural anti-bacterial effect? Sounds like a job for Harold McGee…

  • Greg Walker

    Years ago I worked on the French kitchen side of a high-end fusion restaurant. On the Chinese end of the kitchen they kept a big 80 quart stock pot that had a filler spout over it. They would dump it and scrub it out every Monday morning, and fill it up with chicken carcasses and water. They would bring it to a bare simmer, and leave it going all week. They would toss raw carcasses in every day and top it off with more water – no vegetables for them! Their argument was that the fresh vegetables went in whatever they were making with the stock.

    Having gone through a cooking school, and having worked with very health department reg. conscious hotel and restaurant chefs for years, this practice gave me the heebie-jeebies, but that is what they did, and the health inspectors all saw it and lived with it. We never had food poisoning at that restaurant in all the years I worked there.

    And, quite frankly, they served some of the best plain broth based chicken soups I have ever had.

  • Stuart Hamilton

    I’ve had a long ongoing debate about this one with my wife (registered nurse) ever since ‘Ratio’. Me: the risk is miniscule and irrelevant; her: but there is some risk… Repeat.

    At the moment we’ve reached a happy halfway point: stock stays out the first night while the bones are still in, but goes into the fridge once strained.

    The convenience of the two-day stock is so powerful that my wife puts aside out her hospital training and copes with one night of un-refrigerated food. Give it a couple more years of healthfulness and she might relax further…

  • Robert Blessing

    the celery issue. i sometimes like celery but it’s not sweet. I like sweet things in my stock. who’s idea was it anyway to put celery in stock?

    LaRousse for one, mirepoix in every other single recipe for another. Methinks the bitterness comes mostly from celery leaves, so thse are omitted.

    BTW, I like that you are taking a stand on this stock issue. Also I think that simmering the veg for only the last part of stock making needs to be emphasized. Another little piece I like to add to stock is leftover wing tips from making grilled/fried wings.

    • ruhlman

      agreed on veg issue. very important to extract all but not let them start falling apart. and yes wing tips loaded with collagen.

  • ellen

    Interesting post, as I am currently in Skills 1 at CIA, and making tons of stock every day! I just wanted to comment and correct… I believe you meant Chef Tucker Bunch, not Ben Tucker. Have a great day!

  • Celeste

    If you ever had to dispose of a pot of stock that “went south” after an overnight rest at room temp, you’d change your mind quickly about this practice. Bleh….the cloudy, smelly mess is enough to put you off stock for quite some time. I like the long, thin frozen tubes for quick-chilling stock. Drop a couple into a tall pot, and it will cool off to a food-safe temp rather quickly.

      • latenac

        That’s one of nature’s warning signs that it’s dangerous to eat it.

        It’s fine if you have looked at the risks and feel that this is ok for you to do. But I still can’t help but feeling that it’s kind of irresponsible for you to promote this practice as part of a program to encourage people to make stock at home more. At most in a 2 quart pot you end up with what, 6 cups of stock? which just shouldn’t be that big of a deal to fit in a fridge and then after it’s cooled down leave in the fridge what you’ll use within a week and freeze the rest to build your stock of stock.

        Not all bacteria is bad but not all bacteria is good or even just harmless. And it’s really not that big of a deal to encourage people in basic food safety or at least not promote to them to have an incubator of bacteria or the bacteria’s waste sitting on their stove. I know if I went through the trouble for the first time to make a batch of stock and left it sitting on the stove and something that I had done had cause it to go bad and smell or worse not smelled yet caused illness in my family I probably would be much less likely to go through the trouble of trying it again. Although maybe you just did this post to rile people up and boost page views…

  • Patrick Snook

    Bacteria aside, how about the pot. Lid on or off?

    Herve This recommends cooking stock with the lid on the pot to trap the flavor molecules that would otherwise escape in delicious aroma. I have tried it. A couple of related benefits: I’ve used my stock pot lid with the knob unscrewed and a thermometer probe inserted in the hole, so that I can keep the temperature around 180F, and use the lowest possible flame (thereby not wasting quite as much energy). Every half hour or so, in passing, I can check the temperature, and turn off the flame or ignite it.

    I have not done any testing (controlled, double blind, randomized . . . who has the time?). It tastes fine to me, but I confess I’m missing that delicious aroma dispersed to the four corners of the home for hours before dinner. I wonder if that isn’t part of the enjoyment of home cooking? Why should the savoring of food all be in the ten or twenty minutes at the dinner table? One of the pleasures of cooking: the savoriness in the kitchen air, and mouth-watering anticipation.

