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Why is a clear stock (vs cloudy) desirable?

Stupid question... why is clear stock so desirable?

What's the big deal if it's cloudy?

Why does it matter?

Yes, I did Google around for this. Although I found a lot of talk about techniques to keep stock clear, and purification/filtering methods, I could find no information about _why_ this is important.

This seems to be one of those things that people in the know just know. Maybe that's just the way that things are, and the way we've always done things.

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  1. it's strictly aesthetics. we eat first with the eyes.

      1. Agreed that it's mostly aesthetics. To me, it also indicates that more time, and more care went into it's preparation.

        2 Replies
        1. re: The Professor

          that's aesthetics affecting perception.

        2. Agree with other Hounds, but the look only matters for a very few dishes. Consomme, and maybe very light sauces for fish are really the only ones I can think of, but how many here have made consomme from scratch recently? Or ever?

          Cloudy stock can make cream sauces look a little muddy perhaps, but for darker hearty dishes I don't think it matters.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robin Joy

            I actually have made consomme from scratch recently. And I do clarify stocks on a routine basis.

            But I'm in agreement - the clarification is all about aesthetics.

          2. The one aesthetics exception is if the stock is cloudy because of emulsified fat. That can make it unpleasantly greasy.

            8 Replies
            1. re: C. Hamster

              It will also go bad sooner. Clear stock can be re-boiled periodically to re-sterilize it (up to a point), but rancid is rancid and there's no remedy for that.

              1. re: Will Owen

                excellent point, burt this goes back to why are you putting something like chicken fat in your stock? it's a flavor carrier, not a provider.

                one must also take care not to boil any animal stock too vigorously cuz that will agitate things unnecessarily.

                i make stock and broth often. i haven't clarified since culinary school and that was only for the grade.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  One would probably not deliberately add extra fat but boiling will mechanically emulsify whatever fat is on the chicken you are using to make the stock. It's hard to degrease after that. And it's cloudy because if it.

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    I used a slow cooker to make chicken stock recently and you're right, the just off boiling temp for 12 hours produced a pretty clear liquid. However, it had a rather dank, musty smell and a disappointingly neutral taste, so I'll not be doing that again anytime soon. Maybe 12 hours was too long.

                    1. re: Robin Joy

                      when i make bone broth (consumed for health, not aesthetics), i most often cook the chicken bits on the stove, at a simmer, about 12 hours.

                      what else did you put in there that might have made it smell "dank"? old vegetables?

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        IIRC the carcass of a roasted chicken, a halved onion, a rougly chopped carrot, ditto celery stalk and leek, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, and water. The exact same combo produced a three hour stove top stock last Sunday morning which was a way superior product, albeit somewhat cloudy!

                        1. re: Robin Joy

                          I make broth, from smoked pork rib tips, in a crockpot (& also from chicken carcasses), I refrigerate them in plastic soup containers, scrape off the excess fat, & freeze-I use most of them to supplement my dogs' food, but I also use them as soup bases. Mine are almost always clear, not cloudy...

              2. I would say 90% aesthetics, and 10% tastes.

                1. It used to be the case that consommé was used for making aspic. The aspic was supposed to be crystal-clear. Now that aspic has gone out of fashion, clarification is much less important.

                  1. It is not always the case.
                    The Koreans have a Stock that is milky white, not greasy at all and delicious. Seolleongtang (설렁탕)
                    The same for Bone Broths.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chefj

                      I was just about to say this.

                      Sometimes cloudy -- or milky stock -- actually has a taste advantage over clear stock, or more traditional consumme type stocks.

                      1. re: ipsedixit


                        As usual, you are right on the money.

                      2. re: chefj

                        Seollong tang and Tonkotsu are two great "cloudy" broths in my book.

                        It's really just a matter of what you're looking for in your stock. There is nothing inherently better or worse either way.

                        1. Some aspects of cooking are too easy. Cooking school chefs had to find some way of separating out the skilled cooks from the less skilled cooks. Insisting on "dime readable at the bottom of the pot" clarity accomplished this goal. Read Michael Ruhlman's "The Soul of a Chef" for several passages that describe an extreme example of this perfectionism at the Culinary Institute of America.

                          With my tongue less in my cheek, I note that super clear stock is more esthetically pleasing and certainly more technically demanding. And Ruhlman mentions in his book that yes, in fact, a totally clear broth will be near devoid of fat, which can provide off flavors.

