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Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook says that a stock should NEVER be boiled, why is this? Does the higher heat extract bitterness or something else undesirable?

It seems a little strange because the bones used to make the stock were previously roasted in a hot oven.

I've only made stock once, well I guess it was a broth (see this post) but would like to improve on my technique.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Well there's a few things.

First, higher temperatures mean more volatile aroma and flavour compounds will be released, leaving a flatter-tasting stock.

Second, boiling means more motion within the liquid, which makes it harder to skim off the protein scum which forms on the surface while a stock is cooking. In addition, some of the scum will just become reincorporated into the stock via a process similar to emulsion.

Third, boiling induces faster breakdown of proteins and other particulate matter, leaving you with a cloudier end product. This is of course of very little concern for stocks which will end up incorporated into (opaque) soups or sauces.

Of the three, only the first is of any real concern to home cooks. The other two issues aren't a huge deal at the restaurant level (modulo need for clarity in consomme etc), particularly if the restaurant uses Superbags or algae filtration for clarifying stocks.

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So are we trying to avoid the release of aroma and flavour compounds from the mirepoix, or the bones? I'm only asking because the bones were previously roasted so would that not release compounds? Or, are the compounds we desire developed due to the high temp roasting and boiling would release those from the water? – Ryan Anderson Oct 22 '10 at 15:54
How much hotter is it really? It seems that whether simmering or boiling, both liquids are going to be very near 212°F. – Nick T Oct 22 '10 at 19:30
@Nick, a simmer is closer to 180, I believe. So it's a significant difference. – yossarian Oct 22 '10 at 20:20
Many of the complex flavour compounds are developed by roasting, yes. Boiling breaks these down. – daniel Oct 22 '10 at 23:33
What happened to Daniel's account? – Jeff Axelrod Mar 30 '13 at 2:20

Mrs Beeton said "A boiled stew is a spoiled stew". Keep it under a boil, so a couple of bubbles come up now and them.

If it bubbles away, some meats go tough, some flavour is lost and steam causes condensation in the bathroom upstairs. But eggs boil nicely. Put the lid on, you will trap the heat and all the water wont evaporate. Turn it down a bit. Good to steam puddings.

Full rolling boil is only for pasta and jam.

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