How to Clarify Cloudy Chicken Stock

I made some turkey stock yesterday, with my stash of frozen turkey bones from this stand-by recipe, and accidentally allowed the stock to boil while I was up in the loft, tending to the seedling garden. I had read somewhere that you should never let stock boil, as it emulsifies the fat, which causes the cloudiness, and since the fat is dissolved into the water of the stock, it will not separate out on cooling, and will not be sieved out with a cheesecloth strain. It did seem to be holding true for at least an hour, as it was simmering away, and was still quite translucent, until I remembered that I really needed to water the seedlings. So after some harumph-ing and a little swearing, Tai suggested that I “raft an egg white” on the stock to clarify it. (Sometimes his culinary training really does come in handy!) Of course, those weren’t the most specific technique directions in the world, so I got back on Ye Olde Internets and Googled “chicken stock cloudy egg white” et, voila!  Lots of advice from many more well-informed cooks than I. (I subsequently updated my Rich Chicken Stock recipe, which had called for a rolling boil!)

The technique is quite easy and the effect is actually rather cool-looking. Basically you combine an egg white with boiling, strained stock, and the albumin in the egg white acts like a vacuum for the solubilized fat, binding it and allowing it to be drawn out of the stock.  Science & cooking: I love it when my two worlds combine! I found that a little of the fat snuck through the sieve anyway (as it was hard to keep it from breaking up during the last straining), but I imagine if I wanted a crystal-clear stock I could repeat the process.

I saw this advice, or variations thereof, on various sites, but I think the below formula was drawn from Chowhound.

————————————————————-

Clarifying Cloudy Stock

INGREDIENTS

For each quart of stock:

  • 2 tbsp cool water
  • 2 egg whites
  • crushed egg shell from 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

METHODS

  1. Strain the stock through several layers of cheesecloth to remove any bones, meat, etc. Clean the stockpot, and return the stock to the pot.
  2. Mix the ingredients together and add to the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat, covered, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Strain once more through rinsed cheesecloth, taking care to pour slowly and carefully such that the fat does not re-solubilize. Update: Tai says that you can make a tube out of doubled-up tinfoil, slide egg/fat bits out of the way of the tube, push it to the bottom of the pan, and then ladle the stock up through the tube to keep the egg/fat from breaking apart back into the stock. Store as per stock recipe.
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32 comments

  1. Kim

    Oh my god! So THAT’s why my beef stock I made recently is cloudy. I just figured, oh thats what homemade stock looks like. I couldn’t believe how little fat there was on top of it. NOW i know that it’s emulsified. Do you think you can do this with frozen stock?

  2. localkitchen

    I know, weird, right?? And how many recipes out there say “bring to a boil, then simmer.” The one I had here actually recommends boiling for the first 20 minutes and to ‘actively skim away foam to prevent cloudiness.’ Duh.

    I don’t see why this wouldn’t work with thawed :) frozen stock. The fat should still cling to the albumin, right? And if it doesn’t work… all you’ve done is waste an egg white. (I freeze egg yolks whenever I need to use just an egg white; they actually thaw pretty well and then I’ll use them in a custard or fruit curd or something.)

    If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

  3. “Make a tube out of doubled-up tinfoil, slide egg/fat bits out of the way of the tube, push it to the bottom of the pan, and then ladle the stock up through the tube to keep the egg/fat from breaking apart back into the stock.”

    I just cannot figure out what this means…do you possibly have photos of this?

  4. localkitchen

    Sorry I don’t have a picture (one of these days I’ll get around to it!) but maybe this will help: picture a coffee can, with both ends removed, so it is a fat tube. You want the coffee can to stand upright in the middle of your stockpot; where the bottom of the can used to be is resting on the bottom of the stock pot (and assuming that the height of the stock in your pan is not higher than the height of the coffee can). The trick is to push most of the egg white/fat to one side of the stock pot with a wooden spoon, then place the coffee can/tube into the middle of the pan. You can now ‘let go’ of the egg white/fat and it will not flow into the center tube, which will contain only clear stock. You can ladle from this center tube; if the level runs low, you can allow stock to refill the tube by tiliting the bottom of the can slightly, without letting any egg white into the central tube area.