                          But come on, in many other areas of cooking, fat is a vehicle for the transport of flavor. I'll bet these ethereally clear broths don't taste like much.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: gfr1111

                            consomme was in kitchens long before there were hoity-toity culinary schools, lol.

                            1. re: gfr1111

                              Ruhlman refers to the dime test in both "The Soul of a Chef" and "The Making of a Chef," but he is referring to consomme, not stock.

                              1. re: gfr1111

                                Consommé when made properly has lots of flavor.

                                1. re: chefj

                                  I don't think people are necessarily saying that bone (or milky) stock is more flavorful than consommé -- just that the two have different flavor dynamics on the palate.

                                  And depending on what the stock is intended for, this flavor difference can give bone (or milky) stock an advantage over more traditional translucent stocks.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    gfr1111 said,
                                    "I'll bet these ethereally clear broths don't taste like much"
                                    That is the only comment that that reply was to.

                              2. A few weeks ago I took an old turkey out of the freezer and boned it out as I learned from Jacques Pepin. I was making turkey stock from the bones and also was not paying enough attention to my stock making process. A couple of times the stock was boiling at a rapid rate. In the end, it was a cloudy mess and looked awful. I cooled it and defatted it the next day. It didn't look too appetizing. So, I decided to try clarifying stock for the first time. I heated up the cloudy stock, added the egg whites, simmered it slowly and it actually worked. I have heard of the freeze and thaw method of clarifying stock, but I don't have the patience for that. The egg whites seemed to work well. Of course, it's best to not boil the stock in the first place and end up with a cloudy stock.

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: John E.

                                  >Of course, it's best to not boil the stock in the first place and end up with a cloudy stock.

                                  Why is it best to not end up with a cloudy stock?

                                  1. re: joonjoon

                                    If you boil it and emulsify the fat the stock can be greasy and unpleasant.

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      There are many recipes that the desired Stock is cloudy(milky) and this is not from Fat,but from Minerals, Protein and Collagen.
                                      Here is one example

                                      1. re: chefj

                                        The article you linked to mentioned both simmering for hours and hours and then says there is no rule about how long you have to boil it. I have never had a cloudy, murky broth or stock from simmering for hours and hours, I only got it that one time from a hard boil. By the way, the cloudy stock I made did not look milky like the one in the video for Korean Ox Bone Soup. Mine was much darker, it looked like tan paint, it seemed thick like paint but I know it wasn't that bad. I did get a lot of solids out by using the egg whites. I don't think the stock I made would be desireable by anyone.

                                        1. re: John E.

                                          As you can see my reply was to C.Hamster's comments.
                                          That the Fat is the culprit in clouding a stock.

                                          1. re: chefj

                                            What about the protein? I have heard both theories and I lean towards the proteins as the culprit because I don't think the fat would stay emulsified, I tbink it would eventually separate.

                                            1. re: John E.

                                              It can be Fat, Minerals,or Proteins

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                It can be proteins, too. But a stock clouded by proteins isn't as objectionable as a greasy stock with emulsified fat. That was sort of my original point.

                                                As to the emulsification:

                                                Harold McGee: "A hot start produces many separate and tiny protein particles that remain suspended and cloud the stock; and a boil churns particles and fat droplets into a cloudy suspension and emulsion."

                                                Shirley Corriher: “If you boil a stock vigorously, the fat
                                                will emulsify or combine with the liquid and form a cloudy, fatty stock. Instead, you want the fat to remain separate and
                                                float to the top so that you can remove every bit of it,”

                                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                                  I did the egg white clarification process and it turned out beautiful. Does that mean my stock was cloudy because of protein or does it mean that the egg white clarification process gets rid of emulsified fat?

                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    Clarification when done properly catches almost all the "impurities" in the stock.

                                                    1. re: chefj

                                                      Does 'impurities' mean fat? Even my cloudy, murky turkey stock had fat floating on the top, but nkt too much because I did not add much in the way of fat and skin to the initial pot.

                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        Yes, some of it. Anything left can easily be skimmed off or removed when cold.

                                                        1. re: chefj

                                                          Unless its been emulsified.

                                                          My original point.

                                                          If you boil it and mechanically emulsify the fat it can be difficult if not impossible to remove.

                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                            No one denied your point.
                                                            You have to boil a stock quite hard and for sometime for a mechanical emulsion to take place. It was not the case for John E since the clarification was successful.

                                    2. re: John E.

                                      Unless that is your intent (Milky Stock).