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On Whether to Press Solids When Straining Stock


Chris Amirault
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I just strained out about a gallon of chicken stock that I made in preparation for next week's turkey gravy. After the stock spent three hours of simmering and then an overnight stint in the refrigerator, I skimmed off the mucky schmaltz and then started to ladle the stock through a fine sieve into a few tupperware containers.

When I had filled first container, I prepared to do what I usually have done: press down on the solids (in this case, some chicken meat and bones, a rouugh mirepoix of celery and onions, and a fistful of peppercorns) with a wooden spoon. I've read this direction so many times that I won't even bother to cite it, as I'm sure you've read or heard it a few dozen times as well. But this time around I decided to experiment a little.

First, I pressed a few bits of onion, chicken, and celery into a cup of the nice, clear stock and... well, it wasn't nice and clear any more. Wondering whether this cloudiness was a fair trade for added flavor (remember, I'm making stock for gravy, so the clarity isn't a big issue this time around), I tasted each of the elements. The onion and celery bits were essentially tasteless; they had a faraway hint of their original flavor, if that. The chicken had a bit more flavor in it, but when I pressed that, little of the meat actually went through, and the tiny amount of liquid that I pressed out of the dry shards seemed no more flavorful than the stock itself.

It made me wonder if one of the canonical steps in stock making was just busywork at best. There have been a few brief mentions of this here in eG Forums (here in the Q&A for the eGCI stock course is the longest exchange I can find, at two), but no sustained discussion. Harold McGee limits his discussion of extraction to temperature and time concerns, not force, so he's no help; however -- and interestingly -- Shirley Corriher doesn't say to press the solids in her base recipe in Cookwise. :hmmm:

I'm imagining that a lot of folks are going to be making stock this next week. Anyone want to try out this experiment? And if there are any folks with sufficient scientific background to help us understand, well, chime in!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris,

Pressing on the solids is not normally recommended for the very reasons you site. Cloudiness, impurities and fats. I cannot imagine that this is part of the eGullet stock course.

I frequently will press on the solids and remove the liquid to a SEPARATE container. Once this has been defatted, you can check the flavor and use or discard.

You really should strain and decant that "yucky" schmaltz. You will find that it is not so yucky after all.

Good luck,

Tim

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I nearly always boil down the schmaltz, but this time there was a lot of quatre epices in it (this stock included some roasted chicken that had the spice on it), and I didn't bother.

But when you say "pressing on the solids is not normally recommended," that runs directly counter to my experience. I found several references to it this morning in a variety of cookbooks. (I'm at work now so I can't cite, I'm afraid.)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I can only think of two reasons why pressing on the solids would be recommended: first, in order to extract more flavor from the solids; second, in order to extract more liquid.

The first is, I think, in most cases incorrect. A long-simmered stock is going to extract the important flavors through simmering; whatever is left is either relatively flavorless or may contribute negatively to flavor. There may be some exceptions, for example in making sauce a l'Armoricaine from shellfish one is supposed to press down pretty damn hard on the shells -- I've seen this done in restaurants with a level of force that few home cooks would ever muster. But for beef or chicken stock? I can't see the benefit.

The second is undoubtedly true. Especially when cooking at home, where people are likely to use small stock pots, an alarming percentage of the liquid can potentially be lost because it's in and around the solids.

And I can think of two reasons why pressing on the solids would be advised against: first, because it will cloud the stock; second, because it may make the stock (or, more likely, a sauce made from reduced stock) taste bitter or otherwise off.

Clarity in stock is one of those universal fine-dining restaurant goals that just isn't that big a deal in home cooking, so I wouldn't worry at all about that aspect of it.

Bitterness -- this is just my impression, without taking scientific measurements -- is probably not going to be a problem at the concentrations used for making soup or for American-style gravy. But when you get into demi-glace and other reduced, sauce-making concentrations you start to see negative ramifications from a stock that has a lot of particulates and harshly extracted stuff in it -- it can be bitter, it can take on a burnt character, etc.

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 think this depends on what your final product will be, as you said. In many soup recipies the goal is clarity, or a pure white result that you won't get if you press the solids in the stock. That's never an issue with me, as I'm always going for the biggest bang for the buck. Heft.

And to further cloud the question (pun intended) you have seafood stocks, as Fat Guy mentions that require pressing...hell, I've got recipes here where you grind crawfish shells up, add it to the stock, simmer longer and THEN strain.