    Hope this helps!
    Kaela

  5. Maria

    I too committed the boiling sin. I started with 12 quarts of muddy, scuzzy, very unappetizing ick and ended up amber, crystal clear, sparkling liquid gold. AWESOME!! Thank you!!

  6. Cecelia Layman

    I needed to make some stock or broth from a left over turkey I just fixed to get out of my freezer and asked my mother how to do it. She told me to start with a stock pot about half full of boiling water and it must be rolling really good before I drop my bones into the pot. Within an instant of hitting the water I had milky broth. Darn. Now what. I went back to my mother and she said that I must not have had it boiling hard enough as she’s never had that problem. So to the internet I go and tried the egg white and egg shell treatment. A little putsey but it really works. Thank you everybody very much. You can bet I won’t be boiling and rolling in the future.

  7. Charles Stanley

    Noooo!!! Do NOT start with boiling water! Biggest Mistake Ever! Boiling water prevents collagen and gelatin from exiting the bones making the stock delicious. Don’t you guys watch “Good Eats”? Great episode on stock making.

  8. Lynn

    Oh, what a great post. It certainly doesn’t hurt to dig into the deeper depths of some of our “taken-for-granted” every day things…like homemade chicken/beef stock.

    I have two hints for the homemade stock stockpile: 1) at the restaurant where I work, we use a “pointy-ended” strainer (called a china cap or chinoise) to help ladle out the stock from the raft instead of Tai’s brilliant foil tube (some of us are not so deft with foil art…) and 2) at home, I make my stock in my crockpot. It keeps the temperature low enough that there is no boiling yet high enough to keep it from being a bacteria playground. The stock comes out clear each and every time and when chilled, the fat rises to the top to protect the new stock from contamination…just like the wax layer on old-timey jellies. Hey, and save that fat! it’s called “schmaltz” and can be used to flavor just about anything you use fats and oils for in a saute pan. Big flavor just like bacon grease. And come on…we all like bacon grease. (Love you Paula Deen.) After all isn’t this the real sustainable, nose-to-tail cooking that we are getting back to?

  9. I dont know what I did wrong but its taken me over an hour to get all the tiny pieces of egg whites out…and I used Altons recipe and it came out quite clear..I wanted it just a bit clearer. Now its ruined. I am using coffee filters to strain after all the cheese cloth I used up..

  10. Mildred

    If you want the clearest of stocks you must try Ice filtration. It takes longer but the results are near perfect!

  11. Steve

    WHen I was taught clarification fo stocks, I was told to use teh appropriate mincemeat. As stated before, ensure meat and bones are removed, then allow the stock to cool, prefereably overnight. Skim as much fat off as is possible, then break up the mincemeat and place it in the stock. INow, place on a LOW heat, it must be done on the lowest heat setting possible. Stir only once after placing the stock back on the stove ( prefereabl;y whilst still cold/cool. From now on do NOT disturb the stock. Allow it to het hot, but never boil it. This process takes a number of hours. Gently and carefull remove the stock from the heat, and allow to sit and cool a little. Now the hard pary. Without disturbing the ‘raft’ decant the stock from the pot. Best way is to siphon off if you have a pump. better still a proper stock pot with a tap on the bottom.

    The results from this ( if done correctly) are incredible. My experience was beef stock, which prior to this almost looked like gravy, and afterwards, you could see through it. Needless to say, scored great marks for my beef consomme.

  12. Brook

    I have never been able to get this to work. Don’t know what I do wrong. Egg white mixture just goes to the bottom of the pot and cooks there in clump. No clarifying at all… Are you supposed to stir it in after you add it? I didn’t do that.

    • If there is a lot of fat in your stock, the egg white can only bind so much. You could try adding the egg shells, additional egg white, or letting the stock cool and skimming the fatty layer off of the top, then clarifying again. Best tip is to never boil your stock, to keep the fat out of it in the first place.

      Hope that helps!

  13. jesse

    I boiled a turkey carcass, I added a lot of fat because i thought it gives it taste, after 30 mins of boiling it looked like deluded milk. i read this and i’m wondering if you think its worth trying to clarify it.

  14. sarah

    I have noticed that the cloudynes milky look happens when using cooked bones instead of raw fresh bones. So glad i looked this up. This would have been my 2nd time of throwing my stock away. It grossed me out. I did the eggs trick and worked. Thanks you for posting.

