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What should stock contain?

Yesterday, I was at the greenmarket and bought some "broth" from the guy at the bison meat stand. I asked him, "Is it seasoned with salt or anything else?" He replied, "No, it's just pure drippings from the marrow and bones."

That sounded tasty enough to me, so I bought a pint of the stuff. But in order to use it in a recipe calling for meat stock, what should I add to it besides salt (and maybe water if it's too viscous)?

That brings up the larger question: in order to be considered meat stock, what must a broth or liquid contain other than meat drippings?
Salt? Pepper? Other seasonings? Aromatics?

I know this is a sub-Cooking 101 question, so pelase forgive my ignorance. Obviously, I've never made my own stock, or I'd probably know the answer to this question already.

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  1. Well, the difference between a stock and a broth is that the broth uses meat for flavoring, whereas the stock uses bones. The gelatin in the bones gives the stock what is called a "mouth-feel" making it far superior to broth. Stock gives much body to anything that it is added to. Usually, stock is cooked with the bones, and root vegetables including onions, leeks, and carrots. Some add celery but I know Thomas Keller doesn't add any because he says it makes the stock bitter. As for flavoring, I would go light on the salt as you want to keep the stock clear of unneccesary salt as to preserve the flavor of whatever you are adding the stock to. Other flavorings include: parsley stems, whole peppercorns, and garlic cloves. Sometimes, a little saffron can really raise the stock to another level.

    1. Meat drippings? Meat drippings aren't stock, they're "jus."

      In its basic form, "stock" is simply water (or another stock), cooked with bones AND MEAT. Bones for gelatin, meat for flavor. I'm not sure how it's come about that stocks have come to mean bone soup, but that is not how they started out, at least not in French tradition, where we get our concept of the term. Even back in the early 20th century, Escoffier was decrying the paucity of meat in too many restaurant stocks and the negative impact thereof. These days, recipes don't seem to call for any, which I find gross to say the least.

      Typically, stocks are not or only minimally salted, seasoning being done to the final dish. Other flavorings like aromatics should be kept to a minimum as well, for the same reason. If you're making stock for a specific purpose, these things would be less of an issue. But beware reducing them, alone or in the dish, because that will intensify those flavors.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MikeG

        As far as tradtional cooking terms go, yes, meat drippings are just 'jus,' but, from a chemical perspective, the components in jus and fond are identical to those found in reduced stock. One process uses the water in the meat to extract water soluble compounds and the other adds water to achieve the same end. Chemically speaking,

        Glace
        Demi
        Jus
        Fond
        Stock
        Broth
        Drippings

        are ALL differing concentrations of the exact same thing.

      2. Reducing the stock, I mean, not reducing the seasonings!

        1. if it's just "drippings", that's not broth, nor is it stock. it's just, well, drippings, which means fat. that can be used as is to glaze meat when cooking, or add a little flour and make a roux, with which to make a sauce or gravy.

          traditionally stocks are begun with onions, carrots and celery. for a light stock, they are not sauteed or roasted, but they are for meat stock. aromatics like garlic, rosemary and thyme can also be added. tomatoes often are tossed into beef stock. the bones and scraps are simply added to the pot and everything is covered with water, then simmered. for darker heartier stocks, the bones will be roasted. cooking time will vary, anywhere from 30 minutes for fish stock to overnight for beef stock. easy hand in the beginning with s/p because that concentrates and it will be seasoned later.

          (recently read in escoffier that pepper should never be added till the last 7 minutes of cooking because the tannins turn bitter. i've since been following his advice.)

          it's then strained, cooled and skimmed. removing the fat that separates out makes for cleaner tasting stock.

          heat up a little bit of whatever it is you bought it and taste it before you decide what to do with it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            "if it's just "drippings", that's not broth, nor is it stock."

            See my answer to Mike above.

            1. re: scott123

              no disrespect intended, but you're being reductively didactic, since stock is made with further enhancements as listed by various posters here, which creates more layered and nuanced flavors.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Stock CAN contain aromatics and herbs to 'enhance' flavors, but no where does it say that stock HAS to contain these enhancements.

                Stock = any animal + water + heat + time

                That's the core definition of stock. Stock in it's simplest form. Ingredients beyond that are personal preference.

                Water extracted animal compounds will all be the same, regardless of whether or not the water in the animal is utilized or additional water is involved.

          2. The French always Use Carrots, Onions, & Celery to make their Base Broth or Stock. I believe its called mirapau Please excuse my misspelling. When I make Stock I always Use a Combo of Meats with the Bone. I go to the Asian Supermarket and Get the Straight Large Beef Bones Roast in a 500 Degree oven for an hour. I also use Chuck steaks with the Large bone in the middle, Short Ribs, And Some times OX Tails. make sure you Sear the meats in a Large Cast Iron Skillet with EVOO and Get Good BROWNING....... Make sure You Deglaze the Pan with Liquid. I Never Reccomend water i Use some store bought Beef Stock. This Adds MUCH flavor.... Other wise if you just threw the meat in the stock pot you just ahve BOILED meat....Yuck... Simmer for at Least 4-6 Hours strain out all veggies save the meat and refrigate the Stock...Next day skim off all the fat and Chop up the meat and add whatever Veggies you prefer.... you can add Noodles or whatever.....ENJOY!

            4 Replies
              1. re: Skunk2Racer

                Reading through these posts, I was waiting for someone to mention ox tails, so thanks! I think ox tails make the BEST stock, and I make mine very much like you make yours, by roasting the bones and vegetables (mirepoix) first, deglazing the roasting pan, and then putting the ingredients into a stock pot, adding water to cover, and simmering for a long, long time.