Welcome to the longest blog known to man! This is actually 5 blogs in one as we are going to cover how to make a stock and broth each from Chicken, Pork, and Beef. In addition, I will cover Glace, Demi-Glace, and Japanese Ramen Soup. Use the navigation links to the left or above (mobile devices) to jump to what you want to read and for reference when cooking. Mobile device users, please view this in landscape mode.
We have been making our own stock for a few years now and each year we learn something new as well as improve upon the last time. We made a couple of significant changes in how we create both Stock and Broth this year as well as making Chicken, Beef, and Pork versions pretty much back to back from Thanksgiving day until the middle of December. We also made lobster stock this year for some homemade bisque, but we are too new at that one to say we have a recipe or method we could give you to follow; The other three we will cover here!
We decided to write this blog to share what we have been up to since a few people expressed interest in some of the pictures we posted on social media so we hope you all learn something new and enjoy this post enough to try your hand at it. Stock and broth can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be, but the main thing you need is patience. This is a lengthy process that has a handful of steps, but the majority of the time is passive while you let the pot simmer and keep it topped off with water. The setup and the breakdown are where you will need to block some time to tackle one of these recipes.
This is one of the healthiest things you can make and use for your family and while we all have a whole lot of time on our hands why not try something you probably don’t normally have time to do? We hope everyone is staying home, staying healthy, and able to stay solvent financially during these trying times. We hope you see the value in learning this time-honored tradition and making the healing, restorative, and ever so satisfying elixirs called Stock and Broth!
Stock and Broth, what are they?
The words Stock and Broth seem to be used pretty interchangeably these days and although they do share a lot of similarities, there are some decisive factors that do indeed make them different from each other. Now recently, there’s a new kid on the block, Bone Broth, which is more of a hybrid between the other two rather than it’s own thing, as well as being the newest trend and buzzword you can charge people extra for.
All three of these revolve around the concept of slowly cooking a combination of meat, bones, and aromatic vegetables in water until as much nutrition and flavor have been extracted as can be, or that you have the patience for. When you hear your grandma talk about a bowl of chicken noodle soup being a magic cure-all, she definitely is referring to homemade and not a store-bought imposter. The nutrition you gain from the cooking of the bone marrow and connective tissue is what makes a real stock so healthy for you. Whether chicken noodle is your flavor of choice or not doesn’t matter, it’s all about making that stock and then you can do anything you’d like with it after that.
Stock must have bones and joints with connective tissue, and a high percentage of them, to get the components that make a true stock. The breaking down and absorption of the collagen and marrow from the bones into the water is our primary goal. The more meat you add to the mix the better the overall flavor it will have, but meat isn’t necessary. Likewise, the veggies you use and how much you use is pretty flexible. You could do a pot of just bones and water and get a really great, lip-smackingly rich stock. The best stocks are going to have at least some meat and a decent amount of aromatics, but you can add those flavors in later during whatever the goal recipe is going to be.
One of the main differences between stock and broth is that stock is not meant to be a final product, it is a base and foundation for applications like soup, sauces, stews, and gravies. Stock typically does not have any salt or strong flavors to it since you will add the appropriate amount of salt to a pot of soup along with other flavors when you make it. The stock brings the nutrition and depth of roasted/savory flavor you get from the stock making process that you don’t get by just throwing some carrots, onions, and chicken breasts in some water and cooking it down for a couple of hours into a soup.
One of the main reasons we also don’t salt or strongly flavor a stock is that you start with a large volume of water and reduce it by more than half to get the concentrated final product. If you over salt even a little bit, in the beginning, it can become unbearably salty in the end once it reduces down. This isn’t always a deal-breaker though since sometimes you can skip adding any more salt to a soup and it’ll come out fine, but as a general rule salt is not necessary when making a stock and flavorings should be conservative.
You know you have made a good stock when it is naturally thick when stirring the final drained product, close to a medium gravy consistency, and after being in the fridge becomes gelatinous like Jello. Then you know you got a good amount of collagen rendered out and it was worth all the effort.
Animal bones are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and other trace minerals — the same minerals needed to build and strengthen your own bones. Connective tissue gives you glucosamine and chondroitin, natural compounds found in cartilage that are known to support joint health. Marrow provides vitamin A, vitamin K2, minerals like zinc, iron, boron, manganese, and selenium, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
All of these animal parts also contain the protein collagen, which turns into gelatin when cooked and yields several important amino acids as well as the unctuous lip-smacking mouth feel. Amino acids also help with digestion and inflammation among other things.
