Make the richest Chinese chicken stock at the lowest cost using leftover chicken bones.
Many savory Chinese recipes use gao tang (高汤), a master broth that is super rich in flavor. Gao tang is usually a stock made from poultry and/or pork bones. Unlike the clear Western style stock, Chinese stock usually has an opaqueness to it, and a higher fat content. You can add this rich bone stock to stir-fries, braised dishes, soups, stews, etc. It works the same way MSG does, as it turns a dish delicious within seconds of adding it, but it is made from healthy and natural ingredients.
The reason I bring up gao tang is that I just discovered a really cheap and easy way to make it at home.
A few weeks back, my sister-in-law shared a chicken stock recipe that uses leftover chicken bones (I shared the method in this post). We have been collecting chicken and duck bones since then, and I made a batch of this chicken stock last week. The result was a big surprise, in a good way.
If you’ve ever had the real-deal Peking duck in China, you may know about the rich duck soup that comes with it. Basically, after ordering a duck, the waitress will ask you how you’d like them to take care of the bones. You can ask her to serve the soup with the duck (usually for free or a very low price). The soup has an opaque white color. You just need to add a dash of salt to bring out the great flavor.
When we were making the stock, the color turned exactly like that of the Peking duck soup, only with a more concentrated flavor.
I used a combination of chicken and duck bones, mostly collected from roast birds. I also threw in some raw skin and liver leftover from the whole birds. The mix of contents mimicked the way real Chinese gao tang is made. Compared to the clear chicken stock, this stock allows the fat content to be emulsified into the liquid to create the opaque color. It’s heavier and richer. If put in the fridge, the stock will turn into a thick and creamy jelly that is a bit like ice cream.
Will the stock taste greasy? A little bit. That’s why you only need to add a small amount to make your dish stand out. Even if you are making a soup, you will want to use 3 to 4 cups of water to dilute a cup of this stock. It’s that rich.
How do you get so many leftover bones? Simply save the bones from all the poultry you eat (wings, thighs, turkey legs, rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, everything) in a gallon-sized bag in the freezer, letting them accumulate until the bag is full.
If you like cooking with bone-in chicken (like me) or buying rotisserie chickens, you will fill up a gallon bag of leftover bones really quickly. Then you can create this Chinese style stock at almost no cost. Isn’t it amazing?
How do you use Chinese chicken stock?
Although you can use this stock (diluted with water) in any Chinese recipe that calls for chicken stock, it works best in noodle soups and braised dishes.
#1 Combine the stock, some water, and a few drops of soy sauce to create the quickest noodle soup.
#2 You can blend in a cup of chicken stock when making beef noodle soup or any vegetable soup. It makes the broth even tastier.
#3 Add a spoonful of stock when making braised dishes, like this mapo tofu. I don’t need to explain why, do I?
Use pressure cooker (or Instant Pot) to shorten cooking time
I had been making this stock with pressure cooker during summer, because it shortens the cooking time to 1 hour (plus 30 minutes to reduce the stock, if you choose to) and you can skip the process of roasting bones. I shared the pressure cooker recipe here. It produces a great stock as well. If you have pressure cooker, I recommend you to try it out!
Making these recipes using the chicken stock
- Easy Soy Sauce Noodles
- Hot and Sour Soup
- Garlic Spinach in Chicken Broth
- Chicken and Broccoli (Chinese Takeout Style)
- Wonton Soup
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Chinese Chicken Stock From Leftover Bones (高汤)
- 1 gallon (4 kg) leftover poultry bones (chicken, turkey, and/or duck)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 leek , chopped
- 1 thumb ginger , sliced
- Preheat oven to 400 degree F (200 C).
- Spread the poultry bones on a large baking pan. Drizzle with the vegetable oil. Toss with a spatula until the bones are evenly coated with oil.
- Bake until the bones are nicely charred, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove baking pan from oven and stir the bones once in the middle of roasting.
- Transfer all the bones to a large pot. Pour hot water onto the baking pan. Use a spatula to scrape off the brown bits and pour the liquid and brown bits into the pot. Add water to cover bones by 1 inch.
- Heat over medium high heat until boiling. Add leek and ginger. Cover, turn to medium low heat, and boil until the meat starts to fall off the bones, 3 to 4 hours. If there is still a lot of liquid left, turn to medium heat and boil, uncovered, until only 4 cups of broth remain. The stock will have turned an opaque light brown color by this point.
