Is Chicken Stock the Same as Chicken Broth?

June 10, 2011 48 Comments

Is Chicken Stock the Same as Chicken Broth?

The Difference Between Chicken Stock and Chicken Broth

I am constantly asked, “What’s the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth?” Many cooks and chefs use the words “stock” and “broth” interchangeably.  I have done a lot of research on the subject to clear up this issue, both for myself and for my readers.  My conclusion:  there is no real way to clear up this debate.

Unsurprisingly, it seems that most chefs and sources fall into one of two camps:  the one that uses the words interchangeably and the camp for which there is a distinct difference between broth and stock. And be careful, I have received some pretty heated emails from people who don’t agree with my definition and can only respond by asking if we can agree to disagree?

Some definitions state that a “broth” is a finished product that can be served as is, while a stock is a component of a dish and is never served on its own.  According to these definitions, the only difference between the two could be the addition of salt to make a broth out of a stock.

So What Is Broth and What Is Stock?

For the sake of clarity, I think that home cooks should understand the distinction, when one is made.  Broth is made when vegetables and/or meats are simmered gently in water to extract all the flavors.  Stock is made when vegetables and meaty bones are simmered gently in water to extract all the flavors.  Simply put, if the mixture was not made with bones, it is not a stock.

If you go with this definition, then there is no such thing as vegetable stock. It can only be called vegetable broth since there are no bones – at least not in my veggie stock but I still call I still call it veggie stock now and again.

*Disclaimer: Understand that the distinctions are very murky.  I am trying to clarify the distinction based on my research and what some of my chef friends have told me.  If you have read/learned otherwise, it is a matter of source more so than a matter of right and wrong.

To me, a stock brings body to a finished dish.  Broth brings flavor.  Heating bones (as well as vegetables and meats) gently in hot water extracts a lot of gelatin.  This happens when the connective tissues attached to the bones, as well as within the bones themselves, melt and dissolve into the surrounding liquid.

If you have ever made a stock with a high proportion of bones, you will notice that the stock has a jelly-like consistency when chilled.  This happens when the gelatin sets up in the refrigerator, much like a favorite gelatin dessert!

Body or Flavor?

The downside of making a stock with just bones is that, while you get a lot of body, you don’t really get a lot of meaty flavor.  In order to have a full-bodied, meaty stock, you really need to use a combination of meat and bones.  Make a stock with both, especially if there will be minimal finishing before serving.

If, for example, you are going to use some stock as a braising liquid, plenty of meaty flavor will come from the meat to be braised.  In that instance, the stock would not necessarily have to be meaty to begin with.  If, on the other hand, you are going to use your stock as the main liquid component in a soup, you might want to start with a meatier-flavored stock.

When you want the flavor of a dish to be more pronounced than the body, you might consider making a broth.  Personally, I find that a hearty, meaty soup can sometimes be a bit overpowering when made with a rich stock.  In these cases, I prefer using as a base a flavorful but lighter broth.

As an illustration of the differences between broth and stock, consider these recipes for chicken broth and chicken stock:

Chicken Stock and Chicken Broth

Chicken Stock and Chicken Broth

Ingredients

Chicken Stock - Lots of body, not a lot of meaty flavor*

3 pounds Meaty chicken bones””thighs, wings, backs””or a whole chicken carcass from a roast chicken

1 medium onion, halved

2 celery ribs, cut in half

1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut in half

1 head garlic, cut in half

2 bay leaves

12 peppercorns

5-6 stems from parsley and/or thyme

4 quarts cold water

Chicken Broth - Lots of meat, not a lot of body*

3 pounds dark meat chicken

1 medium onion, halved

2 celery ribs, cut in half

1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut in half

1 head garlic, cut in half

2 bay leaves

12 peppercorns

5-6 stems from parsley and/or thyme

4 quarts cold water

Salt, to taste

How To Prepare At Home

For both of these recipes, the procedure is the same.

