For everyone who has ever asked this question you are not alone.  The Great Stock vs. Broth Debate is actually quite common, and we’re here to finally put your mind at ease.

Even though they are quite similar, there are noticeable differences between stock and broth. Stock is best used as a foundation for sauces and meat dishes; while broth is a great base for soups, stews and sides. Many choose to use them interchangeably, but these guidelines yield the best results.

This article takes you further on the journey to not only explain why and how, but also addresses the growing bone broth trend.

Drawing the Line

Stock or broth?  Both terms tend to cause confusion, and are often interchanged (incorrectly) in various recipe books and blogs.  As a result, there are “hotly” contested opinions on both sides of the fence.  Despite all of the opinions, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.  A few facts will help you establish your own stance.

Here are some key differences to help you remember:

  • Stock is thicker, uses bones and takes longer to make.  A step above water (Think: Stock for Sauce)
  • Broth has a more strongly seasoned flavored, includes meat and is cooked in less time.  A step above stock (Think: Broth for Base)

Visualize:  Water —-> Stock —-> Broth

How is Stock Made?

Stocks are typically made with bones such as chicken, fish, beef or lamb.  It is also not uncommon to add tomato paste, vegetables and no to very light seasonings.  You can think of stock as flavored water with a subtle, neutral taste.  For some home experimentation, try replacing water with stock in appropriate recipes. We think that you’ll have fun with all of the possibilities.

There are vegetable only versions as well since animal byproducts can make the ingredients cloudy, saturated with fat and generally not accepted by some with dietary restrictions.

Stock is usually cooked for a longer period of time as compared to broth, and may end up using bigger bones.  The longer you cook the liquid, the bigger the bones, the greater the flavor extraction.  This helps to reduce the water content and extract additional collagen out of the bones.  Hence a somewhat thicker yield.

Beef stocks cook for 6 to 8 hours, while chicken stock takes 4 to 6 hoursFish and vegetable stocks are the easiest to prepare because of their soft nature and can be made in less than 2 hours.

Some culinary experts like to “brown the content” in order to bring color and flavor to the specific dish being prepared.  It also helps you subtly control the flavor on your own by not overpowering the dish with additional seasonings.  Stock is therefore a foundational ingredient which can add the magic touch to different culinary creations.  Overall quality can be gauged by the amount of gelatin provided by the bones with higher quality products having a more gelatinous consistency.

“Stock is everything in cooking.  Without it, nothing can be done” – Auguste Escoffier (Renown French Chef)

How is Broth Made?

You will better understand how a broth is made if you imagine a simple stock with the addition of meat and bones.  Plus, a variety of vegetables, herbs, and seasonings.  It’s the extra meat and seasonings which stand out in this version.  Broths might also be cooked for less time – usually under 2 hours – and tend to pack a little more punch.  When finished cooking, broth can be eaten or drank as is.

Let’s say you are in for the day to prepare your favorite beef stew.  While you mix the veggies, brown the meat, and pour water to simmer the content, the ingredients eventually cook separating a portion of flavored water.  This is what you call a broth.

Another example is when your taste buds yearn for a hot, spicy chicken soup on a blustery Sunday.  You boil the chicken in the pot and allow it to simmer over a low flame.  The liquid that separates out is what we call the broth and can be further relished in soup.

Pro tip: try sipping some on a cold day – it’s a great protein rich option.

What’s the Deal with Bone Broth?

From trendy new places to sip the concoction to diets and gurus touting the benefits, bone broth is starting to crop up everywhere.

But bone broth is essentially an oxymoron since stock is typically made with bones, not broth, as we discussed above!

Most culinary experts argue it is the same as stock, although more concentrated in flavor.  It has cropped up after wellness, and paleo dieting trends were highlighted in the food industry.  Bone broths are generally produced with the same technique as stock although they can be cooked for even longer periods of time.  Vinegar or wine could be added to bone broths as well to help break down connective tissues.

We are of the impression that the term bone broth was coined as a marketing strategy in order to differentiate the product and make it appear “new” in order to attract a more health-centric crowd bent on greener choices and clean living.  Alas, a new niche.  Therefore, many will view stock and broth as positioned for cooking, while bone broth can be enjoyed as a sipping elixir and restorative.  Ultimately, giving it more of a craft or small batch feel.

We don’t judge. Cook with it, drink it or bath in it.  Whatever makes you happy.

Around the World

Stocks can vary according to culture, and they span across multiple nations that provide a unique twist and personal touch to their native cuisines.  Such classifications could include: Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, French and many more.

EXAMPLES

French versions:

  • White (fond blanc)
  • Brown (fond brun)
  • Vegetable
  • Fish

Japanese versions:

  • Shoyu
  • Miso
  • Onomichi
  • Tonkotsu

Japanese stocks and broths include a flavor called umami, which is used for a wide variety of quintessential Japanese cuisines.  Discover the secret of the sacred 5 flavors – Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, and Umami.   The savory taste contains glutamate that enhances flavor in cooking, and can be extracted from natural mushrooms or celery.

Ramen is arguably the most famous Japanese dish, also known as pulled noodles.  The broth can significantly vary across regions and provides a multitude of experiences for the culinary adventurist.   For even more complementary information, you may like to read through the article here.

Make your Own Vegetable Broth

Quick, easy and delicious.  If this is your first foray into home brothing you can start now with a vegetable broth!  Common additions include a mixture of savory vegetables like garlic, onions, carrots, mushrooms or celery.  Leftover food scraps like broccoli stems and carrot ends are great here as well.  Vegetable broths are cheaper to make at home than store bought versions and can be a unique journey of self expression.

These broths go well to make stews, soups, and chili.  Most of us consider homemade options to be the best options.  In reality, your own version will probably be better and healthier than those offered in the store. Availability and convenience is key.  So, you are always open to adding items on hand from your fridge and pantry to create the flavor profile that you or your family enjoy the most.

All it takes is to gather a bunch of vegetable scraps, immerse them in water and add some seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then simmer over a low flame for 45 minutes.  Another bonus of homemade vegetable broth is your ability to control the salt content, which is often very high in store bought varieties.

Here’s a simple recipe:

  • Avocado Oil
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Green Onions
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaves
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Water

Instructions:

Cut vegetables into large chunks. Saute over high heat 5 minutes.  Add 2 quarts of water and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Strain and serve.

Boom!

Note: We left exact amounts out so that you can experiment with what you have on hand and add to taste.  For example, some people like garlic more than others so add what you will. 

If you are interested in how to make other broths at home, or learning more about the bone broth trend, the article here is useful.  It includes recipes to make chicken, beef, and pork broths as well.

– Have Fun In The Kitchen