  • Patrick Snook

    (Les sous-videurs might sniff at me . . . but at least they’ll smell something yummy.)

  • ruhlman

    danger of covering is that it would boil, but if you can keep it at 180, why not. pressure cooking stock is also amazing when done right. see link above but keep the skin on the wings.

    your second point is worth a post in itself. the smell of food cooking in a home is one of the great analgesics in our stressed uncertain lives.

    • David Soong

      I see a bit of a contradiction in this post. Its perfectly true that covering causes the temperature to rise-which is exactly what a pressure cooker does well past the normal boiling point of water. To create steam needed for the required pressure in a pressure cooker, wouldnt the stock have to come to a rolling boil?

  • Fred

    I don’t store my stock on the stove, but only because I don’t have the room on a four burner stove that never seems big enough for what I want to cook. That being said, I see no problem doing so at home, provided everything (pot, utensils, cutting boards, knives, etc) are kept clean.

    In my work in restaurants I always follow, and have my cooks follow, proper time and temperature guidelines for cooling and storing stocks and other such things. Even this is not able to prevent all possible contamination, all it takes is one container, not properly cleaned, to be used to store the item, or a double-dip tasting spoon, or, my personal favourite, the “finger-taster” to come along, and spoilage is guaranteed. In my experience, most of the contamination is introduced by us, and is easily prevented by us.

  • iliana

    I think that cooking at home can be a lot more relaxed than in a commercial kitchen setting. Intuitively, a hyper-germophobic position in a home setting seems to me to be both excessive and possibly dangerous insofar as it produces less sturdy immune systems in humans, particularly human children.

    Though I’m not a scientist, I regularly read scientific studies, particularly about health and nutrition, and what I have read confirms what I believe: that fearing and attempting to avoid germs excessivelyleads to its own set of problems (antibiotic resistance, etc).

    Mostly I look to how my family and friends cook, and there is a range of what various people consider safe food & cooking standards. A lot of what I’ve learned is what its practitioners call “common sense,” and it’s only as I grew up and realized that there were many versions of common sense, depending on what country you lived in, and whether you were poor or middle class or rich, that I began to question my own inherited “common sense.”

    My experience is that all of us intend to care for our family and friends to the best of our ability, but that our theories as to what is best varies a great deal. Because I grew up with a very relaxed mom, in Italy, Denmark, and in France, I can observe that my own “common sense” is very liberal compared to my current American friends & neighbors. I’m not in the least worried that my standard is less healthy than more rigorous standards, because I know that we’re pretty healthy in Italy, Denmark, and France, whereas our health here in the states is not blemish-free.

    However, I think Ruhlman is dead wrong about the celery.


  • john v phipps

    I save ALL veg scraps and fire up the stock pot once a week. And now that I have a Vacuum chamber it is easy to bag and seal the completed stock in 1 cup portions for the freezer. But now that I have a vacuum chamber there is not much that I do not want to bag and vac!

  • steve t

    A teaching chef suggested no need to wash veg for stock, just trim ends and rough chop; skim and don’t draw from the bottom of the pot. I’m thinking a good scrub is advisable, no?

  • Mrs. Jen B

    This is fascinating – so many different takes on something which sounds so simple. Me? I’ve never left stock out but that’s because I rarely have enough excuses over the course of a week to use it. However it’s good to know that I could if I had to.

    Thanks so much for the tip on when to add veggies – never even thought about it before. And now I no longer have to feel as though I’m not making a “real” stock if I don’t add celery. Whew!

  • Chuck Shaw

    I noticed that you don’t use celery in your stock. Any particular reason why?

  • Dean

    Wow. What a kerfuffle over simple stock. The recipe works great. I’ve done a variation of this for years. Sometimes I put celery or other veggies in such as garlic, parsley that’s started to wilt, etc. It’s always turned out well. it’s so easy to make, requiring no fuss at all, and so tasty and useful, it’s almost second nature to have it around.

    As for the dramatics over safety – if you’re worried about bacteria and other creepy things, chill and freeze the stock. It’s a snap to thaw and use. That’s what I do mostly because I don’t want a pan occupying stove space. If you’re not worried about it – then leave it on the stove. Chicken soup has cured more illness than it’s caused.

  • madeleine peck

    I’ve made stock before, and upon cooling in the ‘fridge, it takes on a gelatinous consistency. I still used it (I put a ton of thyme in and it tasted like a very delicate tea), but I was wondering if you could suggest what happened to make it thicken? Could it be the gelatin from the bones?

    thank you!