1. Place all the ingredients in a stock pot.

2. Cover all with cold water

3. Slowly bring up to a simmer.

4.Simmer stock for 6-8 hours; broth for 2-3 hours (it takes longer to extract all the gelatin from the bones than it does flavor from the meat)

5.Add salt to the broth, to taste

6. Strain the liquids using a fine mesh strainer and discard the meat, bones, spices, and vegetables.

*For a full-bodied and meaty stock/broth, use 3 pounds of bones plus 1-2 pounds of meat.

After all this, I’m not really sure that I have cleared up the debate for you. I do know that, when I have the time, I will always choose homemade broth or stock over canned, mostly because I can control the ingredients and the amount of salt I add.

We’ll also have to talk more about those bouillon cubes that are so salty with some chicken flavor added and should be avoided at all costs.

Last modified on Fri 4 April 2014 11:41 am

Comments (48)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Donna @ Comin' Home says:

    Hi, I just found your blog while reading some instructions from a recipe on another website. I LOVE your explanation about broth and stock. Makes perfect sense to me. I was also captivated by your explanation for deglazing and for making reductions sauces. I have just begun to experience the WOW factor of reductions. I didn’t realize I had already done that..that’s what makes my cream gravy for Southern style chicken fried steak taste so incredible! I learned how to cook this from my mother. I’ve never seen a recipe that describes making it the way my mother and grandmother made it in our small Texas town.Anyway, my husband adores Italian food. They use a lot of techniques you describe so I’m learning lots of new stuff very quickly.Your blog is a God-send! I blog too and have a homemaking blog called, Comin’ Home. I will be referencing you in the future I can assure you! Your explanations are so helpful!

    Thanks, Donna Rodgers Willis, Tx.

    You are very welcome Donna – RG

  2. Raul E. Matos says:

    That is why everything made with chicken stock taste better, I always wondered now I know.

  3. Angelica says:

    I kind of disagree with you. I believe that stock is a spiced product of individually boiled meat,bones or vegetables; when they are put together to make a meal it becomes broth. For instance, when u want to cook melon soup with chicken, you first of all boil the chicken and add some spices. When this is done, it is stock at this stage, but when you add the vegetables and the melon and some additional spices to taste it becomes broth. Thanks

    Hi Angelica, like I say in the post, “Understand that the distinctions are very murky. I am trying to clarify the distinction based on my research and what some of my chef friends have told me. ”
    So I’m fine that you disagree.

    Based on your definition above, I would call it “soup” and not broth when you add the vegetables and melon and spices to the stock that you made but it’s fine with me if you call it broth. I’m sure some will disagree, but I think of broth as a liquid with nothing in it. If you simmered vegetables or chicken meat with or without bones and then strained all the vegetables and chicken out, you would be left with a broth that could be served on its own or added to a soup or sauce. – RG

  4. Renee Voss says:

    Thanks for the clarification on broth vs. stock. So, what do you do with the gelatin extracted from the bones? I’m always confused about this. Do you add it to a broth to give it body? Thanks!

    Hi Renee, the gelatin is extracted from the bones when you are making stock but it does not separate out. It is part of the stock. For example, if you make a classic chicken stock, reduce it by half and stick it in the refrigerator, the next day it will be gelatinous. But if you heat up that wonderful gelatinous ingredient, it becomes liquid again. You can use it to make sauces, add it to soups or braises for additional flavor. – RG

  5. MOTHER says:

    TRY MICROWAVING CHICKEN, APPROXIMATELY 12-20 MINUTES FOR A LEG-QUARTER SEASONED, RESERVING THE EXCESS-‘JUICE’ AFTER EATING THE CHICKEN, SCRAPING OFF THE ‘LARD’ AFTER STORING IN THE REFRIGERATOR–DELICOUS AND CAN BE ADDED-TO WITH WATER AND THINNED, BUTTER ADDED TO MAKE SOUP AND FROZEN EASILY TO DE-FROST, AGAIN, IN THE MICROWAVE. MAKES FOR AN EASY MEAL LATER: TRY SALT, PEPPER, RED-PEPPER, GARLIC POWDER, OLIVE-OIL, LEMON-JUICE AND OREGONA, AND AT TIMES, A TOUCH OF CHILI-POWDER. <3+MOTHER

  6. Alexander says:

    Chicken Stock doesn`t have any carrots, because carrots will kill the clarity of the stock. A Chicken stock is white or brown. You can use carrots just for the brown one.

