How to Make Basic Seafood Stock


Seafood stock is easy and inexpensive to make at home. It also tastes far better than anything you can buy, assures "New York Times" food writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman. If you eat fish and shellfish like shrimp, crabs or lobster regularly, you won't even need to go looking for the ingredients -- keep the scraps, skeletons and shells in your refrigerator or freezer to use whenever you're ready to prepare the stock. Make the basic recipe your own by adding whatever herbs, spices, vegetables or other seasonings you like.

Things You'll Need

  • Vegetable oil
  • Large stockpot with a lid
  • Assorted fish scraps, trimmings, skeletons and shellfish shells, thawed if frozen
  • Large spoon or spatula
  • Produce, such as onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes and leeks, trimmings or freshly sliced
  • Herbs and spices, such as peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and garlic
  • White wine (optional)
  • Colander
  • Two large bowls
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Cheesecloth or thin dish towel
  • Pour several tablespoons of vegetable oil into a large stockpot. Heat on the medium-high setting.

  • Add fish skeletons, reserved fish scraps or trimmings and the shells of shrimp, crab or lobster to the stockpot. Saute in the oil, approximately 15 minutes, stirring frequently with a large spoon or spatula.

  • Add your choice of produce to the stockpot. Include, for example, freshly sliced celery, carrots, tomatoes, onions and leeks, or use reserved trimmed ends of these vegetables, such as carrot ends, tomato cores, celery leaves and onion peelings. Cook to heat through and soften, about six to eight minutes, while stirring.

  • Add enough water to the stockpot to cover the contents. Add white wine along with the water, if desired. Stir.

  • Mix in your choice of herbs and spices. Choose from options such as whole or crushed garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and dried or fresh sprigs of thyme or rosemary.

  • Bring the stock to a boil, uncovered. Use a large spoon to skim off and discard any froth that accumulates on the top of the liquid.

  • Lower the heat so that the stock is at a simmer. Put the stockpot's lid partially in place and allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

  • Remove the stockpot from the heat. Cool briefly.

  • Set a colander over a large bowl. Strain the stock through the colander. Discard the solids in the colander.

  • Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth or a thin dish towel. Strain the stock through the cloth into another bowl.

  • Cool the stock and use immediately, or store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Tips & Warnings

  • To accumulate enough ingredients to make seafood stock without any extra effort, keep a large zip-top plastic bag or airtight container in your freezer. Whenever you have scraps of fish, shellfish or produce you want to use in your stock, put them in the bag or container. Thaw when full and prepare stock.
  • Try using a flavored oil to saute your seafood scraps, bones and shells before adding the water. Rosemary, hot chili, thyme or garlic oil are some possibilities.
  • If you'd like a seafood stock with a deeper color and richer flavor, saute one or more tablespoons of tomato paste with the seafood scraps before adding the produce.
  • Homemade seafood stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to two months.

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