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Making Broth

My wife and I have this debate all the time:
1) I say you can leave the lid off and even if the broth reduces, you can just add water back and still have equally good broth
2) She says that you have to leave the lid on and just let the broth boil down to the right amount

I was convinced that I was right, but then just saw a recipe for shio broth that says you cannot do 1). It's just not the same. Yet scientifically, I would have thought all that's boiling off is water, so adding water back should be fine. But thinking about it more, maybe there are aromatics that boil off also?

So, I thought I'd throw it to the Chowhound community...

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  1. It's really up to you.

    Both techniques work. There are die-hards in both camps that will defend their techniques to the death.

    1. Just a speculation...

      Is the broth supposed to be clear? If so, you'd want to simmer as gently as possible -- and perhaps this would lead to a preference for covered with very low heat rather than uncovered with slightly higher heat?

      1 Reply
      1. re: drongo

        I've personally found it impossible to keep the fire low enough to get a gentle sub-simmer with the lid on...

      2. When you reduce a stock or broth the flavor is changed. Adding water will thin it but the flavor will not be the same as it was before it was reduced.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          First, Drongo - I agree on a clear broth, the low simmer is best.

          Chefj, so what you're saying is this... if I do
          1) take a full pot of water, add a chicken, leave it uncovered and boil When the pot is half full, add back a 1/4 pot of water to take me to 3/4 full
          2) take a full pot of water, add a chicken, cover and boil until 3/4 full

          that the 2nd method will leave me with a better broth? Why is that? I'm beginning to doubt my belief that it doesn't matter which way you do it, but I'd be curious to understand the rationale behind method #2 being better.

          1. re: FattyDumplin

            I am not saying better or worse just different.
            From practical experience I know that a reduced and then re-diluted stock or sauce does not taste the same as the original unreduced sauce or stock.
            I would think that the esters that give things tastes and smell are changed, but that is just a guess.

        2. Whether you leave the lid on or not might affect the cooking temperature. Often, when I take the lid off a pot of stock or soup, it is bubbling. But after leaving the lid for a bit, the bubbling subsides. I haven't measured the temperature, but surmise that the covered liquid is a bit hotter than the uncovered, presumably because there is more evaporation when uncovered. Evaporation results in heat loss. I should in theory be able to match the covered and uncovered cases by adjusting the burner temperature, but I seldom try that.

          So if you are trying to simmer at a precise temperature (and without the slightest boiling or bubbling), you may have more success with the lid off.

          On the other hand, there are advocates of making stock in a pressure cooker, which is, in a sense, the ultimate lid-on scenario.

          In practice I don't worry about clarity of the stock, or about retaining volatile flavors. I usually use stock for hearty and chunky soups, using freshly sauteed aromatics. The stock provides the gelatinous body to the soup; not a lot of the flavor.

          1 Reply
          1. re: paulj

            If clarity was the issue, then one could simply strain or use an egg raft.

            But like you, for me stock is about flavor, not looks. I rarely use stock, if ever, for things like a consomme. And if I did, I could care less if was just this side of being completely opaque.

          2. Totally OT, but have you ever made it in a slow cooker? Way easier

            5 Replies
            1. re: CanadaGirl

              not a slow cooker but i have used a pressure cooker. but i don't like the aroma as much. there's something off-smelling about it. tastes fine, but i feel a broth that's been boiled for hours just smells better than one done in the pressure cooker.

              i suppose a slow cooker would work, but have never had one :)

              1. re: FattyDumplin

                And I don't have a pressure cooker! But Christmas is coming up.....

                  1. re: paulj

                    Thanks. it's funny, i did see that thread but just haven't gotten the same satisfaction that others seem to have.

              2. re: CanadaGirl

                Absolutely, only game in town. I put a few chicken leg-thigh pieces in my largest slow cooker with some onion and celery and fill it up to the top as full as I can with water. Cook on low overnight. Put big bowl in sink. Put colander in bowl. Pour stock into colander. What stays in colander gets tossed. What goes through into bowl is, voila, stock, couldn't be easier. One caveat: if you don't like giblets be sure to remove any bit of kidney that the butcher may have left on the leg-thigh or it will give the stock a giblety flavor.