The Difference Between Stock & Broth

It's time to take stock of the situation.

When it comes to cooking fundamentals, learning to make chicken stock might be one of the most important building blocks. It’s one of the very first techniques aspiring chefs learn in culinary school and its importance to a robust culinary training cannot be overstated.

For many home cooks, though, making their own stock seems like a daunting (and long) project so most just opt for store bought options, typically labelled "broth." However, are broth and stock truly the same? Here are the differences between the two cooking liquids.

John Kernick

They contain different ingredients.

While the difference between stock and broth is minimal, the two cooking liquids are made from different ingredients. According to F&W Executive Food Editor Kate Heddings, stock needs to be made with bones, in addition to a mirepoix, a mix of carrots, onions and celery. At its most basic, broth is simply any liquid that meat has been cooked in. However, the most common way to make broth is take stock and add additional meat, vegetables and salt to the liquid itself (traditional stock is unseasoned).

They can have different textures.

Stock develops a substantive body as the bones and any attached cartilage release collagen and gelatin into the liquid while cooking. If you happen to make broth without using stock, it will have a different texture and lack the sumptuousness that stock provides.

They are used differently in the kitchen.

According to Heddings, “Broth is something you sip and stock is something you cook with.” Stock is used as a base in sauces and soups, but its role is to provide body rather than flavor. Broth, on the other hand, is designed to be flavorful and tasty enough to simply drink by itself, which is why the additional salt is so important.

For those of us who don’t want to spend the time making our own stock, the best option is to buy low sodium broth at the grocery store and then season the cooking liquid as you please. To learn how easy it is to make your own stock, though, check out our favorite recipe for it here.

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