I think it's a question that's up there along with to boil or not to boil?

Les Halles cannot stress enough not to, the encyclopedia of cajun and creole cuisine states for veal, chicken and beef to bring to a rolling boil.

But back to the press/don't press...I think if anyone would have a definative yes/no declaration on that it would be someone like Martha Stewart. Need I say more??

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I don't press on the solids. Also, when I decant stocks, I discard the last little bit that has any particles floating in it. I use stocks for both home and work, and I want them to be as clean-looking as possible so I'm ready for something people are actually going to see without having to figure out whether or not I need to reclarify my stocks.

(I do not go far enough to make a clarification for my stocks, though--and I neither care for nor market consommes in my business.)

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If you've made a great meaty stock, there will be some flavour in those solids even if they don't taste like much. Instead of trying to press them out, a better approach to extract the remaining flavour is to make a remi (remouillage). That's taking the solids, adding a new bouquet garni and some water, and firing them again. Usually you use less water and less cooking time than you did the first time.

This second stock will be cloudy and won't be as tasty as the first (you can reduce it to partially compensate for this), but it's still very usable. And you won't have made your first stock cloudy from pressing.

But if your first stock was wimpy, don't bother with a remi. You've already extracted all there is.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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I don't press on any stocks, shellfish stocks included, for the reasons discussed. My Américaine, for instance, is formed from a strong lobster fumet, shallots, garlic, wine, cognac, tomato, saffron, cream. I use the coral in coral butter, which is used to enrich accompanying things - risotto, or a roast-fennel timbale; and the par-roasted lobster is finish-poached in a tarragon beurre-monté; the fumet itself is not pressed and is as clear as I can make it. I am a fanatic for getting the pure extract of a given animal, going for "clean" flavors, and give up yield for this end result. For large-boned stocks, like veal, I do as HKDave says - Day one, I do a strong stock; Day 2, I do a remouillage; day 3, I marry the two and reduce.

However it seems Chris is asking a different question - he is accepting lack of clarity, and wondering whether additional flavor will result from pressing. My short answer, with no scientific evidence but only experience to offer, concurs with FatGuy and is "no, not much, in the way of flavor." Ideally you have rendered all the flavor you can into your stock and the remaining bones and aromatics have little left. However, I will often take scraps of meat off the bones - say, chicken - and make something out of it, with the help of other things, because there is some flavor left (say, ravioli for staff meal). But I think that with pressing, the marginal flavor you achieve is not worth it and you are adding a host of impurities that carry other, unwanted flavors.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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If the stock contains a lot of meat, the unpressed solids will hold a great deal of stock- stock, that, although cloudy, tastes just as wonderful as the stock that goes through the strainer, whose fat separates just as easily when chilled and is free of 'impurities' (whatever those are).

If you don't press the solids, you're throwing out liquid gold.

I strain my stock (pressing agressively), add the solids back to the pot with more water, bring this 'remi' to a boil and then strain, again, pressing aggresively.

If I'm going to bust my ass making stock, you better believe I'm not throwing any away in the form of unpressed solids. Whether the solids are holding a cup, a teaspoon or even a single drop- that shit is mine.

Edited by scott123 (log)
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Food for thought. Early on, I used to go this way as well, but over the years I have come to consider the "liquid gold" the stock I've been carefully clarifying for days, and pressing on the solids contaminates that gold, in my view. I'd rather keep less, but more refined stock. If I don't press, I make time my friend, and allow a longer drip over the chinois.

I do use the meaty scraps and meat (i.e., chicken or lamb) off the bones, but find it nearly flavorless. Hence, my presumption is that I have successfully extracted what I wanted into the finished stock. I will marry these scraps to other things to make something for employee meal, and given the addition of these other things (say, duxelles), it's o.k. But in terms of the stock, in my opinion, any further contribution of "flavor" will only be a diluting effect, beyond the impurities and negative effects I spoke of earlier. Just my experience.

The impurities I'm talking about are fats/oils and proteinaceous material (such as blood and uncoagulated albumin) trapped in the tissues of the bones and meaty scraps, freshly released by pressing, that I do not want sitting in my stock.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Yucky?? Bitter??

I am a home cook (it may be a whole different thing for a restaurant chef) and I do press on the solids when straining stock, to get as much liquid out of it as possible. My resulting sauces are not bitter. Nor are the yucky. Cloudy?, I never noticed...,and I dont really care...

