Listen, you put a lot of time, energy and money into that roasting that turkey. Sure, you’ll get to enjoy it for multiple meals – both at the big Thanksgiving feast, and then in plenty of leftovers. But why not extend the use of your turkey a little further, and use the bones to make a turkey stock that you can use all winter long? Bonus: it also allows you to use up all those vegetable odds and ends that you surely generated while cooking all your sides.
Making your own turkey stock is as easy as 1-2-3:
- Save your veggie scraps as you’re cooking dinner – carrot peels, onion skins, celery leaves, herb stems. If you’re cooking in advance, just toss everything in a freezer bag and freeze until it is stock-making time!
- After Thanksgiving dinner, remove all the turkey from the bones to refrigerate or freeze for leftovers, and set the bones aside. If you aren’t making your stock until the next day, refrigerate the carcass now too.
- Simmer your turkey bones with the veggie scraps and maybe a few spices. Strain and refrigerate or freeze.
Easy as that! You’ll need to set aside a few hours for the stock to simmer (the longer it cooks, the more flavorful it will end up being). BUT it is nearly all inactive time, so you can use those hours to digest your turkey dinner, relax after a long day of cooking, or decorate for the next holiday.
This turkey stock is super flexible, so feel free to alter the amounts of vegetables and herbs to your liking. If you have a bunch of onion skins, toss some of them in the pot. Same goes for the tough green parts of leeks, shallot skins, carrot leaves, rosemary stems or sage sprigs.
- Bones from one turkey
- 3 stalks celery OR the leaves from 6-9 stalks of celery
- 2 carrots OR the peels from a bunch of carrots
- 4 sprigs oregano OR the stems of 6-8 sprigs of oregano
- 3 sprigs thyme OR the stems of 5-7 sprigs of oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- Water to cover the bones
- Put the turkey bones, celery, carrots, oregano, thyme, peppercorns and optional bay leaf in a large stockpot. Pour in water until the liquid sits around 1" above the top of the solid ingredients.
- Simmer over medium-low heat for at least 3 hours, up to 8 hours.
- Remove from the heat and skim any fat or foam off the top that you can.
- Strain the stock. You can either do this by pouring the stock through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large container, or by lining a colander with cheesecloth and pouring the stock through that. Discard the solids and refrigerate the stock.
Make Ahead and Storage
If you don’t plan to use the stock within 3 or 4 days, you'll need to freeze it. Pour it into freezer-safe containers (be sure to leave at least 1" of head space to allow for expansion!) or into ice cube trays to freeze. If you go the ice cube tray route, move the stock to freezer-safe plastic bags or containers once the stock is frozen through. Use within 6 months.
And before we go, one safety note for you: If you plan on using the turkey leftovers or making your own turkey stock, be sure to refrigerate your bird within two hours of it coming out of the oven. If it sits at room temperature for longer than that, dangerous bacteria can multiply, making your poultry unsafe for consumption. Nobody wants that!
PS: Still feeling overwhelmed by Thanksgiving planning? Use this flow chart and planning tips for a low-stress Thanksgiving menu!
PPS: This is the turkey recipe I’ve used for the last four years. It has never let me down!