- Remove and discard all the solid content and drain the soup. Store in airtight container(s) in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Questions and Reviews
Brilliant! I love this idea, especially the tip about saving bones in the freezer. And I guess the stock would last for ages, too, if you dilute it so much with water. 🙂
You must try this Helen! I recently made a recipe twice, one time with boxed clear chicken stock, and the other time with the homemade stock. The later one tastes a thousand times better! It takes some time and effort, but it’s so rewarding 🙂
Hi Maggie – do you freeze the stock? I’m thinking you could freeze it in ice cubes and then you’d have a tablespoon of stock to throw into a stir fry. I saved up a bag of bones but didn’t roast them first and the stock was a bit wishy washy – I’ll roast them like you do next time!
Thanks for the tip Nancy! We don’t usually freeze the stock, because we cook with it often and soon finish a big jar very fast. I’ll try your method, seems so easy 🙂
I do this too and love how gelatinous it gets. I sometime add chicken feet because those really make it gel and thicken beautifully. After all are discarded. Leeks are wonderful and I usually add a few herbs and celery for flavor. The duck bones are new to me but I do not eat duck often. Nice post and photos!
I heard about adding chicken feet into the stock will make it different and would love to try. I have to explore a bit more, because the local Asian market doesn’t always have them. The duck bones adds a distinct flavor to the stock and you’ll notice it.
I just started experimenting with cooking whole duck. They are so delicious!
I made this last week and it is very easy and delicious, but took a long time to reduce. I used it to make a Hot and Sour Soup that was way better than any I have made before. Love the blog!
Hi Alice, it took me quite long time to reduce the stock too. I kept cooking it, because I wanted to make it really rich and got every bit of flavor out from the chicken bones 🙂
I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe too!
Some people, (myself included) break the chicken and duck bones after the baking.
Seems to get just that little bit extra taste out of them during the cooking stage.
I need to do this Maggie. I have been really lazy and have been using store bought chicken stock for ages, this needs to be rectified, and soon!
Awesome! !! It is so worth the time to make this broth. I made a large batch for freezer.
Maggie could I use this same technique with the beef soup bones I have in the freezer from our butcher to make a beef stock version?
Hi Sunny, I’m glad to hear you like this recipe!
Yes you can definitely use beef bones to make stock too and you can refer to this post: https://omnivorescookbook.com/asian-beef-stock
I tend to use a bit more spices in beef stock, so the stock will be less gamey.
Also, since you need to cook the the stock much longer, I’d recommend making larger batch if possible.
Happy cooking and hope your beef stock will turn out great too 🙂
This looks amazing! I don’t like to admit I hardly ever use a lot of “bone-in” chicken, is it possible for me to use raw/uncooked chicken bones instead? Also, how much water do you usually dilute the stock with? I’m making wontons from a recipe I found on your site and want to get the ratios JUST RIGHT! Thanks for the help!
Hi Cynthia, of course you can use raw/uncooked chicken bones. I usually use chicken neck and backbones. They make great stock. If you use these parts, you have two options (1) Follow this recipe to make a darker broth (2) Simmer the bones directly to make a clear chicken broth.
As for the water ratio, it’s really hard to say because it totally depends on how much you reduce the broth. I would say taste the broth first right after you make them. If they taste just right, you don’t need to add any water to dilute. Add some water only if the broth tastes too rich.
Happy cooking and hope your wonton dish turns out great 🙂
I want to make this as I have only made clear broths and I cook a lot of asian dishes.
Im wondering if seasoning on the meat/skin from however it was first cooked will affect the taste of the broth? I always save my chicken carcasses but they are often cooked with poultry seasoning, lemon or rosemary, or even cajun spices sometimes.
Hi Casi, I would remove the seasoned chicken skin if the spice is too heavy. But most of the time the seasonings won’t cause a problem, because you probably have picked the meat quite clean when you eat the chicken. The seasonings are more concentrated on the surface, and the near-the-bone part is usually much milder.
In step five you say “add the leek and ginger” but ginger isn’t listed as an ingredient. How much ginger and what sort, please?
Hi Mary, sorry for the late reply. I just updated the recipe with the missed ingredient.
I have made this a couple times, it is a great recipe. I divide the cooled broth into large silicone ice cube trays and keep them in my freezer. It is so handy to just pop one cube of this broth out and add to any soup or just melt in water to make a stock, instantly deepens the flavour of any other recipe. Thank you!
It should not be “1 gallon” of leftover bones. Is it one pound or what?
Sorry if the measurement sounds confusing! It is a recipe shared by our family member – they usually use a gallon ziplock bag to collect the bones and keep them in the freezer, and make it into the soup once the bag is filled. It translate to about 8 lbs of bones.