Stock vs. Broth?


Recently Jer shared a terrific post about making home made stock. I’m a big fan of making stock and have even taken a few turns at making rich meat stocks and even patiently reducing them to a demi-glace, (which I wouldn’t recommend you try unless you have hours to commit). But what about broth? What is the difference between a broth and stock?

A quick Google search confirms I am not the only food-wank who must’ve missed this lesson in home economics. A chef friend recently told me that “broth is stock fortified with meat then strained,” but is that entirely accurate? The stock I’ve been taught to make has meat and bones in it, along with vegetables and herbs of course. Both are similar in preparation and strained, but most of the recipes I’ve found for broth don’t seem to call for bones at all. So is that difference? Stock = bones & meat, and broth = meat & no bones? Sort of. But does it even matter?

Interestingly, this seems to be an issue of contention. Some claim it’s merely semantics and it doesn’t matter much, but I disagree. If you have equally good quality broth or stock at hand, chances are your recipe will likely turn out just fine, but a stock is darker and richer, therefore better suited as a base for sauces, glazes, or to enrich the falvour of a dish.

A broth, on the other hand, is a terrific start to a soup or anything requiring a “cleaner” flavour. Heck, you can make a broth out of many things—tomatos, peppers, mushrooms, and any kind of meat really. But while they are indeed fortified with meat and tend to be a little saltier, broths generally don’t start with roasted bones, so they lack the depth and richness a stock can offer as a base.

As they don’t have the “body” from the gelatin present from simmering fat and bones, a broth is more delicate and closer to a finished product—likely soup—than a stock, which you can simmer all the way down to a glaze—which, by the way, freezes quite well for future use as a quick way to jack up a sauce to serve with meat. Yum.

We tend to keep both stock and broth on hand when we haven’t made our own, but I guess the whole thing is the preference of the cook at the end of the day. So use what you want, but it’s good to know the difference.

On next week’s show: consomme! Just kidding.


4 Responses to “Stock vs. Broth?”

  1. Posted on May 21st, 2009

    While I agree with many of the points you make…I don’t necessarily agree with a broth having a “cleaner flavour”. I make pretty yummy stocks that taste very “clean”.

    I also think that if a stock is made well it can definitely be used for a soup. When making soups you can use either broth or stock. If you have no stock on hand then a broth is a good place to start. If I don’t have time to make a broth, I can make a delicious soup in no time with homemade stock. Also, whether you use a broth or stock for a soup will sometimes depend on the type of soup you are making.

    Also you can make a broth with roasted bones and meat…it just depends on whether you want a dark or light stock. In the end I do tend to think that it doesn’t really matter unless you are making sauces then stocks are the better way to go. I say as long as peeps are making stocks or broths then they are on their way!

    I like your humour about the comsommé…nice one!

  2. Posted on May 21st, 2009

    Oh I’m with you Dawn. I find it humorous how subtle the difference between stock and broth is and that they can be prepared and used in various ways—the important thing is that making your own is best.

    Perhaps one day I should post the story about making authentic Vietnamese pho at home for the first time. Between charring onions and roasting bones—both key ingredients in what is essentially a strongly flavoured stock base—I set off my entire building’s fire alarms. Imagine how I felt standing outside on the sidewalk with all the other tenants listening to them talk about who was to blame with my apron on and towel over my shoulder. Guilty? Me?

  3. Posted on May 21st, 2009

    Okay I can see it now :-)

    Funny I just made Pho a few weeks ago for the first time. What a great soup!

  4. Posted on June 2nd, 2009

    I prefer Wikipedia’s first attempt at explaining the difference:

    “Usually, broth refers to finished product, while stock is used as an ingredient (thus stock may become broth).”

    (That statement implies adequate salt content in a broth.)

    It makes more sense to me.

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