Broth and Stock 101
Broth and Stock 101

Whether you're making a soup, gravy, or risotto, they all need a great cooking liquid with a whole lot of flavor. Broths and stocks are great tools in the kitchen, but which tool is right for which job? How do you make them? And can you swap one out for the other?


Are Broth and Stock the Same Thing?

What is Stock? Broth? Consommé? Bouillon? COURT Bouillon? BONE Broth? We'll start by figuring out the difference for all these savory solutions. "Broth" is a pretty general term that is generally used to designate a fairly thin liquid that hasn't been cooking for an exceptionally long time- around an hour or two. Broth is usually described in relationship to what makes it not a stock- compared to stock, broth is thin, a little more neutral in flavor (but definitely not as flavorless as water), and lighter in color. Stock, on the other hand, is prepared over hours, is richer in flavor, and tends to be darker in color (depending on what it was made with). "Consommé" is a kind of broth but is clarified so there's no murky bone or vegetable cloudiness in it, and this process is usually done rather fascinatingly with a technique known as "Clear meat" or "Clearmeat." This process involves using egg whites with your mirepoix and meat to create a kind of raft that floats on the top of your broth, to avoid any sediment from floating around in it and can be easily skimmed off. "Bouillon" (pronounced "Boo-yon," with or without an exaggerated French accent) is basically just broth (boiled meat/vegetables + water) and means "To Boil" in French, but it's also generally used in conjunction with dehydrated cubes that can be reconstituted to a broth known as "Bouillon Cubes." A Court Bouillon is a Bouillon that is quickly thrown together, and not cooked for as long as a traditional Bouillon or Broth because it's usually made to cook seafood with- proteins that traditionally cook very quickly. Considering all you're doing is likely dumping some shrimp in for a few minutes and then quickly fishing them out (get it??), you don't need to stress yourself out worrying about balancing a rich nuance of flavors.

What Can I Use Stock For?

The versatility of stock makes it an ingredient that we like to make in large quantities and freeze in plastic containers so we have it on hand whenever it is called for in a recipe. The best stock will be flavorful and fresh tasting, but not so much as to overpower the other ingredients that it is mixed with. A stock that has a perfect balance will complement and enhance the dish by incorporating all of the best flavors.

Stock is an extremely helpful base when it comes to home cooking - not only for making soups, but for other dishes as well. The best part is that almost any stock that you make at home will be more flavorful than any pre-made stock that you would buy at the grocery store. Store bought stocks also tend to be very heavy on sodium.

Different Parts Have Different Flavor Profiles

To use an example for a non-vegetarian stock, when it comes to making a chicken broth, stock, whatever, obviously the first thing that comes to mind is chicken. Should you use a whole chicken, chicken meat, chicken bones? We have found that chicken breast, or white meat in general, makes broth with the best flavor, but it can be expensive and the broth turns out thin. For this reason we like to use some bones to make the stock a little bit thicker, leaving us with a stock. This will result in a good balance of flavor and texture for your stock.

Water Ratio Is Key

As you could probably guess, to make a flavorful stock you need to use a decent amount of chicken, beef, or vegetables to get optimum flavor. But how much? If making a chicken stock, we recommend using at least 2 pounds of chicken per 2 quarts of water (a 1:2 ratio by weight). Even though this will make a pretty darn good stock, the more chicken you can add the better. If you have 7 or 8 pounds of chicken on hand and can fit it in the pot your stock will have a delightful flavor. The same ratio holds true for beef stock as well, but with vegetables you should definitely get even more generous with your base flavors.

To Skim or Not to Skim?

While making stock using meat bones you will notice that fat and other scum will float to the top of the pot. Many people think that you need to carefully tend to your stock and remove these items as soon as they float. We have found that there is no extraordinary difference between the final products whether you skim the top frequently or leave the fat floating until the end when all the ingredients are strained.

In fact, we have found that leaving all of the fat floating before straining gives you a cleaner final product. This may be because all of the fat collects together and is easier to remove as a larger piece, as opposed to many smaller pieces that could break apart. If you find that even after straining your stock you can still see small particles feel free to remove them by straining your stock with a piece of cheese cloth.

Thick or Thin?

Depending on the different parts of the poultry or beef you use to make your stock, the consistency of the stock will vary slightly. This is an extremely easy problem to fix. If your stock is too thick you can always add a small amount of water (as long as this does not dilute the flavor too much). On the other hand, if you used white meat and not much dark meat and fat, your stock might be a little too thin for your liking. To make your stock thicker you can add a small amount of Arrowroot Powder in a slurry, which will not affect the flavor at all and give you a stock that has just the right amount of thickness.

As you can see, chicken stock is as easy as throwing some ingredients in a pot with water and letting it absorb the many flavors and textures that it is exposed to. Homemade chicken stock is much healthier than store bought stock because it does not contain extra sodium and other ingredients such as preservatives. It is also easy to store in the refrigerator or freezer and can be used as the base for many different types of meals.

