HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Master Stock

Hey 'Hounders.

I have read elsewhere that some famous chefs have a "master stock" that has more than 100 years behind it.
I wonder how this could be possible without the stock going off?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. I don't know about 100 years but it's common enough to keep a stock simmering on a rear burner. As long as it stays above 140F, it won't spoil. And it would be simple enough to freeze some of that stock, then reheat and start adding to it again weeks or months later.

      Some sourdough mothers claim to be very old. But it's also pretty simple to create a starter and after some time has passed, who knows if people can tell whether it's a year old, or decades?

      1. <has more than 100 years behind it.>

        This is stupid -- even if it is partially true. Yes, master stock can be reused over and over, but let's not take things into extreme. People talk about this kind of 30 years old, but it is rather the exception than the norm. Excessive aging is something to be avoided, not praised.

        The reason you can have master stock that can last much longer than typical stock is due to the two factors. (1) Repeat boiling and sometime refrigeration, (2) Constant using and replenishing.

          1. re: cronker

            I assume you were taken by my comments? I wasn't directing at you. I was talking about people who brag about 100+ years old master stock. People who try to do this and brag about this is just wrong. Sorry if you think I was yelling at you.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              It's cool. Internet arguing is like special Olympics.
              It's just that I see chefs bragging about old stock, and I wonder how the keep it fresh.

              1. re: cronker

                <<Internet arguing is like special Olympics>


                <chefs bragging about old stock>

                There is certainly a belief that the stock get better and better, deeper and deeper as it is used. If we are talking about the same type of master stock, then the master stock is used for braising/stewing meat.

                <I wonder how the keep it fresh.>

                Well, "fresh" won't be how they want it. It is intentionally "aged". Did we answer your question?

          2. Mathematically, it's illogical.

            Say you use 10% of your stock each day, and replenish it.

            The first day, you have a stock that's 90% original stock. The second day you have 0.9*90 % original stock. The third day you have 0.9*0.9*0.9% of the original stock. After n days, the amount of the original stock left is 0.9^n.

            If we assume the molar mass of water, and 10L of stock in a batch, you would be down to 1 molecule of the original stock after 580 days, or less than two years.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

              Well said, this is exactly what I wanted to get at by saying "constantly using and replenishing"

            2. I have what I call (possibly incorrectly) a master stock. It's certainly over twelve months since I made the first batch, which was used, then cooled, strained and frozen until the next use. It's dark and fragrant with orange peel, asian spices, dark soy sauce and whatever else I've chucked in each time I've used it and topped it up. Just got it out of the freezer actually. I plan to do something adventurous with pork belly - possibly boil the stock, plonk in the pork belly and turn off the heat so it poaches gently, then - later - take the pork belly out, dry it and whack it into a blistering oven to try for crackling.... could be delicious or disastrous - one of the joys of making things up!
              Angus, Gold Coast, Australia

              2 Replies
              1. re: Rubester

                Is this not exactly what Phan is talking about in "Vietnamese Home Cooking" when he talks about "Lo Soi"?

                He says chefs use the same lo soi for their entire careers.

                1. re: hyde

                  Not sure of this book you mention, but try this link - Neil Perry is one of Australia's most famous chefs and draws wonderful inspiration from Asian cuisine (one of his most popular restaurants was called Wok Pool)...
                  This sounds very much like what I started with - hope it helps!

              2. Not to attack anyone personally, but I call BS on this idea entirely. There's no chemistry behind it.

                7 Replies
                1. re: rudeboy

                  I am not sure what "Chemistry" you mean, but I know from experience that a well maintained and used Master Stock continues to gain layers and depth of flavor each time it is used. Each Meat as well as the repeated reductions add to the complexity and intensity of the Stocks flavor.

                  1. re: chefj

                    Theoretically, I guess its possible but I've been around European style (French, German, Swiss)restaurants in the USA and never even heard of this. Maybe it's an Asian thing? 100 years is a long time to go without an extended power failure.

                    1. re: zackly

                      This post is most definitely about Master Stock which is a Chinese Cuisine thing nothing like a European Stock.

                      1. re: chefj

                        Thanks for the clarification. It would have to be something that doesn't require refrigeration. They didn't teach me that @ the C.I.A. Now I regularly have sauce in my refrigerator that is several generations old. It may start out as a braising liquid (gravy) from a pot roast or short ribs then I’ll use it to deglaze a chicken or pork roast enriching the flavor and adding nuance each time you use it. As long as you practice good hygiene and cool it quickly after service, it can last a long time. When you bring it back to a simmer you are basically starting anew, bacteria wise.

                        1. re: zackly

                          You should reread the Wiki entry. Best practice, it does get refrigerated.
                          When I do braises the Braising Liquid is not really good for deglazing in the proper sense. It is already too reduced for that use. I suppose if you have a very thin liquid it would work. Personally, for most western Dishes, I like to use Wine.

                  2. re: rudeboy

                    The chefs continuing in a food culture that stretches back thousands of years will be surprised to hear this.

                    "Chemistry", or no.

                    1. re: hyde

                      Fair enough. I'm hear to learn, and if I'm not learning anymore, I'm dead!

                  3. I remember watching a show that highlighted Stephanie Izzard of Girl and the Goat. If I recall correctly, she makes a big batch of stock (from pig's heads) daily and she uses a large amount for dishes. There is some stock that is reserved which she reduces greatly as the base for the next days stock.