In fact my sauces taste much better than in most restaurants.

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You bet they do! Most restaurants don't make stock at all. They use soup bases with names like "Royale Beef" and sauce mixes with names like "Burgundy Mushroom Sauce Mix." And a lot of restaurants that do make stock make it from the crummiest scraps available. So if you're making stock at home in a small batch from decent ingredients there's little you can do to make it -- and derivative recipes -- as bad as what most restaurants serve.

Now, when you start talking about the best restaurants, they start to pull away from the pack. I mean, I couldn't believe the stock operation at Lespinasse in New York City when Christian Delouvrier was the chef there: they made their chicken stock from whole Bell & Evans chickens -- they filled the whole steam-jacketed kettle with those things, poured water over, added various aromatics and simmered. Then -- get this -- they filled another kettle with whole Bell & Evans chickens, drained the stock off the first kettle, poured it over the new set of chickens and simmered that for several hours. And then they threw all the chickens out. This so-called double stock tasted significantly better than any stock I've ever made, and was beautifully clean, golden-clear and, for lack of a better word, sweet. It also helped me re-calibrate my perception of clarity and bitterness -- re-tasting my stock after tasting Delouvrier's made me notice off and bitter flavors that I'd never picked up on before.

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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We generally maintained about 10 stocks at any one time: dark veal stock, light and dark chicken stock, lamb stock, dark guinea hen stock, venison stock, duck stock, lobster stock, fish stock, and vegetable stock. Logistical nightmare, ensuring all stocks and sauces derived from them were prime; but more than anything, this is what we were about, I think - seeking to fulfill the promise that "food should taste like what it is," I sought the purest, cleanest essences of the various animals used in the sauces we derived from them. Interestingly, many of these stocks are what I would call sweet balanced (esp. the veal, lamb, venison, duck and lobster), as I use a good amount of mirepoix (incl. fennel in the lobster), and believed the gentle sweetness provided a round backdrop to the other flavors joined later, in making the integral sauces, or in marrying other components to the meal.

I take the concept of fond literally. I am earnest in conveying to the people I work with that what we begin with, we end up with. Of all the things I shoot for, it begins here.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I'm only a home cook, but my grandma taught me NOT to press the solids because she felt that the tiny bits of meat/fat would make the stock cloudy and "gunky." (Also, boiling was a no-no for the same reasons.) Over the years I've read both opinions and tried it both ways. My conclusion was not to press because every time I have, I get an opaque murk. The fine solids will settle to the bottom of a container when chilled, but the least disturbance sends them floating around again. The other thing I've noticed is that even with a serious chilling and defatting, any sauces I've tried to make came out somewhat gelatinous as they'd start to cool. With a nice clear stock that's never happened.

So, if we're allowed, I vote for gentle draining and no pressing.

Oh, I made a soup today...we had The Turkey Dinner last weekend because my niece was visiting. I had a turkey breast which I trimmed closely and saved some nice pieces of white meat. The carcass went into the pot this afternoon, simmered with spring water, shallots, carrots, carrot greens, a few allspice berries, bay leaf and whole coriander. I strained it after 4 hours, then added wild rice (Lundberg's gourmet mix, rinsed) and fresh carrots, cooked that for 30 minutes, then added the reserved white meat. Even with the rice, the broth remained quite clear, and was a tasty dinner with cheese biscuits and a salad. :smile:

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Now, when you start talking about the best restaurants, they start to pull away from the pack. I mean, I couldn't believe the stock operation at Lespinasse in New York City when Christian Delouvrier was the chef there: they made their chicken stock from whole Bell & Evans chickens -- they filled the whole steam-jacketed kettle with those things, poured water over, added various aromatics and simmered. Then -- get this -- they filled another kettle with whole Bell & Evans chickens, drained the stock off the first kettle, poured it over the new set of chickens and simmered that for several hours. And then they threw all the chickens out. This so-called double stock tasted significantly better than any stock I've ever made, and was beautifully clean, golden-clear and, for lack of a better word, sweet. It also helped me re-calibrate my perception of clarity and bitterness -- re-tasting my stock after tasting Delouvrier's made me notice off and bitter flavors that I'd never picked up on before.

Actually, in Chinese, we use the word sweet to describe a good soup/broth/etc.

