On Stock Cookery: How to make stock and why you should care
Understanding how to make stock is essential to the creation of amazing food. For centuries, chefs and cooks have steamed up kitchens with vats of simmering bones, trimmings, aromatic herbs, and spices, all so they can easily add layers of flavor to the food they create.
In a fine kitchen, the person in charge of stocks, soups, and sauces is typically the most respected cook in the kitchen. They are trusted to define the foundational flavors of the entire menu. In your own Hot Kitchen, you can be the master of flavor and guru of wholesomeness by making your own stock.
My recipes for stock are actually guidelines and formulas. There is no right or wrong method for how to make stock, and you can customize each batch to fit what you have on hand.
What is stock?
Stock is a liquid infusion made from simmering aromatic vegetables, trimmings, and/or bones in water for some time. It is the foundation for soups, sauces, dressings, gravies, and more. People often use bouillon or broth, but they lack in nutritional value. They are also expensive.
Why should I make stock?
It's hard to answer this question without dragging on because there are so many reasons why you should. My top three are:
- Stretch the budget
- Add flavor without adding a lot of calories or artificial ingredients
- Improve nutrition
How homemade stock stretches your budget
Stock costs very little to make when you use leftover bones and vegetable cuttings. Save up bones left on dinner plates and freeze them until you have enough to do something with. Do the same with vegetable trimmings, especially carrot ends, onion roots, and celery trimmings.
You can then use the stock to replace expensive items such as canned gravies, pre-made soups, bouillon, and boxed broth. And in doing so, you avoid eating the preservatives and artificial ingredients these pricy items contain.
How homemade stock adds flavor
One of my favorite chef instructors often said, "Why use water when you can use stock?" When you need to add liquid to a dish, such as when you poach something, you can use stock instead of water. Rice pilaf, while it can be made with water, is much tastier when made with stock. If you need to make a gravy, nothing is better than a properly cooked roux and homemade stock as a base. Stock is a fine alternative to wine when you need to deglaze a pan.
How stock improves nutrition
Stock is a source of many minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, collagen, and so much more. Minerals are extracted while simmering into your stock, then later taken into your body where they replenish your own stash of vital minerals. Stock is particularly helpful with supplying nutrients your body cannot produce on its own, such as calcium.
The best part about the minerals in stock is that they all come from food sources, so your body will recognize them. In contrast, the body sometimes struggles to use nutrients included in over-the-counter supplement because they are made in laboratories.
How to store homemade stock
Okay, so now you have a big batch of steaming stock. What to do with it?
- Use it within 7 days to make a soup
- Freeze for up to 6 months
- Reduce and freeze in ice cube trays
- You must use a pressure cooker — water process canning is not safe for stock.
- Follow the official guide for canning Meat, Poultry, and Game.
- Reduce and dehydrate
The best method I have found for preserving stock is to reduce to a "glace" (pronounced "glahss") and freeze it in ice cube trays. A glace is simply a concentrated stock-based sauce. It's thick, rich, and gives food a nice shine and punch of flavor.
To make glace:
- After straining the stock, return the pot to the burner.
- Adjust heat and bring it to a low boil.
- Cook off 90% of the liquid.
- Pour the reduced stock into ice cube trays.
- Pop the cubes out and store in a bag or tub in the freezer.
How to use frozen glace cubes
Use 1-4 cubes at a time to enrich sauces and side dishes. Use at least 1 cube per cup of water; if you use more, you may need to reduce the amount of water.
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