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Thanksgiving

Got a Turkey Carcass and Water? You Have All You Need for Beautiful Stock

Don’t toil over turkey stock on the day after Thanksgiving. This ultraeasy method employs nothing but the carcass, water, and a lazy simmer. The results are savory and full-bodied.
By Published Nov. 25, 2022

If you roasted a whole bird yesterday, I hope you saved the carcass. Along with a few quarts of water, that’s all you need to make savory, full-bodied stock. It’s great for postholiday turkey soup with barley; orzo, kale, and chickpeas; or rice, mushrooms, and swiss chard, or for stockpiling in your freezer to have at the ready. 

Senior Editor Steve Dunn’s method couldn’t be simpler or more frugal. You don’t have to roast the bones further, simmer endlessly, or even add any aromatics to the pot. Here’s how he gets as much as possible out of the bones and bits of meat and skin and minimizes the effort. (After all, you already cooked for Thanksgiving, and that fatigue is surely setting in; time for a break!)

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How to Make the Best, Simplest Turkey Stock 

  • Pick Off Most—But Not All—of the Meat

The stock will have a fuller flavor if there is some meat and skin still attached. 

  • Break Up the Bones

Use a heavy knife or kitchen shears to cut the bones into 10 to 12 pieces. (If you have the bones from the drumsticks and thighs, add them to the pot too.) That way, they’ll pack more tightly into the pot and require less water to cover them. The upshot is more concentrated stock.

  • Skip the Vegetables

Omitting mirepoix (carrot, celery, and onion) allows the essence of the poultry to shine and minimizes the prep work. 

  • Simmer Gently, Not Endlessly

Cooking the bones in water for 2 hours extracts enough gelatin to give the stock rich flavor and body. 

  • Skim and Reserve Fat

Removing fat from the strained, cooled stock clarifies it, and it can be used for making turkey soup. 

Simple Turkey Stock

Freeze for Later

Freezing stock in portions of different sizes (ice cube tray, muffin tin, zipper-lock bag) makes it easy to defrost it for different applications. Stock can be frozen for up to four months

Makes 8 cups

1 carcass from 12- to 14-pound roasted turkey

10 cups water

1. Using chef’s knife, remove wings from carcass and separate each wing at joints into 3 pieces. Cut through ribs to separate breastbone from backbone, then cut backbone into 3 to 4 pieces. Using kitchen shears or heavy knife, remove ribs from both sides of breastbone. (You should have roughly 4 pounds of bones broken into 10 to 12 pieces.)

2. Arrange bones in stockpot or large Dutch oven in compact layer. Add water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 2 hours, using shallow spoon to skim foam and impurities from surface as needed.

3. Strain stock through fine-mesh strainer into large container; discard solids. Let stock cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Skim any fat from surface (reserve fat for making soup). Let stock cool for 1½ hours before refrigerating. (Stock can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 4 months.)

Simple Turkey Stock

We take a simple approach to stock making that delivers pure turkey flavor with very little effort.
Get the Recipe

Turkey Barley Soup

No one wants to toil over turkey stock on the day after Thanksgiving. But what if you had a recipe that practically made itself?
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Turkey Orzo Soup with Kale and Chickpeas

No one wants to toil over turkey stock on the day after Thanksgiving. But what if you had a recipe that practically made itself?
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Turkey Rice Soup with Mushrooms and Swiss Chard

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.