(make sure you check out the musical pairing at the end of the post!)
So I’ve started a new journey in 2023. It’s one I’ve been planning since 2019, but then 2020 happened and the world shut down and instead of taking time during quarantine to go through with this plan, instead I had to battle my own mental health and kept busy doing that until last year.
My big 2023 plan is to learn all the culinary skills and recipes I’ve “always wanted to” (and have been afraid to try) and then in 2024, I’m going to try out for MasterChef. It’s a big scary goal, but I have to do it.
So 2023 is my year of food, and I’ve starting with the basics: cooking stock.
What is Stock in cooking?
Stock is also known as bone broth, a savory liquid base for a lot of things like sauces, soups, and stews. It’s full of collagen, gelatin and plenty of other beneficial nutrients, so some people just drink it straight. (It’s pretty great when you have a cold or the flu and can’t/don’t want to eat anything!)
Basically, you simmer bones (or veggies, for you non-meat-eaters) and herbs and spices and veggies in water or wine for a long time, strain it, cool it down, take the fat off and then use it for whatever you like.
Is there a difference between Stock and Broth?
Yep! Stock usually simmers bones, which can create a jello-like product once it cools (due to the gelatin in the bones that’s extracted during the simmer). It has a stronger flavor than broth.
Broth simmers meat (like from a roasted chicken) and stays thinner and lighter than the stock. You can substitute broth for stock in some things, but the end result will be more watery than if you used stock.
You cannot substitute broth in for glace de viande (beef) or glace de volaille (chicken), as the broth won’t thicken as much as is needed since it doesn’t contain the gelatin from the bones.
What’s in a Stock?
There’s some basics required for stock, but you’ve got some wiggle room.
- Bones (beef or chicken are used most, but you can make it with fish bones as well)
- Mirepoix (In cajun cooking, they call this the “Holy Trinity”, as it’s the base of a lot of their savory dishes like gumbo. 50% onion, 25% carrots, 25% celery is a good ratio. You don’t have to chop in uniform pieces, it’s all getting strained out.)
- Herbs and spices (a lot of recipes call for parsley, which rounds out the taste with a bitter element. Thyme is also commonly used, adding a nice woodsy herb flavor. Whole black peppercorns are popular as well.)
- NO SALT (you want to make sure you add salt to the end product, as when you reduce the stock in a stew or a sauce, the salt doesn’t evaporate with the water. This means that things get exponentially saltier, so adding salt at the beginning of the process is a bad idea.)
- Filtered Water (filtered water helps remove impurities from the stock and helps break down the proteins in the bones that would normally cause cloudiness)
- Acid (apple cider vinegar is the most commonly used, but some beef stock calls for tomato paste. The acid helps break down the connective tissue in the bones, and accelerates the gelatin formation.)
Brown Stock vs White Stock
White stock is made with blanching the bones in boiling water first to remove impurities, making it more clarified, clear and less cloudy than brown stock. It’s used for more fancy things where a less-cloudy stock is necessary, like consommé.
Brown stock is more hearty and dark, made by roasting the bones prior to simmering. It also usually involves a tomato product.
A basic beef stock with roasted beef and veggies
- 4-5 pounds of beef bones
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 coarsely chopped carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 large onion, root removed, peeled and quartered
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3-4 quarts of water
- 4 stalks fresh parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
- 3 bay leaves
- 12 black peppercorns
- Roasting Pan (see notes)
- Stockpot with a lid
- Big mesh strainer
- Wooden spoon
- Freezer containers
- Trim larger pieces of meat from the bones. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and put the rack in the center of the oven.
- Using a roasting pan you can also use on the stovetop (see notes), roast the bones in the oven for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally so they brown evenly.
- Add the veggies and the olive oil to the pan, stirring to combine so everything is coated evenly in the oil.
- Roast about 1 more hour, or until the mixture is browned evenly.
- Spoon the veggies and bones into the stockpot, and pour any extra grease from the roasting pan out (into the trash or a grease container for proper disposal, not down the drain!).
- Put the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat, adding the tomato paste. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture gets darker - about 2-3 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of the water to the roasting pan and increase the heat to high. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat back to low and simmer, deglazing the pan. (Deglaze means scraping the brown-ish bits from the bottom and sides of the pan.)
- Pour the tomato paste mixture over the veggies and bones in the stockpot, along with the rest of the water. (Make sure the liquid covers the bones, and add a little more water if it doesn't.)
- Add the parsley, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Use a ladle or wooden spoon to remove any foamy scum from the top.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer (just a few bubbles, just above low did it for me). Prop the lid open with a wooden spoon, or set it so it doesn't entirely cover the pot. You want some of the liquid to evaporate, so it can't be totally covered.
- Simmer for 5-6 hours.
- Strain through a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into a large container, preferably low and wide, to expedite cooling. Throw out the solids.
- Let it come to room temp (see notes).
- Once the fats on top solidify, you should be able to remove them easily. (see notes) and discard.
- Ladle into your storage containers - you can refrigerate it for 3-4 days or freeze for up to three months. If freezing, make sure to leave enough space at the top for the stock to expand as it freezes.
- Ask your butcher to cut the bones into 1-2 inch pieces, and to split any large bone open. Even at a supermarket, they should be able to do this for you. (I broke my cleaver trying to do this myself.)
- I used my Staub dutch oven for the roasting step - worked like a charm.
- When you cool the stock, it needs to come down to about 70º within 2 hours for food safety reasons. Use your thermometer to measure this and DO NOT stick hot stock into your fridge - it will heat up the fridge and the food in it. Not good. If it's not cooling fast enough, put a couple of layers of ice in your sink and put your pot into it to speed up the cooling.
- The fat usually rises to the top of your stock and solidifies in a solid layer that you can just break like a creme brulée crust and throw away.
For those of you who like accompaniment while you are cooking in the kitchen like me, we recommend pairing with Richard Wagner’s beautiful opera, Tristan and Isolde.
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