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Is It Broth or Is It Stock?


Simon Patrice
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While we're on the subject, what would be the big difference between stock and broth.  I have the same problem differenciating "fond" and "bouillon" in french.

This is a classic definition that people argue about. I personally think the difference, if there is any at all, is intent. There are many kinds of broth, many kinds of stock, and the overlap is almost 100%.

It's usually called broth if you plan to consume it as is, either as a soup or the main ingredient of a soup.

It's usually called stock if it's a component. The word "stock" implies that you're making a bunch of it to keep in inventory, for multiple purposes. Particularly for saucemaking.

In French cooking, broth has been around since time immemorial. Stock was invented (or rose into prominence) after the Revolution, when the chefs started cooking for the middle class in restaurants, and had to start cooking a la carte and with a budget. Instead of elaborate integral sauces made with jus and braising liquids for all the dishes, they needed a system for making sauces from economical, pre-made components. Stock was a key part of the answer.

As far as technical differences, broth might be seasoned; stock never is. Stock may be used in many applications, including reductions, so it's always a mistake to season it in advance.

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As far as technical differences, broth might be seasoned; stock never is. Stock may be used in many applications, including reductions, so it's always a mistake to season it in advance.

I don't agree with stock never being seasoned. I think it depends on a: what type of stock is being made, and b: what is the end product the stock is being made for?

For instance, Escoffier's method for ordinary white stock includes a hefty 2 ounces of salt for 12 quarts of water, and his recipes for brown veal stock and fish stock include salt as well.

Checking Larousse Gastronomique, salt is also suggested as an addition, once again depending on the final purpose of the stock.

I've also read somewhere (of course, where I now forget) that salt helps draw collagen out of the bones, so a little salt up front goes a long way toward making a richer stock.

Julia, too - in Mastering Volume 1.

So, I say season with salt, especially on light stocks, just very judiciously.

Now, what the hell are consomme and bouillon?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

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I had always thought that the main difference between broth and stock had to do with flavor... broth is typically made from both meat and bones so you get more of the flavor, as well as body... stock is usually made only from bones, and therefore, doesn't have as much flavor, but will have lots of body...

This makes sense to me from a usage perspective: you want your stock to be neutrally flavored since it is only the base from which to make other things (sauces, soups, etc) - the only thing I want my stock to deliver is body, aka gelatin. This is different from a broth, which could be consumed "as is" - in which case, you don't want something neutrally flavored, but something with a lot of flavor of the original ingredient...

As I understand it, a consomme is a refined, clarified broth - one that is completely devoid of fat, and is extremely clear.

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I've also read somewhere (of course, where I now forget) that salt helps draw collagen out of the bones, so a little salt up front goes a long way toward making a richer stock.

There are many old wives tales about salt; most of them have no basis in reality. A tiny bit of salt in stock won't hurt anything, but I haven't seen any evidence to suggest it helps anything. Almost all these ideas about salt are based on mistaken notions of osmosis.

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The most compelling argument I've ever heard against adding salt to stock is that, if you're going to reduce the stock for any reason (a sauce, for example), the end result may well end up inedibly salty if you salt before you reduce. Indeed, I've experienced this very phenomenon when using boxed stock from the grocery store. Salt can always be added; it can't be removed.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

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There are many old wives tales about salt; most of them have no basis in reality. A tiny bit of salt in stock won't hurt anything, but I haven't seen any evidence to suggest it helps anything.

I think it helps the flavor. While old wives takes may be a subject for another topic, some of them actually have their basis in reality - e.g. chicken soup for a cold, while not a curative, sure makes one feel better.

The most compelling argument I've ever heard against adding salt to stock is that, if you're going to reduce the stock for any reason (a sauce, for example), the end result may well end up inedibly salty if you salt before you reduce. Indeed, I've experienced this very phenomenon when using boxed stock from the grocery store. Salt can always be added; it can't be removed.

True - but most white, chicken, fish and vegetable stocks aren't reduced to that point. And I doubt that any real comparison can be made between homemade stocks and canned or boxed stocks that are purchased.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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The most compelling argument I've ever heard against adding salt to stock is that, if you're going to reduce the stock for any reason (a sauce, for example), the end result may well end up inedibly salty if you salt before you reduce. Indeed, I've experienced this very phenomenon when using boxed stock from the grocery store. Salt can always be added; it can't be removed.

