How to Make, Use and Store Broths and Stocks
How to Make, Use and Store Broths and Stocks
Sure, you can go out and get some store-bought broth or stock for use in your next recipe. There are even “quickie” varieties you can make with bouillon cubes when you’re in a pinch. When it comes to flavorful broths and stocks, however, it’s hard to beat “from scratch” and homemade.
Great thing is, broths and stocks are really not hard to make. They also store well and can be used in a wide range of dishes. So, grab your stock pot (any large, deep-bottomed pot will do, really) and let’s get started!
Broth or Stock – What’s the Big Difference?
We often use the words broth” and “stock” as if they are one and the same. Truth be told, it’s perhaps only the most serious of chefs who would have a bone to pick with you if you used the terms interchangeably. Speaking of bones, by the way, they are exactly what makes the broth or stock difference: stocks must have them, broths don’t need them.
A broth is the liquid in which meat has been cooked.
A stock, on the other hand, is the liquid in which bones have been simmered for a long time.
The definitions help to explain why broths and stocks differ in terms of consistency and flavor.
Consistency: Bones and their connective tissues have plenty (lovely) cartilage and collagen which slow-cooking turns into gelatin. This is why stocks are generally thicker than broths and become even more gelatinous when cooled.
Flavor: Stocks are traditionally left unseasoned, deriving flavor from the bones and tissues used. Broths are normally seasoned, have a meatier flavor and are great to have on their own.
Making Broths and Stocks
Not sure just what to put in a broth or stock (and what to leave out)? How about whether to skim or stir and the best way to cool the finished preparation? Read on, we’ll walk you through all the points you need to consider when making your own broths and stocks.
Ingredients: Beef, chicken, fish, veal and pork are all regularly used in stocks and broths. Each can be used alone or in combination with one or more of the others. Vegetable broth is very common, as well.
For flavor, carrots, celery and onion are almost always added to stocks and broths. They help to add the savory, umami flavor that the liquid will impart to other dishes you use it in. Other often-used ingredients are leeks, parsley, thyme and peppercorn.
We often think of broths and stocks as a great way to use up leftover meat, bones and vegetable scraps. While that is true, bear in mind that undesirable ingredients will produce a low-quality brew. Using the best of what you have on hand (or at least those that are still in good shape) can make a big difference to the taste and nutrient content of the finished liquid.
Time: Stocks are generally cooked much longer than broths because it takes time for the connective tissues to soften and for you to get all the great flavor out of the bone marrow. Broths will cook in about a half or less of the time stocks do. Of course, in either case, starting out with cooked as opposed to raw meat or bones will cut the required cooking time.
Temperature: Both broths and stocks should be simmered. This lengthens the cooking time and allows for maximum extraction of flavors. Allowing the pot to boil vigorously will damage the gelatin and cause the vegetables and meat to breakdown, making the mixture cloudy. (That’s also the reason you shouldn’t stir the pot – just leave it to do its thing.)
Prep: Some chefs suggest soaking the bones for your stock in water to which a little vinegar has been added. This causes the release of minerals from the bones, making the completed stock more nutritious.
To get even more flavor, the raw meat for a broth or meaty bones for a stock may be roasted prior to use. The vegetables can be sautéed, as well, to help bring out their flavor. These two pre-cooking steps will reduce the cooking time, somewhat, as will cutting up the vegetables. Be careful not to cut them into too small pieces, however, as they will breakdown easily and cloud the liquid.
Skimming: While many recipes will call for skimming the “scum” and fat from the broths and stocks you make, it is really a matter of personal preference. Leaving the scum may make the final liquid cloudy and removing the fat will suit persons watching their fat intake. If you do remove the fat, consider saving and using it the next time you fry vegetables.
Cooling: Placing warm broth or stock (or warm anything, for that matter) in your refrigerator will raise the internal temperature, creating conditions conducive to micro-organism growth. Leaving the prepared liquid out to cool on its own is also a no-no for some chefs as bacteria may enter and multiply in it as it cools.
What’s the best way? Quickly cool the liquid in an ice-water bath in your sink and store it away in the fridge or freezer immediately.
What NOT to Put in Your Broth or Stock: Not all vegetables go well with broth and stock making. Take Irish potatoes, for instance. These are more likely to absorb rather than impart flavor to the cooking liquid.
Also, stay away from vegetables that tend to be bitter (outer celery leaves and turnips) or too strongly flavored (turnips, again, as well as artichokes, broccoli and cabbage). Very green veggies (such as kale) will discolor the brew. Also, bypass powdered herbs and go for whole, fresh ones, instead.
Using Your Broths and Stocks
Broths and stocks are super versatile and will definitely get used up pretty quickly in your kitchen. Either one works well for adding liquid and flavor to most dishes but stocks are best when you also need to thicken or add body to dishes, such as sauces and gravies.
- Drink it as a warm beverage any time of day - with perhaps the addition of a little salt, pepper and crushed garlic.
- Use it for braising meats and vegetables.
- Add a little to the bottom of a roasting pan next time you do a roast to help keep the meat moist.
- Use as the base for soups and stews of all kinds.
- Pour it over fruits and vegetables in your blender. Blend to create a nutritious and refreshing drink or perhaps some homemade baby food.
- Use it to replace some of the “plain old water” in recipes whenever possible, like when steaming rice, boiling pasta and making mashed potatoes – get creative!
Storing Your Broths and Stocks
In the Refrigerator
Your prepared broth and stock will generally last up to 4 days in the fridge. To extend this time indefinitely, simply boil, cool and store the liquid again whenever you get to the four-day mark. Leaving the fat layer intact each time will help to protect and preserve the liquid below.
In the Freezer
Broths and stocks will last indefinitely in the freezer. You can pour the cooled stock into ice cube trays or muffin tins and freeze them. Once frozen, remove the solid broth or stock and place it in freezer bags.
Make Homemade Bouillon Cubes
Check out this great recipe for making your own bouillon cubes. They are ideal for taking with you when you travel – just reconstitute with hot water. They also take up much less space for storing in the fridge.
A Few Recipes You Can Try
- Chicken Broth
You will need:
- whole chicken
- flat-leaf parsley
A whole chicken leads to 3 quarts of delicious stock, plus meat left over for other dishes. Place all the ingredients in a pot, cover them with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the broth simmer. When the chicken is cooked, take it out of the pot, remove the meat and save it for use in soups, salads, etc. Put the chicken bones back in the pot and cook some more. Strain the broth into a large pot and set it cool in a sink filled with water and ice. You can store it in the fridge once it’s cooled.
- Pork Stock
You will need:
- pigs feet
- pork shoulder
- chicken stock
- bay leaves
Pork stock is a common part of Chinese cuisine and has begun to grow in popularity in Western countries. This recipe uses pigs feet which make a wonderfully thick stock due to the large store of collagen they contain. You can use water to replace the chicken stock the recipe calls for but the result will be less robust.
Begin by roasting the bones and meat then boiling them in water. Add the rest of the ingredients and let the stock simmer for a few hours. Strain, cool and store your stock to use in dishes of your choice.
- Easy Chicken Stock
You will need:
- chicken carcass
- bay leaves
- fresh parsley
This stock recipe calls for the carcass of a roasted chicken so, straight away, you know you will end up with a seasoned brew. Place all the ingredients in a large pot with some cold water. Allow it to boil, then let it simmer for up to 4 hours. When your stock is cooled you can strain it through a fine sieve, divide it up and refrigerate or freeze it.
- Darren Clunie