Stock vs. Broth

by Elizabeth Skipper | November 27th, 2012 | Ask the Chef

I like making stock using a whole, uncooked chicken. However, others have said that I can use the carcass of a cooked chicken. Is there a preferred method for making chicken stock?

How frugal are you? You can do either or both. But first let’s differentiate between stock and broth. The two terms are often used interchangeably – I’m guilty of doing it myself at times – but they’re in fact different.

Broth is the liquid that meat, poultry, or fish, with or without bones, has been cooked in. Stock is made with more bones than meat, and is cooked for varying lengths of time depending on the size of the bones. (The bigger the bones, the longer the stock should simmer. Fish bones should never cook more than half an hour, while shin bones from a cow can cook for 24 hours or more.) Some make stock with bones only, but I don’t care for the result.

To be more precise, I find the resulting stock is OK for using in a braise or stew, but not for other uses. Stock made with bones only, particularly beef stock, is “gluey” from all the collagen (gelatin) extracted from the bones. Nutritionally, this is great – just what you want, in fact – but texturally it can be off-putting, depending on the final dish. Nor is it as flavorful as stock made with meat. Bones give stock minerals and substance; flesh, together with vegetables and herbs, gives taste.

Say you’ve poached a whole chicken just until it’s cooked. The cooking liquid is now chicken broth. If you continue simmering the chicken for an extended period of time to extract more flavor and concentrate the liquid, you’ll have chicken stock. To my taste, you’ll also have washed-out chicken meat that even the cats will most likely be unenthusiastic about eating.

What I do instead is poach or roast the chicken until done, and then remove the meat from the bones. The bones go into the stock pot along with aromatics and herbs, either the broth or water to cover, and are turned into stock. Using the broth will yield more flavorful stock, but water works well, too. A bit of vinegar will aid in the leaching of minerals from the bones. This method of using a cooked chicken carcass to make stock is a prime example of the “waste not, want not” principle.

So when do I use broth vs. stock? For soups, especially ones like chicken noodle or chicken vegetable, and for cooking grains like rice pilaf, broth is my choice. For stewed or braised dishes like chicken fricassée, deglazing a pan, making a sauce, or glazing vegetables, stock is the way to go.

Chicken Stock

1 whole chicken, preferably a stewing hen, OR
1 roasted chicken carcass with scraps of meat clinging to it
Giblets (except the liver) and the neck, if available
2 chicken feet, if available
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1″ lengths
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1″ lengths
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. dried thyme
Several parsley stalks
Water to cover
2 Tb. white or apple cider vinegar, optional
Celtic sea salt

If using the vinegar, put all the ingredients in a tall stockpot large enough to contain all the ingredients and add it now. Allow everything to sit for an hour or so. The vinegar softens the bones and draws more minerals from them.

Bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer. If using a raw chicken, skim the froth that forms on the surface from time to time for the first 10-15 minutes of cooking. This removes impurities that will cloud the stock.

Lower the heat to the merest simmer. If using a whole raw chicken, simmer about 45 minutes; then remove the chicken. It will probably be falling apart at this point. Allow to cool briefly; then remove the meat from the bones and put the bones back in the stockpot. Return to a low simmer. Keep the meat, refrigerated, for soup, casseroles, salads, etc.

Allow everything to cook uncovered anywhere from two to eight hours. Older or free-range chickens should cook longer; check the bones to see how soft they’re becoming. As needed, add more hot water to keep the bones covered with liquid. If you want to cook this overnight or while you’re away, cover the pot loosely, but remove the lid toward the end of cooking. If you have a gas range or don’t feel comfortable leaving the burner on while you’re out of the kitchen, this is a perfect time to use a crockpot.

Strain the stock and taste it. If it is weak, simmer to reduce it until it reaches a strength you like. It probably still needs something. That would be salt! Season to taste now, and only now.

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