    • Mantonat

      Gelatin and collagen from bones, skin, and connective tissue. If your stock doesn’t gel when chilled, you didn’t do it right.

  • Ralph Ewton

    Having been fairly careless with cooked food all my life (I’m 73) and having never gotten food poisoning, I have to agree with the non-germophobes. This post is to get in my licks on a couple of stock-related matters.

    1) I have always made good stock. It got better after reading Michael’s books, especially the temperature advice (~180 deg.). So, it is very!! hard to convince me that anything made in a pressure cooker can compare. I guess I have to check it out, though.

    2) I’m convinced that a vital ingredient in a superior chicken stock is feet. There is a large Hispanic population where I live and they are economically available all over town. They make the stock rich, silky, gelatinous and, I am convinced, give it many of the properties, uses and virtues Michael attributes to a good veal stock. It enhances everything I use it for without dominating the dish. One reason for refrigerating it: the childish pleasure of dipping out large quivering chunks of it in its gelatinous state.

    Alas, I have the impression that the vast majority of our chicken feet are frozen and shipped to China, where they are better appreciated. Too bad they can’t stamp them “made in U.S.A.”.

  • Jay

    Boy, oh boy, Ruhlman; you’ve certainly stepped in it with this one! You split’em right down the middle my boy! Do it, Don’t do it. Will spoil, Won’t spoil. Good on ya for letting us know you do it. Maybe you get sick, maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s attributed to your immune system, or weakness thereof. Who knows? There are so many variables that go into when & why one individual gets ill that it’s hard to say often what the bad acter was. I’ve been to events where I ate from the same buffet tray as others and was the only one who didn’t get sick. By the same token I’ve been the only one in a group that has gotten sick too. Let all these food safety Sallies and Hall Monitors go pound sand.

  • Winnie

    This seems risky to me (and I eat lots of things others would consider risky…like raw milk). I appreciate the point you’re trying to make, but I’m going to continue to refrigerate/freeze my stock.

  • Darren

    I think all of the debate here could be ended if we considered the one of Michael’s previous posts. The Modernists Cuisine’s pressure cooker stock would essentially be sterile. It’s true that things like Staph enterotoxins (the most common food poisoning) can withstand a few minutes of boiling, as can botulinum spores and toxins, but none of these things would survive the hour and a half of cooking that that recipe requires.

    Think about it, that’s why you can buy stock in a box at a store—it’s sterile due to the intensity of the heat and duration. After an hour and a half at 250 degrees F at 15lbs pressure, you’re going to destroy spores, which are the hardest things to destroy that we are considering here. The bacteria would be destroyed much earlier.

    It’s very likely that the long cooking time of stock, even at sub-pressure cooker temps, will effectively sterilize the stock. But . . . I think where I get the slightest bit uncomfortable is the part where after the stock has been cooked it’s manipulated—strained, etc. You’d want the utensils to be very clean or there could possibly be something gross introduced to the stock.

    So consider this. Michael makes the pressure cooker stock, lets its pressure release naturally as the temperature decreases, and lets it sit on his stove for a week. It’s essentially the same as that box of stock on the shelf at the grocery store. If he promised to only open it do pour out what he needed (poured out, not dipped into with a utensil), strained what he poured out, and then sealed the pressure cooker back up with its own lid. Also, I suppose, the stock could be strained then put back into the pressure cooker and brought up to pressure again for so many minutes.

  • Chef Philip Geneman

    I think that it is risky to leave stoke out for to long, but I also agree that us Americans are too worried about bacteria. If you tend to grow up eating bacterias all the time than you will not get sick. I mean look at our cheeses here America blue cheese for instants we pasteurize it to kill bacteria. however you go to France and have blue cheese it is not pasteurized but they do not get sick. an American that is always worried about bacteria will get sick more often anyways. America is to sanitized. besides unpasteurized cheeses is just amazing, I can definitely taste the difference.

    know I am not telling all your readers that leaving stock out for week is ok, but if you do it all the time you wont get sick.

  • Lucy

    Interesting discussion. I was having a similar debate/discussion just last week with my 88 yr old grandmother. I grew up on a farm and we raised our own chickens. She kept a wooden bowl under the counter with the flour that she used for everything. She would make biscuits in the morning, then dredge chicken through it to make fried chicken, then use the same flour to make biscuits again the next day. I told her that I always toss out my leftover flour after using it for any meat and she informed me that I was being wasteful. And she said that we are too worried about a little bit of germs now. As three generations have gone through her kitchen dining quite well and nary a one ever gotten sick from anything she cooked, I’d have to say she has a point. Regardless, I still toss my used flour.

