Stocks and Broths—What’s the Difference?

From The Lecture Series: The Everyday Gourmet — Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking

By Chef Instructor Bill Briwa, The Culinary Institute of America

Stocks and broths are some of the most fundamental preparations you will find in kitchens anywhere in the world. Learn how to make super stocks and basic broths to take your soups, and other dishes, to the next level.

broth with ingredient

Stocks and Broths—What’s the Difference?

Some people make a distinction between stocks and broths. A broth is cooked with more meat and, therefore, has more of a meaty flavor. The bones are what give your stocks gelatin and body, and the meat is what gives your broths a meaty flavor.

This is a transcript from the video series The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

The First Restaurant

In the early 1600s, there were no restaurants as we know them today. The very first restaurant that came along in the late 1600s was a restaurant that served only one thing: a restorative broth. The word “restaurant” comes from the restorative broth that was served in that very first restaurant.

White Chicken Stock

White Chicken Stock

proportions to taste

Ingredients

  • chicken bones, cleaned and rinsed
  • cold water
  • mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery)
  • sachet d’épices (parsley, a bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and a clove of garlic)

Cooking Instructions

A white chicken stock is a stock in which the bones, meat, and vegetables are not browned at all. Start to finish, this stock will take about four hours to cook.

To make chicken stock, start with some chicken bones that have been rinsed. You might have the chicken’s carcass with a little bit of attached meat, some wings, some leg bones, and maybe even a chicken foot. The wings and the feet have a lot of gelatin, so they’ll give you a much richer stock in a way that commercial stocks don’t have body.

Take the bones and put them into a pot that has cold water in it. It’s good to start with cold water because the goal is to draw the flavor out of the bones— not to seal the flavor inside.

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Then, turn on the heat. As the water begins to simmer, all the protein that is water-soluble will begin to coagulate with the heat, and it will float up to the top. By skimming the protein and excess fat off the top of the water every 30 minutes or so, you will end up with a stock that is much clearer than it would be otherwise.

Cooking Stock

In the last two hours of cooking, add some cut vegetables—what is called a mirepoix—to your stock. For example, add about 50 percent onions, 25 percent carrots, and 25 percent celery.

A ratio for a stock is about eight pounds of bones per pound of mirepoix, which results in about a gallon of stock.

Another thing that will add a bit of flavor is what the French call a sachet d’épices, or a little bag of spices.

To make one, gather parsley, a bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and a clove of garlic into what is basically a tea bag. However, because you are going to be straining this stock, you can just add those spices directly to the stock.

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After about four hours, if you manipulate the bones, they should be just at the point where they will fall apart easily—joint upon joint. The meat should all be tender, and the bones should come apart very easily.

If the bones are not falling apart, then you probably haven’t drawn as much flavor out of them as you could. If they fell apart two hours into cooking and you continued to cook for two more hours, then the flavors would start to get dark and deep and a little bit muddy. 

Is it still watery?

Does it have body?

Does it have a full chicken flavor?

Is the flavor starting to get a little tired and muddy?

 After your stock has been cooking for about two hours, periodically taste it to see what you think about the flavor. Do this once or twice while you make a chicken stock, and very quickly you will start to recognize what a good stock is and when it should come off the heat.

Once your stock is ready to be strained, strain it through a colander. Pour it away from yourself so that you don’t burn yourself by splashing hot liquid on you.

If you want to strain your stock through something finer, it will take some of the little bits and pieces of chicken meat or the herbs out. Once you’ve strained the liquid off of the bones, they can be discarded.

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Your chicken stock is now ready to be used. You could also chill it and keep it in the refrigerator for about a week, or you could freeze it and keep it for about three months.

Common Questions About Stocks and Broths

Q: Can broth be used instead of stock?

Yes, broth can be used instead of stock. The two are largely interchangeable for use in cooking, but for meat-based soups, stock will result in better flavor.

Q: Is chicken broth consumed by vegetarians?

No. Chicken broth is not eaten by vegetarians as they do not eat anything made from the bones of animals, and chicken broth is made from chicken carcasses.

Q: Which is healthier, broth or stock?

Both broth and stock have unique qualities depending on what you need. Broth generally has less calories and fats than stock, but stock also has more nutrients, so it depends on what you’re using it for.

Q: Can you drink chicken stock?

Yes, you can drink chicken stock, and as it was made from bones, it could be healthy for your joints and ligaments.

This article was updated on 1/22/2020

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