Stock making basics

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Making stock
Mirepoix
Sachet d'épices
Brown stock

What is stock making

A stock is a clear, thin (ie un-thickened), liquid flavoured by soluble substances extracted from meat, poultry, and fish, and their bones, and from vegetables and seasonings. Our objective in preparing stocks is to select the proper ingredients and then to extract the flavours we want — in other words, to combine the correct ingredients with the correct procedure. In addition to bones, vegetables (mirepoix) and water (which comprise 80%, 10% and 100% respectively of a stock), you may also include the following:

ACID - Acids help to dissolve connective tissue and therefore they are sometimes used in stock-making to extract flavour and body from bones. Tomato products contribute flavour and some acid to brown stocks. They are not used for white stocks because they would give an undesirable colour. Similarly, when making brown stocks, be careful not to add too much tomato, which can make the stock cloudy. Wine is occasionally used, especially for fish stocks. Its flavour contribution is probably more important than its acidity.

SCRAPS & LEFTOVERS - Scraps may be used in stocks if they are clean, wholesome, and appropriate to the stock being made. If done correctly, stock-making is a good way of utilising trimmings that would otherwise be thrown out. It is better to save trimmings and use them in a planned way than to throw them into the stock randomly - stockpot is not a waste disposal unit. The final product is only as good as the ingredients and the care that goes into it.

Making stock

Making stock may seem, at first glance, a simple procedure. However, many steps are involved, each with a rather complicated set of reasons. If you are to be successful at making stocks, you must understand not only what to do but also why you are doing it. If you are making a meat based stock, you may need to blanch your bones. You must also prepare your mirepoix which should weigh one-eighth of the weight of the bones, so for every litre of water, you need 800g bones and 100g mirepoix (of which 50g will be onions and 25g each of the remaining two vegetables - normally carrots and celery). Finally, you need to make up your bouquet garni or sachet d'épices.

Once you have made your stock, you may or may not wish to clarify it - this will depend on what the final product is going to be. A consommé for example must be clarified, whereas this will not be necessary for thick or cream soups - see the link below.

For more detail see also:

Basic recipes

Instructions are given here for making 4 basic stocks: brown, white, fish and vegetable plus fumet

Basic brown stock

The difference between brown stocks and white stocks is that the bones and mirepoix are browned for the brown stock. This recipe makes 8-9 litres stock, but you can always reduce or increase the quantities as you wish. Veal or beef are the bones to use for a standard brown stock, however, you can also make a lamb or game brown stock, using the relevant bones.

You will need:

Preparing the brown stock:

  1. Cut the bones into pieces, 8-10 cm long - do not wash or blanch the bones as the moisture would hinder browning.
  2. Place the bones in a roasting pan in one layer and brown in a moderately hot oven at 190°C / 375°F / Gas 5 / Fan 170°C or higher. The bones must be well browned to colour the stock sufficiently. This takes over 1 hour. You can oil the bones lightly before browning.
  3. When the bones are well browned, remove them from the pan and place them in a stockpot.
  4. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer.
  5. Drain and reserve the fat from the roasting pan.
  6. Deglaze the pan by adding water and stirring over heat until all the brown drippings are dissolved or loosened and add to the stockpot.
  7. While the stock is getting started, place the mirepoix in the roasting pan with some of the reserved fat and brown the vegetables well in the oven.
  8. Add the tomato purée to the mirepoix and continue to brown until the tomato purée turns a rusty brown colour.
  9. When the water in the stockpot comes to a simmer, skim the scum that comes to the surface, using a skimmer or perforated spoon. Skimming is important for a clear stock because the scum (which is fat and coagulated protein) will cloud the stock if it is broken up and mixed back into the liquid.
  10. Add the browned vegetables and the tomato purée to the stockpot. If desired, they may be held out until 2 to 3 hours before the end of the cooking time. Remember, the size to which you cut mirepoix depends on how long it is to be cooked.
  11. Do not let the stock boil. Keep it at a low simmer. Boiling makes the stock cloudy because it breaks solids into tiny particles that get mixed into the liquid.
  12. Skim the surface as often as necessary during cooking.
  13. Keep the water level above the bones.Add more water if the stock reduces below this level. Bones cooked while exposed to air will turn dark and thus darken or discolor the stock. Also, they do not release flavour into the water if the water doesn’t touch them.
  14. Simmer for the recommended length of time: Beef bones—8 to 10 hours - Veal bones—6 to 8 hours. Nowadays, we do not simmer stocks as long as earlier generations did. It is true that longer cooking extracts more gelatin, but gelatin isn’t the only factor in a good stock. Flavours begin to break down or degenerate over time. The above times are felt to be the best for obtaining full flavour while still getting a good portion of gelatin into the stock.
  15. Skim the surface and strain off the stock through a chinois lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Adding a little cold water to the stock before skimming stops the cooking and brings more fat and impurities to the surface.
  16. Cool the stock as quickly as possible, as follows: • Set the pot in a sink with blocks, a rack, or some other object under it. This is called venting. It allows cold water to flow under the pot as well as around it. • Run cold water into the sink, but not higher than the level of the stock, or the pot will become unsteady. • Stir the pot occasionally so all the stock cools evenly. Hang a ladle in the pot so you can give it a quick stir whenever you pass the sink without actually taking extra time to do it. Cooling stock quickly and properly is important. Improperly cooled stock can spoil in 6 to 8 hours because it is a good breeding ground for bacteria that cause foodborne disease and spoilage. Do not set the hot stock in the fridge. All that heat and steam will overload the refrigerator and may damage other perishables as well as the equipment.
  17. When cool, refrigerate the stock in covered containers. Stock will keep 2 to 3 days if properly refrigerated. Stock can also be frozen and will keep for several months.

