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My stock isn't very flavorful...

  • p

OK, I have a problem with making stock. I've just covered the meat and veg in water, and they are all spent for sure. And the resulting stock smells wonderful, but it isn't flavorful enough. And it's not even close; some salt isn't going to help. I have to always reduce my stock literally by half. I'm assuming a stock in itself could be served as a soup. Is this typical of a stock?

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  1. I add a lot of stuff to my stock - herbes de provence, celery, anise, black peppercorns, white peppercorns, anything else from the fridge that looks good, onion, a nutmeg clove. You name it Whatever I can find, I throw in and my broth is very flavourful.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sarah galvin

      I second that. The only thing I'd add to your list is bay leaves, which go into every stock I make (not to mention basically every dish that requires boiling water...)

      Also, take a look at the chow tip on making veggie stock. Save your scraps and trimmings from prepping vegetables in a ziplock bag in the freezer. After a few days or a week, use your collection with some herbs, spices, etc, for a subtle, but tasty stock. If nothing else, I like it as a reminder of what I ate in the previous week or so. Good luck!

    2. You say: "I've just covered the meat and veg in water, and they are all spent for sure."

      Well, I think that's your problem right there. What you've made is broth, not stock.

      To make good stock, you should be using bones, not meat. For example, if I'm making chicken stock I'll take the leftover bones from a chicken carcass and let that simmer for several hours. The resulting product is always very flavorful.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Yes, bones will definitely help...and it also can help to roast the bones and veggies til browned before adding the water which I do from time to time and this will make the stock darker also.

      2. Stock and or broth is usually not seasoned with salt so it will taste a little flat. You can reduce it which will concentrate the flavors and then when you season it I think you will find your stock has more flavor than you thought. The reason stock is sometimes not seasoned is that depending on how you will use it you can control the salt content better if you wait to season later. Ever reduce box broth. Gets real salty.

        1. Did you ever try making a stew without browning the meat or sauteing the onions, etc. first? For me, it ends up the same way...not too flavorful. In my experience, browning the meat by roasting adds deep flavor..not always the flavor I want, but carmelizing the proteins adds a lot of flavor.

          Perhaps part of the problem is that the meat and vegetables I buy isn't that flavorful to begin with, so just simmering it does not product a rich stock.

          1. I second all the other posters.

            Maybe you used too much water?
            When you add water, add enough to cover the ingredients by an inch and add more as it reduces if necessary.

            1. Phan1, I go into work late today so this morning in preparation of making some chicken and yellow rice I took apart a whole chicken. Placed the parts aside then took a cleaver to the carcass and chopped into smaller chunks as well as the neck, gizzard and heart. The smaller the chunks of meat and bone the faster you will extract flavor.

              This was simmered on the stove for about 3 hours in 1 qt of water 1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, an onion with skin and two large cloves of garlic. I could have simmered it for the required 8 hours but at this point I have a 4 cups of stock that taste like chicken soup. Good enough for my purpose and it will be used to cook my rice for the final dish.

              1. I have two "tricks". One everyone knows and I will get flamed for but here they are...
                1. add a bullion cube or
                2. add a piece of Dashima (kelp)

                The kelp works because it is adding MSG to the stock. Note there is no replacement in stock for lot of bones and meat. However, some cuts of meat/bone, fish or veggie (depending on the stock you are making) are better than others and matter a lot to the taste (e.g., I would rather use chicken feet and thighs then breast because feet and thigh gives me more flavor and gelatin. Same with cow, oxtail, neck and shins rock but steak cuts really leave a lot to be desired when it comes to stock and broth.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Soup

                  A slight clarification: Kelp adds glutamate, which is the naturally occuring substance that MSG mimics. However it also adds a distinctly ocean-y flavor that is great in miso but might not be desireable in beef or chicken stock.

                  The bullion cube in all likelihood does contain MSG. Or at least a lot of salt. (Not flaming, just saying.)

                  1. re: Pistou

                    Most bullion does have MSG. But like I said, it does improve the flavor.

                    As for the Kelp, if you add it beef stock especially, I've never really felt it added a oceany flavor. Some beef stock recipe (especially one based in korean cusine) call for it and that is actually where I got the idea but I added to many of my stocks now. Give it a try.

                    1. re: Soup

                      Cool, I will try that! I have a stack of beef bones in the freezer waiting to become stock.

                      The bullion and kelp are quite closely related, actually. Msg was invented by a Japanese chemistry professor, Dr. Ikeda, who supposedly stumbled on glutamate while eating broth made from kombu (sea vegetable, like kelp) and dried bonito. He took the broth into the lab and identified glutamate, an amino acid, as the mystery component that gave the broth "umami", a term he coined for the fifth taste, that round, deep taste that is neither sweet, salty, sour or bitter--in other words, exactly what the kelp is providing to your stock. Dr. Ikeda went on to found the Ajinomoto company, which makes msg, based on his discovery.

                    2. re: Pistou

                      Adding a SMALL amount of kelp (kombu) enhances flavor dramatically without the ocean-y taste. The trick is to not add too much of it unless you WANT the sea flavor to come through.

