Stock vs. Broth?

Stock, broth and bullion are very closely related in the culinary world. They are often confused with one another, one term being inappropriately used for another by many people. They all may be made from vegetables, beef, chicken, other meats, and combinations of these materials. Hopefully some of the material below will help with removing any confusion.

Traditionally stock is made by simmering various ingredients in water. This is an excellent use for tops, peels, stems and ends that will be strained out of the stock before it is used. Meat stocks are common and include the bones and attached bits, and require a longer simmering time than vegetables alone. The gelatin released by long-simmering bones gives stock a heavier or fuller mouth feel than broth.

Broth is the term for the liquid strained off a stock. It is also defined as a basic soup where the solid pieces of flavoring meat or fish, along with some vegetables, are left as part of the dish. It is often made more substantial by adding starches such as rice, barley, or potatoes, thereby becoming a soup by definition.

Bullion is dehydrated stock available in cube or granulated form. It normally has a great deal of salt in it both for flavor and as a preservative.

Personally I like to keep commercial bullion in the spice cabinet and commercial broth in the big cabinet. One never knows when it will come in handy. When I have the material available, I make my own stock.When we cook or buy a roast chicken and have stripped the carcass, I will boil the bones, then simmer with vegetable bits like carrot tips and potato peels. The resulting strained broth is then put to good use immediately as a soup base or the beginnings of a pot of chicken and dumplings. I do the same with pork, beef, or venison bones, either using the strained broth for something immediately or freezing it. Home made stock or broth is much lower in salt than the commercially available products. It is also not always relegate to a single meat products. It is not unusual in my kitchen for a stock to contain bones form a couple of different animals, and the broth works out really well.

Home made stock, once strained into broth, can be used as a replacement for water in lots of recipies from simple rice to biscuits to whatever your imagination desires. The broth adds distinctive flavors to whatever it is used in. White rice cooked with a broth instantly becomes a poor man’s pilaf to be eaten alone with a bit of butter or as a side to any dish that calls for rice.

This is something to keep in mind this holiday season when you are slaving away in the kitchen. Don’t waste all that flavor when you could be simmering it into stock!

–Ann Cathey

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