Stocks Simplified

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The Struggle:

This is actually a subject I think about a lot. Stocks have recently started to come into the home kitchen. For years the word broth has been used as a blanket term for both stock and broth. But there are some differences that never really get explained to the general public. Then we throw in confusing terms like “Bone broth” to further muddy the waters. So what is the difference between stock, broth and bone broth. How do broth and stock differ with the type of protein that is used? And finally, what are some modern ways to improve stocks? 


“What’s the difference between stocks, broth, and bone broth?”


Bone Broth Is…..


First things first Bone broth is just stock. Now I’ll give you a few minutes to just let that sink in. As you regain your composure and begin to forget all the infographic that claim differently. A proper stock is water, bones, and aromatics. Aromatics include mire poix (25% carrots, 25% celery, 50% onions) herbs, and spices. A broth is water, clear meat (meat that is free of fats, also known as lean meat), and aromatics. Bone broth is… well see stock ingredients above. An argument is commonly made that bone broth is simmered longer. But day 3 of any culinary school proves that wrong. For all culinary purposes stock is what you want to be using. We are not talking about store bought shelf stable box o’ stock, we are talking about real stock. So what makes a stock a stock?


Stock is made from water, bones, and aromatics (see above). Stock comes in two main variants; White stock and brown stock. White stock and brown stock refers to whether or not the bones and aromatics were roasted before making the stock. Roasting the ingredients browns them and changes the flavor and color of the stock. White stock is made from raw or blanched bones and aromatics. The biggest change in stocks comes from the proteins used. Stock can be made from any type of bone. Something as thin as a shrimp shell to a beef femur bone. The difference between these stocks is how long the need to be cooked for. Let’s start with seafood, fish stock is also known as fumet (pronounced Foo-May) de poisson or fumet for short. The literal translation of this is “smell of fish” but we promise it is more appetizing than this. Fumet has the shortest cook time of any stock. Shrimp and fish bones should be simmered for no longer than 25 minutes or the flavor deteriorates. Lobster bones should be simmered no longer than 45 minutes. Lobster bones should also be cleaned very well and have the gills removed. Once you pass the 45 minute mark with lobster bones the shells release iodine and give the stock an awful flavor. To produce a red lobster stock you will need to make a pinçage (pin-sahge) with tomato paste. Pinçage is a technique of cooking tomato paste into the aromatics to remove the acidity of the tomato paste and intensify the flavors. Pinçage is also done in a different way when making brown stocks with any other bones by brushing the bones with tomato paste during the roasting. All poultry stocks should be simmered for no longer than 4 hours. Similar to other stocks, if poultry is simmered for more than 4 hours will start to produce bitter flavors. Veal and beef stock contain the heartiest bones, therefore they can be simmered for the longest periods of time. 24 hours is the max time you should simmere a veal or beef stock for. But there is something special about these stocks is that you can get a remiage (second “wetting”) out of them. This means that once you simmer the bones you can strain off the stock, add more water and simmer for another 24 hours! Beef and veal bones are so protein rich it makes this possible. We can keep the conversation of mother sauces and how stocks play a part in them for another day. The last thing I should mention is cooking temperature. I’ll say this one time DO NOT BOIL STOCKS. Sorry for screaming but it needed to be said. Stocks can be brought to a simmer but should be reduced in temperature immediately. Boiling stocks will make for cloudy stocks. Cloudy stocks have impurities from the bones, cartilage, and aromatics. Keep a stock at a constant 185°F for the best clarity. Finally as the stock cooks you will need to skim any fat and impurities that float to the top of the pot. Do this as often as necessary just make sure to not skim out any of the actual stock. 


With clarity on the mind there are a few modern techniques that make clarifying stock extremely simple. The first modern consommé technique is to add a large amount of gelatin to a stock. Once it cools and has formed a solid firm gel cut it into large cubes and freeze it solid. Gelatin is not freeze/thaw stable, so as the cubes melt the gelatin holds onto all impurities and releases the water rendering a crystal clear stock. The only downfall is it will lose most of its flavor. A second method I saw on ChefSteps would be to puree raw clear (see above) chicken meat into the stock and add some Methylcellulose F50. Bring the stock to a boil and as the chicken meat cooks the proteins tighten and the methylcellulose binds it all together. The impurities will be caught in the protein and methylcellulose. Strain the stock and it will be crystal clear and far more flavorful since the chicken meat will also impart its flavor to the stock.  


So to tie this all up in a nice bow. Stock stand atop “Broth” mountain as the champion. Broth is a waste of good meat and doesn’t pack enough of a punch. Bones used for stock are usually thrown out but can be turned into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. While bone broth tried to have its day in the spotlight it is just a silly marketing name for something that has been made for centuries. So experiment and make your own stocks at home as long as you follow these parameters your stock will be great.  


Ready to get Cooking?

Give our Velvety Pea Soup and Ham Soup recipe a try! This split pea soup highlights the richness of ham stock and smooth, pureed split peas with none of the dry, gritty chunkiness. Garnish with ham and olive oil for an upgraded comfort dish on those cold winter evenings.


  • Isn’t the traditional way of clarifying stock or broth to consomme to add egg white to the simmering stock and then strain it out?

    • Yes, the traditional clarification of stocks is to make a “raft” that filters the stock with egg whites, clear meat, aromatics, and acid for consomme. But a clear stock can be achieved by just monitoring temperature as well.

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