  15. Shelley

    This science experiment is a little miracle in a pot!! Amazing results. What a pain to get it out of the pot without disturbing it, though! But turned out wonderfully!

  16. Jeremy

    What happens to flavor? I have been making asian broths of late (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese) and when I clarify through the egg/egg shell method, the broths, though still very tasty, seem to lose some identity. This despite previously being rich in the different aromatic herbs and spices. For example, even the skins of shallots or onions bring on a caramel-like flavor as well as color to add a dimension. I love the clarity and the lightening of a clarified broth, but after hours of trying to inject flavor, might you be finally neutralizing it. Or is this just in my imagination – or paranoia after tending so dearly to my broth baby LOL?

    • Well, Jeremy, in my opinion, fat = flavor. And when you clarify, you are removing emulsified fat. So yes, you are probably diminishing flavor in favor of a beautiful clear broth. But it should be that flavor that is associated with animal fat: umami, unctuous, animal-esque flavor. The flavor from aromatics, herbs & spices should still come through, I would guess, regardless of the fat content of your stock.

  17. Bill

    As with any well prepared dish it takes time. This applies to stocks as well. When we make demi sauce it takes 2 1/2 days to simmer and reduce properly and certainly worth the wait. Chicken stock around 24 to 32 hours and it’s never cloudy or fatty. Patience and proper preparation is required and you will reap the rewards with superior quality and flavor.

  18. Dear Local Kitchen

    I tried this with my muddy chicken broth – being to lazy to remove the scum/froth while making the broth!

    Absolute and utter brillance – my chicken broth turned out like a charm – golden wonderful deep amber colour!

    Thx,
    The Doctor in the Kithcen, Ragnar Ingvarsson

  19. Catherine

    You’ve rescued some duck stock that got trashed by boiling, thank you. Have tried the egg white method before without success, but this worked like a charm. Think crucial point is not to stir it once the egg is in, & make sure you leave it for the 15 mins off the heat ( didn’t do this last time). Also, lemon juice is new to me. Anyway, big thumbs up – noodle soup is back on for tonight’s dinner!

  20. Allison Woods

    I had some gently broken chicken stock, did this with one egg white and some Just Lemon! as I didn’t have real lemons in the house. Followed your instructions, gently strained, and it worked like a charm. I used a paper filter designed to strain fry grease (had to use two) and got a perfectly clear beautiful amber broth. Nice tip.

  21. Pingback: Let’s Talk Stock | Allisonwoods's Blog

  22. Zack

    So, I don’t know exactly what I did wrong, but this ruined my stock. It went from semi translucent and still very tasty, to milky and awful. Here’s what I did, hopefully someone can point out my mistake.
    - made stock, cooled, removed fat layer.
    - next day, brought stock back up to a low boil
    - whipped egg white/water mixture to a foam
    - crushed up shells
    - added egg white foam and shells, stirred a couple times.
    - took off heat, let sit five minutes
    - poured through cheese cloth
    What came out on the other end was completely opaque and tasted slightly eggy.

    • Zack

      Also, tried with no whipping of egg whites, no stirring, and no shells, just straight up dropped an egg white in like I was poaching it, same basic result, just not quite as bad. Still much more cloudy than when I started though. This doesn’t seem that complicated… My stock otherwise is translucent when warm, and only opaque when cold and gelatinous. I honestly don’t care about having clear stock when it’s stored in the freezer anyway, I just want to know what I’m doing wrong, it’s personal now!

      • Hi Zack,

        I’m really not an expert and I’ll readily admit that this technique can be finicky. My guess would be that you either did not the heat the stock sufficiently to quickly cook the egg white when added, or that you did not let it sit long enough to pull solubilized fat from the stock. But (and this is a big but): it’s a technique that takes practice, in my opinion. I’m sure if you Google and read up on it, you’ll get better advice than what I can offer.

        It sounds like your stock is quite close to crystal clear to begin with. These days, I find that I don’t even let my stock simmer: it stays on the stove all day long (sometimes for 2 days) and it stays at a temperature that produces barely a bubble now & then. This tends to produce a crystal clear stock, not to mention one that with a fully-extracted flavor.

        I hope that helps somewhat.

        Best,
        Kaela

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