Making your own homemade stock is one of the single best things you can do to improve your cooking. If you don’t do it already, then it’s time to change your ways.
There is no doubt about that stock cubes are convenient, and there is nothing wrong with using them in a pinch, but the flavour pales in comparison and the levels of salt and additives can be worryingly high. Some of the ready made stocks can be good, but they are generally very expensive. If they are not, they tend to be pretty much water and..you guessed it…stock cubes/concentrate.
There are so many reasons to make your own homemade stock. But here are just a few:
- You can get flavour from bones and vegetable scraps that would otherwise end up in the bin.
- It takes very little effort. Throw in your bones and vegetables/scraps and herbs with water and bring to the boil. Aside from the odd skimming, it almost makes itself.
- Real stock in your fridge means you can make a simple and delicious dish in minutes. A nice broth for noodles and vegetables, an embarrassingly quick risotto or some juicy poached chicken – it’s all ready to go and tastes so much better than store bought alternatives.
- It is a pan sauce waiting to happen. If you’ve seared something in a pan, you just need to deglaze with some stock and your pan sauce is almost there.
- A shimmering golden consommé is only a raft away. Don’t even think about making this without stock you’ve made yourself, it just isn’t worth the effort with anything else.
To make great stock there are only a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Always start with cold water and gently bring it up to a gentle simmer to extract maximum flavour.
- Simmer a stock, don’t boil it. Too much agitation from the bubbles will cause emulsification and a cloudy stock that can easily be avoided by just cooking at a lower temperature.
- Use just enough water to cover the ingredients. While adding a lot of water will yield more stock, it will be watered down and need to be reduced. While reducing stock may make your kitchen smell nice, it also cooks of a lot of the flavour and freshness.
- If you want clear stock, use raw bones, if you want it golden roast them first.
- You can add most vegetables. Carrots, onion and celery are the usual offenders and each contribute a particular flavour and sweetness. Left over parsley stalks, dried mushrooms, ginger, garlic or seaweed can all be used if you want a particular flavour profile (or just want to see what happens).
- Some vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage or spinach may have dominating flavours, others such as beets or red cabbage may colour it.
- There is no need to add salt. You often use the finished product in another dish that is reduced, so if you salt it beforehand it will become concentrated and you can easily over-season your final dish. This is one of the reasons bought stocks can be difficult as they are generally high in salt.
- If you want a clear stock, avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin as they will break down and cloud the liquid.
Ready to give it a go? Try these recipes now: