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What's a good canned/boxed chicken broth/stock?

Two recipes recently suggest strongly against using canned/boxed chicken broth. One was a risotto recipe I read last week on chowhound, and the other in the NYT yesterday...Mark Bittman's recipe for West African Peanut Soup w/ Chicken..."refrain from using canned stock". The chowhound recipe said do not bother to make the recipe with canned or boxed broth, it's not the same. So, I didn't.

I have never had too much success in making my own homemade chicken stock/broth (it looks and tastes like dishwater), so I tend to buy my stock/broth in the tall boxes. I usually try and get the Organic Pacific brand, which I think is fine for making soups. I've seen brands by famous chef's, i.e. Wolgang, Emeril and Rachel...they tend to name theirs stock, as opposed to broth. Is there really a difference? Also, I noticed that one of the Pacific brands is unnaturally yellow, it may be the free-range one. It makes me think they add food coloring to it...a little scary.

Anyway, can someone tell me if there is a store-bought brand out there that taste good and resembles a homemade stock, or at least comes close. What do you use?

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  1. I would never use a store bought stock when a good stock is needed. If I were you, I'd work on making my own. I usually make mine in a crock pot. Just save up bones, meat, whatever as you have chicken. Throw it in the CP with some carrot, onion, celery, bay leaves, salt (Very important), sage, rosemary and pepper. I let it simmer overnight and into the next afternoon. It should turn into jelly in the fridge. Scoop the fat off the top and you've got it.

    I use the boxed Campbells broth in place of water in most things. It's just more tasty.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      Yeah, but "Oh make it at home" is not the answer to this question. Some of us simply do not have the time, the inclination, or the freezer space to save the stuff for stock.

      (Temporary rant: Sometimes on this site somebody will ask a simple question like this one, and somebody else will immediately post a horrified, "You don't make YOUR OWN?" This smacks of snobbery, particularly when you've a 15-year-old in a busy two-career family. Live with reality: Make what you can, use the best store-bought when you can't and let the rest fall by the wayside.)

      I find Kitchen Basics is pretty good, either the broth or the stock.

      1. re: jmckee

        I agree with the general "Make it at home" reply thing as well. In this case tho, the OP said they didn't make it at home because they've "Never had too much success" in making it at home. Inferring that you can't buy it and expect it to be as good as DIY.

        I did also offer a suggestion as asked.


    2. At the DIB house, we almost always have frozen chicken stock since I make it in 16 gallon pot. But, for those few times I need some and don't have any, I like College Inn broth. Refrain from salting dish until tasting, as like most stocks, it has plenty of sodium, but they do make a low sodium version. They also make turkey stock for Thanksgiving.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Diane in Bexley

        Ditto here on the College Inn. I usually keep some in the pantry but generally never use it as we do the homemade variety as well.

      2. >>"Anyway, can someone tell me if there is a store-bought brand out there that taste good and resembles a homemade stock, or at least comes close.<<

        There isn't. Store-bought stocks range from terrible to acceptable. None are good.

        >>"What do you use?""<<

        In extremis, Kitchen Basics or Trader Joe's house brand (which I suspect is the same). But really, there's no reason you can't make your own stock. I agree with Davwud that the crock pot is the easiest way to do it, but would suggest a slight variation for best results.

        Try starting with a whole chicken. Let it simmer until the chicken is done, then remove the bird and let it sit until it's cool enough to handle. Pull off the meat and reserve (for chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, chicken pot pie, chicken & dumplings, etc.), return the bones to the pot, and finish as indicated.

        The low cooking temperature should keep the stock from being cloudy. And the taste is guaranteed to be far superior to any store-bought stock.

        Note: you can make your stock without salt, and it will work just fine in any dish you use it in. But it won't taste like much on its own. If you want it to taste good by itself, you must salt it.

        1. I like to use Better than Bouillon, which is a concentrate. Also, in various Julia Child cookbooks (even Mastering the Art ....), she suggests, if you don't have homemade stock, to go ahead and use a canned or boxed stock (I tend to prefer the boxed ones) and simmer it with some aromatics etc. (I can find the details for you if you are interested).

          As others have said - if you are interested in trying to have more success making chicken broth, there are a lot of useful threads on it on the HC board and I'd be happy to find links for you. I make it as a way to use my leftover roast chicken carcasses.

