Turkey Stock

When you roast a turkey for a big celebration, save the turkey carcass to make turkey stock. Use it for soups, gravy, and sauces, or to freeze for future glorious meals!

Turkey Stock
Turkey stock with leftover bones in glass containers.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Everyone has their favorite Thanksgiving dish. Maybe it’s the stuffing, the corn pudding, or the rolls. Mine? It’s the turkey carcass.

I trust only me to carve the turkey—that’s because it gives me alone time with the carcass. I covet the bits of salty, golden-brown turkey meat close to the bones once the big hunks of meat are carved away. By the time I make it to the holiday table, I’m quite full and deliriously content.

But that’s only half the story! The rest? The bones! Turkey stock made with the leftover carcass is full of personality. It’s the key to future meals like soup, risotto, or any time you want a flavorful upgrade from boxed chicken stock.

Turkey stock is the best stock to make if you’ve never cooked homemade stock. That’s because you probably already have all the ingredients on hand since you just had a big turkey dinner. All you need is water, the roasted turkey bones, and a large pot. Vegetables and aromatics are useful, but optional.

Steps For Making Homemade Turkey Stock

Making turkey stock is hands-off babysitting of a pot that’s happily simmering away. Plus, that incredible scent of roast turkey will fill your house (again). To make turkey stock:

  1. Break the leftover turkey carcass into pieces that’ll fit into a large pot. Cover the bones with cold water.
  2. If you want, add chopped vegetables, some herbs, and bay leaves. Bring it all to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to simmer the stock and let it lazily cook low and slow for hours. Skim it a few times if you’d like.
  4. Let it cool, then strain out the bones, the vegetables, and aromatics.
  5. Chill the stock overnight and scrape off any congealed fat.
  6. Use it right away, refrigerate it for a week, or freeze it for up to a year.

Tips and Trick for Making the Best Turkey Stock

Here are some tips and tricks for making the best turkey stock:

When preparing the roast turkey, save the turkey neck and wing tips. They add a lot of flavor to your stock, especially if you can roast them in the pan with the turkey before adding it to the stock.

  • The heart and the gizzard from the giblet bag usually found in the turkey can be added to the stock. Don’t add the liver though (the one that’s squishy and slimy). It will make the stock bitter.
  • Traditionally, onions, carrots, and celery are added to make the stock. If you have them, great. If you don’t, go ahead without them. It’ll still be worth it.
  • Parsley and thyme with their stems are great additions. Go light on rosemary and sage, if using, since they can overpower the stock. A bay leaf or three is great, too.
  • The fat is easiest to remove from the stock once everything is chilled because it solidifies. You can just scrape it off and pitch it.
Turkey stock with leftover bones in glass containers.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Signs of Glorious Turkey Stock

When your stock sets up like loose gelatin once it’s been chilled, that’s a sign of excellent stock-making.

The jelly-like body is from the collagen in the bone’s connective tissue dissolving. It adds a silky richness to the stock. Turkey wings have lots of collagen that contribute good body, so be sure to add them if you saved them.

Make Stock in a Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker

Most of us don’t have a pressure cooker or a slow cooker big enough to hold a turkey carcass,  but if you do, you can easily adapt our chicken stock recipes for the pressure cooker and slow cooker to make turkey stock. Just follow the recipe as written but use the turkey bones instead of chicken.

What to Make With Turkey Stock

Don’t limit yourself to turkey dishes! You can use turkey stock anytime you’d use a robust chicken stock: soups, sauces, and gravies. I love it as a base for chicken and dumplings or any kind of pot pie. Turkey Chili is a fan favorite on Simply Recipes, but don't stop there. We have lots of recipes to use up leftover turkey and many also call for turkey stock.

Can’t Make Stock Now? Freeze the Carcass!

Have I driven home from my in-laws’ with their gift of frozen turkey carcass in tow? Yes, I have. You can pop that carcass in the freezer and deal with it in a few weeks if there’s too much action happening post-holiday for you to handle.

Storing Turkey Stock

Before you refrigerate the strained turkey stock, you need to let it cool. You’ll have a lot of stock. If it goes into a fridge still hot, it will warm the inside of the fridge, creating ideal conditions for a bacteria farm. Small batches of warm food are often okay to refrigerate, but with this, you gotta fully cool it.

To quickly cool the stock, make an ice bath. But not all of us have a ton of ice. Another way? If there’s snow outside, set it in the snow and give it a good stir every 10 minutes or so. And remember, the shallower the container, the faster the stock will chill.

Pour the stock into airtight containers (I like to use lidded glass quart jars) and refrigerate for up to seven days. You can freeze the stock in freezer-safe bags or containers for up to one year.

READ MORE: How to Freeze Soup, Beans, and Broth

Use Turkey Stock to Make These Recipes

Fill the stockpot:

Put the carcass, along with the optional neck, gizzard, heart, and wing tips, into a large stockpot. You may need to break the carcass apart to get it to fit. If needed, make it in two smaller pots.

Add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, parsley, and thyme. Add enough cold water to cover the bones by an inch.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer:

Set the stockpot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Right when it starts to bubble away, reduce it to a low simmer. You’re looking for small bubbles around the edges, not a hard boil. This gentle cooking produces a cleaner-tasting stock that’s clear, not cloudy, and has a lot of body.

Simmer the stock:

Simmer the stock at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours. No need to keep the lid on. Remember, the longer and gentler the simmer, the better the stock. I like to get it going as I clean the kitchen in the evening.

If there’s scum at the top as it simmers, don’t stir it in. Use a skimmer or a slotted spoon to scoop it out and discard it. These are the impurities in the bones coming up.

Strain the stock:

Set a colander over a large stockpot or large bowl and strain the stock into it. You may have to do this in batches.

Alternatively, you can fish out the bones and vegetables with tongs or a slotted spoon. Sometimes you only have one stockpot—the one you’re cooking the stock in—which gives you limited options for receptacles for straining the stock. Get creative if you must.

Toss out the cooked vegetables and bones. You can pick off any bits of meat, but they will be stringy and flavorless, so I skip it.

Cool, then refrigerate:

The stock is now ready to use if you’re ready to cook with it. If so, you may want to spoon off as much of the fat floating on top.

If not, let the stock cool to room temperature. There are ways to speed this up: pour it into smaller pots, set the pot in an ice bath, or pour it into shallow pans. But don’t place a giant stockpot of hot stock straight in the fridge because it can spoil.

Chill it overnight and then scrape off the fat that solidifies on top.

Pour the stock into airtight containers. Refrigerate it up to seven days or freeze it for up to one year.