Every Thanksgiving, I prepare a big pot of stock to use all Thanksgiving Day long. This luscious stock is one of the secrets to a moist, beautifully colored roast bird with wonderful gravy, as shown in Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy . Some of the stock also goes into the stuffing, some usually gets turned into soup, and I often use it in side dishes as well. The recipe is easily doubled or even tripled, assuming you have a stockpot big enough to hold the ingredients. If you want a smaller amount of stock, make the Small-Batch Turkey Stock Variation below
. But don’t worry about having too much stock. Any leftovers can be frozen or used the next day to make a terrific soup.
Turkey parts with lots of bone, like wings and backs, make the best stock. Use the turkey neck, heart, and gizzard from a whole turkey in the stock, but not the liver. (Liver makes the stock bitter.) When the stock is strained, you can retrieve the neck and giblets to use in giblet gravy. If you want to use liver in the gravy, add It to the stock during the last 15 minutes of simmering, and poach It just until cooked through.
Browning the turkey parts first gives the stock a rich color that will make a dark gravy. Cooking the vegetables brings out their flavor. Too many cooks throw the giblets In a pot with some water to boil up a weak, pale stock that doesn’t have much flavor.
Never let stock come to a rolling boil or it will become cloudy and have a less refined flavor. Cook the stock uncovered.
Add the herbs to the stock after you’ve skimmed it. If you add them at the beginning, they will rise to the surface and be skimmed off with the foam. By the way, the foam isn’t anything unwholesome—it’s just the coagulating proteins in the bones. They are removed to make the stock clearer.
The longer a stock simmers, the better, up to 12 hours. Replace the water as needed, as it evaporates. While I trust my stove to simmer the stock at a safe temperature overnight, some of my students have been shocked at the idea. A great alternative is to make the stock in a 5½-quart slow cooker. Transfer the browned turkey and vegetable mixture to the stockpot, add the herbs, and pour in enough cold water to cover well. Cover and cook on Low, and the stock will barely simmer all night long to create a clear, delicious stock.
If time is a factor, just simmer the stock for an hour or two—it will still be better than using canned chicken broth to make your gravy. Or make a pot of stock well ahead of Thanksgiving and freeze it.
Don’t add salt to your stock. The stock Is often used in recipes where it must reduced, and the finished dish could end up too salty. To check the stock’s flavor, ladle some into a cup and season lightly with salt before tasting. Without the salt, It may taste deceptively weak.
- 3 pounds turkey wings
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Turkey neck and giblets (liver reserved, if desired; see headnote)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 medium celery rib with leaves, chopped
- 6 parsley sprigs
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 dried bay leaf
Using a heavy cleaver, chop the wings and neck into 2-inch pieces. (If necessary, ask the butcher to do this for you.) Using a sharp knife, trim away any membranes from the giblets.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the turkey wings, neck, and giblets, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the turkey to a plate. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pot, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes.
Return the turkey to the pot. Add enough cold water to cover the turkey by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Add the parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low. Cook at a bare simmer for at least 2 and up to 12 hours. As needed, add more water to the pot to keep the bones covered.
Strain the stock through a colander into a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes and skim off the clear yellow fat that rises to the surface. If desired, remove the giblets, cool, finely chop, and refrigerate for use in gravy. The neck meat can be removed in strips, chopped, and reserved as well. Cool the stock completely before refrigerating or freezing. (Turkey stock can be prepared up to 3 days ahead, cooled completely, covered, and refrigerated. It can also be frozen in airtight containers for up to 3 months.)
Small-Batch Turkey Stock: A smaller amount of stock can be prepared with just the turkey neck and giblets. As this relatively small amount of turkey won’t give a very full-flavored stock, use chicken broth (homemade or canned) as a booster. Following the instructions above, brown the neck and giblets from 1 turkey in 1 tablespoon oil. Add 1 small onion, 1 small carrot, and 1 small celery rib with leaves, all chopped, and cook until softened. Add 1 quart water, and one 13¾-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add 3 parsley sprigs, ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, 6 peppercorns, and 1 small bay leaf. Simmer for 2½ to 3 hours (the smaller amount of liquid would evaporate away if cooked longer). Makes about 1 quart.
Homemade Chicken Stock: Substitute 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into 2-inch pieces, for the turkey wings. Delete the turkey neck and giblets.
Nutritional information is based on 20 servings