Chances are you've found yourself standing stumped in the soup aisle, wondering if you should buy chicken broth or chicken stock for your latest cozy dinner. Though they're placed right next to each other in grocery stores, stock and broth are not interchangeable, and they're used for very different purposes in the kitchen. Here's how they're made and the best ways to use them.
Broth: a drinkable treat and base for soups
Broth is the light and mildly flavorful liquid your mom used to heat up for you when you were sick. It comes together with a base of water, simmered with vegetables and meat. It's cooked for 45 minutes to two hours before it's strained, salted, and enjoyed on its own or as a base for any soup under the sun. Say you have a leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge; you can keep it from going to waste by throwing it into a pot with carrots, celery, and onion to make a base for a delightful chicken noodle soup.
Stock: a hearty starting point for other dishes
Stock has a similar ingredients list as broth — water and veggies — but differs in its use of bones. It takes longer to cook — about four to six hours — but its versatility is worth the extra labor.
Bones, sometimes roasted and sometimes with meat still attached, release collagen when simmered, which gives stock its rich, gelatinous texture. That high collagen content means that stock coagulates when refrigerated but returns to a liquid when heated. Stock's thickness makes it a great tool for just about anything in the kitchen, except for eating on its own. Use it to deglaze a pan after cooking bacon or caramelizing onions; it will create an irresistibly rich liquid for sauces or gravy. If you need broth for a dish but only have stock, don't panic; dilute it with water, and it's a perfect substitute.
And what about bone broth?
Remember bone broth, one of last year's biggest wellness trends? It's like stock, but it's cooked for much longer to release the bones' collagen and other health-boosting minerals. The result is a velvety broth with a ton of flavor. It's meant to be heated and sipped from a mug for a comforting, nutritious snack or used in place of stock or broth in soups.