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I've now learned (from this site) that broth and stock are not the same product (see this great answer).

So, in any given scenario, why should one use stock rather than broth, or vice versa?
i.e. What's the practical difference?

EDIT: I'm mostly looking for when to use one vs the other.

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9 Answers 9

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Classification and use of Stocks vs. Broth:

Broths are generally the result of preparing another item and usually not prepared specifically on their own. The juices poured off from a roasted turkey (after being degreased) would be considered broth. Whole chickens being poached for another preparation would create broth.

Stocks are prepared specifically for use in other recipes (sauces, soups, stews, rice, etc.) Stocks are never salted in their preparation or the finished dish will most likely end up too salty due to reduction that will take place upon further cooking.

Stocks are usually simmered for a very long time (4-6 hours for chicken & 8-12 for veal/beef) to extract maximum flavor and gelatin from the bones.

Broths aren't usually cooked nearly as long due to the fact that cooking the meat for extended periods (even chicken surrounded by the liquid) will result in tough, flavorless meat.

Consomme: a fortified and clarified stock. The stock is fortified in flavor by the addition of a "raft" which is a combination of lean ground meat (appropriate to the type of stock being used) with brunoise (1/16 inch) mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery), and egg whites. The raft mixture is stirred into the cold stock and as it gently heats, the proteins coagulate forming a "raft" on top of the stock. A small hole is poked in the center (if one hasn't already formed) and as the stock bubbles through the hole it leaches back through the ground meat/egg white raft which filters out impurities to clarify the stock and fortify it with flavor.

Bouillon: French word for broth.

Court Bouillon: sometimes called a "short broth". A poaching liquid usually used for fish that is usually comprised of water, acid (lemon juice, vinegar, wine), parsley stems, bay leaves, peppercorns, and some salt.

When to use Stock vs. Broth: Use stock when a sauce is to be reduced significantly or when clarity of the final result is preferred.

Broths can be substituted for stock when the body of the liquid or clarity isn't important, and when the liquid will be thickened by addition of a starch.

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The more complete stock has a palatable difference in taste and "feel" than broth. Broth is "waterier". You can use stock where you would normally use broth, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the difference. You may need to use more salt than with a pre-salted broth. But in my view this is the preferred liquid for anything chicken. Use it in Enchilada, tikka masala, and alfredo sauces in place of other liquids or add it early and let it reduce before adding other liquids.

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The famed Italian Cuisine chef and writer, Marcella Hazan,distinguishes between Stocks and Brodo (Broth) as follows: Stocks are primarily made from bones or shells (crustacean). Brodos (Broths) are primarily made from meats.

Italian Cuisine favors broths according to Hazan.

I have been making stocks for many years but I have never made a broth. But I intend to do so in the near future.

I have made Stocks from duck bones, shrimp shells, lobster meat+shells, veal bones and many other things.

Do yourself a favor and look at an award winning Italian cookbook entitled The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Caspar. Her Stock/Broths are masterpieces, something you won't see elsewhere.

From personal experience... Stocks can be used to great effect in making sauces for the same type of food from which they originated. For example, shrimp in a sauce made from shrimp stock and other ingredients.

But completed stocks can also be used as a soup with no other foods added. Duck Stock all by itself, or Lobster Stock, is delicious.

A word about Lobster Stock...

Using a large amount of lobster shells will give an end result that really doesn't taste like lobster. It will taste more like fish.

If you are aiming for a true lobster flavor, use the cartilaginous part of the lobster that is inside the lobster's body, adjacent to the legs. This is actual lobster meat. A stock (broth ?) made from these will actually taste like lobster. I use only this part of the lobster (and the legs which also contain meat).

Be sure to tear away the greenish gills on the underside of the cartilaginous area.

When I have lobster to eat, I freeze these parts, saving them up until I have enough of them to make an outstanding lobster broth/stock. It's great !!

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Great answer, Ken. Welcome to Seasoned Advice. –  Preston Fitzgerald Jan 5 at 4:42

From Michael Ruhlman's, "The Elements of Cooking".

"Broths (bouillons) are distinguished from stocks in that a broth is intended to be served as is whereas a stock is the foundation for other preparations." p.74

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stock = bones(usually thicker) broth = meat(usually thinner) This is the process of cooking down either bones or meat down. Stocks are great for stews where you are slowly simmering and tenderizing meat. Broths are used for sauces and soups.

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An additional note from Wikipedia:

Be further aware that in Britain, there is a distinct difference between Broth and Stock, very different to U.S. definitions: A Stock is a thin liquid made by simmering raw ingredients until all the taste has been retrieved from them, finalised by sieving to get a result that is a liquid alone.

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From reading old cookbooks and Escoffier's commentary on it, it seems to me that one possible distinction is that stock is mainly about the texture it produces (ie the gelatin extracted from the bones), while broth is about flavor.

Random tip: if you're a meat-eater and you've never tried it, drop the remains of a holiday roasted turkey into a pot of water for some outstanding stock/broth/whatever. (Simmer it for a couple hours of course :-)

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Broth is actually frequently made from stock. It doesn't have to be, but often what a cook will do is make the stock using the bones to give it an even flavour and then boil the actual meat and some vegetables in it to make the broth. Throw in some grains and it's basically a soup - the line between broth and soup is blurry, if it exists at all.

Broth can be used as a base for sauces, but it's more common to use stock for that, because stock is clear. A broth is generally cloudy, even if strained, so this uneven distribution of fat doesn't make it such a good candidate for sauces that are supposed to be homogeneous (smooth, consistent). Broth is more common to use in something like a gravy, where you'd normally expect some separation of the fat or even chunks of meat.

But, I'm speaking in generalities here, and in reality, broth and stock are often interchangeable. I've used chicken broth in recipes that called for chicken stock and been none the worse for wear; if the broth is fairly clear (most canned chicken broth is) then it makes a fine substitute for stock.

Probably the biggest difference is that broth, especially when made from stock, will have a stronger meat flavour. If the end product won't have too many other additives (soup is the most obvious example), then you might use a broth to achieve a result that's more savory than you'd get with stock alone.

There might be something I'm missing, but I think that's the gist of it. The differences are very subtle.

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The differences between stock, broth, consommé and bouillon is actually quite difficult to pin down.

At one time a stock was something that was kept on the cooker and was constantly added to. These additions could have been meat, vegetables etc. Hence the name stock. These days fresh stock is typically made fresh, when needed. A stock typically forms the basis of soups and sauces.

The usual method for creating a stock (or Grand Bouillon as it's also known) is to add the cleaned bones and fresh meat trimmings to a large pot of water. Once brought to the boil additional ingredients are added, such as carrots, leeks, onions etc. This is then simmered for several hours. Finally, the liquid is passed through a fine sieve or cloth to remove the bones, meat and vegetables.

A broth, technically speaking, is a salted stock. However, when referring to a broth the generally accepted definition is a soup, although it can also be used as a base for gravies, and sauces.

Unlike stock, the process of creating a broth usually involves using large amounts of meat and and not simply meat scraps and bones. For example, a chicken broth would use an entire chicken in addition to vegetables.

Consommé is similar to broth but usually egg whites are used to clarify the soup.

You will also find similar terms such as court bouillon, there are also regional differences in the preparation and definitions.

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