  7. Nica says:

    Both are easy and tasty recipes to use for stew, pasta, and more!

  8. Ali Reynolds says:

    Love the article! People ask me the same thing all the time – I’m going to link to you instead of rewriting the same answers Love your recipe – it is similar to my basic one. My Favorite recipe though, which can be found at my blog includes chicken feet, necks and backs- we have found them to be an incredible source of flavor and they add a nourishing ooomph to the stock…or broth…whatever you prefer to call it.

  9. johnnie says:

    what if i boil chicken parts in water and then simmer. after taking out the chicken can i still use the water to make a gravy?

  10. Shawn says:

    My understanding is both are made by boiling chicken parts but chicken broth has been clarified, all meat and fat have been removed. So if you are making chicken soup use stock, if you are making a dish that will be reduced then use broth.

  11. pierre says:

    In my experience, stock and broth are different in only one meaningful way, cooking temperature. Both use waste bits of meat, bone, veg or anything else you like the flavour of and water. As you heat the water, it takes on the flavours of the ingredients you use, whatever they may be. the difference is that broth starts cold and stays around 150 f (65 c) to 180 f (80 c) for a long, long, loooong time. stock is made by bringing the temp above 195 f (85 c) at which point the fats and proteins break down and make the stock “murky”. As evidence, open a can of stock and a can of broth and you’ll see through the broth, and the stock will be cloudy.

    Stocks are traditionally used for hearty soups, demis, or glazes because they have a higher fat content and are a little richer. broths are better used as a flavourful substitute for water in any dish that calls for water. try making bread with stock

    As for using bones/meat in stock; stock gets murky because the proteins and fats break down. veg has way less of this, so isn’t thought of when making a stock. good veg stocks can be made with nuts or particularly fatty veg like avocado or olives.

    hope it helps

  12. john says:

    Here are the correct (just kidding) definitions of broth and stock according to my Great Great Granny from Scotland. Broth contains oats and barley. Stock does not.

  13. kate says:

    Wow. Just like any important issue in life, there are many, many “correct” ways to go about it – depending on your experience!

    I love to learn about regional cooking and gather up all the tips and stories, and then create something all my own based on what I learn and my own tastes. I love to read all these posts. Nothing is sacred, though, in cooking. Traditions are often embellished, a snip of an herb here, an additional garlic clove there.

    Great way of putting it Kate – RG

  14. Chris says:

    I’ve yet to see a dish where it would matter much which you used, whatever way you define them. The taste difference would be minimal, likely indistinguishable, among those other minor variations we all usually make to set recipes anyway.

  15. Helen says:

    I have several recipes that call for chicken stock – and a recipe for chicken stock comes with them, but I really don’t care to make anything with the word “carcass” in it! Can I substitute store-bought chicken broth in the recipes? Thanks!

    Hi Helen, of course you can use store bought chicken broth for most recipes but will they be as good as using homemade chicken stock or chicken broth? That’s a personal preference. There are often times I don’t have time to make chicken stock or don’t have any in my freezer and use a commercial brand. The trick is to find a good brand that is low in salt and has lots of flavor. – RG

  16. David says:

    I have an easy and simple explanation that defines the true difference and why its important.

    Chicken broth is made from the meat of the chicken

    Chicken stock is made from the chickens bones.

    Because the stock is made from the bones it has gelatine in it and it will thicken.