True - but most white, chicken, fish and vegetable stocks aren't reduced to that point. And I doubt that any real comparison can be made between homemade stocks and canned or boxed stocks that are purchased.

It depends on what you're cooking and how many stocks you have on hand: I regularly reduce the heck out of chicken stock to make a pan sauce to go with roast chicken. If I salted the initial stock to the point that I could taste it, it would definitely taste oversalted (though not necessarily inedible) by the time my sauce was ready, at least to my palate. I agree though, that homemade stocks and boxed stocks are different, and that a little bit of salt in the homemade stock won't ruin your sauce. But I find it much easier to add the salt to other components of the finished dish, rather than the stock.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I think it helps the flavor. While old wives takes may be a subject for another topic,  some of them actually have their basis in reality - e.g. chicken soup for a cold, while not a curative, sure makes one feel better.

Chicken soup has been supported by research; most of the ideas about salt have not. There's a lot of study on the topic in the food science literature. Most of the mistaken ideas are based on assumptions that osmosis goes on during cooking. Study after study shows that it doesn't.

I also frequently reduce poultry stocks a lot when making pan sauces. The pan sauce will often start with a fair amount salt from the roasted / sautéed bird, which ends up in the pan drippings. I don't want any extra salt in the stock.

If you never do this, then it's less of an issue.

Notes from the underbelly

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So, if I get it right, it doesn't have anything to do with how long you let it simmer or anything like that.

If I take a batch of bones, some mirepoix and water, let it go for 12 hours it's stock. If I do the same for just a couple of hours it's weak stock. To have broth I'd need meat in there.

Does all of this make sense?

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Most of the time I think you can call what you have stock or broth. However, a stock made only from bones probably couldn't be called a broth, and a broth made with just meat and no bones probably couldn't be called a stock. Since both are rare cases, the overlap between the two sets is pretty near complete.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I often recommend using chicken bones to make broth (as in Chicken Soup), rather than using mature soup chickens. After telling people to do that for a couple of years, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison. I used a 5 lb. soup chicken in one pot and 5 lbs. of necks, backs and a few wings in the other pot. I added the same quantities of water and vegetables and cooked for the same time. The end result was that the two pots were virtually indistinguishable. So in this case, the bones-only batch is broth. Or stock? Both?

I've never tried using meat alone.

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But what you're describing is not bones only. It's "necks, backs and a few wings," in other words a combination of meat and bones. In the poultry-stock category, I don't think I've ever seen a stock made from bones only. With beef and veal stocks, I've seen it done but rarely.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The idea of stock being made with just bones is a new one. Until recent decades, no one would have dreamed of doing it, at least within the French tradition. The exception would be the first stock of a double stock ... they often made the first stock with just veal bones (purely for gelatin) and then used used that stock as the liquid for simmering the meat to make the final stock.

Bone stocks as final stocks came into vogue during the Nouvelle Cuisine era, where they primarily contributed gelatin and roasted flavors, in place of traditional stocks that carried the full flavors of meat. There were lots of rationales for this, but the overriding one was economy. And that's why bone stocks are still popular today.

As an example of a classical stock recipe, Escoffier called for 13lbs shin of beef on the bone, 13lbs knuckle of veal on the bone (or lean veal trimmings) 1 knuckle of raw ham (on the bone), and 1-1/2lbs of blanched pork rind, to make 10 liters of stock. This is not the same as ordering, say veal knuckle bones from the butcher--this is the lower leg of veal, on the bone, and lower leg of steer, on the bone. This works out to 3lbs of very meaty bones per liter of stock ... probably more meat per liter than most people would use to make broth today.

Our modern bone stocks are short cuts derrivied from this kind of stock.

Notes from the underbelly

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What's everybody's 'secret' ingredient for stock? Or should that be split off into yet another thread...

Time. Or a pressure cooker, if the stock doesn't need to be clear.

I don't believe there is any other secret ingredient.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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What's everybody's 'secret' ingredient for stock? Or should that be split off into yet another thread...