Basic white stock

White stock

A good white stock has rich, full flavour, good body, clarity, and little or no colour. Chicken stocks may have a light yellow colour. This recipe makes 8-9 litres stock, but you can always reduce or increase the quantities as you wish. Veal or beef are the bones to use for a standard whitestock, but you can also you can also make a chicken, lamb, ham or turkey white stock, using the relevant bones. NB for chicken stock, reduce the cooking time to 3-4 hours

You will need:

Preparing the white stock:

  1. Cut the bones into pieces, 8-10 cm long. This exposes more surface area and helps extraction. A meat saw is used to cut heavy veal and beef bones. Chicken bones don’t need to be cut, but whole carcasses should be chopped for more convenient handling.
  2. Rinse the bones in cold water. (If desired, chicken, veal, or beef bones may be blanched.) This removes some impurities that cloud the stock or, if the bones are old, give an off taste.
  3. Place the bones in a stockpot and add cold water to cover. Starting in cold water speeds extraction. Starting in hot water delays it because many proteins are soluble in cold water but not in hot.
  4. Bring water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Skim the scum that comes to the surface, using a skimmer or perforated spoon. Skimming is important for a clear stock because the scum (which is fat and coagulated protein) will cloud the stock if it is broken up and mixed back into the liquid.
  5. Add the chopped mirepoix and the sachet d'épices. Remember, the size to which you cut mirepoix depends on how long it is to be cooked.
  6. Do not let the stock boil. Keep it at a low simmer. Boiling makes the stock cloudy because it breaks solids into tiny particles that get mixed into the liquid.
  7. Skim the surface as often as necessary during cooking.
  8. Keep the water level above the bones.Add more water if the stock reduces below this level. Bones cooked while exposed to air will turn dark and thus darken or discolour the stock. Also, they do not release flavour into the water if the water doesn’t touch them.
  9. Simmer for the recommended length of time: Beef bones—8 to 10 hours; Chicken bones—3 to 4 hours; Veal bones—6 to 8 hours. Nowadays, we do not simmer stocks as long as earlier generations did. It is true that longer cooking extracts more gelatin, but gelatin isn’t the only factor in a good stock. Flavours begin to break down or degenerate over time. The above times are felt to be the best for obtaining full flavour while still getting a good portion of gelatin into the stock.
  10. Skim the surface and strain off the stock through a chinois lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Adding a little cold water to the stock before skimming stops the cooking and brings more fat and impurities to the surface.
  11. Cool the stock as quickly as possible, as follows: • Set the pot in a sink with blocks, a rack, or some other object under it. This is called venting. It allows cold water to flow under the pot as well as around it. • Run cold water into the sink, but not higher than the level of the stock, or the pot will become unsteady. • Stir the pot occasionally so all the stock cools evenly. Hang a ladle in the pot so you can give it a quick stir whenever you pass the sink without actually taking extra time to do it. Cooling stock quickly and properly is important. Improperly cooled stock can spoil in 6 to 8 hours because it is a good breeding ground for bacteria that cause foodborne disease and spoilage. Do not set the hot stock in the fridge. All that heat and steam will overload the refrigerator and may damage other perishables as well as the equipment.
  12. When cool, refrigerate the stock in covered containers. Stock will keep 2 to 3 days if properly refrigerated. Stock can also be frozen and will keep for several months.

Basic fish stock

Fish stock

A standard fish stock is made the same way as a white stock. This type of stock is useful for soups and similar seafood preparations. For sauces, a more tasty fish stock called a fumet is preferred. A fish fumet is made by first sweating the bones and mirepoix in fat. White wine is then added to deglaze, and finally water is added and the fumet finished in the normal manner. Recipes for a standard fish stock and a fish fumet are given below. These recipes make about 4.5 litres stock, but you can always reduce or increase the quantities as you wish.

