What’s the Difference Between Stock and Broth?

Stock — whether it’s made from beef, chicken, pork or seafood — is the very foundation of so many classic recipes, from velvety sauces to comforting soups. But how is it different from broth? And what about bone broth? The trendy hot beverage that fans say is something of a cure-all. Let’s break down the essential differences between stock and broth.

chicken stock

Photo by Meredith Publishing

Taking Stock

The most basic stock is bones and water, slowly simmered over a long period of time. The extended cooking time gently draws flavor and coaxes collagen from bones. The collagen is what gives the stock its jiggly texture when chilled. Of course, there are many variations on making the basic stock. Many recipes call for the addition of vegetables and herbs, a generous helping of salt, even a splash of vinegar or wine. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to seasoning basic stock, but if it’s going to be used in a recipe, keep it simple. Seasoned cooks know that by including too much, that can affect the taste of the final recipe, making it too salty or too herbaceous.

chicken stock

Chicken stock. Photo by Meredith Publishing

When Stock Becomes Broth

Broth is what happens when stock is taken a step further with the addition of herbs and spices and other ingredients. Stock is cooked, chilled and strained and then finished with various seasonings. For example, chicken stock is transformed into chicken broth that’s primed to become pho or Grandma’s Chicken Soup and many more steamy, soup and stew-inspired preparations. Seasoned broth sipped on its own is often referred to as bone broth. And, while bone broth bars will likely never replace the ubiquitous coffeehouse, serving cups of bone broth has gained ground in recent years. Finally, don’t confuse stock or broth with bouillon cubes or granules. Those are highly concentrated versions of a broth that’s used as a shortcut.

Yes, There’s Also Vegetarian Stock

Meatless variations of stock follow the same principle, cooking ingredients slowly over a long period of time to extract maximum flavor. Richer variations of vegetarian stock call for roasted or caramelized veggies, tomato paste and smoked salts. Like the meat-based versions, it’s important not to over-season stock that will be used in other recipes.

Here’s More on Stock/Broth

10 Tips for Making Brilliant, Meat-Based, Recipe-Ready Stock

12 Skinny, Satisfying Soups for Fall and Winter

Try These Takeout Faves in Your Instant Pot

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Broth and Stock Recipes