Bouillon is sometimes also referred to as broth or stock. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, and they share many common features, there are some differences between these terms.

What is bouillon?

Bouillon is a savoury, flavoursome liquid that is made by simmering bones, meat, fish, or vegetables in water. Bouillon can be made fresh or bought commercially prepared, of which the most popular flavours are chicken, beet, fish, and vegetables, usually in the form of dehydrated cubes. You can eat bouillon on its own, as is, however it is most often used in the preparation of other foods. Bouillon is used as a base for soups, gravies, and sauces, adding a rich flavour.

Making bouillon uses the same ingredients used to make broth, however the two vary in their cooking times. Bouillon requires cooking for anywhere up to 24 hours, but at least 8 hours of simmering. By the time bouillon is finished, the bones used should be softened and easily broken under strong pressure. An easy way to distinguish the two is that bouillon is a more concentrated and aromatic form of broth.

What is broth?

Broth is a type of meat or vegetable based soup. Most typically, broth refers to a meat-based soup or any liquid that has had meat cooked in it, however the term is also often used to describe vegetable soups. The most popular types of broth are made from chicken, beef, or lamb along with vegetables and aromatic herbs. Broth is usually cooked for a relatively short time, usually less than two hours. It is also usually seasoned with salt and pepper, making it just as delicious to eat on its own as it is when used as a foundation for sauces and soups.

The ideal broth should not be cloudy or thick, but a thin soup that does not gel when refrigerated. The secret to keeping a broth semi-clear is to add the ingredients being used (meat, vegetables) into cold water and then slowly heat the liquid to a boil, keeping it at a light simmer afterwards. If the amount of water needs to be topped up during cooking, only boiling water should be used to prevent cooling. Broth is usually cooked with mirepoix for flavouring, a combination of onion, carrot, and celery.

What is stock?

Stock is the base used for making most soups. Technically, the term stock is used to refer to a savoury liquid made from animal bones, sometimes with or without meat added. However, you will usually also find vegetable stock, fish stock, or a combination of meat and vegetables stock. To make stock, the bones are usually first roasted to give a richer, deeper colour and flavour. Stock will typically be left to boil on the stove anywhere from two to six hours, much longer than broth. It is also usually left unseasoned and seasoning is added later when used to make soups, sauces, gravies, braises, and stews.

What’s the difference between broth and stock?

  • What they’re made from – Stock is used to refer to a liquid made from animal bones, whereas broth is made more from the meat of an animal.
  • Their textures – Stock also tends to have a fuller body and richer flavour due to the gelatine released by the simmering bones.
  • How they are used – Broth can be served on its own as a soup, while stock is always used for cooking and never consumed on its own. While both can be used to flavour meals, they both add different things to a meal. Broth will add flavour while stock is more used to provide body to sauces and soups. Stock is often used to make broth, with the addition of meat, vegetables, and salt.

What’s the best way to flavour broth and stock?

To make the best tasting broth, add aromatic herbs or bouquet garni, which traditionally includes parsley, bay leaf, and thyme. It’s also common to add mirepoix, a combination of onion, carrot, and celery, which provides an extra depth of flavour to broth and stock. It’s a good idea to bind the herbs or place them in a mesh bag before adding to a broth. This way they can easily be removed after cooking.

Chicken broth is served as a soup in many countries. In Poland “Rosół” – traditional meat soup (usually chicken) served with capellini pasta. Canja de galinha, is a popular chicken soup of Portuguese, Cape Verdean, and Brazilian cuisine. Scotch broth is a filling soup, originating in Scotland but now obtainable worldwide.

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