You will need:

Preparing the fish stock:

  1. Rinse the bones in cold water. This removes some impurities that cloud the stock.
  2. Place the bones in a stockpot and add cold water to cover. Starting in cold water speeds extraction. Starting in hot water delays it because many proteins are soluble in cold water but not in hot.
  3. Bring water and wine to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Skim the scum that comes to the surface, using a skimmer or perforated spoon. Skimming is important for a clear stock because the scum (which is fat and coagulated protein) will cloud the stock if it is broken up and mixed back into the liquid.
  4. Add the chopped mirepoix and the sachet d'épices. Remember, the size to which you cut mirepoix depends on how long it is to be cooked.
  5. Do not let the stock boil. Keep it at a low simmer. Boiling makes the stock cloudy because it breaks solids into tiny particles that get mixed into the liquid.
  6. Skim the surface as often as necessary during cooking.
  7. Keep the water level above the bones.Add more water if the stock reduces below this level. Bones cooked while exposed to air will turn dark and thus darken or discolour the stock. Also, they do not release flavour into the water if the water doesn’t touch them.
  8. Simmer for the recommended length of time: Fish bones — 45 minutes.
  9. Skim the surface and strain off the stock through a chinois lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Adding a little cold water to the stock before skimming stops the cooking and brings more fat and impurities to the surface.
  10. Cool the stock as quickly as possible, as follows: • Set the pot in a sink with blocks, a rack, or some other object under it. This is called venting. It allows cold water to flow under the pot as well as around it. • Run cold water into the sink, but not higher than the level of the stock, or the pot will become unsteady. • Stir the pot occasionally so all the stock cools evenly. Hang a ladle in the pot so you can give it a quick stir whenever you pass the sink without actually taking extra time to do it. Cooling stock quickly and properly is important. Improperly cooled stock can spoil in 6 to 8 hours because it is a good breeding ground for bacteria that cause food-borne disease and spoilage. Do not set the hot stock in the fridge. All that heat and steam will overload the refrigerator and may damage other perishables as well as the equipment.
  11. When cool, refrigerate the stock in covered containers. Stock will keep 2 to 3 days if properly refrigerated. Stock can also be frozen and will keep for several months.

Fish fumet

Fish fumet

You will need:

Preparing the fumet:

  1. Butter the bottom of a heavy stockpot or saucepan. Place the mirepoix in bottom of pot and the bones over the top of it. Cover bones loosely with a cartouche.
  2. Set pot over low heat and cook slowly about 5 minutes, or until bones are opaque and begin to exude juices.
  3. Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and then add the sachet d'épices and water to cover.
  4. Bring to a simmer again, skim, and let simmer 30–45 minutes.
  5. Strain through a chinois lined with several layers of cheesecloth.
  6. Cool, vented, in a sink of cold-water bath, and refrigerate.

About vegetable stocks

Vegetable stocks, made without any animal products, play an important role in vegetarian cooking and are also used for light, healthy dishes. The basic ingredients for vegetable stocks are vegetables, herbs and spices, water, and sometimes, wine.

Ingredients and proportions can vary greatly. If you want a particular flavour to predominate, use a larger quantity of that vegetable. For example, if you want a broth tasting primarily of asparagus, use a large quantity of asparagus to make it, with smaller quantities of more neutral vegetables (like onion and celery) to round out the flavor. For a more neutral, allpurpose vegetable stock, avoid strong-flavoured vegetables and use more balanced proportions of ingredients. Here are a few additional guidelines for making vegetable stocks or broths:

  • Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash, make a stock cloudy. Use them only if clarity is not important.
  • Some vegetables, especially strong-flavoured ones, are best avoided. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and artichokes can overwhelm a stock with a strong flavour or odour. Dark green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, develop an unpleasant flavour when cooked a long time. Beetroot turns a stock red.
  • Cook long enough to extract flavours but not so long that flavours are lost. Best cooking time is 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Sweating the vegetables in a small amount of oil before adding water gives them a mellower flavour, but this step can be omitted. Butter can be used unless the stock is to be consumed by vegans.

Ratios of vegetables to water may vary considerably, but the following proportions are a good starting point: Vegetables: 2 kg; Water: 4 litres; Sachet d'épices: 1

Basic vegetable stock

Vegetable stock

You will need:

Preparing the vegetable stock:

  1. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add mirepoix, leeks, mushrooms, turnip, fennel, and garlic. Sweat for 10 minutes. Stir as necessary so that the vegetables do not brown.
  3. Add tomatoes, water, and sachet d'épices.
  4. Bring to a simmer, and simmer 45 minutes.
  5. Strain and cool in a sink of cold water.

Ref: Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen

See also

Whilst the above are standard stock recipes, our editors have also made the following recipes for stocks and pastes:



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