Broth vs. Stock
June 17, 2006 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Would you substitute chicken stock for chicken broth (or vice versa) in a recipe? How interchangable are they?

From what I've read, stock is made from bones, and tends to have a richer texture than broth. I'm wondering if its generally okay to substitute one for another in recipes.

Do you ever substitute one for another? Are there times where you would advice against doing so?

I am mystified by what to do. (I am a beginning cook making basic recipes, nothing delicate or complicated.)
posted by 1fish2fish to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It all comes down to parts. Chicken stock often consists of bones, marrow & cartiledge. These components contain collagen, the main ingrident in gelatin.

Chicken broth's mostly meat, and is often watery, unless a hefty amount of vegetable matter's included.

In a pinch, you could get away with substituting either.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:58 PM on June 17, 2006

I'd use stock in a recipe that called for broth but with a small amount of stock and added water.
posted by birdie birdington at 5:54 PM on June 17, 2006

You won't get anything like the same depth of taste with broth for all the reasons already cited. You may also find that chicken broth is salted which can throw off your seasoning unless you are aware of it. However in a pinch, no problems.
posted by unSane at 5:56 PM on June 17, 2006

If you're making something that's not chicken-flavor-heavy, like risotto, you can get away with canned broth instead of stock (and even Cook's Illustrated will back me up on this.)
posted by transona5 at 9:05 PM on June 17, 2006

I substitute them. My basic attitude is that broth = soup and stock = soup essence, so it might take a couple of experiments to figure out the ratio you want to use for substitution but it's not a big issue. Just remember that you can (almost) always add more, but you can never take some out!
posted by jacalata at 9:20 PM on June 17, 2006

Smart Dalek has it dead on. My culinary instructors can be anal about the differences between them, but for home cooks they are largely interchangeable. But like birdie birdington said, you may want to dilute your stock a little if broth is called for.

As an aside, your best bet it buying stuff from the store is the canned or boxed liquid form. Swanson's I think sells this. Bouillon cubes are just expensive chicken-flavored salt cubes, so avoid them. Real chicken stock should have some gelatin and fat, so when you refridgerate it, it should have a slight Jell-O effect and have small pieces of congealed fat.

For a beginner cook, if you want to "make" some stock, you can take broth (try to get something without salt) and simmer some chicken bones (with minimal meat; assuming you have some scrap chicken bones lying around) for an hour or so. Throw in a few carrots and onions if you have them. That will get you closer to real stock and make it feel like you're doing some real cooking. You'll get some of the gelatin and fat out of the bones, which will make it super tasty. Two rules of stock making: never boil and never season. (Season your final product instead.)
posted by BradNelson at 9:51 PM on June 17, 2006

Smart Dalek correctly identified the differences between the two. quoting the transcript of an episode of the beloved television program good eats:

BM: A. B. Why cook the bones so long?
AB: Um, because this kind of soup is really best when it's made with a stock. Hey, Stephanie.
BM: Is that like a broth? Ooo. I'm sorry.
AB: No. That's a popular misconception. You see, a broth is made from either meat or vegetable. A stock is always made from bones.
BM: Well, what's so great about that?
AB: Well, you see bones and connective tissue contain this protein called collagen, alright? And when you those cook those bones in a moist, you know, like water or whatever, for a long period of time, that collagen melts and becomes the stuff called gelatin which is what Jell-O used to be made of. And it brings a certain unctuousness, a weight on the tongue, it's called mouth-feel. You just can't get that out of a can. You know you can always tell when you've got a soup that's got a lot of gelatin in it because, like, when you put it away or refrigerate it, you know, like for leftovers it'll set up kind of like, well, like loose Jell-O. It gets wiggly.
BM: Wiggly?
AB: Wiggly.
BM: Is that a technical term?
AB: Yes.

so really, you can probably opt for (canned) broth when you just want the flavor of the meat. but there are things, like some soups, that benefit greatly from the mouth feel that can be provided by a good stock.

i'd recommend catching a few episodes of good eats if you can. some of the recipes are possibly too complicated for beginners, but there's a ton of interesting food science and practical tips packed into each episode.
posted by (lambda (x) x) at 9:56 PM on June 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. Perhaps my hands will be able to pour broth or stock into the pot without trembling in trepidation.

Oh yeah, I love Alton Brown. I did see that bit with the stock, but I guess I ultimately forgot it. Thanks for the reminder!
posted by 1fish2fish at 10:05 PM on June 17, 2006

Second the suggestion to keep an eye on the sodium level; I often adjust added salt depending on the broth or stock I have, and when I don't my most frequent (and really only) complication I have with substituting is salt levels off.
posted by nanojath at 10:47 PM on June 17, 2006

Making stock is very easy. Next time you roast a chicken, boil up the bones and freeze your stock. (I use an icetray and then dump the frozen stock cubes in a bag, so I always have some for pan sauces, etc.)

Plus, I always find doing the eggshell trick to clarify it wholly amazing and do it even when I don't need clear stock, just for the wow factor.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:13 AM on June 18, 2006

As an aside, your best bet it buying stuff from the store is the canned or boxed liquid form. Swanson's I think sells this.

Swanson's also consistently comes out on top in Cook's Illustrated blind tastings of commercial broth, over expensive natural-foods brands.
posted by transona5 at 7:00 AM on June 18, 2006

What CunningLinguist said. Making stock is easy, and the reward is so great you won't believe you went so long without doing it.
posted by languagehat at 7:06 AM on June 18, 2006

Remove the trainer wheels! Just try it and see. Work out for yourself what you have that matches what the recipe needs -- chickeny liquid could come from stock, broth, canned soup, bouillon cube, gravy, or milk with diced leftover chicken, and at a pinch you could use another meat or vegetable flavour or just plain water.

Don't get discouraged from cooking for yourself by recipes suggesting that you must use only the best ingredients (12 of them, including 5 spices you would have to buy specially), cooked for 4 hours, using 3 different pots and at least 2 different cooking methods. You can get really good tastes out of the cheap going-out-of-date meat and vegetables (older usually means more flavour) cooked simply. It may well be better to use "meals in minutes" recipes and extend them with better ingredients -- hand-made stock rather than canned soup -- when you can. Working your way up the scale is easier than using elaborate recipes and guessing which corners you can cut.
posted by Idcoytco at 5:18 PM on June 18, 2006

Something no one has mentioned yet: it's a good idea to put a little bit of something acidic (such as wine, lemon juice, or vinegar) in at the beginning of making your stock; this helps draw the minerals out of the bones and makes the stock more nutritious.
posted by parrot_person at 10:33 PM on June 18, 2006

Plus, I always find doing the eggshell trick to clarify it wholly amazing...

Please explain. I've used egg whites (along with ground meat and veggies) to clarify consomme before, but never heard of incorporating the shells. If you do it everytime it's probably a lot simpler than the traditional method, so I'd love to learn it.
posted by rorycberger at 10:59 AM on June 19, 2006

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