Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cooking Basics - Stocks

Ever wonder what the difference between stock and broth is? The answer is.. Bones! Stock is made using bones only. A few flecks of meat here and there won't change it, but primarily bones. Broth is made using both bones and meat, or sometimes just meat.

The base to a great sauce starts at the stock you use. Making your own stock is by far much better than buying store bought. First of all, you control the quality of ingredients. You know what is going in it and therefore can adjust it to your cooking needs. Also, Flavor! Store bought tastes like chicken flavored water. Homemade has a much richer and flavorful taste.

Brown Stock means that you brown the bones before making the stock and obviously it will be a rich brown color. Now, if you are planning on making a nice white sauce where the light color is important, you will want to use White Chicken Stock. When making that, the process is the same, however, you won't brown the bones.

There are some key things to remember when making stock:

  • Only start with and add cold water. If you add hot or warm water, the proteins will coagulate and cause your finished stock to be cloudy and muddy. 
  • As it is simmering, strain the top regularly to get out the scum that forms on top. 
  • Do not boil! Let it simmer nice and slow. If it boils, the scum will get churned into the stock and taste greasy and muddy.
  • Don't add salt. Because the salt concentration level will be different when you are finished, there is a chance it may be too salty. You can always ADD salt, but you can't REMOVE it. Also, you can adjust seasonings when adding it to your dish.
  • Once the stock has cooked, cool it down as quickly as possible. I try to freeze 2 liter pop bottles full of water and place them in the finished stock as the whole pot sits in an ice bath. Once it is cool enough, I pour it in large containers and cool overnight. The fat will rise to the top, harden, and can then be scraped off. 
Portion stock out in desired containers and freeze for later use. I use quart containers and 4 oz containers. Since I usually use a little or a lot of stock.