What to do with chicken backs/necks?

by 152 · December 28, 2013 at 09:09 PM

I was vegetarian for about 12 years, and for the past 2 have been eating seafood. I just started paleo a few days ago and am phasing it in, and decided try adding in some grass fed beef and a small bit of poultry to see if I notice a difference.

Along with some grass fed ground beef and stew meat I picked up a pack of chicken backs/necks. I figure they probably go to waste anyway, were rated decently on the humane scale at Whole Foods, and 3 of them cost under $2.

I'm assuming the best thing to do would be make broth with them, but I haven't cooked chicken since I was 14 (if ever) so I am clueless. I am adding in meat for health benefits, so that is my main goal. Do I use the skin? What the heck do I do with them besides stick them in boiling water? Do I seriously need to cook them for 20 hours?

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8 Replies

6045 · May 10, 2012 at 12:06 AM

Chicken backs and necks aren't good for much, but they are GREAT for stock/broth! They're loaded with the connective tissue that makes good gelatin, some meat, and the bones are tiny and multi-faceted, meaning more surface area exposed to the hot water. So in theory, we should be able to more easily leach bone minerals from these.

Also, I find the backs have interesting flavor, probably on account of the contact they share with so many other tissues. It's not uncommon to find small bits of liver or kidney or other stuff clinging to parts of the inside of the backs, even after processing. So, excellent score--you're in for a treat.

I don't go in for the 20+ hour broth, mostly because I hate the smell, and don't have the patience. I might do it for big fat beef bones, but NEVER for poultry. So I opt more for stock than bone broth. Here's what I do:

  1. Put the bones (w/skin) into a pot, and cover with cold water by 2 inches. I usually use a huge pair of tin snips I keep in the kitchen to cut the bones into smaller pieces and expose the marrow. This won't be as effective on backs and necks, but the smaller the pieces, the more surface area, which means more flavor/nutrient leaching, so if you can chop the parts up, go for it. If you can't, it'll still be good. (Bone broth people always suggest adding a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help leach minerals. I agree with the vinegar idea, but find the flavor and smell of apple cider vinegar totally out of place here. So I'll use white wine vinegar, or plain distilled vinegar. ACV is just too flavorful for my taste.)

  2. Simmer for about 3-4 hours at a very low temp--you should see some bubbles rising only every few seconds, not a rolling boil. Add water if the bones start sticking up above the surface too much, but in the last hour, let it reduce as much as possible. If you care about the clarity of the broth, skim the scum that accumulates on top during the first 30 minutes or so. But I never bother, and it always disappears by the end anyway.

  3. About 1-2 hours in, add some chopped up onions (with skins), chopped celery (with leafy tops if you have them), and chopped carrots (don't bother peeling, just clean), and a couple bay leaves. Sometimes I put in whole peppercorns and thyme, sometimes I use no herbs at all.

  4. After 3-4 hours, it's done. Cool and strain. You won't find much good meat left over, and after 4 hours, it's mush anyway. Just let it go. Chill or freeze the broth (scrape the chicken fat off the top when it's cold if you don't want to eat it). If it sets up like gelatin in the fridge (which it nearly always does), you are now officially an expert at making stock.

Use it for anything, it's flavorful but neutral, healthy, and delicious.

EDIT: New answers appeared while I was typing mine. Their suggestions are great too. As you can see, there are multiple good techniques. You'll devise your own after a couple times--you can hardly fail, because this is the most basic cookery there is.

600 · May 09, 2012 at 11:56 PM

Yes, use the backs and necks for broth. If you have a pressure cooker, you can make awesome broth in a short amount of time. If you have a slow cooker, you can make set-it-and-forget it broth in a not-so-short amount of time (I'd let it go eight hours at a bare minimum, but really like it after 24-48 hours).

1314 · May 09, 2012 at 11:43 PM

Easy-peasy. Cover with water, add a splash of cider vinegar, add trimmings from onions, garlic, & carrots (optional, but yummier). Bring to a boil, then simmer for a few hours. Strain and enjoy or freeze.

I do a second boil using the same steps because I find there is still a bunch of flavor in the bones even after hours of boiling - not enough to taste great plain, but certainly enough to liven up a soup.

From what I've read, beef bones need a lot more time to extract the minerals than chicken bones do.

I include the skin; it'll make for a lot of fat, but it's easy to skim it off once the broth cools. I don't want to eat that much poultry fat because it's so high in PUFA.

994 · May 10, 2012 at 01:32 AM

I actually buy them by the case and feed my dogs a raw diet. Not that they are not good for humans. I have used them for soup now and then but they are not vry meaty. I always oven or pan cook first before going into a pot of water. you will end up with much more flavour.

turkey necks are also good for soup.but thighs would be the best for a meatier soup. a few thighs with the backs would work out well. I always cook the meat first before sending it to the soup pot.

My version similar to others:

Put them in a deep fry pan with a tad of water/cover/simmer for 1 hr. let them brown..babysit them a bit. dice some celery.carrot/onion/garlic..saute in separate pan with butter or CO.

switch both the chicken backs and whatever juice plus the veg into a 3-4 qt pot and cover and top up with say 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil reduce and simmer covered until it all falls apart..several hours. The liquid should be down around 1 plus cups. taste and add water /other to taste.

it will not have great flavour. The more you let the fat crisp and brown in step one you will eek out more flavour. Put it all in the pot. you will have to play with various ideas as to what will bump up the flavour. I like cumin myself.

993 · December 28, 2013 at 09:09 PM

Of course you make them into bone broth! The backs and necks have lots of cartillage to make healthy geletain with. Tip: parboil the broth bones for ten minutes, then rinse in cool water to rid the bones of impurities that will cloud the broth, then start over with fresh, cool water and simmer on a VERY low heat. Add a toasted onion to give the broth good color.

3365 · March 26, 2013 at 11:52 PM

If the backs/necks are raw make sure you roast them nice & caramelized before putting them in water. Same goes for your aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic).

Throw some herbs, lemongrass, peppercorns in with it. I wouldn't salt until its almost done, since you might want to boil it down to get a richer flavor. Always salt the end volume.

Also, don't forget to add a few Tbsp of vinegar to break down the bone and extract more minerals.

I wouldn't use the skin. Too greasy for my taste.

0 · March 26, 2013 at 11:28 PM

jo60 - please don't feed chicken bones to dogs! Especially the tiny vertebrae in the back!

3029 · May 10, 2012 at 09:53 AM

I love to cook the necks with my roast chicken and nibble on the external meat. Yum...the rest goes into bone broth.

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