Broth vs. Stock: What’s the Difference?
And is there a difference in how they’re used?
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network
Whether you make homemade chicken stock or swear by keeping low-sodium chicken broth on hand, there’s no doubt that broth and stock are indispensable pantry staples for making soups, stews and sauces, and cooking flavorful pasta, rice and grains. But what’s the difference? Can they be used interchangeably? Here, we answer your burning questions, offer recipes for making homemade chicken broth and stock and share our favorite recipes employing stock and broth, from risotto to one-pot pasta.
What Is Stock?
Stock is made by simmering bones, herbs, aromatics and regular mirepoix (a combination of onions, carrots and celery) or white mirepoix (onions, fennel, leeks and celery) in water for several hours. As they cook, the bones release gelatin which creates body and rich flavor and mouthfeel. Roasting the bones before making stock is optional, but makes for a richer, darker broth. Stock is a key ingredient for making soups, stews, sauces and gravies, and can also add flavor when used to cook beans, rice, pasta or grains.
Broth vs. Stock
Stock is made by simmering animal bones, which release gelatin and proteins to yield a rich, deep flavor that’s further bolstered by mirepoix (chopped carrots, celery and onion) and aromatics such as herbs and bay leaves.
Broth, on the other hand, relies primarily on meat (i.e. chicken, beef, shellfish) for flavoring, simmers for less time, contains a slightly less robust flavor and usually has more sodium.
There’s less of a difference between vegetable stock and broth because they’re not made with bones, which contain the collagen responsible for giving animal-based stocks their viscous consistency.
Is There a Difference In How They’re Used?
Stock and broth can be used interchangeably, but you’ll want to ensure that you note the sodium levels to accommodate the recipe you’re working with. Stock has a richer, deeper flavor and mouthfeel, making it better at adding body to a dish, whereas broth might be a better choice when you want to let other flavors to shine.
Is Stock or Broth Healthier?
Stock, whether homemade or store-bought, is considered healthier because it’s inherently higher in protein and usually contains less sodium per serving than broth. Keep in mind that neither stock nor broth are a significant source of protein on their own. Also, regular store-bought stock is not considered a low-sodium product (140 mg or less per serving), although it’s still often lower than regular store-bought broth. And since stock is fortified with more flavor, hopefully that means you’ll need less salt to taste at the end of cooking.
Making stock or broth from scratch gives you more control over how much sodium is added by way of table or kosher salt. If you’re watching your sodium intake but don’t have time to make your own stock but still don’t want to compromise on flavor, low-sodium broth (140mg or less per serving) is a great alternative. If you've got a few extra minutes, you can enhance store-bought, low-sodium broth by adding any combination of the following and simmering for as long as possible: carrots, onions, leeks, celery, fennel, parsley, bay leaf, black peppercorns, or garlic. For even more nutritional info on stock and broth, head over to our story Which Is Healthier, Stock or Broth?.
What Are Bouillon, Bone Broth and Consommé?
Bouillon is the French word for broth, and both terms are often used interchangeably. Bouillon cubes, granules or pastes are made from dehydrated broth or stock which can be dissolved in water to make broth or fortify liquid broth or stock. They often also include small amounts of fat, MSG, salt and other seasonings.
Bone broth is made by simmering collagen-rich bones and aromatics in water. Bone broth recipes typically call for first rubbing the bones with tomato paste and roasting them, which helps develop an intense umami flavor. Bone broth is simmered for longer than stock, up to two days, to further concentrate the flavor. As a result, bone broth is typically saltier and more flavorful than stock because it’s designed to be sipped on its own. You can add other aromatic bone broth mix-Ins prior to sipping, such as crushed lemongrass, ginger or ground chili pepper.
Consommé is a stock or broth that’s been clarified to remove impurities, yielding a crystal-clear liquid with no traces of fat. Common types of consommé include beef, chicken, veal, fish and tomato. It is often served at the start of a meal as a light appetizer. For more info on the clarification process, check out step-by-step instructions here.
How to Make Stock
Yes, it’s easy to pick up store-bought stock, but having homemade stock on hand is like stocking your fridge (or freezer) with liquid gold. Follow our Best Chicken Stock recipe for a neutral, clean-tasting stock that can be adjusted to suit your recipe or taste.
1: Combine the Bones and Aromatics
Put the chicken backs and bones, carrots, celery, onion, parsley, leek greens, garlic, black peppercorns and 6 quarts (1 1/2 gallons) of cold water in a large stock pot. Set over high heat and bring to a boil.
2: Simmer and Skim the Stock
Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, occasionally skimming away the fat and scum, until the stock has reduced by 1/3, about 3 hours.
3: Strain the Stock
Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the large pieces of vegetable and bone from the pot and discard. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into another large stock pot.
4: Cool and Store the Stock
Cool completely, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to Make Broth
Instead of waiting until you have enough chicken bones on hand to make stock, use a whole chicken to make this easy, flavorful Chicken Broth recipe.
1: Combine the Ingredients
Combine the chicken, vegetables, herbs and peppercorns in a large stockpot. Pour in enough water to just cover the chicken completely. Heat the water to just under a boil over medium-high heat.
2: Simmer the Broth
Reduce the heat to a very low simmer so that 1 or 2 bubbles break the surface of the broth about once a minute.
3: Skim the Broth
Skim any fat and scum from the surface with a ladle, large spoon or skimmer. (To prevent losing a lot of stock when skimming, put the skimmed liquid into a degreasing cup, and return any useable broth back to the pot.) Cook for about 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through but not dry.
4: Separate the Chicken Meat and Bones
Remove the chicken from the pot but continue to simmer the broth. Cool the chicken for about 10 minutes. Cut the chicken meat from the bone, and reserve for a chicken salad, soup or another recipe. Return the bones to the pot and cook for 1 hour.
5: Strain the Broth
Strain into a non-reactive container, like another pot, a large bowl or plastic quart or pint containers.
6: Cool the Broth
Fill the sink with a mixture of ice and cold water so it comes about halfway up the sides of the container. Nestle the broth in the ice bath. (Stirring the broth speeds up the cooling process.)
7: Store the Broth
Cover and refrigerate or freeze the broth for future use. Broth can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If the broth is unused after 5 days, bring it to a boil before using.
Broth and Stock Dishes
Because risotto calls for relatively few ingredients, it’s vital to use the best ones possible. Stirring arborio rice with ample amounts of warm, homemade chicken stock ensures that the grains soak up the most flavorful liquid possible as they release their starch, yielding a rich, luxurious sauce.
Cooking penne in low-sodium chicken broth imbues the noodles with extra flavor. Plus, as the noodles boil, the pot is packed with tender chicken thighs, bell peppers and onions, creating an ultra-flavorful base for the creamy tomato sauce, all pulled together in one pot.
Instead of pan drippings, beef stock and bouillon are employed to create this easy, savory homemade gravy. Beef stock is whisked together with cornstarch, onion powder, soy sauce and a bouillon cube, simmered until slightly thickened, then finished with heavy cream.
Low-sodium chicken broth is bolstered with sauteed aromatics, including garlic, carrots, red onion and rosemary, providing a flavorful backdrop for bowlfuls brimming with beef meatballs, cannellini beans and escarole.
The key liquid ingredients in this rich Bolognese include the classic combination of wine and milk, but the addition of homemade chicken stock adds savory depth and luscious body—all the better to coat every noodle.