Chicken Stock

AT A GLANCE | In this article, we will:

  • Define “stock” and “broth”, and explain the differences between the two
  • Understand the role and implications of glutamine and glutamate in long-simmered stocks
  • List the various types of stocks and broths that can be made
  • Explain the situations/diets each method is appropriate for
  • Offer step-by-step recipes for creating delicious, healing broths and stocks easily at home

As the primary staple for gut healing and deep nutrition, a good broth or stock is one of the most important ingredients in any healing diet. Chicken stock is especially gentle on the gut; it’s recommended as the one of the first foods in Intro phases such as GAPS, AIP and SCD, and it’s universally appealing to most people.

When we think of “healing broth” today, we conjure an image of steaming hot chicken soup; it was Grandma’s cure for any ache or ailment. Chances are, as a child, someone lovingly made you a bowl of chicken soup on days when you were under the weather. It may have been homemade and chock-full of delicious veggies, or it may have been dotted with alphabet noodles and served out of a can, but it was always served with love – an important element, we believe, in the healing power of broth.

Broth has been a dietary staple for thousands of years universally across almost every traditional culture. Because nothing was wasted, every part of the animal that couldn’t readily be consumed went into the pot and boiled down to extract every last bit of nutrition. Our ancestors learned that this “liquid gold” had healing, regenerating power, and was especially helpful for digestive issues and combating illness.

As with many remedies and rituals in traditional nutrition, the modern medical and scientific world has been a little skeptical about the benefits of broth. What these scientists and doctors fail to understand, however, is the missing key of easy assimilation. A well-made stock or broth – full of nutrients such as amino acids, minerals, collagen, and gelatin – is very gentle on a compromised gut, and provides healing nutrition for those who might not be able to easily intake these nutrients due to compromised digestion or food sensitivities.

Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, has this to say about broth in her book, Nourishing Broth:

Homemade broth, of course, is a whole food product. It’s a slow food, whole food, and real food that has been nourishing and healing people for tens of thousands of years. People around the world know this is true, and they still know it today. Soup stories from history, however, find it hard to compete against spanking-new drugs announced, as Dr. Prudden put it, “with ruffles, flourishes, color brochures, pictures of fantasized molecular sequences, and prose draped in academic gowns.” Compared to the glittering promise of genetic engineering and recombinant DNA technology, old-fashioned broth and gelatin look both quaint and dull. The idea that “like feeds like” and that broth’s bones, cartilage, and collagen can nourish our bones, joints, and skin even sounds a little tidy, rather along the lines of “you are what you eat.” That boredom of broth, however, has advantages, including a long history of safe usage with a complete absence of unwanted side effects. Even the fractionated components of broth such as glucosamine have proven to be extremely safe substances, with only occasional minor side effects and no serious safety concerns. FDA trials on Dr. Prudden’s bovine tracheal cartilage supplement, for example, proved it so safe that there was no dosage at which it produced adverse effects. While many alternative doctors and nutritionists advocate these products for the prevention of the diseases they often cure, why not follow the example of our ancestors and just enjoy a daily diet rich in broth?

Stock vs. Broth: What’s the Difference?

Stock… broth… bone broth… meat stock… dark stock… short stock…

Both broth and stock are essentially “a savory liquid made of water in which bones, meat, fish, or vegetables have been simmered” (according to Wikipedia). Because these terms are often used interchangeably, the finer differences can be a bit confusing. Some professional chefs insist that the difference is in presentation: “Stock” is the finished liquid, with all of the solids removed; and “Broth” is a basic soup where some of the solids remain, most often the meat that was used to produce it. In the world of gut-healing diets, however, there’s a pretty important distinction between the two terms: 1) whether the primary ingredient used to make it was meat, or simply the bones; and 2) the length of cooking time.

Bone Broth (a.k.a. Stock)

With the rising popularity of bone broth (there are now even bone broth bars in hundreds of locations across the US), chances are you’ve heard about this amazing superfood. It’s touted to fight inflammation, boost immunity, improve skin and mental clarity, and (most importantly for those with food sensitivities) seal a compromised gut lining.

“Bone broth” is actually a bit of a misnomer – it’s not really broth at all, but stock. Stock is made from only bones that are simmered for a long period of time to extract nutrients (and flavor). As the bones are simmered, the connective tissues and tendons are dissolved, and the important, easily-digested minerals and proteins leach out into the water. A good bone broth can be simmered for a few hours up to a few days – there’s even perpetual broth methods which keep the pot simmering non-stop!

