Soup, stew, broth, and stock
May 22, 2008 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Make your own stock. Make your own broth. Argue about the difference! Use your stock to make French onion soup. Or Beef Bourguignon. But whatever you do, don't use the storebought stuff unless you have to.
posted by sotonohito (43 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Kabanos at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2008

Making good stock consistently is an art and will scare most non-foodies with its intricate rules and variations. Making stock for most home purposes is really easy and should be standard because it saves money and food. For chicken:

1. Broil and eat whole chicken as normal. Save carcass.
2. Put carcass in big pot with 2 to 4 quarts of water.
3. Bring to boil, set to simmer, wait 4-8 hours.
4. Ladel stock out into jars or bread pans and freeze.

It's really that easy and tastes a million times better than store bought stock and its free food that otherwise gets wasted. If you wan to get "fancy" add some carrots/celery/onions but you don't need too. Plus it makes your home smell like a restaurant for a day.
posted by stbalbach at 8:04 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know, I used to make stock whenever I saw chicken backs and necks for sale at the grocery store. I'd simmer the stock for hours. Then I strained it (more than once, operating on automatic, I drained it like pasta, and let all the valuable liquid go right down the drain). Then I'd empty out everything from the bottom shelf of my fridge so I could let the big bowl of the golden liquid sit and the fat would congeal on the top so I could skim it off. More often then not, I was so exhausted by the process, I'd let the bowl sit down there long enough to go sour, and be a total loss.

Now, if I really feel the need to make chicken stock, I have a couple small bags of chicken trimmings -- wing tips, roasted chicken carcasses... which I'll pop into a small pan and make just the amount I need, say for a risotto or something.

Michael Ruhlman has offers up a new twist on when to add the vegetables when you make the stock. And if you ever wondered about the difference between white and brown stock... (both of these links go to my food blog.)
posted by Dave Faris at 8:05 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

There was also a great unproductive debate about the difference on MeFi here.
posted by mikeh at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2008

If you have a canner, stock is easily preserved by canning as well. We usually save up chicken and turkey carcasses until we've got several and then make a big pot of stock all at once. My favorite way to store it is canned in quart jars, but I only do that when I've made enough to justify taking the time to can it -- i.e. 15 or 20 quarts. It is a joy to stack those suckers up on the basement shelves and know I'm not going to run out of good stock for a while. :-)
posted by rusty at 8:15 AM on May 22, 2008

I hope you're not throwing away all that delicious schmaltz when you're done. Chicken fat (or, even better, duck fat droooooooooooooooooooool) is just the thing for frying latkes.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

stbalbach I used to be frightened of stock, not anymore. Its pretty easy, really. From my POV adding Mirepoix (carrots, onion, and celery for you non-foodgeeks) to a stock vastly improves the flavor and shouldn't be counted as optional, it isn't like it takes much extra time, money, or skill.

I'm also paranoid enough that I like the "into ice with frozen water bottles in the stock" finish. No need to tempt bacteria, that's why I always boil mine for a couple of minutes before I do anything else with it.

My only real problem is that beef stock does require that I buy special stuff. Not that bones cost too much, but it isn't like chicken where you typically get them as part of the original purchase.

Still, I think the end result is well worth the effort and cost. Store bought stock just tastes meh after you've tried the real thing. And "bouillon cubes" are just plain evil....
posted by sotonohito at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

..oh speaking of fat, fat is the enemy of stock, remove skin and fat globs before cooking (keep the giblets and bones and meat scraps)
posted by stbalbach at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2008

As a data point (and because I don't see it mentioned), I was always told that one should process a chicken or turkey carcass within a few hours of the meat being carved and served. To leave it overnight in the fridge before boiling it makes the stock taste flat (not to mention it's safer from the point of view of bacteria).
posted by LN at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2008

In Seattle, we go to Uwajimaya for "chicken breast frames" (just raw chicken carcasses with quite a bit of meat still on them" for stock making. They're something like $.60 a pound and they come prewrapped in 2 lb. packages. Totally convenient. I would reccoment similar big Asian markets for things like these; if nothing else, I like seeing the approving smile of an old Vietnamese lady as she sees a 21-year-old college student rifling through the "chicken parts" bin.
posted by rossination at 8:38 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stock, stock, stock, stock.... MATZAH BALL SOOOOOOOUP!

That's all thanks, I'll see myself out.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I reduce any excess stock, and then freeze it in an icecube tray. Whenever I need some of the real stuff, just pop out a couple of cubes, add water and you're good. It's as convenient as a stock cube, without the taste of chemicals.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:21 AM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

For chicken stock, I follow the Cook's Illustrated recipe, which is essentially: "sweat" chopped up chicken carcass and veggies (e.g., carrots, onions) with some vegetable oil in a large pot, then cover with water and let simmer 2 hours at most. I'll sometimes add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic and some peppercorns.

