Chicken Stock Vs Broth Whats What?

For many people, the term “stock” and “broth” may seem interchangeable with the end result being something liquid flavored with meat, bones, and perhaps vegetables. At the same time either a stock or broth could be used as a base for sauces, soups and certain other dishes.  While at a glance, this might seem to be the case, the fact is that there are some technical differences between stock and broth. At the very beginning, both stock and broth start off the same way. Needed ingredients usually include some vegetable bits, scraps of meat and bone to make the base. All ingredients are put together and left to simmer slowly to extract as much flavor as possible during the cooking process. But let us now get down to the technicalities. 

Strictly speaking, broth is a liquid that uses some kind of meat cooked in it. So a chicken broth, in essence, will have pieces of chicken meat included in it. Usually, bones are also added in for more flavor and to give the broth some substantial body. Broths are typically cooked for a shorter period of time, strained and then seasoned.

  • Chicken Stock Vs Broth

The goal of a good broth is to use a combination of ingredients that will create a light, flavorful liquid that can be enjoyed on its own. As such, broths have also been identified as a finished product that may be served as is.

Chicken Stock Vs Broth a pan of chicken stock cooking on a hob.

A stock, on the other hand, exclusively involves simmering bones in liquid for a prolonged time. At the time of cooking, bones may also be connected to other connective tissue or joint material that will also go in the making of the stock. Stocks are typically cooked for a fair amount of time, usually, a couple of hours to extract the collagen from the bones and connective tissue.

In a chicken stock, the gelatinous nature of the stock is only possible with the bones present. By some schools of thought, it is considered a component of a dish and never served on its own.

So if broths bring flavor to a dish, then stocks bring it body.

  • Stocks Do Not Need Seasoning

While the cooking method may seem similar, differences between chicken stock and chicken broth go beyond the preparation technique. One of the main differences between the two is the use of seasoning. A chicken stock, for the better part, is left alone without any strong seasoning because it provides a base for something else to cook with. At the same time, chicken stock will yield a fuller feel and richer flavor because of the gelatin released into the cooking liquid.

For instance, it may be added to a stir fry recipe that calls for the stock to make a gravy, or it may be used to make a pan sauce or sauté. Other uses of chicken stock can call for adding it into pilafs, making purees or use it to make soup.

Stocks Do Not Need Seasoning, a pan full of ingredients cooking with a chicken stock cube in it.

The point is to prepare a clear and unseasoned liquid that will take on the taste of other dishes that it is cooked with. With a chicken stock, you get the choice of how and when to season it based on the dish it will be used in. For instance, if the broth is called on for in miso soup, then you may not need to add any extra seasonings given the intense taste of miso itself. But if on the other hand, a rice or grain recipe calls for chicken stock, then you may decide to season it well to give the dish more flavor. So, chicken stock and chicken broth, whats better?

Likewise, if the chicken stock is to be used for braising some kind of meat, then it will not require to be excessively flavorful on its own as it will take the flavor of the meat it is going to braise.

  • Broths Are Always Seasoned

On the contrary, broths are seasoned liquids. A broth will not only be seasoned well but also be enjoyed on its own and does not need to be included with other dishes or ingredients.

Broths are seasoned with the usual basics like salt, and black pepper but can also go beyond to include herbs and spices as well. A chicken broth can be seasoned with aromatics and with the meat pieces already in it, a broth can be had on its own as a satisfying meal.

When making a broth, you can also add vegetables to make a hearty meal out of it. Broths are also a preferred choice when the flavor of the dish is more pronounced than the body. So, chicken stock and chicken broth, whats better?

  • Chicken Stock and Chicken Broth When Chilled

When it is time to chill the leftover chicken stock or broth, the difference between the two will become very obvious. Since stocks work in a way to extract the maximum gelatin and flavor during the slow cooking, they will become rather jelly-like when chilled.  In fact, a good stock when chilled, should not only give the texture but also a jiggle similar to that of Jell-O.

A chicken broth will usually stay fluid when chilled.

Chicken Stock Vs Broth When Chilled a chicken broth being left to cool ready for chilling.

  • Homemade Chicken Stock

Preparing homemade chicken stock is not as hard at it may seem. If anything, it comes with its own perks of saving money, using leftover chicken bones, and creating a version that is so much healthier and virtually sodium free than the store bought varieties.

Simply use any leftover chicken bones, perhaps from a roast or even raw chicken carcass and toss into a stockpot. Add in a few veggies. Lightly season with salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat and let cook on a simmer partially covered for at least 4 hours. Occasionally skim off any foam that comes to the surface. When done, strain and refrigerate or freeze for future use.

  • Homemade Chicken Broth

Cook chicken pieces in a pot until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in water, chopped vegetables and spices of your choice. Season to taste. Cook on low heat, partially covered for 45 minutes. Strain broth through a fine mesh and discard the solids.

Image Rights

Images used  via a creative commons 2.0 license –

Image One by Keith Duffee –

Image Two by Joy –

Image Three by Joy –

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