The “Dark Side” of Bone Broth: Glutamine, Glutamate, & MSG

The delicious, meaty flavor (umami) that’s created after a long, slow simmer is due to the presence of free glutamic acid. Bone broth is FULL of it. Naturally-occurring free glutamic acid is also found in foods such as mushrooms, fish sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, and nutritional yeast – one of the primary reasons why chefs often reach for these to enhance their dishes.

The primary contributor to the development of free glutamic acid is the non-essential amino acid glutamine. The term “non-essential” makes it sound like we can go without, but it actually means that our bodies can synthesize it – a very important skill, because it’s required for our bodies to function properly. Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the human body1 and is used for many functions: it’s essential for tissue growth and repair, it maintains the integrity of the gut lining, it helps with kidney regulation, it’s an energy source for the body, and it’s the precursor to the neurotransmitter glutamate. If we aren’t able to synthesize enough glutamine, it must be obtained from the diet, and this is why we have taste receptors2 to sense glutamic acid in our food. We’re taught to appreciate this taste from birth as it’s present in substantial amounts in breast milk. Studies show that glutamic acid and glutamine progressively increase throughout lactation3, most likely to mature the infant’s permeable gut lining and enhance brain development.

Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in our nervous system4, and it’s heavily involved in cognitive functions such as learning, memory, and energy/cellular repair in the brain. It also plays a role in modulating insulin in the pancreas5. The importance of glutamate and glutamine in our bodies cannot be overstated – and neither can the fact that they need to be present in our bodies in balance.

In 1908, free glutamic acid was first isolated from seaweed, and Japanese researchers discovered that they could combine this substance with sodium to make a delicious flavor enhancer, monosodium glutamate. This “instant umami” was convenient, shelf-stable, and offered a huge amount of cost and time savings for the food industry. By the 1950’s, MSG was widely used in the U.S. food supply. Dried bouillons, instant stocks, and canned imitation broths replaced the perpetually-simmering pot of broth in most restaurants and home kitchens.

Isolated monosodium glutamate is an excitotoxin, which means that it can cross the blood-brain barrier and overexcite brain cells until they are exhausted, causing cell death. MSG is contentrated free glutamic acid. Without its naturally-occurring complement of minerals, other amino acids etc., it confuses the body – and this excess glutamate can build up and damage the brain6. In a normal, healthy individual, the conversion of glutamine to glutamate is sufficiently controlled7, and buildup isn’t allowed to occur. But in some individuals, this control mechanism is compromised. Because the intestinal cells are responsible for 95% of dietary glutamate metabolism8, a compromised gut can lead to glutamate build-up. This is common in autism spectrum and other neurological disorders9. Many children with ASD are very sensitive; excess glutamate will exacerbate their symptoms. Other people can experience headaches, breathing difficulties, digestive issues, dizziness, skin problems, and cardiac abnormalities – and seizures10.

Today, MSG is found everywhere: in restaurant meals, most processed and packaged foods, candy, drinks, supplements, cosmetics – even in the wax applied to fruits and veggies. (The website truthinlabeling.org has a lot of helpful information about hidden MSG and how to avoid it.) Unfortunately, this overload of MSG in our food supply has compromised some people’s ability to maintain proper levels of glutamate. Foods with large amounts of free glutamic acid, such as bone broth, should be avoided in those with glutamate sensitivity – and those with neurological and/or autoimmune disorders should proceed with caution. And of course, everyone – including healthy individuals – should avoid unnatural MSG as much as possible by ditching processed/convenience foods, and reviving time-honored, traditional, “slow” food.

Does this mean that bone broth should be off the table? Absolutely not! It’s still a valuable, time-honored food, with a huge array of health benefits. If you suspect that you are sensitive to glutamate, we suggest using the Coca Pulse Test with a quality, long-simmered chicken bone broth (made from only quality organic chicken bones, filtered water, and sea salt). If you discover an issue with bone broth, you may also wish to test other high-glutamate foods, such as cooked shiitake mushrooms, naturally-fermented fish sauce, or organic, additive-free tomato paste. Share your results with your nutritionist or healthcare practitioner. Many people are able to consume higher levels of naturally-derived glutamate without issue – after substantial gut healing has taken place.

Meat Broth

So, you’ve discovered a sensitivity to glutamate. Now what? Luckily, there’s another equally delicious and nutritious option: Meat Broth.

