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Salting stock

I find that when I make stock, especially beef stock, that unless I add a large amount of salt, it comes out to be quite bland, flavorless, and "soggy tasting". Even then, there isn't that "tastiness". I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong. Should I salt my stock before I cook, while I'm cooking, or after I'm cooking? Will a more salinized solution during extraction result in a different stock?

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  1. don't know about other people, but I salt AFTER...because of the reducing that occurs during cooking. If I salt before or while i'm cooking, the stock will be way too salty.

    what's going in your stock? just meat? how about bones or fresh herbs? I find that adding beef bones (oxtails or neckbones) add a flavourful and unctuous stock due to all of the gelatin.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bitsubeats

      I added about three pounds of marrow bones/knuckle bones, and one pound of beef brisket. I added about 5 small onions and a four inch piece of ginger, one large carrot, and half a length of daikon

    2. How gelatinous is your stock? You might need to simmer it for a longer time. If it's very gelatinous but you're still not tasting anything, then you need some more roasted meat trimmings.

      As for salting, you're going to get a number of different opinions. Personally, I would add a small bit of salt during simmering if you're making a soup. If you're going to reduce it into a sauce, then salt at the end.

      2 Replies
      1. re: phan1

        It is quite gelatinous. In fact, the more gelatinous it is, the more I find I have to salt it afterwards.

        I guess the word I'm looking for is "umami", something which my stock is sorely missing.

        To be specific, I'm making this beef stock for pho, but I find I have to add quite a large amount of fish sauce for it to taste substantial. And in the end, it just ends up tasting like fish sauce soup rather than pho soupu

        1. re: takadi

          oh you're making it for pho. did you remember to char your onions and ginger?

          oh yeah and what about the aromatics like the star anise, etc?

      2. Judy Rogers (Zuni Cafe) is a big advocate of salting before....even for stock. I usually salt a bit before and after my stock is done simmering... What are you using to make your stock? Roasted carcass/bones? Cuts of meat- e.g., oxtails or a whole chicken? Aromatics?

        1. I got beat up on here once before, but I salt on the front end for exactly the reason you stated. You didn't say how you or what bones you use, can you advise timing/heat and the process (bouquet garni?) you are working with? Are you merely boiling raw beef bones? I think beef requires a different hand than chicken. That might give us some insight to help you. TIA!

          1 Reply
          1. re: chef chicklet

            I use about 2-3 lbs of raw beef bones which I parboil and then allow to simmer for four hours. At 1.5 hours I add brisket and oxtails. I brown those before I put them in.

            I'm not making a french beef stock, which requires roasting, but rather pho, which specifically calls for parboiling instead of roasting (not sure if it makes a huge difference though). I'm sure the difference in flavors wouldn't be so dramatic as to have the stock taste completely bland though...

          2. Stocks are NEVER salted, as you may reduce the stock for the final dish, and if you salt it to taste correctly now, it will be horribly over-salted by the time the final product is finished.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Kelli2006

              That's not necessarily true. It depends on the final use of the stock. If you're going to reduce it to a demi-glace, sure, wait to salt it....but if you're using it for soup, or risotto, or just a normal pan sauce, it really shouldnt' be a problem if you're judicious with the salt. If Judy Rogers from Zuni Cafe *advocates* salting stock...obviously it is not "NEVER" salted, because a well-known and successful chef does it... The average home cook is not going to be straining and reducing, straining and reducing, straining and reducing ad infinitum the way the French Laundry kitchen does.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                Actually, I find the final producted is horribly UNDERsalted. But then again I'm making a soup

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  yah, thats what they teach in school. chix stock gets a fist of salt, veal stock nada. Of course its being used in different manners. just my 2 cents from a litle time in the kitchen ; )

                  1. re: dano

                    I'm not sure how long you were in a kitchen, but I did 3 years, and we never salted our stocks. Different cooks do it differently, but I prefer the extra control of being able to salt it perfectly for the final product. You never eat stock as brewed, so there is no reason for it to taste correct when it finishes. It is very easy to correct or add salt in soup, stews and reductions, so I prefer to do at at that time and not have to correct a problem because it was possibly over-salted before.

                    IMVHO.

                    1. re: Kelli2006

                      I guess the title of my thread is a misnomer, as "stock" implies a certain gelatinous vehicle for other applications like sauces, soups, stews, etc, and is used as a tool rather than a final product, as opposed to a "broth". In that case, salting the stock early on doesn't serve it's purpose, especially if it's going to be reduced for a demi glace or something.

                      As of now, I am specifically looking to see what early salting does to the final product of the soup for pho. Does a higher concentration of salt early on effect the extraction of nutrients, flavors, and gelatin? It's a well known fact that salt slows the unraveling of carbohydrates in starches and thus makes it less sticky or gooey.

                      I'm pretty sure there has to be experiments already done on this.

                      1. re: takadi

                        I don't recall reading anything about salt affected the extraction process, one way or another. The amount of gelatin in your broth depends on cooking time and the gelatin source such as foot and tendon. I'm sure commercial extraction of gelatin does not use salt (salty 'jello'?).

                        Also the desired salt levels in a finished soup are less than the salt levels in a brine used 'plump' and flavor meat. In brining, the salt actually adds flavor and moisture to the meat, not remove it.

                        The fact that classic stock making does not call for any salt at the start also suggests that it does not help. If it did make a difference, chefs would be estimating how much they will reduce the stock, and add the right amount of salt at the beginning.

                        In Pho recipes, where are flavorings like soy sauce and fish sauce added? Early, or at the end?

                        paulj

                      2. re: Kelli2006

                        quite a few more years than you-and still am ; ). Like i said, different stocks, for different apps. Just my dos centavos.

                        1. re: Kelli2006

                          don't know, check mcgee. Any type of "broth" where the main item is cooked in it i.e. pot au feu etc gets salt. A reduction no salt.

                          1. re: dano

                            Especially if you are going to use the meat later in the soup, light salting at the start should be fine. But if at the end of preparation, a soup or stew tastes flat, consider salt. When in doubt, try adding salt to sample.

                            paulj