    I think Michael’s probably right and that this small quantity of stock would be fine, but I wouldn’t want to have a pot sitting out on my stove all week just because it would be in the way.

  • Paul C

    Jason Logsdon
    I had a quick question. You say that 180F is ideal. Do you think if you cooked the stock sous vide (using a PID in a crockpot, no sense getting stock in your circulator), that you could toss in all the veggies at the same time (since I believe they break down at 185F) and just let it do it’s thing for several hours?

    I’ve done this a bunch of times … both in a bag and directly in the bath ( PID in rice cooker ). works brilliantly and makes for very little particulate matter in the stock once strained.

    I also have a benchtop induction cooker that I can set to 80C, so if I do stock in the pan I bring it up to boil initially then drop it down to 80C for the duration.

  • allen

    Getting a new fridge tomorrow and got rid of the old one today, have all my belongings outside and on the counter including frozen chicken stock which I will not be tossing out after reading this post, though a lot of items are to be sadly chucked out.

    I cook all my broths in the slow cooker my mom bought me about 30 some years ago, let them cook when I’m at work or asleep and strain them when I get home. I refill old small Costco water bottles, take the label off so I know they’re freezer packs and freeze them to drop the temp down quickly on the broth without diluting it, I think I saw Alton Brown do this, they also make great travel freezer packs to keep seafood fresh or for vacation trip.

  • Mr. West

    The toxin of concern with food is botulism toxin. The bacteria that makes this toxin, clostridium botulinum, grows in non-acidic anaerobic environments (low oxygen). Its spore can also survive a simple boiler nad regrow when conditions have cooled. This is why canning low acid foods must be done with a pressure canner which generates higher temperatures that can kill the bacteria and spores. Otherwise, the bacteria will grow and your jar will be loaded with “botox”. The stock will have plenty of oxygen present sitting on the stove creating an unfrendly environment for significant reporduction of clostriduim.

    Also, this recipe reminded me of a recipe for a Chinese master sauce called lo soi (“old water”) that I heard on the radio program Splendid Table last month. It is basically the same idea taken to the extreme. Once made, the pot is replenished but never emptied. Some are said to be 50 years old. They are reportedly willed by chefs to there favorite assistants. See the bottom of the this page for the story:

  • brad barnett

    The over-arching question for me is: “what’s the point?”

    I’m all for efficient kitchen tricks but not taking 30 seconds to throw something in the refrigerator doesn’t seem like one I’d try.

  • AJ

    Heat-stable enterotoxins: really, really unpleasant form of food poisoning. Produced by S. aureus and, occasionally, E. coli. Heating will kill the bacteria but won’t destroy the toxin. Usually happens when you least expect it. (I’m a veterinarian who worked in a bacteriology research lab with S. aureus, prior to veterinary school. We learned a lot about food safety in veterinary school, too.)

    Re: eggs – if you obtain your eggs from a small, local, clean producer, there’s less likelihood they’re contaminated with salmonella. If you bought them at the grocery store, there’s a high likelihood the chickens themselves are chronically infected with salmonella, which chickens can carry without becoming ill. This results in salmonella-contaminated eggs – inside the actual egg – and you can’t wash this off.

    Ditto with your chicken or other meat, BTW. I’m a vegetarian, but if I were going to serve meat, I’d purchase from a local producer, just as many Europeans do.

    • ruhlman

      what toxin does e coli produce. and an earlier commenter pointed out that toxin neutralized by sustained simmer.

      true about the eggs, salmonella in chicken ovaries, gets into the yolk.

      • chris k

        E. coli produces verotoxin, also known as shiga toxin. It’s a protein that destroys the lining of small blood vessels. Thus the GI tract, kidneys, and lungs are most vulnerable. Verotoxin is inactivated by oxidizing agents (bleach, hydrogen peroxide, etc.), steam treatment, and sterilizing agents such as glutaraldehyde.

      • darren

        E coli produces a variety of toxins, not just verotoxins. There are many types of E coli out there, just like people, and they can produce toxins that are heat stable or heat labile. The toxins would be no harder to denature than botulinum toxin. That’s generally why they say to make sure hamburger is cooked to medium well. It could be teaming with E coli, but if brought above a certain temp it’ll be fine. Hell, anything would be fine to eat, even a bloated can of vegetables if you pressure cooked the hell out of them. Not saying that they’d taste good or that anyone should try it, but it could be done pretty safely.

