A rich, golden chicken stock is the foundation for so many foods we love: a creamy risotto, a deeply flavored pan sauce, that cure-all bowl of soup. Stock should be the slow simmered result of kitchen scraps (bones, a half an onion still in its skin, unpeeled carrots and parsley stems). Simple, inexpensive, and flavorful. So why haven’t I made it more often?

I shied away from stocks that call for adding a whole chicken to the pot (or three, if you have Ina Garten’s pocket book), boiling until the meat has leeched out all flavor, then discarding the bird. Sacrificing a whole chicken, even for the glorious liquid it creates, didn’t seem quite worth it to me.

Then I discovered chicken backs. Chicken backs are cheap (about $3 a pound) and available at most supermarkets. Roasted at 400° for 30 minutes or so, they add the deep, chicken-y flavor that makes a good stock great.

I also got a little weary having to stay near my stove for hours as the stock simmered, skimming away a cloudy surface that never seemed to clear. The slow cooker can be a big relief here. Throw in your scraps, chicken backs, and a couple quarts of water, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Strain and chill overnight, then skim any fat that’s solidified on the surface. Freeze flat in zip-top bags and enjoy for months.

Try our favorite recipe for chicken stock.