Stocks vs Broths (or: Peas on the Plate Culinary Academy, Lesson 2)

Here’s a constant in my kitchen: If a recipe calls for broth, I invariably have stock at home. When a recipe calls for stock, guess what I have in my kitchen? Fucking broth, that’s what.

For every recipe that requires one of these, I spend a solid 20 minutes on my phone frantically Googling to find out if they’re interchangeable and where to go from there. What I don’t know at the end of all that Googling: what the hell the difference is.

So, for the second lesson of Peas on the Plate Culinary Academy (if you recall, the first lesson was an attempt to prevent you from chopping your fingers off), we’re going learn the difference, and maybe next time I mix them up, I won’t waste precious cooking time Googling nervously.

Stocks Broths
Bones (for connective tissue/collagen) Base components Meat/fish/veggies and aromatics
4-6 hours Cooking time 45 minutes-2 hours
Used as bases for rich, flavorful sauces Notes Can be consumed on its own

So the biggest difference is where it all begins. Stocks are made from slow-cooking animal bones, and the collagen from the bones and collective tissues gives the stock a more rich consistency, and to quote most of the stuff I read about this, a “richer mouth feel.” This is why vegetable stock isn’t a thing: it doesn’t have the collagen necessary, but veggies to make a great broth, because…

Broths, on the other hand, are cooked with the odds and ends of meats, vegetables, fish- you can use a lot of different things as a broth base. You can also consume broths on their own, like in miso soup. Stocks are used as bases for sauces, and it’s rare to just consume them on their own.

To answer the age-old question I Google while cooking over and over again: can you swap them out? Yes, normal people cooking in their homes can swap them out. Fine restaurants won’t, because, unlike myself, they have standards and will make the broths and stocks on premises.

For the home cook in a hurry, stocks and broths take some time, but fortunately there are a boatload of ways to get them together in a pinch, such as bouillons cubes, cans and boxes of stocks, and (my personal favorite) Better Than Bouillon, which lasts longer than the canned and boxed stuff once they’re open and there’s plenty of it in every jar.

So there you have it! That wraps the second lesson of the Peas on the Plate Culinary Academy. Stay tuned for more things that will keep you from looking stuff up on your phone over a hot stove.

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