Help me source some high-quality bouillon cubes
September 6, 2007 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Help me source some high-quality bouillon cubes.

In her book How To Eat, Nigella Lawson often mentions using bouillon cubes for quick soups and sauces. I know that the bouillon cube is oft-despised by other cookbook writers (Mark Bittman, for isntance, says you're better off with water and a couple extra onions and celery stalks), but Nigella talks a lot about their prevalence in modern Italian kitchens, and she mentions "high-quality" cubes.

I consider myself a pretty accomplished home cook, and I definitely know how to make a good stock. I also know when it's totally appropriate to use canned broth, and I'm not above throwing in a cube of Knorr into a soup if the taste is a little bland. But I can't help but think that there's something better out there. Are there really "high quality" bouillon cubes that are really as good (and useful) as canned broths, that I could use when I don't have homemade stock on hand?

I'm in Seattle, but I'm totally fine with mail ordering from wherever if I can get my hands on some good bouillon cubes. I'm probably mainly looking for chicken, and maybe a good beef or vegetable as well. But in my cooking, they're all pretty interchangeable.
posted by rossination to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
They're not cubes, but I've always been fond of Minor's soup base.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:13 PM on September 6, 2007

Try looking for boullion paste instead of cubes. This is not the brand I'm familiar with--it's the first that popped up on an ask search (and I see it can't be shipped to the US). They are usually lower in salt, for one thing. I have seen them in beef, chicken, fish and vegetable at specialty cooking shops.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:13 PM on September 6, 2007

well, Nigella also recommends freezing leftover wine from dinner parties (complete with tasty backwash) to use as an ersatz form demi glace, so I tend to be wary about some of her advice (regardless of how gracefully presented it may be)

all that said, a decent form of 'stock on demand' is soup base. Since you can scoop as much or as little as you need to, it's a little more flexible than using bouillon or canned stock especially when you just need to jack up the flavor a bit. It's a little more expensive than either bouillon or stock, but not as crazy as, say, storebought demi glace.
posted by bl1nk at 12:15 PM on September 6, 2007

Best answer: These pastes from Better Than Bouillon got good reviews from Cooks Illustrated.
posted by genefinder at 12:19 PM on September 6, 2007

Knorr's is a pretty good boullion, but Penzey's soup base kicks its ass.
posted by beezy at 12:24 PM on September 6, 2007

Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder.
posted by little apollo at 12:35 PM on September 6, 2007

Seconding "Better than Bouillon". It is deliscious.
posted by Freen at 12:35 PM on September 6, 2007

Love, love, love "Better Than Bouillon." I keep the veggie, chicken, and beef in my fridge at all times. I've never seen most of the varieties from genefinder's link, though I picked up a jar of ham base in North Carolina last year.
posted by desuetude at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2007

fourthing Better Than Bouillon, although you have to use it somewhat sparingly. I hope they get the message that there doesn't need to be a lot of salt for it to taste good.
posted by parmanparman at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2007

I second (third, fourth?) the Penzey's soup base. I'm lucky to live right down the street from a store. I go thru the stuff like crazy, especially for cooking brown rice and suchlike.
posted by houseofdanie at 12:43 PM on September 6, 2007

Another vote for Penzey's.
posted by Hermes32 at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2007

And yet another vote for Penzey's....
posted by gnutron at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2007

what's the problem with freezing wine you'd use for cooking? the main issue with freezing things is that you tend to rupture cell walls (hence floppy frozen veg). but physical damage is not such a problem for wine. the thing that freezing is good at is stopping chemical processes, and that's what makes keeping wine so hard normally.

i have no idea if wine actually does freeze (once had the most amazing instant-crystallization on opening an over-chilled bottle of white, but it didn't totally freeze - and it did taste ok once it had thawed!), but it's not a particularly crazy idea in theory.

also, she's posh totty whose wine backwash cannot be refused.

posted by andrew cooke at 1:17 PM on September 6, 2007

Oh, it's not the freezing of the wine that I object too. I've heard that freezing wine can actually improve flavor in some cases.

I think that it's perhaps a fine use for leftover wine still undispensed from the decanter. It's the image of sweeping up a handful of half-empty glasses and pouring them into an ice cube tray for later re-use that just perks my eyebrow. I might as well gargle the vermouth before I add it to the stockpot. Adds a certain je ne sais quoi.
posted by bl1nk at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2007

Best answer: I find Better Than Bouillon to be very salty. I'd recommend Demi Glace Gold, etc. It is pricey, but a little goes a fairly long way.
posted by thinman at 1:54 PM on September 6, 2007

It's the image of sweeping up a handful of half-empty glasses

Wine left in an open bottle also counts as leftover; it's no good to drink after a day or 2, so you might as well freeze it for cooking purposes. It would never occur to me that someone speaking of "leftover" wine would be referring to that already decanted into glasses.
posted by rkent at 2:58 PM on September 6, 2007

neither would it to me, too, rkent. Which is why my jaw dropped when Nigella mentioned that she even picks up some wine glasses and adds that in, too, then followed it up with her trademark come-hither wink.
posted by bl1nk at 3:21 PM on September 6, 2007

Oh my goodness. No no no. No cubes! No salty bottled mush. The only way to go is the staggeringly good Demi Glaces thinman mentioned. The classic demi glace is fantastic, the glace de veau is amazing and the chicken ones are also stellar. I've labored for hours over my own demi glace that didn't come out as well. Try them!
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:05 PM on September 6, 2007

And yes, you only need a tiny bit because it's so concentrated, so it's actually not that pricey at all.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:07 PM on September 6, 2007

Best answer: Do you have an Italian food shop nearby? I've gotten some AMAZING porcini mushroom bouillon cubes at Gallucci's in Cleveland (I think they do mail order, too).
posted by at 7:20 PM on September 6, 2007

man, don't freeze the wine; make vinegar. All the leftover wine from tastings and parties can go to the vinegar crock to have a MUCH better life as a wine vinegar.
posted by jadepearl at 9:10 PM on September 6, 2007

Best answer: Nigella likes Marigold, I believe; So does Delia, and you don't mess with Delia. I have no idea if you can get it in the US: I've never seen it, not even in the kind of hippie-groceries that you'd expect to stock it if it were distributed here.

BtB is good, but I'll nth everyone's comments about its saltiness. Telma's not bad, either: if it's not with the other stock ingredients, look in the kosher section.
posted by holgate at 9:23 PM on September 7, 2007

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