    Because the broth contains no gelatine it stays watery.

    Thats it aside from that taste is pretty much the same.

  17. Bobbi says:

    I have just discovered that Chicken feet make the best stock. I live in Mexico where they cost about 12 pesos per kilo. That about 50 cents per pound so it’s cheap. They are easy to find here and very fresh. It gave me the creeps at first but I got over that after the first time. Then I feed the feet to my neighbors dogs. They love me now! lol

  18. Beth says:

    So, if I am making gravy – do I want to add stock or broth?

    What about risotto? Should I use broth or stock? I am thinking broth for this one. Thanks much.

    Beth, either one works although I prefer stock to broth for both gravy and risotto. – RG

  19. Sharon says:

    I was just freaking out because my broth/stock turned out very dark…according to the comments above it was because I put carrots in from the beginning…I was in a hurry I guess.

  20. Luke Cowart says:

    So if a recipe calls for chicken stock can you use chicken broth instead? Do they sell chicken stock in a grocery store?

    • old_MK says:

      Swanson has “cooking stocks” now, in addition to their broths. They come in cylindrical cardboard containers, rather than cans or the rectangular cardboard that the broths come in. They have lower-sodium (or is “No Salt Added”…?) versions, too, which I always go for…

    • Alvin Davis says:

      Yes: Almost all stores carry chicken stock, I personally use broth and can’t taste much difference. Your guests will never know. Try it, you might love it.

  21. sinead says:

    Do you have to use chicken broth in butternut soup or can you use something else as a replacement?

    Sinead, chicken stock would be a fine replacement or you may even want to try vegetable broth. – RG

  22. judy says:

    If making a BROTH, is the meat still edible after 2-3 hours of cooking? Thanks.

    Judy, sure, I use it in chicken soup all the time. – RG

  23. Tom says:

    David,

    I think you nailed it. Thanks.

  24. Anton van der Ryst says:

    Hi. Can these 2 recipes be frozen for use at a later stage?

  25. Josy J Baptiste says:

    The answer I’ve received when I asked the same question is that Broth has no meat in it; it is clear liquid whereas stock have meat minimal pieces. I hope this clear the debate.

    Josy, I don’t think that is true. I have made and purchased lots of stocks and I have never seen any meat in them. Every recipe I’ve ever seen for making homemade stock has you strain all the solids from the liquids. – RG

  26. Diana says:

    I use chicken and beef broth all the time for soups.
    Today, I decided to read the labels in re nutritional
    value – surprise! None at all. Sodium and coloring plus
    other things – nothing for nourishment. The labels are
    very misleading. Better to just get chicken or beef
    and put them in your soups.
    I’m pretty angry right now.

  27. Nick M says:

    From what i understand stock is made from carcasses and bones which has a richer taste and feel to it (accompanied by vegetables and herbs and seasoning). Stock is made from more meat than flavorful bones, necks and spines. The difference in culinary terms is the mouth’s chemical reaction to flavors known as the ‘mouthfeel’.

  28. Jenny says:

    I always thought stock was clear (made with or without bones) and broth was the finished soup (with barley or vegetables, meat, etc. in it)

  29. Debra Nichols says:

    I’m really confused now!!

  30. The recipe is very good, but I would suggest soaking the meat and bone in cold water for half an hour before cooking to extract the flavor from it.

    Then Simmer the meat and bone for 3-4 hours, THEN add the vegetables and whatever spices you need, and continue simmering for another hour.

    This is done to prevent the unsavory taste of overcooked vegetables.

  31. Brook says:

    It IS murky! I always just assumed that stock was veggies and bones, while broth would be veggies, bones (with or without some meat attached) and herbs/spices (including salt). Which is why broth is good to have all on its own, while stock is the basis for what will become soup or what have you. But either way, homemade is way awesome!

