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What's the Difference Between Stock and Broth?

By Chris Kohatsu
Updated May 16, 2024
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A good eater can identify subtle differences in any dish. Three cooks, for example, can make the same recipe and those with refined tastebuds will find the differences in each. Such is the case between stocks and broths. Though very similar, stocks and broths have differences that most see as subtle, and those with more discerning palates, will say are worlds apart.

In stock, such as chicken, beef, or fish stock, animal bones are the main ingredient. These bones are typically braised first, then transferred into a large kettle or pot with water to cover. Mirepoux, the classical French culinary term for a mixture of carrots, celery and onion, is added, along with several bouquet garni — a cheesecloth sachet containing bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and parsley. Stock is heated slowly over a low flame for several hours, preventing the water from boiling. Cooking the stock this slowly allows marrow to dissolve and the bones to release their gelatin. Tiny bubbles of fat rise to form a layer at the top. Once the fat is skimmed off and the ingredients discarded, the stock is ready to use.

It is the gelatin and marrow found in bones that give stock a rich flavor and leave a heavier, almost velvet-like feeling in the mouth. Marrow and gelatin also allow stock to refrigerate well, as the stock will congeal into a solid mass. Typically, chefs chill stock in long sheet pans, then cut into cubes for easy storage. Stock is used as a base for a variety of soups and sauces and can be further reduced to form a glaze.

Broth, on the other hand, is mostly made from meat. While the cooking process is very similar to stock, the results are slightly different. Broth is more subdued than stock, as it tiptoes lightly into the mouth with a softer texture and milder flavor. Broth's taste is known to stand on its own, as the meat gives broth a finished distinction. Being finished however, might be the reason that broth does not perform as well as stock in completing sauces and glazes. The lack of gelatin requires the addition of fatS, such as cream or butter, to enhance a sauce.

The stark benefit of broth is its wide availability. Known as a time saving solution for busy cooks, broth is sold in numerous varieties and quantities everywhere. While some chefs wince at the use of canned broth, most will acknowledge that only a few eaters can actually spot the difference.

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Discussion Comments
By anon989128 — On Feb 20, 2015

The broth you buy in a store was created in a food lab and has very little if any real food in it. Read the ingredients. It also has ingredients derived from GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) food in it as well as a bunch of chemicals. It also has very very little nutritional value.

The same is true for chicken and vegetable broth. I don't think a commercially prepared stock is made. After all, when you eat, isn't it to nourish your body?

Commercially prepared food is not made for nourishment; it is made to make big profits for food companies. Most people either don't know this or use the excuse of being too busy. Stock is the easiest thing in the world to make. Put the bones in water and simmer for several hours. A crock pot can also be used to make stock. You put the bones and water in the crock pot and turn it on before leaving for work and when you come home, it is done. It is far superior to commercial products, both taste wise and nutritionally.

This is why so many people have metabolic diseases (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, are over weight or obese etc.) today. They are not giving their bodies what they need to function properly. The food companies tell you it's the same so you will buy their product. But like I already said, it is so they can make big profits on peoples ignorance or laziness. This is also true of all commercially prepared food.

Wake up and smell the coffee. It's not going to get any better until the consumer makes it happen. Whether you think so or not you do have the power to change this. The power is where you spend your money. If you stop buying their junk, they will stop making it because they are not making any money on it.

By julies — On Sep 22, 2011

I really like the chicken stock that comes in a box. In the winter I like to make soup, but have never taken the time to make my own stock or broth.

What I like best about the stock in a box is that it tastes really good, is quick, easy and makes a good base for my soup.

If I don't use the whole box for one pot, I just put in in the refrigerator and use the rest at a later date.

I don't mind cutting up the vegetables and adding the chicken, but like to use stock that has already been made.

By bagley79 — On Sep 21, 2011

One year after Christmas dinner, my grandma told me to take the ham bone and make some good stock with it for ham and bean soup.

This was my first and last attempt to make my own stock. It didn't turn out all that bad, but I like to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen.

I would much rather buy something that is already made than spend my time making it myself. I also don't have much patience when I am working in the kitchen and like to get in and out as soon as possible.

One downside to this is that I am not a very good cook, but always enjoy eating food that has been made by people who do put the time into it. There is a difference between good homemade food and meals that are put together in a hurry.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 21, 2011

I am guilty of buying chicken broth rather than making my own. I just hate dealing with raw meat, especially when there are bones involved.

I also use canned chicken along with the broth when I make my soup. I love the flavor, and that's all that matters. I generally don't have chefs over for dinner, anyway.

I make a vegetable soup using store-bought beef broth as a base. My friend made the same kind, but she used homemade beef broth. They tasted about the same to me.

I save so much time by buying my broth. I am a busy working mom, so I have no time to stew bones.

By seag47 — On Sep 20, 2011

I pour stock into ice cube trays. It takes less time than cutting out cubes.

I love using it to make a pasta sauce. While most people prefer the traditional tomato sauce, I love the flavor of chicken and vegetable stock poured across my noodles.

I put a couple of cubes in a saucepan and heat it on low. I stir it once it starts to melt, and I keep stirring until it has totally dissolved. Then, I pour it over my drained noodles.

By JaneAir — On Sep 20, 2011

@JessicaLynn - That is funny! Accidental chicken stock.

I have to admit, I can't tell the difference between stock and broth. My palette must not be very refined! However, some recipes call for stock and some for broth. Usually I just follow the recipe. But now I have a better understanding as to why some recipes call for one and not the other!

By JessicaLynn — On Sep 19, 2011

I had no idea there was any kind of difference between broth and stock. Also, it appears I have been making myself homemade stock for quite a few years when I thought I was making broth!

My mom told me several years ago that all I had to do to make chicken broth was put some spices, vegetables, and chicken bones in a big pot and simmer it for a few hours. I usually do this after I eat a whole chicken-instead of throwing away the carcass I use it to make broth. Or, what I thought was broth. But according to this article I've been making chicken stock this whole time because I've been using the bones!

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