Even professional chefs and experienced cooks use the broth and stock terms interchangeably, but they can enhance your cooking in very different ways. So, what are the key differences between chicken stock and chicken broth?
Chicken stock vs. chicken broth: The lowdown
Let’s compare their similarities and differences.
- Both stock and broth refer to the liquid you get after you simmer animal parts and vegetables in water for hours and then strain out the solid bits.
- You can use both stock and broth as a base for soups, stews, gravies, and sauces. You can also substitute stock or broth for water to add more flavor to any grain or pasta.
- They’re also a way to reduce food waste at home. A broth will gladly use up your carrot tops, celery bottoms, and outer onion layers that typically end up in the trash. Or compost bin, if you’re cool like that.
- Stock comes from simmering the carcass with the bones, but simmering the carcass with the skin and (sometimes) meat gets you broth.
- Stock usually contains minimal seasoning and salt, whereas broth gets a lot of its flavor from seasoning — you can drink broth all by itself. Stock has a more neutral flavor for use in more dishes.
- Stock is usually darker and cloudier than broth, and broth looks lighter and thinner.
- Broth is essentially a more flavorsome substitute for water, and you can use it for blanching and boiling goodies or as the base for lighter soups. Stock serves as the base for thick, rich soups and stews, with collagen adding an umami twist.
How do both come to be? And when should you choose one over the other? We’ll explain it, as well as give you the steps for making basic chicken broth and stock, some easy recipes, and other useful info.
Chicken stock is what you get when you simmer the carcass of the chicken and most importantly, the bones. It’s really all about the bones.
The long simmering process extracts collagen from those bones and forms a layer of fat on top of the strained liquid when it cools. You keep that. The gelatinous layer blends in again when you heat it back up, and it adds a rich, earthy, umami flavor.
This is the “heartier” choice. Though it packs a more concentrated flavor punch, stock generally doesn’t have (much) added salt or any spices, keeping it neutral enough for a wide variety of uses.
Though we always recommend making your own, you can buy canned and boxed chicken stocks in any supermarket.
Chicken broth is the cooking liquid you find yourself with after you simmer the carcass, skin, and (sometimes) meat of the bird along with vegetables in water, and season it with salt, herbs, and spices.
Broth might be lighter, but it has a complex enough flavor to be sipped and enjoyed all on its own. Also, you can make many versions of vegetarian broth. If you don’t have the time or energy to make it yourself, ready-made broth is available in cans or cartons at the grocery store.
We suggest going for a low sodium variety, which gives you a little more control over your sodium intake. You can add more sodium, but just how much depends on your health needs and overall diet.
There are no strict rules as to when you should use chicken stock or chicken broth. They have their differences, but they *are* pretty similar. There are a few factors of each you can bear in mind to make the most of each base.
Chicken stock uses
Since most chicken stock is rich in gelatinous collagen from the long-simmered bones, it suits hearty soups and stews where you’re after a deep, rich flavor (think coq au vin or a rich marsala sauce).
Chicken broth uses
Think of broth as savory-flavored water — it has the same consistency.
As well as sipping it on its own for fast, warming sustenance, use broth for blanching, boiling, to thin out a sauce, or as the base (broth) for a soup that doesn’t need much added texture or a super-rich flavor base.
Below are a few recipes for easy homemade chicken broth and chicken stock and some recipes that use them.
Since both should simmer for at least a few hours, it’s best to make them either in large quantities ahead of time and store them in the freezer, where they will last for months or longer.
However you make your stock or broth, we can guarantee your meals will taste so much better than just using water or the store-bought stuff. Try these recipes that call for your homemade stock or broth.
Storing broth and stock
Pro tip: if you freeze your stock or broth in ice cube trays first and then transfer the cubes to a larger freezer bag, you can use as much or as little as you need when the time comes.
If you’re going to freeze your stock or broth in wide-mouthed mason jars, leave a little room at the top for expansion.
Store-bought? Pah. Show those manufacturers what-for and make stock and broth in your very own kitchen.
Nothing beats a homemade chicken stock — and it’s easy AF (as long as you have the time):
- Bring the bones and cold water up to a boil.
- Drop down to a simmer.
The longer the stock simmers, the more collagen and gelatin leave the bones and create a viscous cooking liquid with rich umami flavor.
This recipe can be made using beef bones, fish bones, or any others you have on hand.
A homemade chicken broth generally has a more “finished” and recognizable taste than stock. This comes partly from vegetables like celery, onions, and carrots and the spices and herbs used in making it.
While you can drink broth on its own, why not put your broth and stock to work in these amazing recipes?
With seven ingredients total (plus salt, pepper, and butter), this is an easy, creamy, dreamy springtime soup.
The other ingredients are also pretty easy to source (with the exception of crème fraîche, possibly). Then, grab your homemade stock or broth, and take this soup to the next level.
You need 10 tablespoons of chicken stock or broth for this slow-simmering Italian classic. The healthier twist comes from using ground turkey in place of ground pork and veal.
If you already have your chicken stock or broth in the freezer, all you gotta do is:
Then enjoy all those lovely flavors of ginger, basil, jalapeño, cilantro, Sriracha, and lime.
A soup that combines Italian pasta favorites plus cannellini beans? We’re in!
5. Bacon jam
There are plenty of recipes crying out for your homemade chicken broth or stock that don’t star poultry as the main ingredient. Take this bacon jam. Really, take it on. Because bacon.
Chicken stock and broth are different beings from the same universe. Stock is thicker, darker, and uses the bones as well as the flesh and skin of the chicken. Broth has a more watery texture but usually calls for more seasoning and spices.
You can make both at home by simmering that business for a few hours and freezing big batches for use in your future meals. Anything from risotto, soups, Bolognese and even jams can benefit from your stock and broth knowledge.
Stock up and get simmering!