Broth has the opposite focus and intent of stock where it is much more about the meat and veggies and building great flavor rather than going for maximum nutrition and texture. Broth is salted and heavily seasoned since it is more of a final product in of itself. You can add meat, veggies, and starches to broth and turn it into a myriad number of soups, but broth should be tasty and delicious all by itself whereas stock is kind of bland and a little overwhelming to drink straight.
You get more flavors in broth by browning meat in the stockpot and deglazing the fond to get nice roasted flavors built-in. These roasted flavors are due to the chemical changes that the meat undergoes due to the Maillard Reaction. More herbs and aromatic vegetables are used in broth than in stock as well. You can slant the flavor of the broth in several directions based on what you are making it for, but the classic French version is a very versatile middle ground that is suitable for almost every application.
Broth revolves around the meat flavors you use, but benefits from some bones in the equation just as stock benefits from having some meat paired with all the bones.
So if Stock is focused on extracting nutrients from the bones and Broth is focused on extracting flavor from the meat, then what is Bone Broth? Kind of sounds like a misnomer doesn’t it?
Bone broth is a merging of the two extractions which can either be a multi-step process of first creating stock and then creating broth and merging the two at a ratio you like or incorporating enough meat and seasonings into the stock making process that the final product has the same taste of broth but with the backbone (pun always intended) of a stock.
Getting enough meat and veggies into a stock to get a good broth flavor isn’t too hard, but one has to resist the urge to season it until it has reduced and been strained. You should only season the final product to taste to avoid the over-concentration of flavors, especially salt.
Bone Broth is one of the newer health sensations on the market that touts all the nutrition and health benefits of stock, but has the flavor appeal of a good homemade soup broth. Many brands also include some wild card ingredients to boost the health potential like turmeric and ginger roots or Reishi mushrooms. There are many ingredients like those which can lend legitimate health and nutritional components to something that is already really good for you, but I would be wary of brands that are just selling a standard stock/broth made from meat, bones, and veggies and touting it as more than such by calling it Bone Broth.
In summary, we have learned that Stock, Broth, and Bone Broth are all derived from the same ingredients in a similar method, but each has a different ratio of those ingredients and/or a different intent for end-product application.
How do we make it?
We are going to discuss Beef, Chicken, and Pork stock/broth and they are all made very similarly, but beef stock has a few extra steps so we will cover that last once you understand the standard process first.
The fundamental thing we have learned recently that has been a major game-changer in the stock and broth process is how we process each component. Stock renders much better at a high temperature, bordering on a full rolling boil. The high heat is needed in order to fully break down all the connective tissue and melt it into the liquid gold we are looking for. Broth does not tolerate that heat at all and a lot of the delicate flavors from herbs and aromatics would be destroyed if cooked that hot. Broth should be simmered on the lowest possible simmer your stove can manage in a good quality pot, preferably one that has a solid core as opposed to just a hot plate on the bottom for the evenest distribution of heat.
We now make both stock and broth each time we make a batch of anything and keep some in its original form and some we merge together to make what is now known as Bone Broth. Sometimes you just want the broth to flavor a sauce or a rice dish, but you don’t need all the sticky weight of stock. Sometimes your soup tastes perfect, but is just too thin and needs more foundation and stock can bring that in without overpowering the balance you already have which is one of the reasons we don’t salt stocks. If your soup tastes perfect, but needs more body and heft then a salted stock would push your soup out of balance.
What tools do I need?
You will want at least one quality stockpot that holds a minimum of 3 gallons, but 5+ is better. Many stockpots are made of cheap steel, are relatively lightweight, and only have a thick bottom plate to radiate the heat. These are very affordable and you can boil anything you want in them, but the thin walls don’t distribute heat up very well and the bottom will be hotter than the top which makes it much easier to scorch the contents of the bottom of the pot. These pots also don’t simmer well for the same reason because you could be burning the bottom while the top of the pot is potentially too low in temp and not above the mandatory 165 degrees for a safe holding temp.
You don’t have to have an expensive pot to make stock, you can literally do it in anything large enough to hold all the contents, but a better tool makes for easier work. You don’t have to use a knife to cut a tomato…. But using a fork is a lot more work with poorer results.
Often I will use 3-4 pots at a time for one batch since I am making stock and broth at the same time in different pots. I use my cheap pots for the high heat boiling of the stock components and I use my quality pots for evenly simmering the broth components. I make a very large batch when I do so I only need to make each type of stock/broth one or two times a year. You should make a batch based on your needs and storage options. If you have a pressure canner, you can make as much as you desire, but if you are freezing the extra then that is self-limiting.