          1. First, chicken fat can seem very unnaturally yellow and might have been incorporated into the broth somehow. It might not be food colouring.

            Second, if there's a Trader Joe's near you, the broth or stock or whatever in the box is great. It's got a good flavour, and it's easy to keep since it's just little packets instead of big cans. Generally, I go this route.

            Third, since you show interest in making your own broth/stock, I will say that once you master this skill, no store bought will ever come close. I do understand the failures - having made stock and assisted in the process thereof, I still sometimes just produce amazing smelling water for reason unknown to me. Sometimes, it really isn't you. In my experience, older chickens produce a better stock. Chicken feet give fantastic mouthfeel. And nothing beats experience. (Also, seafood stock, veggie broth, etc. are all much easier to make, quick to pull together, and can be a great swap-out in recipes where that's not an issue, as in chicken noddle soup or matzoh ball soup.)

            1. The last Cooks Illustrated Test recommended Swanson's Low Sodium Organic as well as the regular Swansons. My memory isn't the best but I don't think the Pacific brand did very well.

              I think a lot of stock problems stem from using the run of mill grocery store chickens. They're too young and just don't have much flavor to begin with.

              1. I usualy make my own dark stock (roasted chicken pieces). If I really want a rich, rich stock and don't have the time, I go to my favorite deli and get chcken soup, no veggies, no matzo balls, only stock. This needs to sit in the fridge overnight so you can skim the fat from the top the next day. For things that don't require the supreme depth of flavor that the above provide, Trader Joe's ORGANIC free range chicken stock (yellow box) is my favorite and seems to be the choice of those on the boards over the last few years for boxed/canned stocks. I'll confess, I use TJ's unless I'm really out to make an impressive dish.

                1. I make my stock when I can. That said, I also buy Swanson's by the case so that if I don't have home-made (often), I can still whip up a risotto, make soup (not clear soup, for which I wouldn't use canned), or add flavor to--oh the horror--canned beans when I'm using them. It also comes in handy for thinning, reheating. I have also very successfully mixed canned chicken broth and bottled clam juice and used it as a substitute for seafood stock in gumbo and etouffee when I don't have the homemade stuff on hand. In real life, most of us don't always. But you can still create wonderful dishes.

                  Homemade is the ideal; I agree. But I hate to think of people scared off cooking because they don't have time to make their own stocks.

                  1. Generally speaking, both include aromatics and preferred seasonings - broth is made with meats; stock is made with bones and meats. The bones provide a heartier, richer liquid due to the gelatinous marrow extracted from the bones. This is what makes your stock congeal when cooled. There is some gelatin to be found in meat alone, so broth will have some added viscosity over water, but not nearly the amount as when using bones.

                    As to the "dishwater" taste, I think the same of mine and have been told to do 1 of 2 - if not both - things. 1) Add more salt, and 2) after straining, cook it down to intensify the flavor. I never make a chicken broth/stock based soup, but do use it as a recipe replacement to water, so with regard to that, I personally use the boxed stuff - and to that end, I use either Pacific or Swanson low sodium/fat. But I like the idea of finding a good Jewish deli and buying it from there - assuming you can believe that they are not using the boxed stuff also.

                    1. Many high-end food stores will make theor own and sell it in preserving jars. These are usually good but tend to be a little weak and may need reducing for some applications.

                      I too make my - but lots of it at one time and then freeze it.

                      In other words, stockpiling. And you get the schmaltz.

                      1. I usually do home-made, but when I can't I've found Kitchen Basics to be the best. Especially for Beef Stock.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mellycooks

                          I like Kitchen Basics stocks if I run out of my own and I always keep a box in my pantry.

                        2. I used to like Swanson but they've changed the recipe somehow and it doesn't taste (or smell) nearly as good as it used to... it's unpleasantly metallic now, even the kind in the box. So I wouldn't recommend it any more. I make my own stock occasionally instead.

                          1. Pacific Organic Chicken Stock brand at Costco, 6 boxes for $10.

                            1. Davwud-I don't own a crock pot (or a microwave, either), but a CP sounds perfect. I will definitely attempt to make my own stock, again. Hopefully I'll be able to master it this time. Thanks all for so many good suggestions.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: luvarugula

                                Even a decent home made is better than a store bought.