I am a bit more particular with beef broth to be used for Korean New Year's dumpling and rice cake soup. I start with a large slab of organic or grass-fed brisket, which I let sit covered with cold water overnight or at least 4 hours. Then I put the meat in a large pot and add quartered onions, whole scallions (if you can find the huge leek-like variety sold in Asian grocery stores, use that), a couple of crushed garlic cloves, whole peppercorns, and a chunk or two of daikon, cover with cold water, and bring it to a boil. I use a skimmer to skim off brown bits that float to the top, then reduce heat and let simmer for several hours. I will periodically skim the broth during this time. I also check the meat for doneness - I don't want it falling apart. When it's all done I strain the broth, save the meat, discard the veggies, and cool the broth in the fridge or on the deck if it's cold enough outside. Then skim off the congealed fat (usually there's not much if just using brisket, quite a thick layer if using mix of soup bones and ribs). Boil dumplings and rice cakes in the finished broth, then serve. Each diner should salt to taste. The slab of meat? Slice thinly and serve it cold, alongside the soup, with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and vinegar. Bon appetit!
posted by needled at 9:34 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was just researching this last week. I was making Julia Child's French Onion soup, which calls for homemade beef broth. And I got started on this whole broth versus stock research. The two terms seemed to be used interchangeably now but a purist might say that stock is more concentrated but less seasoned whereas a broth is near edible, like a clear soup, having been simmered with the onion, carrots and bouquet garni. Consomme contains more gelatin.

Chicken stock is easy to make and I freeze unwanted chicken bits. There are several store brought brands that are quite good now, much better than the ubiquitous Swanson's. I used canned beef consommé for my French onion soup and it turned out well.

Making beef broth seems like too much of a chore but I should try it sometime.
posted by shoesietart at 9:38 AM on May 22, 2008

My fiance just sent me a link to this. I guess he's encouraging me to make my own stock... I've been saying I should try it for a while now.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2008

I hope you're not throwing away all that delicious schmaltz when you're done. Chicken fat (or, even better, duck fat droooooooooooooooooooool) is just the thing for frying latkes.

Great tip! But it doesn't cure me of constantly reading your username as "dirtynumbagelboy."
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:22 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

For us veg-heads out there, making a vegetable stock is really easy too. And it stores in your freezer practically forever.
posted by elendil71 at 10:26 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

For true liquid gold, don't add any water to your ingredients. Lay a few pieces of lettuce over the top of the pile, and heat gently until the chicken and vegetables start sweating out some juices, then take it normally from there. Those perforated metal spacers that go at the bottom of the pot, to prevent scorching, help too.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:34 AM on May 22, 2008

For extra mouth feel and a slightly exotic flavor, throw in a duck foot from Chinatown.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:36 AM on May 22, 2008

Also worth remembering is that shrimp shells (and even better, the heads, if you've bought head-on shrimp) make an easy and quick broth. Put in a pot with some roughly chopped onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns, salt...bring to a boil, simmer a bit, strain and presto. Good for any rice or pasta dish for which you've already bought the shrimp.
posted by BT at 10:36 AM on May 22, 2008

3 questions: 1) what is the eggshell trick about clarifying broth, alluded to in an earlier post?
2) what does it mean to "sweat" chicken and veggies? Saute at ultra-low temperature, like the opposite of searing?
3) Do folks like the idea of adding something a little acidic to get more minerals out of the bones? Thx
posted by msalt at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2008

Buy a giant bottle of the best soy sauce you can get your hands on. Use it in the place of any kind of stock. Use it to make stew, any kind, soup, any kind, gravy any kind.

If you want some more back up, get a large container of Yoshida sauce, for sweet gravies, keep around a bottle of Tabasco. Buy a large bottle of Sweet Pepper Sauce, for cooking chicken. Miso is nice to have around, but it should never be boiled. Dry seaweed is good for fish stocks, or the base for miso soup.

I am not an asian cook, but long ago, I realized that eating the boiled leftovers of animals, is a bad idea, and fresh meat exudes plenty of juice, from which to raise a sauce.

Commercially prepared chicken stock, or beef broth, gives me the willies. There is now a good organic product in the chicken stock realm. I haven't used chicken stock in cooking, ever.

The rule of thumb is use just enough soy to bring your sauce barely up to salt. Let your diners go the rest of salt highway, so things are to their individual taste.
posted by Oyéah at 11:28 AM on May 22, 2008

2) what does it mean to "sweat" chicken and veggies? Saute at ultra-low temperature, like the opposite of searing?