A quality pot should feel relatively heavy for its size and have sturdy handles. The main thing that is going to increase the quality and cost of a stockpot is the metal composition. As we said, thin stainless steel walled pots with a bottom hot plate are the lowest tier. Next up is a single core that is wrapped in stainless steel with a hot plate base and actually, all pots are going to have some sort of thicker bottom plate to them. The full cores which come in 1-4 layers depending on the manufacturer are what you’re really shopping for. My best pot is a triple-core which is like how Russian nesting dolls have layers. The center of the pot is solid copper from top to bottom, which is wrapped in solid aluminum, and then finally the third and outer layer is quality 440-grade stainless steel.
Copper and Aluminum are very reactive metals that heat up and dissipate heat very quickly which makes any cookware made from them very responsive and precise to use. Cast iron heats very slowly but it retains heat very well. Some pots have a cast iron core which is really great if you can find it, but less common these days. Copper and aluminum are excellent for skillets as well so you can cook hot and fast, but remove it from heat precisely when it is done without continuing to overcook the food. The only problem with all three of these metals is that they corrode easily and take more maintenance to clean and store properly. Stainless steel, as the name suggests, does not stain or corrode and will keep your cookware looking pretty for years to come, but it is not a great conductor of heat. So a quality metal, or a combo thereof, wrapped in stainless steel is the professional standard these days.
One of the pots I use for boiling is one of those super-cheap $10 thin aluminum pots from the grocery store used to make tamales with the steamer insert, which is actually a really useful tool for stock making, but more on that later.
Bottom line, use what you’ve got or borrow an extra pot or two from a friend until you can invest in a quality set of stockpots in graduated sizes.
Strainers and Utensils
Examples of the tools on Amazon.com with links in the titles:
You will absolutely need a couple of wire mesh strainers for this process. The better quality ones have a finer mesh screen on them, but you will actually need a large colander style one with big holes to separate the liquid from the big chunks wholesale and then a fine mesh one for sorting out the little bits at the end. I usually strain my stock and broth 3-4 times starting with a course colander and working my way down to a fine-mesh, much like how you would use different grades of sandpaper in woodworking.
A basic set of strainers in 3 graduated sizes having the same screen mesh size is very affordable and something every kitchen should have. Any colander will do for first separating the solids from the liquid, but having at least one fine-mesh strainer for the final pass really makes a difference in the quality of the final product, especially making sure there’s no sediment or grit in your stock/broth.
A skimmer is not an essential tool, but makes work a lot easier. In the first few hours of boiling the stock, there will be foam and sediment that floats to the top and needs to be removed. A spoon will work, but a flat mesh skimmer with a vertical handle helps keep the liquid in the pot and just remove the scum. A basic one is very affordable on Amazon.com
Splatter screens are very helpful when searing and browning the meat to keep the grease in the pan, but extra useful if you have a graduated set of them and the smaller ones fit inside the pan diameter like a steamer insert. If your pan has a flat steamer insert that sits in the pan like a false bottom you can use it to keep the meat and bones submerged and not floating on top of the boil. The small splatter screens work well to accomplish the same task. I don’t often recommend specific products, but I have found this set of three splatter screens to work for their intended job as well as being perfectly suited to keep the contents of the boil submerged. Versions of the tools I recommend are listed at the top of this section.
You can buy the graduated 3 pack or just individual sizes. Measure the diameter of your pots to figure out what size will fit inside the pots you’re using and/or cover the top for splatter prevention.
Another “nice to have” but non-essential tool is a large pitcher that can handle hot liquids. Having something that can hold a gallon to strain into makes for quicker work and fewer dishes. I usually make batches that start around 10 gallons and reduce down to 4 so for me having the right tools to manage that much liquid is necessary. Starting out you might do a 4-gallon batch that reduces to one final gallon. Just plan accordingly for your needs.
Another useful tool is a pasta scooper which is basically the largest slotted spoon I own. Here are a few examples and I personally own the red nylon one, #3.
To recap, you will need 2 large pots if making stock and broth at the same time, but having an extra one to strain into is also useful. You will need at least one large colander and one fine mesh strainer.
Helpful add on tools are a mesh skimmer with a vertical handle, a large heatproof gallon pitcher or two, as well as splatter screens that fit both the top of your pot as well as ones that can insert into each boil/simmer pot you are using.
Let’s get started!
The easiest place to start is Chicken Stock or Broth, and I would say that Pork is of medium difficulty, with Beef being the most advanced method. Depending on your confidence and time frame available you can start anywhere you want, but Chicken is easiest to do for the first time and you can use the skills learned to apply to the other two.
You must read and understand the Pork method before jumping to making Ramen though because I only summarize the changes from the Pork method to making Ramen. Gotta walk before you can run 😉
Regardless of which stock or broth you want to make, it is best to read them in the order written which is chicken, then pork, and finally beef. Once you understand the science and the method you can make your own adaptations and adjust the ingredients based on their availability and affordability to you.