Last Updated on 10 months by Tim
If you’d ask me what the most essential seasoning for German food is, I’d have to go with chicken broth. It’s the workhorse of every fine kitchen. A properly made chicken broth infuses dishes with a gentle sweetness and gives them that characteristic savory taste we all crave, also known as umami.
It’s subtle enough to not overpower the flavor of other ingredients but also powerful enough to transform a dish from ‘ok’ to ‘magnificent’.
The Building Blocks of German Cusine Series
This article is part of my basics series, which will introduce you to key ingredients and preparation methods. You can find all these articles in the ‘Basics’ category of this blog. Listed below are the articles that have yet been published in this series:
- Swabian Soup Noodles (‘Schwäbische Suppennudeln’)
- French Fries (‘Pommes frites’)
- Swabian Pretzels (‘Schwäbische Laugenbrezeln’)
- Kratzete, Eierhaber
- Duchess Potatoes (‘Herzoginnenkartoffeln’)
- Ribbon Noodles (‘Bandnudeln’)
- Muesli (‘Müsli’)
- German Bread Rolls (‘Weizenbrötchen’)
- Potato Puree (‘Kartoffelbrei’)
- German Potato Dumplings Bavaria-style (‘Bayerische Kartoffelknödel’)
- German Potato Dumplings Thuringia-style (‘Thüringer Kartoffelklöse’)
- German Bread Dumplings (‘Semmelknödel’)
- German Potato Pancakes (‘Reibekuchen’)
- Potato Noodles (‘Schupfnudeln’)
- German Boiled Potatoes (‘Kartoffeln’)
- Homemade Beef broth (‘Fleischbrühe’)
- German Pancakes (‘Pfannkuchen’)
- Homemade Semolina Soup Noodles (‘Hartweizen-Suppennudeln’)
- Chicken Broth (‘Hühnerbrühe’)
- Spaetzle (‘Spätzle’)
Use a whole chicken to get the full depth of flavor
You might be used to prepare your broths and soups with leftover bones. It’s a convenient method to use up leftovers and also much cheaper than using meaty cuts. And there’s nothing wrong with it. However, the traditional and, in my opinion, best way to cook a tasty chicken broth is to use the whole chicken. There’s so much flavor in the meat and skin you will miss out on if you only use a bony carcass.
Traditionally, cooking chicken broth was a way to utilize old hens whose meat was rather tough and stringy. In Germany, you can still find stewing hens today, which are usually sold dirt cheap. But unless you get your chicken from a local farmer, I would recommend you to buy a chicken of higher quality. Look for a free-range organic chicken, preferably about 3.5 pounds in weight. If you start with the best ingredients, you will not only do something good for your health but also be rewarded with an outstanding taste.
Use aromatics to round out the flavor profile
Four vegetables are commonly used as the flavor base for German-style broths:
- Celery stalks/ Celeriac
While onions, leeks, and carrots mainly contribute sweetness, I can’t stress enough the importance of adding celery to your broths. It imparts a slight bitterness that is irresistible.
Unless you’re one of these people who absolutely detest celery, I’d advise you to include it in all of your broths. It doesn’t matter if you use celery stalks or celeriac. I like the taste of both. However, it is more common to use celeriac, the celery root, to make broths in Germany.
The spices, besides the choice of meat obviously, is what sets the different broths apart from each other. My spice blend for chicken broth includes black peppercorns, cloves, allspice berries, bay leaf, ginger, and parsley stems.
Using cloves to make chicken broth is a classic in Germany, and I guess all over Northern Europe. It’s a warming spice that is very potent, so make sure to stick to the recipe and don’t use more than suggested. Usually, an onion is
The peppercorns, allspice berries, and ginger add pungency to the broth, while the bay leaf with its slight bitterness, just like the celery, balances the flavor profile and adds depth. I only use the parsley stems in my broths, because I like to reserve the leaves for garnishing. In case you have no use for the leaves, which I highly doubt, just dump them in the stockpot as well.
Don’t simmer your chicken broth to death
So you prepared all your ingredients, filled your stockpot with water, brought it up to a simmer. And now? Go away and let it simmer for hours? Let me tell you why this is no good idea.
First, you’re using a whole chicken, so I’ll assume you still want to eat the meat after cooking. If not, I urge you to consider to only use a chicken carcass. Yes, your broth will be less flavorful, but c’mon, every animal that gets killed deserves to be eaten.
Second, chicken bones are much lighter and thinner than beef bones. They contain significantly less collagen and gelatin. After one hour of simmering, there’s really not much more to gain tastewise. More so, the aromatics will have released all of their flavors into the broth by that time.
Simmer it much longer, and your broth might turn unpleasantly bitter. In case you want to add more body to your broth, I recommend adding chicken feet to your broth instead of simmering it for hours. It’s a much simpler and more effective way to achieve a great mouthfeel.
How long to simmer your broth and why I love my pressure cooker
You always start your broths with cold water. The cooking time starts once your broth reaches a simmer. If you’re using a traditional stockpot, I recommend you to simmer your broth for 45 minutes. You might have to adjust the cooking time, depending on the size of your chicken. You want the chicken meat to be completely cooked, but don’t simmer it much longer than necessary so it doesn’t dry out. To check if your chicken is cooked through, pierce it with a knife in the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear, your chicken and broth are ready.
If you’re cooking your own broths regularly, you might want to consider purchasing a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker can cut down the cooking time by 2/3. That way it is possible to cook this chicken broth in less than 30 minutes. For my pressure cooker version, I use the same ingredients in the same proportions, dump everything in the pot, seal it, bring it up to pressure, set my timer, and walk away. For chicken broth, I like to use the lower pressure setting (8 psi) for 12 minutes. I then let the pressure release naturally and my broth is ready.
Ways to achieve a clear broth and juicy chicken meat
The most common advice for achieving a clear broth is to constantly skim your broth. If you’re simmering your broth in a traditional stockpot you will see white foam floating on top while the chicken cooks. This is the scum you want to remove. The gentler you simmer your broth, the less scum will arise on top.
In a pressure cooker, however, you won’t have the opportunity to skim your broth as it is sealed. That’s no problem though as pressure cooker broths tend to be on the clearer side anyways.
For me, the most important step for achieving a clear broth is to strain it through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve. This will remove almost all of the major impurities. And as long as your goal isn’t a clear consommé, you will be fine with just straining your broth.
After the chicken is fully cooked, I like to submerge it in cold water for five minutes. This stops the cooking process and ensures that the meat doesn’t dry out. After the five minutes are over, you can remove the chicken from the water bath and let it cool completely before removing all the edible meat.
Once your broth has been cooled down you will see a layer of fat floating on top. You can remove it if you want, but I recommend you keep at least some of it. Fat is an important flavor carrier.
The finished broth can be used immediately, frozen in batches, or sterilized in mason jars. I always use my pressure cooker to pressure sterilize my chicken broth, so that might be one more reason for you to get one if you’re lacking freezer space.