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.