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Is Stock Overhyped?

2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

This article reflects my attitude toward making and using stocks. I often prefer water because I feel stock adds the wrong flavor.

The perfect base for your soup is flowing through your faucet.

"In the past, not having broth in my kitchen has been enough to stop me from making soup. I believed stock was essential for making anything that could be eaten with a spoon or sopped up with bread—blame the hundreds of offhand comments and cooking tips encouraging me to make my own broth from whole chickens or frozen scraps like onion skins and leftover bones. It’s widely regarded by chefs and home cooks that homemade stock outshines what’s often sold in cartons and bouillon cubes, but how many of us have the foresight to make stock in advance of a soup craving?

“Stock” and “broth” are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. Stock derives its flavor from bones, while broth is made from simmering meat and vegetables in water. Regardless, they both serve the same purpose: to act as the backbone of flavor for all things stewed, saucy, and soupy. Until recently, I wouldn’t have dared to make my favorite tomato soup or risotto without one of them on hand. Then I listened to an episode of the TASTE podcast with cookbook author Andy Baraghani, who dismissed the notion that stock was necessary. In fact, he argued that it could actually get in the way of a saucy dish’s flavor, and he advocated for using water instead.

“I have to say I use water [a] majority of the time over stock, and it’s really to allow the ingredients to shine,” he says on the show. “Whether it’s a nuoc cham or a braise, adding stock adds weight—unnecessary weight—and I kind of want the freshness and that clean water to allow the other ingredients to come through and breathe.”...

...Baraghani acknowledges that stock has a place in many recipes, but he says the idea that more ingredients equals more flavor can cloud whether a recipe benefits from adding that flavorful base. “Stock can add that extra layer: an extra layer of fat, an extra layer of umami, depth to a braise, a dish, a soup that is sometimes needed,” he says. “But on the other side, it can also add an unnecessary layer when you want just a few ingredients to shine.”..."

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