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A lot of recipes tell you to skim the foam/scum. What if I'm making one of those recipes and there doesn't end up being any? Does that mean I did something wrong somehow? Or am I just lucky not to have to do that extra work?

Just a basic stock: simmering bones (or chicken carcasses) in a pot on the stove, along with whatever vegetables the recipe calls for.

  • What's your process? For example, I make stock in a pressure cooker, so no skimming for me. – moscafj Aug 17 '15 at 10:20
  • Are you making a broth/stock from bones ? If so are they cooked / roasted before getting boiled ? WIthout this information I can't help you further. Provide more details and i'll be able to help you. – maximegir Aug 23 '15 at 18:17
  • @maximegir I think you're drastically overthinking the question. Just give an answer for both roasted and not, if you think it matters. This is supposed to be a helpful question for future readers in general, not just one specific situation. – Cascabel Aug 23 '15 at 19:11
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Cascabel Aug 24 '15 at 2:52
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Brief answer: no, you shouldn't be worried.

Slightly longer answer: you only should be worried if your stock/broth displays characteristics of unskimmed stock (i.e., cloudiness, particles, or odd color) and that bothers you in your particular application for the stock/broth.


Long answer:

There are lots of things that can reduce the amount of apparent foam, including:

  • Roasting, poaching, or otherwise cooking meats or bones before making broth/stock
  • Boiling the liquid (which will sometimes break up the foam before it becomes noticeable enough to skim)
  • Putting lots of floating items into the stock at the outset, especially vegetables that may absorb or break up the foam on the surface
  • Starting with warmer water and/or heating the stock quickly initially
  • Different types of bones or cuts of meat will produce varying amounts of foam

With the exception of pre-cooking the meat, most of these won't actually result in less foam/scum in the final product. They just will cause the foam to break up more and be dissolved into the stock/broth so it isn't as noticeable during the initial cooking and can't be skimmed easily. (Boiling the liquid will in fact increase the amount of dissolved particulates, which is why many recipes insist on keeping the heat to a very low simmer.)

If you really want to skim the maximum amount of foam, then start with cold water, heat very slowly, wait to add vegetables and other floating items until after skimming is complete, and never have the temperature above a very slow simmer.

But ultimately the question is whether you should care about removing the foam. There's an old question that addresses this point. Very briefly, there are three main negatives when you don't skim:

  1. Stock will appear cloudy and/or grayish. This isn't a problem when you're making a hearty soup in the end, but if you plan to serve the broth alone or with minimal ingredients, it may be nicer to have a clear stock with a nice color. (This can become more noticeable if you plan to refrigerate the broth/stock before using again. The particles will precipitate out and form some grayish stuff, some of which floats near the top at the boundary of the fat layer and some of which will sink to the bottom. These larger particles may not redissolve completely when reheated and may be more noticeable in a clear broth.)
  2. If you plan on significant reduction of the stock to make a demiglace or something, the particles will be concentrated and may mar the texture and flavor of sauces made from it. Most home cooks don't do such extreme reductions, so this is unlikely to be relevant.
  3. Unskimmed stocks/broths tend to spoil slightly faster, and the dissolved particles will acquire an "off taste" a bit faster. This is generally not a problem if you plan to use the liquid within a day or two. (And, generally speaking, this is best practice for food safety: broths and stocks are excellent growth media for bacteria, even in the fridge, and should optimally be used or frozen within 2-3 days.)

If you don't care about these, there's no reason to worry, whether your liquid foams or not. And if you do care about these, you can also clarify your stock afterward (e.g., with egg white).

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Interesting question.

So I believe the answer is yes and no. :)

  1. Boil at higher heat and more rapidly and you will quickly see larger molecules–impurities, alkaloids, large proteins, lectins, and other solids come to top.

  2. Insert a piece of lettuce to celery and the vegetables will absorb most of the impurities.

  3. Boil low and slow; slow cooker or never skim; and the solids will disperse back into broth and make it cloudier and change the taste quite a bit.

Have done it both ways in past; there is a definite different taste between the two; is one necessarily bad? Not really... Purist will say that not skimming is making bad broth; I disagree for most part.

Personally i would try boiling 1 at medium/high and skim and 1 at low; no skim and see which flavour profile you prefer.

More then likely; your vegetables may be absorbing most of the scum/proteins.

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For best results when starting a stock you should roast the bones on some chopped vegetables like carrots onions leeks and celery to add flavour in a very low heated oven for at least an hour set at 210F or 100C to avoid burning the bones and giving you a bitter stock. Once roasted add the bones and roasted vegetables to the water and bring to the boil then turn the heat down to a simmer.To remove impurities you can crack a raw egg into the pot and this will absorb any impurities or scum in the stock to help give you a clear broth. Once you have finished remove the scum and egg that will have absorbed any impurities from the stock and drain the stock through a fine strainer. You should not worry if you have no foam on the top of the stock but in most cases if you have followed this method the proteins in the bones would have formed the foam on the water if not you are lucky.

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