                                1. re: Davwud

                                  Even a poor home made is better than store bought.

                              2. You might enjoy this. Both entertaining and informative. As well as recognizing that not all of us can have homemade chicken stock on hand all of the time. And don't miss the comments. Lots of good info there, too.


                                1. So-called stock in a box pours like water at room temperature, and that tells me it ain't stock. Lord knows what the broth in a box is supposed to be. I've tried each of them a few times and they both taste vaguely like chicken flavored water. And the canned stuff just tastes like salt. Make your own or do without is my advice.

                                  I freeze the bones when I break down a whole chicken, and after 3 or 4 birds make broth. My favorite method for stock is to buy turkey necks when they go on sale for and use them instead of chicken. It's like making stock using just leg bones, but with more meat, and the result is super rich. Both keep well when frozen if you protect them from freezer burn.

                                  1. A lot of Chinese restaurants will sell you their awesome, house-made, very neutral chicken stock for a price that's a total steal.

                                    When I can't do that, I like Kitchen Basics. Sometimes you just have to use a shortcut. It isn't close to the same as homemade, but it's not poison. It's saltier than my own, and has a lot less body. But it's not gross or anything.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: dmd_kc

                                      The cookbook, "The Frugal Gourmet" has a recipe for chinese chicken stock, and I think his "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines" does also. I"ve never made the recipe, but it seems simple enough. I use his cookbooks all the time.

                                    2. I like Kitchen Basics stock and always have a jar of Better than Boullion (both, chicken & beef) in my fridge. Of course they aren't as good as homemade stock, but in my busy life this is what works for me.

                                      1. If you're not able to make your own stock or broth, just buy whatever canned or boxed broth you like. It really won't make that much difference in your end product. People have all kinds of opinions of what is "the best" and as you can see from the responses to your post and from other threads seeking "the best" there really is no consensus. There is no such thing as "the best".

                                        So my advice is don't worry about it, try a few different ones and choose the one that best suits your palate. It won't be as good as homemade, but it will be better than water (despite what Bittman says). Sometimes one has to make tradeoffs.

                                        1. I save up the tips of chicken wings until I have enough to make stock. I cover them with water and chop up an onion with the skin, a few ribs of celery, a carrot or two, and a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. At this point I use no salt. I prefer to salt the stock when I am using it in the recipe whether it be soup or some other dish calling for stock.

                                          I let this simmer until the flavor is extracted from the wing tips. Or if I need stock and don't have saved wing tips I use cheap cuts of bone-in chicken, wings or thighs and do the above directions.

                                          I then set my colander in a large bowl and spoon out the solids with a slotted spoon. When they are cool I pick the meat off the bone for chicken salad or to go back into the pot for soup. I throw out the solids and if I'm making soup use fresh onion, celery, carrots, whatever. I usually make a largish batch as if freezes very well.

                                          1. I've used store-bought stocks in a pinch. If it is on sale Emeril's was ok as was Wolfgang Puck's. I've used Swanson and other brands. They are ok in a pinch, but really don't have that homemade flavor that risotto really sings with.

                                            1. I use the savory choice brand of concentrated broth. You can buy it at wholefoods or in bulk on amazon.com. Trader Joe sells the low sodium versions under their own brand


                                              1. I use the Swanson's Low Sodium organic all the time - buy it in the big boxes they sell now. It's a great solution for my cooking needs, I use it in place of water in many recipes. I don't care for the Kitchen basics, i tried it and thought it tasted very strange. I think they add honey to it?!?! I also tried the Trader Joe's organic, but I go back to Swansons every time. I tend to steer clear of the famous chef brands, it's a personal bias.
                                                I have made my own, and the crock pot method mentioned by Davwud is my favorite. However - I do not find it as convenient because I usually don't know what I'm making ahead of time so I don't have the time to thaw a container of home made stock. and since the home made does not stay good as long I can't just thaw it out and leave it in the fridge until I'm ready to use it.
                                                You may want to purchase some cans of what's available in your area and try them out - because at the end of the day no matter what Chowhounds recommend it's a matter of personal taste and what works for you. :)