Stock making is pretty easy. What separates a good stock from a great stock in my opinion is like every thing else in the technique and attention to detail. Don't simmer your stock too hard as this causes cloudiness and be sure to degrease the stock thoroughly. I also like to strain several times--once through a chinois, then through a reusable coffee filter. Then I cool and refrigerate, scrape the fat off the top, and strain again through the coffee filter to get a little bit more sediment out and the rest of the smaller globules of fat that I couldn't just scoop off the top. Then, I reduce (if necessary) so that the fat isn't emulsified into the stock. My system involves a pitcher (for pouring through the coffee filter easily) and rewashing the stock pot several times to refill with the stock strained at one stage or another. You can then reduce in the pot the stock is in.

This takes a lot of time and can be messy unless you have the logistics down (and is still a bit of a pain even then), but it produces a very clear tasting and looking stock (short of clarifying for consomme). I like the results and figure the extra labor now will be worth it and is really not bad considering you'll have stock for a pretty long time.

nunc est bibendum...

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What's everybody's 'secret' ingredient for stock? Or should that be split off into yet another thread...

Time. Or a pressure cooker, if the stock doesn't need to be clear.

I don't believe there is any other secret ingredient.

Ahh, time.

I'm a little different as my 'special' ingredient is dried squids. It adds a smoky sweetness to the stock.

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The small farm that's sold chicken & eggs at the local Saturday market (produce, herbs, crafts, music) for the past two years, had something new on its list of what's for sale this year: chicken feet. When I asked what the chicken feet were being used for, the farmer said that the local restaurants buy the chicken feet for making stock.

Has anyone used chicken feet for this purpose? Have any observations on how a stock made from chicken feet compares w/one made from chicken backs & necks?

I'm ready to try chicken feet as it seems to be impossible to get chicken backs in my area. I've tried the local farm, a mobile butcher, & the area supermarkets, no chicken backs (except from whole chickens), necks, available.

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Chicken feet are a great source of gelatin. Right up there with pig's feet. Butchers and ethnic grocery stores sell them, but the best way to get them is also the best way to get chicken backs: buy a whole chicken.

The farmer at the market should be able to sell you whole chickens, feet, head and all. Keep the carcass, neck, and feet in the freezer for your stocks. And enjoy much better tasting birds.

Notes from the underbelly

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Feet. Feet. Feet.

I add heads too when they are available.

I buy whole head-on foot-on ducks at the Vietnamese grocery, and cut up as follows: legs/wings in confit, breasts saved for a quick pan fry, fat rendered down to creamy white duck fat, then roast the remaining bones and necks for stock along with the feet and heads. Delicious stock/broth/whatever. Yum. And economical as well - the ducks at the Vietnamese run about $12 per duck.

And I always assumed broth = more of a final product (i.e. something flavorful that I would put dumplings/noodles/meat in to make a meal), and stock = an input to a final product such as gravy.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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"Broth is made from meat. Stock is made from bones" - Alton Brown

Whether or not that's strictly true, AB is a man in whom I have a great deal of culinary faith (although I also know he's not incapable of error). And yes, the difference (body) is gelatin content. Broth doesn't gel when cold.

I used to make Jeff Smith's recipe for Chinese chicken soup stock. I'd put 10 pounds of chicken in a large stock pot, cover with water, bring to a simmer. drain, cover again, add dried turnip ball and ginger, bring to simmer again and cook for an hour or more. It was laborious but the product was good.

One day, when pressed for time and requiring a small amount of chicken stock when I had none squirreled away in the freezer, I substituted Swanson's chicken broth. Naturally, the first thing I did was taste it straight out of the can. Hmmm ... yummy.

I never looked back and can often find it on sale for 69 cents a can. I've always got it on hand. Yeah ... I'm a sellout but this has saved me many hours in the kitchen.

Michael

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Swanson's Foods nor am I a stockholder. :smile:

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And yes, the difference (body) is gelatin content. Broth doesn't gel when cold.

Well, as much as I love Alton, I think he's been wrong about a fair number of things. And when it comes to definitions, the issue is less righ or wrong, but how universally useful they are. If half the things called broth don't fit your definition of broth, then your definition may have outlived its usefulness. If it was ever useful in the first place!

The only kind of broth I've had that's lacking gelatin is canned broth, like the Swansons you mention (and which tastes to me like salt water with a bit of poultry extract).

for soup bases I've often used low sodium commercial broths, like the organic Pacific products that whole foods sells. These likewise have no gelatin, but they don't taste like brine (still too salty to reduce for sauces, though) and they have genuine chicken flavor.

Every homemade broth I've had was at least gelatinous enough to set up when cold.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

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