A Clear Explanation on Chicken Stock vs. Broth


May 16, 2022
Photo by MJ Kroeger

The two terms are used interchangeably for recipes like chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, or Golden Chicken Broth With Real Egg Noodles, but chicken stock and chicken broth are not the same thing. Let me repeat myself: stock and broth (whether it be chicken or beef) are not the same thing. Okay—but what’s the difference between the two? Chicken stock is made with clean chicken bones, plus mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onions), fresh and dried herbs such as bay leaves and sprigs of thyme, and salt and pepper. The key is that the bones are free of any meat or cartilage. The stock gets its rich flavor and fattiness from the residual cartilage in the bones. Chicken broth, on the other hand, is made with chicken meat (such as a whole chicken), as well as the same mirepoix blend, herbs, and spices.

One of Ina Garten’s most popular recipes—chicken stock—is made with three 5-lb store-bought rotisserie chickens. The name is inaccurate, as this is actually an example of chicken broth, but it’s so delicious (and we love Ina) that we’re not going to complain.

Since there tends to be confusion between stock and broth, I turned to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking for a definitive answer. Here’s what he says:

“A classic meat stock should be as clear as possible, so that it can be made into soup broths and aspics that will be attractive to the eye. Many of the details of stock making have to do with removing impurities, especially the soluble cell proteins that coagulate into unsightly grey particles.”

If you’ve ever made homemade chicken stock or soup, then you’ve probably seen those fatty particles floating at the top. You might leave them as is (flavor, right?), but for a soup that McGee would want to eat, skim them from the surface using a fine-mesh sieve.

Here’s how to make chicken stock that would make McGee proud:

How to Make Chicken Stock

To develop even more flavor in your chicken stock, start with roasted bones and roasted vegetables. Spread the chicken carcass and bones on a sheet tray along with chopped onion, celery, and carrots roast until the bones are deeply golden brown (this will take about 30 minutes). Pour off the drippings—feel free to reserve them for another use, such as gravy for roast chicken. Carefully add the chicken bones and vegetables to a large stock pot, then add two sprigs of thyme, one bay leaf, and a tablespoon of black peppercorns. Fill the pot with water until all of the ingredients are fully submerged and simmer for three hours. Season with kosher salt to taste then strain the stock; let it cool before transferring it to glass mason jars or quart containers and placing it in the refrigerator. If you are planning to freeze some of the stock, leave an inch or two of room at the top so that the stock has room to expand as it freezes and then defrosts.

What other common cooking misconceptions do you want us to answer? Let us know in the comments below!
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