                  2. BTW, Cod makes the best fish stock. Man, does it turn out great stuff.

                    1. You didn't say what kind of meat. If you are making chicken or turkey stock, you can use the carcass of a cooked bird or raw pieces. Shirley O. Corriher recommends, in the book Cookwise, whacking through the leg bones with a cleaver, because the marrow will then add flavor and richness to the stock. You'll need to reduce the mostly-bones stock more than one with both bones and meat. Vegetables should include carrot, celery, and onion, also garlic if you so desire. I freeze celery leaves and carrot peels in a baggie, for when I make stock. Don't salt until the stock is cooked to its final volume, or you'll concentrate the saltiness. Pretty much the same for fish stock.
                      The light, clear chicken broth in Asian soups, like wonton, are made by pouring off the water from the initial boil, which is cloudy, then covering the solids with fresh water and re-simmering.

                      Beef stock is more difficult. The fact that there are many good-tasting commercial chicken broths but not beef broths is testament to this. Cooks Illustrated did a long article on this within the last few years. They found that a lot of meat was needed to achieve the desired result. Bones, including marrow bones, should be roasted to a dark brown first. Beef stock is not as gelatinous as poultry or fish, and the gelatin adds richness. Sneaking in some powdered dried mushrooms and/or soy sauce will help, too.

                      Though most recipes call for de-fatting the finished stock, I prefer to leave some of the fat, which has a lot of flavor. Chill first, then it's easy to lift off the congealed layer - which is priceless for pan-frying eggs, potatoes, etc.

                      Personally, I draw the line at using up a big piece of beef just to make stock. In recipes calling for it, like French Onion Soup, I use a mixture of homemade chicken stock and commercial beef base. The finished product doesn't have the artificial taste of commercial beef broth. For soups that don't need gelatin for body, commercial chicken broth is fine as long as it's not in a starring role. For example, homemade stock for chicken noodle soup, commercial for pureed squash soup.

                      1. Everyone above has made good points. Just to be repetitive. Stock is made from bones (roasted are better if using meat bones) and vegetables. Seasoning should be minimal as the final product can then be used in various ways. A good reduced stock should be high in collagen--when cold you can have from thick to completely condensed jello (as in the case of my quick fish stocks). You don't need too much flavor--flavors can be added to the dish in which the stock is used.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Roasted is essential for beef bones, as far as I can tell. I made my first and second batches of homemade beef stock a few months ago. For the first one, I was feeling lazy and just threw the bones in the pot. The house smelled like a rendering plant for days and the stock smelled so horrible I threw it out. Second batch I roasted the bones for close to an hour, then simmered them for close to 2. Beautiful, rich stock. And, like you said, nearly solid when cold.

                          I'm with you on the flavorings, Sam. I don't even add carrots or celery to my chicken stock. I'm going for essence of chicken. I add the other flavors as I need/want when I cook with it. I did add carrots, celery (also roasted) and a little tomato paste (smeared on the bones prior to roasting) to the beef stock, and was so pleased with the results I will probably repeat.

                        2. I try to get a good concentrated flavour, gelled, without reduction. That can come later if I need a demi glace.
                          There are a lot of good points here, and you'll have to find what works best for you.
                          Like Sam, I keep the vegs and aromatics out. I hack the chicken parts and cram lots in. Chicken backs and beef bones are fresh and inexpensive in my Asian store, and I usually ask them to split a pig's foot. I often make a separate veg. stock, usually in about 40 minutes, no gel of course.
                          When I make up a stock pot, I really cram the bones in,(no dead space!) and add just enough water to reach the top of the bones. Less is better than more.
                          Then into the oven at 250F for a very gentle simmer. It seems to do better with heat from all sides rather than stove top. 4 hours is usually enough, but it depends on what you have to work with.
                          Sam, have you done a primer on fish stock? I like to use heads, gills out, eyes in. Can I use salmon? I've been told white heads only, but salmon is ubiquitous...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jayt90

                            I use whole heads and the bones, usually of cachama, a fish of the Amazon Basin that I catch. Toss what's left after fileting in cold water (lightly salted more for preservation than seasoning), bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minurtes. Cachama provides a solid gelatin--I can make miso soup with just a bit of miso, lemon juice, some dried seaweed, and green onion that is very, very filling given the high protein content of the stock. Salmon heads are fine--just have to remove the congealed oil after cooling.

                          2. Roast bones (or re-roast if coming from previously cooked cuts of meat) first.

                            Use "thrifty cuts" like tail, shin bones, snout, ears, feet, whatever you can find. Ethnic markets are the BEST for these cuts. I get great lamb necks, pig ears & snouts, chicken feet at my local Mexican markets. Asian markets should have them too. Chat up patrons of the markets and ask them what they use, or if they have any secret ingredients.

                            1. Bones are vital to stock. I often roast all my bones at 400 in my dutch oven for about 35 - 45 mins before stewing with vegggies. It really brings out the marrow and gives stock a depth that you couldn't find otherwise.