Stock or Broth

I’ve been used to thinking of broth and stock as completely interchangeable. And they are. But there is a difference.

If you have a giant pot of meat and vegetable soup, you aren’t going to be able to tell a difference if you make it with broth or with stock.

But in smaller amounts of sauce, or in a meat-based dish without many competing textures or heavy cheese topping, you will be much happier with a stock.

The reason is the hard-to-describe but completely transforming “mouth feel” from stock. There is a richness that stock gives a dish because of the gelatin that is released from the joints and bones of the meat. And that is the difference in the two terms; Chicken stock tends to be made more from bony parts, whereas chicken broth is made more out of meat. Chicken stock tends to have a fuller mouth feel and richer flavor, due to the gelatin released by long-simmering bones.

Problem is that making your own stock is something we don’t do much anymore. If I’m really feeling domestic on an autumn day and have time, I’ll do it. But day in, day out, it aint happening. And, if you shop the two side by side at the grocery store, you will probably toss the broth in your cart since it is much less expensive than stock, if they even have stock on the shelf.

So, if you don’t have stock on hand, whadya do? Punt with gelatin. The cool trick to creating that mouth feel and richer flavor is adding a bit of gelatin to your broth before using. I saw a guest chef on The Chew mention this as an easy way for the home cook to raise the level of their pan sauces. He simply sprinkled a teaspoon of gelatin over his cup or so of broth and let it bloom while he was prepping the rest of the recipe. I then ran across an article about it later on Serious Eats with the exact same coaching.( And he gives great instruction on a simple chicken breast with pan sauce that is fabulous and will make you feel like a pro if you make.)

You’ll notice your broth thickens up just a bit and that’s all you’re going for; just a little thicker. It’s not gravy thick, it’s more coat your teeth thick, is the best way I can describe it. It makes that sauce richer and glossier and embrace your teeth and tongue in a way that is hard to describe but it’s the difference between an A and an A+ dish.

I’ve tried it with the above chicken breast, and with Chicken Picatta so far and I am a complete fan now.

Give her a try.


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