Also called “Meat stock”, the correct culinary term is simply “broth”: meat on the bone, simmered in water, for a shorter period of time than a long-simmered stock – just until the meat is cooked through. The braised meat can then be used to create soups or other dishes, and the broth can stand in for stock in virtually any dish. Because of its more delicate nature and lower glutamate content, meat broth is preferred over stock for sensitive digestive systems, for those who have extensive gut damage, and for those with glutamate sensitivities, neurological disorders, or autoimmune issues.

Meat broth is recommended as the first food in the GAPS Intro diet:

Meat and fish stocks provide building blocks for the rapidly growing cells of the gut lining and they have a soothing effect on any areas of inflammation in the gut… Chicken stock is particularly gentle on the stomach and is very good to start with. To make good meat stock you need joints, bones, a piece of meat on the bone, [or] a whole chicken… it is essential to use bones and joints, not [just] muscle meats… The gelatinous soft tissues around the bones and the bone marrow provide some of the best healing remedies for the gut lining and the immune system; your patient needs to consume them with every meal.

That statement bears repeating: the vital component of a healing broth is the gelatinous soft tissues. Simmering a boneless chicken breast isn’t an ideal solution – it won’t provide the healing you need, and it certainly won’t be very tasty! A better solution is to cut up a whole, raw chicken into pieces. Tear the chicken at the legs and wings to expose the joints, cut down the breast and back bones, and cut across the legs to expose the marrow. Toss all of the pieces into your stock pot, cover completely with about 1″ of clean water, and simmer for 1-2 hours, until the meat is cooked through. That’s it.

Preparing Stock and Broth

For both Chicken Stock (“Bone Broth”) and Chicken Meat Broth, it’s very important that you find the cleanest source of chicken that you can. Ideally, you should seek out pastured chicken, but they can be both hard to find and expensive. If pastured isn’t an option, do your best to stick with organic, or birds fed only non-GMO feed. Avoid antibiotic-treated chicken and any birds injected with solution (that “solution” is full of questionable ingredients that will impede healing). It’s hard to find a chicken these days that isn’t fed soy or corn, but they do exist – eatwild.com can connect you with local farmers.

If you don’t mind the sight of chicken heads and feet, you’ll GREATLY improve your broth by adding them. They contain an impressive amount of collagen and will impart the coveted “gel” into your broth – really upping the ante on the healing properties. Chicken feet are becoming easier to find these days; I currently purchase them from Whole Foods Market (only $1.99/lb for organic feet in the Seattle area). I’ve also sourced them online, from local farmers, friends, and even Asian or Hispanic markets. Note that the feet at ethnic markets aren’t likely to be organic, but you may wish to weigh the benefits of extra collagen and healing substances over the organic label, if the rest of your meat is top quality and you aren’t extremely sensitive. Ask your nutritionist or healthcare practitioner for advice.

 

Chicken Feet

mmmm…
Chicken Feet!

Chicken Broth with lots of gelatin

Add chicken feet for gelatin like this

Pressure-Cooking Stock

We’re big fans of pressure cooking here at Meal Possible, and most of our stock is made in one of our favorite kitchen gadgets, the Instant Pot. (Actually, we own three IPs, and one is almost always cranking out the stock 24/7.) It saves us oodles of time, not to mention precious space on the stove. However, pressure cooking for extended periods may increase the glutamate and histamine content over traditionally-simmered stock, so those with glutamate and histamine sensitivities should note this. Also, some traditional food enthusiasts take a more cautious approach to pressure cooking. On the other hand, some nutritionists believe that the shorter time will produce a delicious, flavorful stock with less glutamate and histamine content, if the total time is kept to an hour or less. In our opinion, either approach is fine, but it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons for your particular situation.

In conclusion: Knowing how to whip up a good chicken stock is an essential skill in your cooking repertoire. Stocks and broths make a universal flavor base for soups, stews, vegetables, grains, and a wide array of savory dishes – even condiments! In addition, they simply make food taste delicious. Toss the boxes, cans and bouillons, ditch the plain water, and incorporate stock-making into your weekly routine – it will raise your cooking to an entirely new level, and it only takes a few minutes of hands-on time.


More Resources

Here’s a list of some of our favorite resources for all things stock and broth.

 

Do you have questions or comments you’d like to share about the amazing healing potential of broths and stocks? Are there any tips you’d like to share about adding them to your daily routine? Let us know in the comments!


 

Chicken Stock/Bone Broth (Pressure Cooker)Chicken Meat Broth (Pressure Cooker)Chicken Stock/Bone Broth (Stovetop)Chicken Meat Broth (Stovetop)
Chicken Stock: Bone Broth (Pressure Cooker)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 10 mins
 

Deep, healing nutrition. Chicken stock, when made from bones, is rich in collagen (most notably glucosamine), and contains plenty of detoxifying glycine to make the liver happy. In this recipe, we add chicken feet for extra gelatin, which is a vital nutrient in gut healing for those with food sensitivities.

Course: Base Recipe, Soup
Cuisine: Traditional
Servings: 4 quarts
Calories: 87 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken carcass (leftovers from Roasted Chicken)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • vegetable scraps , 1-2 large handfuls - such as celery, carrot, and onion cuttings from other meals
  • 4 chicken feet (we like US Wellness - or check your local health food store for availability)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place the carcass, apple cider vinegar, a couple of healthy handfuls of vegetable scraps, bay leaf, and chicken feet into your pressure cooker (don't add the parsley yet). Cover everything with clean water (fill about 2/3 of the way). If you use an Instant Pot, note that the "Max" line is often too much water; you'll want to keep it at least 3" below the rim.

    bone broth ingredients
  2. Secure lid. Bring to high pressure, and cook for 2 hours. On the Instant Pot, a quick way to do this is to press the 'Poultry' button, then reduce time to zero minutes - press once more and you'll have 120 minutes.

  3. After 2 hours, you can choose to stop cooking (this makes a lighter 'meat' stock with less glutamic acid), or continue to cook for another 2 hours (this makes a richer, more flavorful stock with more glycine and minerals).

  4. When cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally. Carefully remove the lid, and drop in the parsley. Cook uncovered for 15 more minutes (on the Instant Pot, use the Saute function), then turn off the heat.

  5. Allow the stock to cool enough to handle, then strain it through a fine-mesh strainer. Ladle into half-gallon mason jars or other large containers. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days. Stock also freezes very well!

Recipe Notes
  • For those with particularly sensitive systems, the use of a pressure cooker may not be advised. Rather, it is generally recommended to simmer meat stock on the stovetop for a shorter period of time. Ask your nutritionist or healthcare practitioner for advice.
Chicken Stock: Meat Broth (Pressure Cooker)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 10 mins
 

Deep, healing nutrition. Meat broth is ideal for those on early stages of GAPS, or anyone with advanced healing needs as it is much gentler on the gut. It's also recommended over bone broth for those with glutamate sensitivities. In this recipe, we add chicken feet for extra gelatin, which is a vital nutrient in gut healing.

Course: Base Recipe
Cuisine: Traditional
Servings: 4 quarts
Calories: 87 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • vegetable scraps , 1-2 large handfuls - such as celery, carrot, and onion cuttings from other meals
  • 4 chicken feet (we like US Wellness - or check your local health food store for availability)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cut the chicken into pieces. Try to expose as many of the joints as possible, and break the spines and bones where you can to expose the marrow. Leave the meat on the bones.

  2. Place chicken pieces, apple cider vinegar, a couple of healthy handfuls of vegetable scraps, bay leaf, and chicken feet into your pressure cooker (don't add the parsley yet). Cover everything with clean water (fill about 2/3 of the way). If you use an Instant Pot, note that the "Max" line is often too much water; you'll want to keep it at least 3" below the rim.

  3. Secure lid. Bring to high pressure, and set the time for 60 minutes.

  4. When cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally. Carefully remove the lid, and drop in the parsley. Cook uncovered for 15 more minutes (on the Instant Pot, use the Saute function), then turn off the heat.

  5. Allow the stock to cool enough to handle, then carefully remove the chicken pieces from the pot, and remove the meat from the bones. Save the meat for soup or other meals. (You can also save the bones in the freezer for making bone broth in the future.)

  6. Strain the remaining solids through a fine-mesh strainer. Ladle into half-gallon mason jars or other large containers. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days. Stock also freezes very well!

Recipe Notes
  • For those with particularly sensitive systems, the use of a pressure cooker may not be advised. Rather, it is generally recommended to simmer meat stock on the stovetop for a shorter period of time. Ask your nutritionist or healthcare practitioner for advice.
Chicken Stock: Bone Broth (Stovetop)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 10 mins
 

Deep, healing nutrition. Chicken stock, when made from bones, is rich in collagen (most notably glucosamine), and contains plenty of detoxifying glycine to make the liver happy. In this recipe, we add chicken feet for extra gelatin, which is a vital nutrient in gut healing for those with food sensitivities.

