Stock vs. Broth: What's the Difference?

by moderndomestic on April 1, 2009

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock. Or was it broth? Now I'm confused.

I’ve been trying to make my own chicken stock more often —partly because Mark Bittman has shamed me into it, and party because I picked up Martha Stewart’s Cooking School from the library and her stock recipes are absolutely beautiful.

However, as my interest in stock grew, I realized that I couldn’t answer a basic question: what is the difference between a stock and a broth?

At first I thought there was no difference. In fact, after all those stupid Swanson Broth Top Chef product placements, I was convinced that it was a made-up marketing term. But my interest was piqued and I decided to investigate.

It turns out that there is a wide body of opinion on the subject, at least in Internet land.

According the the food dictionary on Epicurious, a stock is made from cooking vegetables, meat, or fish and straining the liquid. A brown stock is made from browning bones, meat, vegetables, or other ingredients before they are cooked and strained. A broth is made from simmering meat and vegetables in water.

Um, okay, and these are different how?

Chow is more enlightening. While a stock and a broth are similar, a broth is made from simmering mostly meat and vegetables, while a stock is made with more bones and less meat. While stock is mostly used as a basis for other dishes, broth is richer and can be served on its own.

I also suggest that dedicated foodies check out the excellent article from La Lama Mountain Ovens. A broth, according to the article, has a higher flesh to bone ration; a chicken broth can be made using a whole chicken. A stock is made from a low flesh to bone ratio; a chicken stock can be made with chicken parts, like necks, backs and breast bones.

The best part, though, is that the article explains how to make stock the traditional, Italian way. Step number one? “To pluck a freshly killed chicken or stewing hen first dunk and hold in a pot of boiling water 30 seconds to loosen the feathers.”

Wow. I will never look at stock in quite the same way.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Alice April 1, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Hmm, I must make stocks then. I find broth a waste of meat. I’d rather cook and eat the flesh, and just use the bones. Stock is a left-over recycling method, broth is more exotic.

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kaydee April 2, 2009 at 9:19 am

I just saw that Martha Stewart cookbook at target! It looked so nice. I’m such a sucker for how-to types of books :)

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moderndomestic April 2, 2009 at 2:03 pm

The Martha Stewart Cooking School book is just amazing – beautiful photos, great recipes, although they are time consuming. It was just nominated for a James Beard award, which speaks to the quality of the recipes.

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Jared April 3, 2009 at 10:32 am

Jenna,

I liked this post. My grandfather, who ran restaurants for 30 years, makes undoubtedly the best chicken noodle soup in the world. The key to his is making his own chicken stock. I don’t know all the details of how he does it (though I intend to learn this summer) but I know it consists of saving bones and meat from the chickens he cooks over a given year. He also puts in a lot of celery and carrots and salt and a little bit of canned chicken broth to help make the flavor come alive.

And, to make it even better, he grills chicken with salt and pepper, cuts in up into cubes and throws it in the soup. He cooks the chicken 99% of the way before throwing it in, that way when the soup is boiling it cooks the chicken the rest of the way through and absorbs some of that extra chicken flavor.

I ran into your BF the other day…and despite my complete absence from all friends these last few months, school is ending soon and I plan on meeting you all for drinks. Heck, maybe you can cook us some good pasta like you did last year?

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