How to Make Homemade Chicken Stock & Avoid MSG

Thanksgiving is coming up (and has already passed in Canada), and for a lot of people it means you’ll have tons of turkey that will turn into Thanksgiving leftovers, turkey sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, turkey salad, and turkey soup. But what about that large turkey carcass sitting on your kitchen counter?

Before you throw it away, pick it clean, keep all the bones and skin and make some homemade stock to use immediately, or to throw in your freezer.

And you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving, either, or just with a turkey. I do this often with one of those oven-roasted chickens you can buy in a grocery store, or at the street market here in Italy. Sometimes they even come stuffed with rosemary – save that, it’ll be part of your stock!

How to make Homemade chicken stock

Before I get to the directions, I want to talk about one thing I’ve become concerned about in recent years: MSG, mono-sodium glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamic acid. The presence of MSG excies your umami-receptors which perceive the savoriness/meaty taste of foods. While there have been many studies, with no conclusive proof about whether MSG is harmful to your health, I have a problem with it.

Why? Because it makes me think what I am eating is better than it is.

I want to be conscious of and enjoy every calorie I eat, whether they are “good” or “bad” calories. I feel tricked when I discover my food has MSG in it.

One of my most horrifying discoveries was when I found it in pre-sliced turkey in the supermarket here in Italy, that I was buying to slice onto my salads. Why did turkey need flavor enhancers?

In the 1970s and 1980s, in the USA we associated MSG with “Chinese food syndrome”, and companies like Panda Express went to great lengths to then assure us with shiny stickers that they are “MSG-free!” and then when you weren’t looking, MSG snuck back into other things like Doritos (potato chips), which I experienced on my recent trip to Florida in September.

I hadn’t eaten a Dorito in years, and my first taste made me go “Wow! These are so good!” and immediately reach for more. My reaction made me suspicious, as I’m getting better at knowing when I eat something because it tastes good or because my umami-loving tastebuds are going wild* (small difference). I checked the label, and boom, MSG.

You might say, well, it’s not so bad – MSG is from seaweed, and it’s natural. I too paused at this explanation, but rationalized: salt is also a flavor enhancer, but it’s also in our bodies, and is a natural part of your body’s defense when dehydrated – your body needs salt. Does it need a seaweed derivative? What are we putting in our food?

And modern production of commercial MSG has apparently nothing to do with seaweed, and is a by-product from fermentation of beets, cane sugar, and others [More from Cornell College in the MSG story – PDF link]. Fermenting beets to derive a compound that will make you think your food is savorier than it is? Yeast extract is also a hidden source of MSG. Here’s a bunch of other hidden sources of MSG.

So what does this all have to do with today’s post about homemade chicken stock?

Broth cubes are almost always very heavy on flavor enhancers and MSG. They have a tough job to do, of course, in flavoring plain water and making it savory soup-ready, but if you can make your own homemade stock, you’ll end up with a delicious base just the same and you’ll know everything that went into making it. Make a push for more natural foods in your house!

How to make homemade chicken stock

Ingredients for homemade chicken stock

1 chicken carcass – leftover bones, skin, and pieces of chicken
2-3 stalks celery, chopped/sliced
1 small onion, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
Garlic cloves (optional)
Salt & Peppercorns

  1. In a non-stick deep soup pan, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few cloves of garlic (optional). Add the onion and cook until slightly translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook for several minutes.
  2. If the chicken carcass isn’t already broken up, break it into pieces that will fit comfortably in the soup pan, and add them to the celery/carrot/onion mix. Cover everything with water (depending on the size of the chicken, it could be 4-8 cups of water).
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat so it boils at a low simmer, occasionally giving it a stir. I usually move the pan to the smallest burner on my stove, at the lowest heat setting.
  4. Simmer it for several hours, uncovered. You may want to add more water every so often, especially if it boils off enough that the liquid is not covering everything.
  5. You can skim off the foamy-fatty parts with a spoon as it simmers. Alternatively, you can skim the fat after the stock has cooled down, or you can leave the fat layer intact as Elise from Simply Recipes recommends.
  6. Cool and strain the solids from the liquid with a wire mesh strainer into a freezer-safe container, pushing gently on the mass so you get all the juices out before discarding the solids. Divide into smaller containers and freeze or use.

Do you make your own chicken stock? What’s your favorite meal to use it in?

Do you have any feelings about MSG?

Leftovers from making homemade chicken stock

How to use up your chicken stock once you have it:


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  1. Maggie Beltami says

    I always make stock when we have a chicken or turkey. Another great way to make stock is to follow Bibba Caggiano’s recipe for boiled chicken in her Trattoria cookbook. Same basic ingredients plus the addition of a couple of chopped up fresh tomatoes and a bay leaf, and a whole uncooked chicken. Boil gently until the chicken is cooked. You end up with a lovely pot of amazing stock and a wonderful boiled chicken to serve with a piquant green sauce made with capers, olive oil, old bread, vinegar and maybe a bit of anchovy!!

  2. Becky says

    I do make my own stock by big batches and freeze it in ziplock bags. I use it for everything. The main reason I started making it was to avoid salt since my husband had to cut it from his diet.

  3. says

    I started making my own stock when I moved to Italy because I couldn’t find it in the supermarket.

    Like my marina sauce, I make a big pot and then freeze the rest in 1 or 2 cup containers.

    Now there are a few stocks sold in boxes but I like the taste of home made stock better.

  4. KJ says

    I make chicken broth all the time- just chicken bones, skin, whatever meat is left on the bones, and water. No salt, no spices, no veggies. I bag it in snack bags in 1 cup servings and freeze it. I use it for cooking quite a few things, but my favorite is rice.

    This is not a substitute for stock, which I make less often.

  5. Rebecca says

    Growing up, it was a sin to throw out the carcass of a chicken or a turkey, or even a ham bone without boiling it for soup stock… so I guess it has been ingrained in me. It is a great way to make a yummy soup. I am not able to tolerate MSG. It gives me wicked migraines that don’t go away with any medication. I would just have to wait for my body to metabolize it. I have become quite aware of the products that have MSG… often anything that tastes too good and is packaged. McCormicks makes an MSG free broullion cube, vege, beef and chicken which I sometimes add to enhance flavor of stock. Happy MSG free cooking!

  6. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    So glad to see so many people making their own stock!


    have become quite aware of the products that have MSG… often anything that tastes too good and is packaged

    You are so right – I am starting to know immediately….

  7. says

    Grazie for the reminder–it is shocking to look at store bought chicken stock–even those that say ORGANIC AND LOW SODIUM from Trader Joe’s and to read all the STUFF that’s in there. Making your own is such an easy, pleasant, warm winter activity–you will always be thankful to have it on hand!

  8. Marcia says

    MSG has been proven to cause migraine headaches in some people (myself included). It can be a problem for those with food allergies also.

  9. Msg is naturally occurring. says

    Fun fact, this is wrong, msg is what gives EVERYTHING its meaty flavor. The reason chicken tastes like chicken, tomatoes taste like tomatoes, and beef tastes like beef is because of msg. Msg isn’t bad for you. This is silly.

    • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      I think you should perhaps read the article a little closer. I actually don’t have a problem with naturally-occurring MSG and I love the umami flavors in foods! It’s the artificial MSG that is being widely used (and often found in foods that do not have it naturally occuring) and in this case, it can easily be avoided by making your own broth. Cheers!

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