Course: Base Recipe
Cuisine: Traditional
Servings: 4 quarts
Calories: 87 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken carcass (leftovers from Roasted Chicken)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • vegetable scraps , 1-2 large handfuls - such as celery, carrot, and onion cuttings from other meals
  • 4 chicken feet (we like US Wellness - or check your local health food store for availability)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place the carcass, apple cider vinegar, a couple of healthy handfuls of vegetable scraps, bay leaf, and chicken feet into your stock pot (don't add the parsley yet). Cover everything with clean water (fill about 2/3 of the way).

    bone broth ingredients
  2. Bring to a boil, and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce to a simmer.

  3. Cook for at least 4 and up to 8 hours, checking occasionally to skim any additional scum. Drop the fresh parsley in about 15 minutes before removing from heat.

  4. Allow the stock to cool enough to handle, then strain it through a fine-mesh strainer. Ladle into half-gallon mason jars or other large containers. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days. Stock also freezes very well!

Chicken Stock: Meat Broth (Stovetop)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 10 mins
 

Deep, healing nutrition. Meat broth is ideal for those on early stages of GAPS, or anyone with advanced healing needs as it is much gentler on the gut. It's also recommended over bone broth for those with glutamate sensitivities. In this recipe, we add chicken feet for extra gelatin, which is a vital nutrient in gut healing.

Course: Base Recipe
Cuisine: Traditional
Servings: 4 quarts
Calories: 12 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • vegetable scraps , 1-2 large handfuls - such as celery, carrot, and onion cuttings from other meals
  • 4 chicken feet (we like US Wellness - or check your local health food store for availability)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (optional)
  • 4 quart chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Cut the chicken into pieces. Try to expose as many of the joints as possible, and break the spines and bones where you can to expose the marrow. Leave the meat on the bones.

  2. Place chicken pieces, apple cider vinegar, a couple of healthy handfuls of vegetable scraps, bay leaf, and chicken feet into your pressure cooker (don't add the parsley yet). Cover everything with clean water, about 2-3" above the solids.

  3. Bring to a boil, and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 1.5 to 2 hours, checking occasionally to skim any additional scum.  Drop the fresh parsley in about 15 minutes before removing from heat.

  4. Carefully remove the chicken pieces from the pot. Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes, then remove the meat from the bones. Save the meat for soup or other meals. (You can also save the bones in the freezer for making bone broth in the future.)

  5. Strain the remaining solids through a fine-mesh strainer. Ladle into half-gallon mason jars or other large containers. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days. Stock also freezes very well!

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Article References

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Brosnan JT. Interorgan Amino Acid Transport and its Regulation2. The Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133(6):2068S-2072S. doi:10.1093/jn/133.6.2068s
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Bellisle F. Glutamate and the UMAMI taste: sensory, metabolic, nutritional and behavioural considerations. A review of the literature published in the last 10 years. N. 1999;23(3):423-438. doi:10.1016/s0149-7634(98)00043-8
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Agostoni C, Carratù B, Boniglia C, Lammardo A, Riva E, Sanzini E. Free glutamine and glutamic acid increase in human milk through a three-month lactation period. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2000;31(5):508-512. [PubMed]
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Meldrum B. Glutamate as a neurotransmitter in the brain: review of physiology and pathology. J Nutr. 2000;130(4S Suppl):1007S-15S. [PubMed]
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Weaver CD, Yao TL, Powers AC, Verdoorn TA. Differential Expression of Glutamate Receptor Subtypes in Rat Pancreatic Islets. J. 1996;271(22):12977-12984. doi:10.1074/jbc.271.22.12977
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Madji H, Blasco H, Coque E, et al. The Metabolic Disturbances of Motoneurons Exposed to Glutamate. Mol Neurobiol. February 2018. [PubMed]
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Smith QR. Transport of Glutamate and Other Amino Acids at the Blood-Brain Barrier. The Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130(4):1016S-1022S. doi:10.1093/jn/130.4.1016s
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Reeds PJ, Burrin DG, Stoll B, Jahoor F. Intestinal Glutamate Metabolism. The Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130(4):978S-982S. doi:10.1093/jn/130.4.978s
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Ghanizadeh A. Increased Glutamate and Homocysteine and Decreased Glutamine Levels in Autism: A Review and Strategies for Future Studies of Amino Acids in Autism. Dis Markers. 2013;35(5):281-286. [PMC]
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MSG Allergy: Symptoms, Testing, and Treatment. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/msg. Published May 5, 2015. Accessed February 16, 2018.

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