The other night, I was making a recipe that required a cup of chicken stock. I went to my pantry and pulled out a can of chicken broth and didn’t think twice about using it in place of the stock. After all, aren’t stock and broth interchangeable ingredients? Hmm, interesting question. In all my years of cooking, I’ve never questioned the difference. Based on my dishes’ success, using broth instead of stock, it really doesn’t appear to matter which you use.
The reason I started using broth was simply because of availability in the supermarket. There are a ton of options for broth, and it’s easy to find whatever variety you need: beef, chicken, turkey vegetable. Back a few years ago, it used to be really difficult to find chicken or beef stock. Now, while not nearly as abundant as broth, you can find stock in the soup aisle. So now that both options are readily available. I was curious about the difference between the two and why some recipes require stock while others require broth.
The easiest way for me to keep them straight is remembering that broth is a soup ready to eat, as is – if you want. Broth is used in recipes for its flavor. Stock is meant for cooking, it’s primary purpose is to provide body, rather than taste. It is not considered a finished product, like broth. It’s the way they are made that produces the difference. Broth is made using meat and vegetables. Stock is prepared using bones rather than meat.
Stock is made by simmering bones (or seafood shells – lobster, shrimp, crab) for several hours to create a thick liquid used as a neutral base for recipes. Most often, it is used for sauces, stews, and soups. Stock contains slightly more carbs, fat, and protein than broth, it’s also significantly higher in vitamins and minerals. Broth is traditionally made by simmering meat, vegetables, and herbs in water to create a flavorful liquid that can be consumed on its own or used in other dishes. It is lighter and thinner than stock and has fewer calories. It’s great for boiling pasta or steaming vegetables.
The bottom line is the differences between broth and stock are minimal. You can’t go wrong in substituting broth for stock. (Yay!)
Homemade stock is less expensive than store-bought. As the bones or shells from something you already made, there’s virtually no cost to making it yourself. There are many recipes available to make your own stock and broth if you are so inclined. I am not! I don’t enjoy playing around with bones or shells. When a recipe calls for stock or broth, the hack is to use whatever you have on hand. Either will work just fine!