    • Mr. West

      Botulism toxin is destroyed at 176°F. Staph toxins are not destroyed by heat. However, since the initial cooking would kill the bacteria, the stock would need to be recolonized by staph or ecoli to get contaminated with heat stable toxins. If there is enough toxin in the inital batch to make you sick, then it would not matter if it was kept on the stove or refrigerated.

      Covering the pot and not cooking if your are sick would prevent recolonization.

  • allen

    This should transition to a mayo post, I make my own and have concerns about store bought eggs for the mayo, I make it all the time using garlic and lemon zest for a nice yellow color but garlic has been the botulism potential. The food safety, farm eggs vs. store bought and the science behind the binding with the yolk and oil, why the hell can’t I get it to work when I’m on vacation and all I have is a friggin wire whisk. Home made mayo makes everything better!

    • ruhlman

      botulism not an issue with the garlic, it needs anaerobic environment. salmonella is issue, if anything. use organic or small farm eggs. see my post “oil, yolk, lemon, salt.” no reason whisk won’t work. start with a drop of oil first then another, and after a few drops cans start pouring oil faster.

      • allen

        Thank you, I love old school technology and will be using the wire whisk, also to burn a few calories for all that mayo I’ll be eating.

  • Mantonat

    What I find amusing is that many people insist on immediately refrigerating hot stocks, soups, stews, etc., but most people don’t bother with an ice bath or other method of quick chilling before refrigerating. What happens when you put a large pot of hot liquid into a refrigerator is that the temp. of the refrigerator and all of its contents raises to a point where bacterial growth is encouraged in everything in your fridge. So if you don’t quick chill before you refrigerate, you are actually exposing yourself to more risk than if you leave the pot out overnight.
    Additionally, you’ll save energy by letting the pot cool on the stovetop or outside on a cool night. Your fridge has to work really hard to get back to safe temps when you put something hot in it.

  • John

    It grosses my wife out to no end but leaving pizza out all night (in the box- or on a plate with just plastic wrap over it if i made my own) tastes the best the morning after!

    I couldn’t agree more with the ‘oh, I need to use the stock on the stove!’ instead of ‘oh look, there is the stock from a month and a half ago’ when you open up your freezer.

  • Charlotte

    During my Winter of Bereavement I’d do this with pot roast. Make a pot roast on a night when I felt okay, eat some. Put it in the mudroom or even (gasp!) leave it in the oven. The next night, reheat, etc … eventually I’d add lentils and water to what was left and make it into a soup.
    I never did get sick, and I managed to eat some real food during a very bad time. I just figured that anything that grew got killed when I reheated it — either that or my grandmother giving me food poisoning a couple of times as a kid (plus that salmonella bout in NYC in my 20s) inoculated me.
    At any rate, I survived both the loss and the pot roast … grateful for both.

  • Dave

    I’ve been reading this string of comments with interest; I tend to fall on the side of caution and believe that cooked stock should be refrigerated, although one might ‘get away’ with keeping it on the stovetop. A whole lot of food safety classes and ServSafe certification tests shape my thinking, I’m sure.

    Here’s my dilemma, Michael – I don’t see anything in your original post that suggests why it’d be a bad thing to refrigerated the strained stock, then pull out what’s needed throughout the week. So, unless I’ve missed something, I can’t figure out why there’d be any value in keeping it on the stovetop. So there’s risk in doing so, but I’m not seeing the reward. Just sayin’…..

    • Mike Romeo

      There is a good reason there is nothing in the OP to suggest there is something wrong with it [just cooling and storing in the fridge]: because there isn’t. He even said that later on in the comments. I have a hard time understanding how so many people don’t seem to wrap their head around the simplicity. Especially in an age when people have become lazier and lazier and do things they know are worse for them but “save time”, take for example buying a dinner for a family of 4 at your favorite fast food joint, more than once a month (or week even) or perhaps a national chain restaurant claiming to have authentic Italian food.

      There are two benefits here that I see as a point: 1) Leaving it out on the stove is a simple reminder to use it. Most families of more than 3 people have refrigerators that are stuffed with food items that they will take weeks or months to use. They take up a lot of space and making a batch of 4-5 quarts of stock at a time (or more as many recipes may suggest!) takes up a LOT of space in people’s fridges, leaving most people unlikely to do it.

      2) It’s an attempt at getting people cooking something that you can use ALL WEEK and just one more way he’s trying to tell people that cooking doesn’t have to be laborious. A frequent topic here.