  32. Maria says:

    One question I don’t see addressed is how to skim the fat from stock. Usually, when making a broth, refrigerating overnight caused most of the fat to rise to the surface and solidify, making it easy to remove. I understand now why the liquid becomes gelatinous – I didn’t understand the chemistry of adding more bones. When that happens, though, removing the fat from the surface is more difficult as not as much of it comes to the surface. I imagine there’s as much, if not more, fat. Is there a way to remove it, or is that part of what contributes to the richness and mouth feel?

    • Hi Maria, I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking if there is a better way to remove the fat or if you don’t have to add the bones. If you are asking about the bones, yes, they do contribute to the richness and the mouth feel of the stock.

  33. uche says:

    Your explanation for preparing the stock and broth is very clear… But what happens to the actual meat after preparing the broth..as the broth recipe is the liquid itself…I should eat the meat separate?

    • Great question uche and I’ll have to fix the post to include this. The stock and the broth should both be strained to remove the meat, bones, and vegetables. There will be no flavor in any of them after cooking for 2 to 3 hours.

  34. Mike - Canberra Australia says:

    Is it okay to use a Stock when making a Stir Fry sauce?

    Cheers
    Mike

  35. Buck says:

    I’ll let y’all in on what we like to do round ours. Get 3 turkeys, 6 chickens and put them all, whole, into this big old catering pot leftover from Nam, then I throw in 2lbs butter, 500g salt, cover with water and let fly with the gas. The lid is on – repeat – THE LID IS ON – so it’s pressure all the way, keep checking the water isn’t getting low. 8 hours later take out the carcasses and either throw em to the dogs or dive in yourself, then reduce that whole pot of stock for another hour until it’s real dark. Pour this over some ribs and BANG – houston, we have got ourselves some Ribs. RG, I know your gonna want to publish this recipe, I don’t mind a bit, it is the BEST there is, you need photos of me, the fam and the dogs tucking in? Just say the word. Nothing like a pooch playing with a turkey’s snood to brighten up the day.
    Over and out
    Sgt. Buck Fast McDonald.

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Thanks Sgt. McDonald for this illustrative stock recipe and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a “pooch playing with a turkey’s snood” but I’ll take your word for it that it brightens up the day.

    • Joyce says:

      I sure love your description about making stock…throwing the carcass to the dogs (which might choke them to death…but not your dogs!), then pouring the stock over the ribs. Are you by any chance related to the Duck Dynasty clan?

  36. J D Young says:

    I enjoyed your explanation of the difference between broth and stock. If I had known the difference, I would never have clicked on the link to find the answer, and your answer satisfies me completely. While we lived in Belize, I learned a way to make Chicken Broth with more body. You have to strain the broth well and pick through the meat carefully to avoid bone shards, but the broth produced is excellent. They, like some have mentioned before me, use the neck and feet as well as the usual whole chicken. But they break all the large bones before frying the chicken till the outside is well browned. This allows the bones to add more flavor to the stock. After frying the chicken they proceed as you instructed for broth.

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Hi JD, what you are describing is the difference between a brown chicken stock (roasted bones) and white chicken stock. The brown chicken stock definitely has more flavor but is not always called for in some recipes. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Jim in Ohio says:

    The first ingredient listed on my canned chicken broth is chicken stock. The rest of the ingredients are vegetables, seasonings, preservatives, etc. So, chicken broth seems to be primarily chicken stock, with additional flavoring.

  38. Roxana says:

    Thank you for your explanation. Do you recommend “better than bouillon organic chicken base.” As chicken broth I believe it is made by southeastern mills, inc it comes in 8 oz glass jar. I have used this for soups and it is very flavorful

    • Hi Roxana, lately I have been making chicken stock from the bones of leftover roasted chickens and freezing it. When I do use a commercial product, it is often More Than Gourmet, Glace de Poulet Gold or something we pick up at Trader Joe’s but I hear good things about Better Than Bouillon and you are again confirming this. I’ll order some online and give it a try.

Leave a Reply

css.php