I make chicken stock usually every couple of weeks. I have turned to making it in the slow cooker because I can toss everything in and not have to "babysit" it. What I like doing is allowing it to cook overnight while I sleep, but this can be done throughout the course of the daytime while you go about your daily tasks or head off to work, too.
There's a few things you should consider when making homemade stock or broth. First, you can use either a leftover chicken carcass (from a roasted or rotisserie chicken) or you can use raw chicken (whole or in pieces). Depending on what you use, there will be subtle differences in the depth, flavor and color of your broth/stock. But, either yields a delicious liquid that will result in a better quality product that store-bought. If using raw chicken, I recommend buying inexpensive cuts when they are on sale. Wings, thighs and legs work great. Save the breasts for your favorite chicken recipes.
There are some who have clear (yet often differing) opinions and definitions of the differences between stock and broth. The differences can encompass distinct variables such as whether you use the bones/carcass from already-cooked meat or whether you start from raw meat, for example. The Cooking Geek offers some insight into the differences between stock and broth. Call it what you'd like, but making your own at home is simple, economical and darn tasty!
I recommend not salting your stock during the cooking process since you never usually know what you'll be using it for in the future. Salt later when utilizing the stock in a recipe. If you do choose to salt the stock, do so sparingly. Also, unless you have whole peppercorns on hand, I do not recommend adding ground black pepper during the cooking process. Doing so can discolor your liquid. Add later.
If I make or buy a whole rotisserie/roasted chicken, I throw what remains of the carcass into the freezer in a zip-top plastic bag for making stock at a later time.
1 chicken carcass or 1 1/2 - 2 pounds of raw chicken pieces (bone-in and skin-on works best)
1 - 2 large onions, cut into chunks (mine were red)
4 carrots, cut into chunks
4 ribs celery, cut into chunks
2 - 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed a bit
2 dried or fresh bay leaves
4 - 5 thyme sprigs with stems
4 - 5 parsley sprigs with stems
10 black peppercorns (optional)
11 - 12 cups cold water
Place chicken in the middle of the slow cooker insert. Arrange vegetables around the chicken. Scatter the herbs around the veggies. (I used dried bay leaves, fresh parsley and some thyme sprigs that were about halfway through their drying process - I often dry my fresh herbs if I have some leftover after using them fresh in a recipe or two.)
Cover with cold water.
Cook on high for 10 - 12 hours.
HERE'S MY METHOD: I use a large, slotted spoon to scoop out all of the pieces of meat and veggies. Then, I line my colander (set over a large bowl to catch the stock) with a coffee filter so that I can catch all of the little bits and "floaties" ... this will result in a more-clear liquid. Also, the filter will "trap" a good deal of the grease and fat present in the liquid. Slowly ladle stock into the coffee filter-lined colander ... waiting for each ladle's worth to drain through before proceeding to the next ladle of liquid. I do change out to a new coffee filter once or twice during the process ... it gets clogged up with some of the fat/grease in the stock. Move a spoon back and forth in the stock as the liquid drains through. Also, know that this will take about 10 minutes to strain all of the stock through. But, it's totally worth doing this step.
See ... this is what you'll "trap" and prevent from going through the colander by using a coffee filter. Yuck!
And, here's what you'll be left with ... liquid gold!
Transfer stock to plastic storage containers. Use canning jars only if you are planning to use stock within a few days and will be storing in the fridge.
Store in refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months.
NOTE: You can easily swap out the chicken for turkey or beef bones/trimmings. Also, if you'd like your stock a little deeper in flavor, you can fortify it with a couple of bouillon cubes or chicken/beef base.