Sweating (usually used with aromatic vegetables) involves heating your ingredients with a very little bit of fat, usually from a cold pan, until they start to release moisture (and therefore flavor). If you hear sizzling, or your vegetables start to color, you're cooking them too high. Typically, when you do this to onions, you sweat them until they wither a little and turn translucent, then get on with the rest of your sauteeing/soupmaking/whatever.

I like to use a pinch of salt when sweating, since it helps draw moisture from the ingredients.
posted by Cassilda at 11:37 AM on May 22, 2008

Oyéah wrote: Buy a giant bottle of the best soy sauce you can get your hands on. Use it in the place of any kind of stock.

Yeah, I might try making chicken soup tonight with two litres of soy sauce tonight. Bound to be absolutely delish, that.

PeterMcDermott wrote: I reduce any excess stock, and then freeze it in an icecube tray.

This practice is responsible for one of the most peculiar tastes I've ever encountered, when I accidentally put duck stock ice cubes in a glass of ginger beer. (The stupid bit: I realised what I'd done, but couldn't resist taking a sip, just in case I'd invented a lovely new chinese food-flavoured drink.)
posted by jack_mo at 11:44 AM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by jack_mo at 11:45 AM on May 22, 2008

msalt wrote: 1) what is the eggshell trick about clarifying broth, alluded to in an earlier post?

You beat a couple of egg whites and mix them with smashed up eggshell, and stir the mixture into the stock, then stop stirring: the egg whites rise to the top, trapping bits on the way up, then form a raft of unpleasant soggy meaty eggy muck that you can skim off.

I think the shells are supposed to aid in clarifying the stock somehow, but I've never bothered adding them - egg whites on their own work just fine.
posted by jack_mo at 11:54 AM on May 22, 2008

As far as I know, or, at least in my experience, there is no "eggshell" process of stock clarification, rather, it's just egg whites alone, you know, without the shells or the yolk. Usually used for consommé and the like and usually used to create double stocks, especially for intense soups, from basic stock where considerably more meat than bone has been used to prepare the stock.

The clarification is done by adding finely chopped meat and veggies into the cold basic stock along with several stirred up or whisked egg whites. Then you slowly heat the stock to a low simmer and keep it here for an hour or so. When the stock heats, the egg whites coagulate into a really fine web or mesh inside the stock and rise to the surface carrying all the particulates along, too. This is, in essence, finely straining the liquid from within itself. The coagulate sitting on the surface continues to collect particles and, after a time, is then easily lifted off leaving a remarkably clear stock.

The downside is that, along with the partiiculates, the egg coagulate also takes with it some of the flavor and this is why finely diced meat and vegetables are added along with the eggs. This helps maintain the flavor.

Given the earlier comment, I may have to research what an addition of the egg shells themselvees will do. Although I suspect not much other than introduce a possible salmonella source.
posted by bz at 12:00 PM on May 22, 2008

Oh, and stocks are typically heated slowly and never brought to the boil. Best collagen extraction happens at about 170°F and the slow heating helps prevent roiling which can make a stock gritty.
posted by bz at 12:03 PM on May 22, 2008

Oh, and another distinction: stocks are usually relatively unseasoned as compared to soups and broths. The primary role for stock is as a thickening agent and rich backdrop to the final sauce.
posted by bz at 12:10 PM on May 22, 2008

Cook low, eat high is the prevailing stock wisdom.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:11 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and another thing: most good stock, meat stock, that is, uses meat and bone that has been roasted first. All the Maillard reaction amino acid goodness.
posted by bz at 12:14 PM on May 22, 2008

I should add, since I linked to Alton Brown's French onion soup recipe, that honestly I think its a bit too sweet. Of course FOS is supposed to be sweet, but I think the apple cider he calls for makes it a bit over sweet.

shoesietart The stock/broth question is a source of much fighting. I take the position that "broth" is what you get when you boil meat, while "stock" is what you get when you boil both meat and bones. With the bones you get gelitan and when refrigerated finished stock will generally turn into meat jello. Others disagree, holding that stock is just bones, no meat; I argue that approach produces jello without the meaty flavor. Still others disagree with both of those positions.

jack_mo I assume that it didn't result in a wonderful flavor then?
posted by sotonohito at 12:17 PM on May 22, 2008

Another alternative to stock is soaking dried anchovies in water a couple hours before required. Most Korean soup-y, stew-y, or casserole-y dishes will use this as a base. My mom always has bags of dried mul-chi in the pantry. She only soaks the big ones, though. The little ones taste better stir fried in a pan with soy sauce and starch syrup. Other seasonings options depending on your mama.

needled: My family always used the same preparation method as yours for the new years soup, but I was recently shocked when my friend made it for me in her family's tradition of plain hot water. But then again they always celebrated new years by gregorian calendar and participated in other unorthodox customs.
posted by slyrabbit at 12:31 PM on May 22, 2008

A stock based only on bones is certain not have much flavor. Escoffier, the creator of veal stock and a legendary cooking authority always included meat in his stock preparations. "Meaty bones" are often called for in contemporary stock recipes. At its most basic, the bones bring the collagen and the meat brings the flavor.
posted by bz at 12:35 PM on May 22, 2008

slyrabbit, plain hot water sounds preferable to the dashida-flavored liquid favored by somebody I know. She was astounded by my beef broth preparation method, as she had been taught by her family to use dashida, and no alternatives.
posted by needled at 12:40 PM on May 22, 2008

thx for the info on sweating and clarification. (sounds like a soft interrogation technique.)