What is Bone Broth, and Can I Make It Myself?

Bone Broth is a kind of stock that is particularly rich in collagen and gelatin from the rendered cartilage of, you guessed it, bones. Bone Broth has been given a lot of attention online and on grocery shelves as a tool for people attempting to get into ketogenic dieting, though it can be an ingredient in anyone's cupboard. Pre-made bone broth can be expensive depending on the brand and what it's made with (such as chicken, pork, or veal), but making bone broth at home doesn't take any special appliances and is totally doable- it's just going to take a bit of time.

Making Bone Broth is a process that takes hours and requires a couple steps to ensure that you get the best results possible- how much would it suck if you spent half a day boiling a pot that ultimately just tastes… bad? You're going to want to use bones that have joints and move around- those things that let you flex your little chicken's wings are the cartilage that we're trying to make use of. You're welcome to throw in some larger, straight bones, but bear in mind that will also result in more marrow- and while marrow is sometimes enjoyed as a spread, it can be pretty gross having to spoon through an inch of fat to get to the broth beneath (unless you're into that sort of thing). Unlike broth, bouillon, or stock, because you are going to be cooking these for an exceptionally long time you're going to want to blanch them first for around a half hour to get rid of any impurities that might be lingering. After the blanching is done, most sources we found recommend actually roasting the bones in the oven for another half hour at a super hot 450° Fahrenheit. After your bones have been blanched and roasted, it's stock making time! But instead of simmering everything for two or three hours like you would with a stock, you're going to be going for twelve to sixteen hours. HOURS. So, make sure you're using a good pot that is going to be up to the task, with a nice heavy bottom that will keep the heat even- the pot you bought from the Dollar Store while you were still in college is probably not the Bone Broth making vessel you need. But still. There's got to be a better way, right? There is! Instead of simmering your broth on a stove top, a pressure cooker can do the same thing with the pressure on "high" in about three hours. If there was ever a time to crack out the Instant Pot you got as a well-meaning Christmas gift last year, this is it.

So why go through the effort? What does collagen do, and can collagen in Bone Broth do that same thing? Though there are actually 28 different types of collagens, when most people think of the word "Collagen," it is used to refer to the protein in the body that holds the muscles and bones together and rebuilds tissue. Another reason Collagen is coveted, especially by athletes, is for its anti-inflammatory effects, and some skincare claims that if you rub enough collagen on your skin you'll get the plump and soft cheeks of a supermodel's newborn baby. Unfortunately, though, most third party scientists have had a pretty hard time finding any evidence that could support this claim- For starters, collagen is an extremely large compound, and would be virtually impossible to absorb from a topical application. If you are trying to consume a huge amount of collagen in your bone broth, there's basically no way the body would be able to re-purpose animal collagen and use it as a stand in for your own collagen, despite the claims the innumerable bone broth brands that have popped up within the last few years have made. But don't despair! In addition to being a tasty option for cooking, sipping on bone broth is still definitely a great way to help keep yourself a little more hydrated and feeling satiated.

How do I Flavor My Broth, Stock, Whatever?

Aromatics to the rescue! When it comes to making stock, aromatics are one thing that can be argued because everyone has different flavor preferences. Our favorite aromatics to use are onions, carrots, celery, parsley and thyme, but you can use these in any combination to find a flavor profile that you enjoy.

People also wonder whether or not they should dice their onions, carrots and celery before placing them in the pot or if they can just cut them in half. We recommend dicing the vegetables. This will result in more surface area being touched by the stock and therefore add more flavor. If you're a habitual collector of vegetable scraps and store them in your freezer so that you can use them later (you rock) and feel lazy and don't feel like thawing your carrots before you chop them- then don't. No biggie. We're just proud of you for being so frugal!

Unlike most of other flavor components we talk about, making homemade stock is not necessarily the time to get overly crazy with your spices- at least a few ground ones. Even if you are making a simple broth or bouillon in less than an hour, bear in mind that the flavors of some spices can become muddled, bitter, or simply just lost- such as with paprika or dried basil. If you have whole spices on hand (such as a bay leaf or peppercorns) consider using those and strain out when you're done with them or use a fresh bouquet with some heartier herbs such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary.

Everyone Go Make Your Own Broth, Stock, Whatever!

So, here it is. No, you don't NEED to make your own stock from scratch. But if you're a habitual cook and feel guilty throwing out food scraps, making stock is the perfect solution to help resolve those waste woes. If you don't have time to make a stock every week, an awesome option that some of us here at Spices, Inc. World Headquarters have found to work for us is freezing anything and everything: both the tops of carrots and the 3 gallons of stock we made that we know we're not going to use right away, give those old Cool Whip containers you're too embarrassed to bring leftovers in a good use and make them your new broth vessels.

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