Stocks and Broths

There’s nothing like homemade broth: it’s economical, easy to make, fills the house with mouth-watering aromas, freezes well and has countless uses. And then there’s the flavour, which puts store-bought broths laced with polysyllabic additives to shame. A little knowledge is all it takes to start making great homemade broths.

What's the difference between stock, broths and consommé?

Stocks are one of the foundations of classic French cuisine, providing the flavour base for many sauces such as velouté and espagnole sauce and demi-glace. Stocks are always made from bones (veal, beef) or chicken parts or carcasses, vegetables (celery, onions or leeks, carrots, tomato paste) and aromatics (bay leaves, thyme, parsley, pepper), all of which simmer in water for a long time—at least 4 to 6 hours. During cooking, the liquid takes on flavour and, thanks to the collagen released by the bones and cartilage, texture. Cooking transforms collagen into gelatin, which is essential to a stock’s character, as it gives the stock its body and silky texture. It’s also what makes stock congeal
once chilled.

There are two types of stock: white stock made from veal or chicken bones (it’s not really white, but a rich golden hue) and brown stock made from veal or beef bones. The difference comes from the fact that to make brown stock, you roast the bones and vegetables before simmering them. The browned, caramelized bones and vegetables result in a stock with a deeper colour and more complex flavour.

Broths are prepared in much the same way as white stocks, only the process is simpler. The cooking time is shorter—2 or 3 hours—and bones are not an essential ingredient. A good broth can be made with pieces of meat or poultry (beef, chicken, turkey, duck), along with flavour-enhancing vegetables and aromatics. Broth, especially when made with few or no bones, has less body than stock. It’s the perfect liquid for everyday dishes: soups, pilafs, sauces, stews, and so on.

Consommé is a stock or broth that has been clarified by adding a mixture of egg whites and finely chopped meat (veal, beef or poultry, depending on the recipe) and vegetables, called a clarification or raft. The stock and egg-meat mixture is very slowly brought to a boil then simmered gently. During cooking, the proteins from the meat and egg whites coagulate and, in the process, attract and trap all the suspended particles, leaving behind a perfectly clear broth or stock. Eventually, the raft forms a solid layer that rises to the surface of the stock, where it filters out any remaining fine particles. Once strained, the consommé is served as-is, making it a clear soup that showcases its clarity
and flavour.

Three tips for making great broth

Simmer gently, uncovered. To make crystal clear broth or stock, simmer it gently without allowing it to boil. Why? Vigorous boiling prevents fats and protein particles released by meat and bones from rising to the surface, where they can be skimmed off or strained out after cooking. In boiled broth, the fats and proteins emulsify and remain in the liquid, making the broth look milky.

Skim. The grayish foam that forms on the surface of a broth, especially early on in the cooking, is composed of coagulated proteins that, if left in the broth, can make it taste slightly bitter, especially if you’re making beef broth. Skimming brings a subtle improvement to the flavour, but is not essential to good broth. Remove the foam with a spoon or, better yet, a small metal skimmer.

Strain and degrease. Straining separates the bones, meat and vegetables from the broth. The usual method is to strain through a sieve or a conical strainer (chinois), then to refrigerate so that the fat congeals on the surface of the broth. But you can achieve both goals by lining the strainer with paper towels. The paper lets all the broth through, but traps almost all the fat. A small amount will get through, but that’s not a problem: a little bit of fat holds a lot of flavour!

For white stock, use veal or beef bones. Rinse the bones and place them in the stock pot without roasting. Omit the tomato paste and wine.

Nice to know

This broth can be made with cooked or raw chicken or turkey carcasses. In a well-run kitchen, nothing goes to waste!


Don’t salt your broth early on. If reduced much, the broth may become too salty. Add salt at the end or just before adding the broth to your favourite recipe.

Christina Blais

For Christina Blais, explaining food chemistry to the masses is as simple as making a good omelet. Holding a Bachelor and Master degree in Nutrition, she has been a part-time lecturer for over 30 years in the Department of Nutrition at the Université de Montréal, where she teaches food science courses. She has been sharing the fruits of her experience with Ricardo since 2001, during his daily show broadcast on ICI Radio-Canada Télé. And diehards can also read her Food Chemistry on our website. You can follow her on Facebook at @Encuisineavecchristinablais.