Chicken Stock vs. Chicken Broth: Making and Using Both
Our blog readers and our YouTube audience have likely noticed we are big advocates of using every possible part of an animal. We don't like wasting anything. In our opinion, it’s simply the right way to harvest any animal, and let’s face it – there are some delicious parts many people leave on the cutting room floor. Today, we are going to discuss two misunderstood yet classic food items – chicken stock and chicken broth. Knowing how to make and use broth and stock is key to elevating simple dishes, adding tons of flavor, and wasting nothing. We will discuss the differences, how to make both broth and stock, and share some of our favorite ways to use both to craft seriously good food.
What’s the Difference Between Stock vs Broth?
Chicken stock and broth are common components of savory dishes, soups, and sauces. The differences can seem very minor, and if you are buying premade stock or broth, you probably won’t even be able to tell. But, if you are making broth or stock at home, you need to know how and why they are made differently. Making stock or broth is easy, though it can be time-consuming. Let’s get into the differences between the two.
Chicken stock is different from broth because it is mainly made from bones and cartilage. Stock can be made from any type of bones, whether it’s beef, veal, chicken, or fish. The trick to easily identifying the difference between stock and broth is in the mouthfeel. Stock contains gelatin and other vitamins and minerals that produce a thicker, more robust liquid. Most often, a stock does not include flavoring ingredients and instead relies on the flavor from the bones. It is common to roast bones, particularly beef and veal, prior to making a stock. A stock made from chicken bones is called fond blanc in French, meaning white stock.
Broth is different from stock because it is most commonly made with meaty parts that don’t always include bones. A broth cooks quicker and has a thinner mouthfeel. Flavor is commonly added to broth as it cooks. Like stock, broth can be made from almost any meat including beef, chicken, pork, and veal. The flavors chefs add to broth come from celery, onions, and carrots, a mixture known as mirepoix in French. Whereas a stock may require overnight to cook, a broth can be made in just a few hours.
How to Make Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is one of our favorite things to make. The aroma of stock slowly simmering away on the stove top is one of the most mouth-watering scents out there. Making stock at home is really easy, and it’s a great way to make sure you use all the parts of an animal. Plus, there are numerous health benefits to stock we will discuss later.
To make a chicken stock, start with a large pot of water set to boil. All you need to do is add in bones from a chicken or two depending on the size of your pot and how much stock you plan to make. There is no need to remove meat, skin, tendons, or any other parts – just dump it all in there. Set your pot to a low simmer, cover, and that’s it. Some people soak bones in vinegar before adding to the stockpot, while others simply put a little vinegar in the water. Vinegar helps break down the structure of the bones which releases all the good stuff. Skim the top with a slotted spoon for the first hour or so to remove the foam and bits of stuff that rise up.
Just check the pot every once in a while to make sure the liquid hasn’t evaporated. Add water as needed to keep the bones submerged.
Your stock will need to simmer for a very long time. We often start our stock in the evening and let it go all night long. You can let it go as long as 48 hours to really get everything from the bones, but 12 hours should be considered the minimum. When the stock is done, the bones might be brittle. Run the liquid through a mesh strainer to remove small bones and fragments. Pour the stock into a large bowl or glass jars and refrigerate. It’s important to get the stock cool quickly to prevent bacterial growth. Often, we like to use an ice bath to help drop temperatures quickly.
The thickness of the stock is because of the collagen and tendons that cook down. That thick texture is what gives chicken noodle soup the perfect texture. You can adjust how thick you want your stock by adding or reducing the water as it simmers. Less liquid will give a thicker stock.
Place the stock in the refrigerator for a few hours, then use a spoon to remove the excess fat from the surface. As the stock cools, the fat accumulates on the top and is easy to remove. Once the stock has cooled, you can store it in the refrigerator for a week and it will freeze for at least three months. Save the fat for other uses.
How to Make Chicken Broth
There are a few key differences to making broth over stock. Broth is quicker and relies on meaty parts rather than bones for its flavor. In fact, you can use a whole chicken to make broth. You will start broth using a large stock pot. Fill with cold water, immerse your chicken (or chicken parts) and bring to a simmer.
Once the liquid is simmering, it’s time to add the mirepoix. A mirepoix is made from three parts celery, onion, and carrots. These ingredients are the primary flavoring to a chicken broth. Salt is also frequently added, but vinegar is not used (unlike in a stock). Skim the foam from the top for the first hour.
After about two hours, remove the meat from the broth. If you use a whole chicken, you can debone at this point, then reuse the bones to make stock. In French, this is called a remouillage. You want to remove the meat before it completely falls apart.
All that is left is to simmer for two to four more hours keeping an eye on the liquid level. Add water to prevent the broth from reducing too much.
Just like chicken stock, you want to get the temperature down quickly. An ice bath in the kitchen sink is a great way to quickly drop temperatures before bacteria start growing. Place the broth in the refrigerator for a few hours, then scoop off the congealed fat on the surface. Save it for other culinary uses.
The chicken broth will be much more liquidy than stock. This is because the broth cooks quickly and doesn’t get all the collagen from the bones. Broth will keep for about a week in the refrigerator and about three months in the freezer.
The Parts of the Chicken You Can Use
For both broth and stock, you can use pretty much all of the animal. Chicken feet are an awesome source of collagen and seriously improve the texture of stock and broth. Other important parts are the back and wings, both sources of fat, collagen, minerals, and vitamins. The head isn’t usually added to stock or broth, but if you are daring, you can barbecue chicken heads up Filipino street-style. Waste not, want not!
An excellent broth can be made from simple boneless, skinless chicken breast. The thighs and legs also provide good meaty chunks perfect for flavoring a chicken broth.
Use all of the bones from a chicken to make a stock. One of our favorite things to do is save bones from a whole chicken that was slow-roasted, then make a stock with the carcass. The roasted flavor really comes through in the finish and it’s simply delicious. You can even do the same thing with a smoked chicken and get a stock that has a subtle smoke flavor to it.
Stock has more health benefits than broth, but both are significant sources of vitamins, minerals, and fats. The reason chicken noodle soup is often given to a sick person is because of the immune-system boosting properties found in the stock. Important vitamins such as Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, and numerous minerals are found in stock and broth. Stock is higher in vitamins and minerals, but also has more than double the calories and fat. If you want to know more about the health benefits, check out our post on bone broth.
Using Stock or Broth in Your Kitchen
Stock and broth are used interchangeably in the kitchen. The key thing to remember is that stock is going to be richer, thicker, and more intense-chicken flavor. If you ever try the difference between chicken noodle soup made from broth and one made from stock, the difference is immediate. The one made from the stock is heartier and has more mouthfeel than the more watery broth.
Most often, you will want to use stock as a base for soups, sauces, and braising liquid. These recipes use the stock to add texture and creaminess, but do not rely on the stock for flavor.
Broth, on the other hand, is used in recipes where the highlight of the dish is the flavor of the broth. Recipes such as risotto, dumplings, and casseroles. Some people even drink broth simply for the health benefits, and a homemade broth can have a very pleasing flavor all on its own.
It’s easy to make chicken stock and broth at home, and having a few jars in the freezer really speeds up meal prep. Plus, you never know when a nasty cold will come on, and making a pot of fresh, homemade chicken noodle soup is the best way to get on the mend. Stock and broth are also an interesting way to experiment with flavors. For example, try making a bone stock from a deep-fried turkey or a broth from smoked chicken.
The most important thing is that we use as much of an animal as possible, without waste. Making a broth or stock ensures you take advantage of all the nutrients and health benefits without waste.