The amount of broth and stock I use in my kitchen on a weekly basis is approximately the volume of all of the Great Lakes, put together. Broth is the basis of an absurd amount of my recipes and in my cooking, whether it be soup, stew, stir-fry, risotto, sautéed vegetables—you name it. I’ve made my own stock from scratch, I’ve used a gazillion gallons of broth from cartons and cans, and I’ve also resorted to a bouillon cube in a pinch.
(This is a judgment-free broth/stock zone. Purists or haters, move along—no bouillon shaming here.)
And then one day, like many others, I became intrigued with a little line of jars called Better Than Bouillon. At first I scrunched up my face. I thought: Bouillon, at least in cube form, isn’t all that spectacular to begin with. So to be better than it already feels like a whisper of a promise, a pretty low bar.
But ever the stock-obsessive, I decided to give it a solid shot...and let me tell you! Not only is Better Than Bouillon truly better than bouillon, it’s a lot better than bouillon.
First of all, it actually tastes like chicken (or beef or vegetables, depending on the flavor you buy), not just salt. So that’s a major “better” right there. Unlike other brands of bouillon, it actually has real ingredients. The vegetarian base, for instance, is made with carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes. Interestingly it even specifies “garden” carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes. (I’d like to see that garden.)
Is it salty? Sure, but so is canned or boxed broth, and like them, Better Than Bouillon is available in reduced-sodium versions (some of which also happen to be organic). The organic, reduced-sodium chicken, beef, and vegetable bases have 50-percent less sodium than their regular counterparts.
Anyway, if you’re worried about sodium, you could easily get away with using less, sometimes significantly less, than the package suggestion of one teaspoon per eight ounces boiling water.
If I’m cooking grains or rice in broth, for instance, I’ll use a teaspoon of BTB in four cups of water, which is still plenty to lend a nice little oomph of flavor (and then you can also skip salting). A dab in a sauce ups the ante perceptibly. If you’re making a soup or stew with broth and adding in various other ingredients like meat, vegetables, and seasonings, then one teaspoon of bouillon per two cups of water is more than suitable.
Some outlets may just carry the three basic flavors—chicken, beef, and vegetable—but in total there are 24 types of BTB (if my count is correct), which fall into the categories: Premium, Organic, Vegetarian, and Reduced Sodium. (These are not exclusive of each other.) Other flavors include a chicken-free chicken base, a garlic base, a lobster base, a mushroom base, and a clam base. I’m more than a little excited to give them all a whirl, but my favorite by far is the chicken.
A jar of Better Than Bouillon, once opened, will keep in the fridge for many months. That, for me, is one of the greatest benefits of keeping it on hand. There is a “best if used by” date on each lid, and for the most part at the time of purchase those dates are at least 18 months away, at least in my experience.
The Better Than Bouillon line is also available in various sizes, which is handy as you contemplate your refrigerator real estate against your broth usage. A restrained 3.5 ounces, a reasonable 8 ounces, and my favorite, 16 ounces (which contain a whopping 76 one-teaspoon servings, which measures out to about 76 cups of stock, or 19 quarts).
Here’s some math to consider as you contemplate your optimal BTB jar size: If you were sticking to the one teaspoon per one cup of water ratio (again, usually a little generous), then an 8-ounce jar would yield 38 cups of broth, which is equal to 9 1/2 quart-sized cartons of broth or 38 8-ounce cans. Think about how often you go through that quantity of broth, and there’s a good guideline. (Also: That’s a hell of a lot of storage space you just reclaimed.)
So, Better Than Bouillon is better than bouillon. But is it as good as boxed or canned broth? In general, I think so. And is it as good as homemade? Well, let’s be reasonable. But let’s also think about how likely we are to make 38 (or 76) cups of homemade broth, not to mention the freezer space needed to store it.
It’s hard to deny a smart kitchen shortcut when it’s there calling for our embrace. The least we can do is make room in our hearts (and our fridges) for these little jars.
Sold? Here are some recipes to put your new favorite pantry item to work (for each cup of stock called for, replace with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon plus 1 cup water):