Is clarification simply aesthetic? I prefer unfiltered apple juice and orange juice with pulp, not sure I want clarification unless it fixes something else.
posted by msalt at 12:48 PM on May 22, 2008

Yes. It's aesthetic.
posted by bz at 12:49 PM on May 22, 2008

As far as dashi goes, I just buy the powdered stuff. I tried making my own once but it didn't work out as well as it could have. Mind, I live in podunk Texas, so simply getting the ingredients was more of a hassle than it could have been. Fortunately my local Korean market carries both dashi and a moderaly wide selection of miso.
posted by sotonohito at 2:14 PM on May 22, 2008

msalt Re: clarification. I've heard some folks say that it is fairly essential for consommé. I don't know from personal experience one way or the other.
posted by sotonohito at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2008

jack_mo I assume that it didn't result in a wonderful flavor then?

It doesn't seem to rob the stock of much flavour, actually, though (as bz says above) it's traditional to add meat to boost the flavour, it's just that the eggy business that rises to the top is kind of unpleasant.

As far as I know, or, at least in my experience, there is no "eggshell" process of stock clarification, rather, it's just egg whites alone

The recipe that first tipped me to the egg white method included crushed shells, and it seems to be a pretty common method.

Also, if you've made some really nice, very clear beef stock, consider a Bullshot: two substantial shots of vodka, a dash of Tabasco, a dash of Lea & Perrins, a grind of pepper, a sprinkle of salt, a squeeze of lemon, and top up the glass or mug with hot stock (I usually add a healthy glug of sherry, garnish with a couple of slices of red chili, and sometimes make it with vegetable stock, but none of those are traditional ingredients as far as I know).

Sounds a bit iffy and Bovril-ish, I know, but it's great in the wintertime. Also, llike its savoury cousin the Bloody Mary, a Bullshot can a) be drunk in the morning without making you look like a blazing alcoholic and b) kills a hangover stone dead.
posted by jack_mo at 4:30 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oyeah:but long ago, I realized that eating the boiled leftovers of animals, is a bad idea, and fresh meat exudes plenty of juice, from which to raise a sauce.

And why exactly is this a bad idea?
posted by mary8nne at 4:40 AM on May 23, 2008

Well, animals are high on the food chain, and they are full of all sorts of things, as a result of this. Boiling their livers as in chicken and turkey, and eating these meats, is eating the accumulated toxins that these organs removed.

I was running a vegetarian restaurant when I wanted a substitute for meat stocks, and I concocted a base for the soups I made in my business. Some of these soups are plenty delicate like watercress soup, with celery root stock, and various vegetables that make it good. Celery root, imparts the finest light green color to soup bases. At the time I didn't eat any animals for the reason of their place on the food chain, and the food chain has been even more polluted in the last 35 years.

I eat meat now, but I buy pieces of meat, not whole animals with bones, with the exception of whole cooked chickens that I buy, for ease of everything, and so I don't have raw poultry in my kitchen at all. I make many meat dishes, and I use soy sauce to raise every sauce, with the exception of some lighter sauces, fish sauces, or poultry, where I use the juice of limes or lemons, or wine in concert with the liquid that cooks out of the meat. Meat producers make sure that animals are fully hydrated before slaughter, so they weigh more. A lot of broth cooks out of meat.

In the spirit of eating 7-13 servings of vegetables per day, as is now recommended, I use meat in cooking, but vegetables make up the most of the recipes, and they also exude a lot of liquid in cooking.

Chicken soup, made with garlic, onions, noodles, or rice, carrots, celery and whatever else one might want in chicken soup, is very good, brought up to salt with soy sauce. The flavors of everything else in such a soup, still stay around, and the soup is more interesting because of it. It still comforts, and so forth.

Keeping carcasses around or boiling carcasses down, is just not something I do in my cooking. I would rather cook down vegetables, and fresh meat, to make soup or stew. Then the muscle is what is used, not storage organs, or what the animals had left in their bones. I like to cook it isn't a time or cost saving measure, it is a matter of freshness, and personal taste.
posted by Oyéah at 11:37 AM on May 23, 2008

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