      Stepping off the soap box, here’s a link to an article this reminded me of from the NYT, originally published Dec 2009. The Cooking With Dexter column where Mr. Wells reminisced the advice from a cookbook: to start a pot of water once he returned home. As a matter of habit. Doing so would be an easily overlooked step that was a simple gateway to actually cooking something for dinner. When no plan existed, the simple task of already having water coming to a boil was a time saver that prompted more food to be cooked rather than ordered.

      Having a pot of stock, ready to be re-heated is exactly the same. Of course, I have to say there’s nothing wrong with doing it your way.

        • Mike Romeo

          This is probably the coolest thing to happen to me in a while. You’re very welcome.

  • Greg B. Carlstrom

    Thanks for the post, Michael. I don’t know what the huge fuss is about. It’s certainly better to keep it in the fridge but if you’re bringing it back up to heat prior to using, I can’t imagine it’s a bad deal. Why the big fuss over this? We take risks frequently when we choose to consume. Hollandaise, Mayonnaise (homemade), and mass produced feed lot meats are just a few examples.

  • Steve Wertz

    That wouldn’t fly in any restaurant. And frankly, he’s an idiot for posting that.

    You can actually keep the chicken stock mostly sterile by leaving the tightly fitting lid on as it cools The steam creates a water barrier in the gaps between the lid and the pot, keeping bacteria out. And since it cooled from 200-210F, it was sterile when you put lid on there.

    Telling people that it doesn’t matter if the lid is on or off and _inviting_ bacteria to come and defaecate and urinate into your stock pot is just plain irresponsible. My opinion of Ruhlman just dropped 80%.

    • ruhlman

      that’s not how bacteria gets into stock. they’re not like dust motes floating around. and I’m not telling people to sneeze at their stock pot. and please, and if you’re thinking of storing your sponges in your stock, please boil them first. important to cook uncovered though. and certainly NO restaurant should do anything _other_ than cool stock quickly and refrigerate

  • Jeanne

    I do mine in a large crock pot about once a week (also after having roasted chicken). Easy, safe, and same principles…I do refrigerate it once it’s simmered all day because I then skim off the hardened fat. Not that I’m against fat, it just makes soups and stews greasy. If I don’t use it that week, I freeze the stock. So easy. Not sure why more people don’t do this.

  • Loren Crannell

    I have left my chicken stock out overnight, and I am still kicking to tell about it. By adding a tight lid, what’s going to grow in the stock? It’s already been sterilized at the boil, and if you cook a stock for a couple of hours, that’s like a nail in the coffin for any bad stuff. Put a lid on it, and enjoy it in the morning.

    I don’t like to quickly refrigerate my stock because I want the stock to separate naturally. It also tastes better too. Once it’s cooled I either use it, or refrigerate.

    Didn’t we use to put chicken soup in a thermos and bring it to lunch?

    Oh, I miss the days of pizza being left out on the table in the morning, whole milk without guilt, and not having to worry about every little thing.

  • Steve Wertz

    that’s not how bacteria gets into stock. they’re not like dust motes floating around. and I’m not telling people to sneeze at their stock pot. and please, and if you’re thinking of storing your sponges in your stock, please boil them first. important to cook uncovered though. and certainly NO restaurant should do anything _other_ than cool stock quickly and refrigerate

    Well, Louie Pasteur would tend to disagree with you. Where do they come from? You said, “any bacteria that landed there…”. I assume you mean airborne. If the lid is on the air and stock is [mostly] sterile then there are little to no bacteria. Or at least _significantly_ less than if you had left the lid off.

  • Michael McCullen

    I think the general gist of the matter is, if you like the idea-great. Make stock to your hearts content and leave it out so you don’t forget to use it. If you are terrified of the consequences and think this is irresponsible-great. Make stock and refrigerate it! The point is-MAKE STOCK! Don’t put your fingers in it, don’t double dip the tasting spoon, and don’t sneeze on it. Whether you leave the stock on the stove or refrigerate, the prudent thing to do before you use the stock the next time is perform a kill step by bringing the stock to a boil. I think we can all be happy and safe by understanding the basic parameters discussed, yes?

  • Melissa

    While leaving the stock out goes against everything modern science tells us and what we learn in Sanitation classes, I think we have become too afraid of everything. I don’t know about the rest of you but it was very common to leave the food out between meals at my grandmother’s. We simply reheat it all on the stovetop well before the next meal. Of course we would also sneak snacks. Very few things would be put in the fridge. No one ever got sick from it.


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