I think that if you press on the vegetable solids, it'll definitely make your soup cloudy.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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Yeah, but there's sweet and there's sweet. You can always make a stock sweet by adding tons of sugar-rich vegetables like onions and carrots -- you can even add granulated sugar to a stock to sweeten it(plenty of places do this, as did my father-in-law when he made chicken soup). But then there's a dimension of sweetness that has to do with the absence of un-sweet flavors, as well as a kind of meaty richness bordering on umami. That's what you really want: that subtle, clean, complex, enhancing sweetness, because the other kind of sweetness is one-dimensional and masking.

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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With all the talk about stock, pressing and cloudy results, could someone explain the process of using egg whites to clarify a stock? Do you beat the egg whites before you add them? Do you stir the egg whites into the stock? How many egg whites do you use? When do you remove the "raft"?

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With all the talk about stock, pressing and cloudy results, could someone explain the process of using egg whites to clarify a stock?  Do you beat the egg whites before you add them?  Do you stir the egg whites into the stock?  How many egg whites do you use?  When do you remove the "raft"?

What you're talking about is making consomme, and you'll find answers to all your questions in the eGCI course here: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=26540

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Yeah, but there's sweet and there's sweet. You can always make a stock sweet by adding tons of sugar-rich vegetables like onions and carrots -- you can even add granulated sugar to a stock to sweeten it(plenty of places do this, as did my father-in-law when he made chicken soup). But then there's a dimension of sweetness that has to do with the absence of un-sweet flavors, as well as a kind of meaty richness bordering on umami. That's what you really want: that subtle, clean, complex, enhancing sweetness, because the other kind of sweetness is one-dimensional and masking.

I agree, Steve, and this is what I seek in my stocks - that wonderful, inviting succulence that screams of the animal's essence. I am not sure, however, it isn't mirepoix in marriage with the meat components that lends this subtle sweetness...for instance, my veal, lamb, venison and duck stocks have a prodigious amount of mirepoix, as I want the marriage of the unctuous meat character with that subtle sweetness. By contrast, my light chicken stock is a utility carrier of flavor, used to moisten braises, etc., but not an integral sauce-in-the making; therefore, I pull back on the mirepoix, particularly carrot. You've got me curious, now, as to what is lending that character in the "sweet/meaty" stocks - the meat, or the mirepoix? I do know that on the rare times I've run pork stock, because of it's intrinsic sweetness, I pull way back on the carrots, for instance, relative to other stocks.

Interesting discussion.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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What I like to do is lift solids out of the stock pot with a pair of tongs and place them all in a separate bowl. This is not always the best thing to do since the flesh on chicken parts may slip away from bone and plop back into the pot, potentially muddying it up a bit, but this was not the case this weekend.

I then double strain the cooling stock (once with large, fine strainer with handle over a large lipped bowl, then a second time with a tea strainer over the empty plastic containers ( 3/4 c. capacity to 32 oz. yogurt size).

When enough time has passed, almost a cup of stock collects at the bottom of the bowl containing solids. Once this is strained, I press on the solids that I plan to discard (saving some for dinner with fleur de sel and lots of black pepper; comfort food refined by a glass of wine, good bread and runny cheese) and filter that cloudy stuff into the final small container. There's usually enough there to make the process worthwhile. This will go into a stir-fry, sauce, pilaf....

* * *

I usually buy chicken legs and wings to make stock since they're less costly than whole chickens because of the high prices shoppers are willing to pay for boneless breasts.

There are a number of ways to solve the problem of chicken parts bobbing above the surface of the water while making stock. In my most recent batch, I decided to use leek greens. A blanket of these cover the surface and keep everything else submerged in a way that's a bit gentler than the Mafioso down by the East River on assignment.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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But then there's a dimension of sweetness that has to do with the absence of un-sweet flavors, as well as a kind of meaty richness bordering on umami. That's what you really want: that subtle, clean, complex, enhancing sweetness, because the other kind of sweetness is one-dimensional and masking.

That's the sweet I mean. Not sugary sweetness.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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The only stock we ever press in the kitchen is lobster stock. When we strain the lobster stock, we MASH everything through a china cap into a cambro... then strain that through a chinois. For beef/veal stock, its not much of an option, at least for us, since we use mostly the knee bones. Never press chicken stock, for it results in a cloudy, icky mess of a stock.

-Chef Johnny

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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