Stocks and broths are ubiquitous in the cuisines of cultures across the world; they are used as the bases for a variety of dishes- both vegetarian and non-vegetarian- such as soups and sauces, along with a wide array of other full bodied dishes. On the face off it, both stocks and broths look very much alike- they are colorless for the most part, although sometimes might have a slight yellow or brownish tinge, and are made from meat scraps, bones, and vegetables.
These are, in fact, used interchangeably in the kitchen for the most part, but the most ardent of chefs will tell you that stocks and broths are, in fact, quite different. Although they might look one and the same to the untrained eye, the aforementioned chef will tell you that the difference is small, but by no means minor. Let us see how these two items differ from each other.
The biggest difference between stocks and broths is, of course, in the ingredients. This might seem a little confusing, since everyone knows the recipe to cook stock or broth: simmer vegetables or meat in water and bring it to a boil, and you will have stock, or broth. The simple process is absolutely the same, but there is a significant difference in the ingredients. Technically, broth refers to a liquid that has solid chunks cooked in it- be it of meat, fish, vegetables, or even legumes and lentils.
In consistency, it is almost like a soup, and in fact is consumed by itself, as a soup, in many cultures, with flavors and seasonings added of spices. Stock, on the other hand, is made only of meats, because to make stock, you must include bones in the process. The meat and the bones are simmered together and brought to a boil, and that is what imparts the thick, gelatin like consistency to the liquid. The process of simmering extracts the gelatin from the bones and mixes it with the liquid, which is why cold stock is jelly like. Sometimes, the bones are also slightly roasted before being added to the liquid, but that is an optional step.
Yet another major difference between stocks and broths lies in the seasoning of the same. As mentioned before, broth is often eaten as a soup, on its own. That is because, or perhaps because of this very reason, in many cases broth is prepared by adding seasoning ingredients in it. Salt is a pretty common addition to broth, and, depending on the preparation, you can add garlic, herbs, pepper, onions, and even other vegetables to turn the broth into a full bodied, healthy soup.
Sometimes, broths are also flavored with a touch of wine to add the required zing to the flavor. Stock, on the other hand, is never flavored with anything else, and can certainly not be eaten on its own. It is only used as the base for other, more complete dishes, and stored as such, much in the way you would store lard or fat to be used in different preparations. So, basically, stock is the more basic version of broth, which is, again, a seasoned upgrade to stock.
Taste and texture
Because of the way these two things are prepared, and also because of the ingredients used in the same, stocks and broths differ significantly in terms of taste. Of course, if you drink unseasoned stock, you will be drinking a liquid that will have no taste other than the taste of the meat, vegetable, fish, or lentils that you have used to prepare it. However, once it turns into broth after adding ample seasoning, it becomes very healthy, delicious, and eminently satisfying. You can then either use the broth as a base for sauces and other dishes, such as dumplings, or simply drink it as it is.
You can use the broth as a base for a thick sauce by adding very little salt and retaining the flavor of the main ingredient, or you can liquefy it further by stirring in more water and turning it into a clear soup. However, keep in mind that no matter how much ware you add, both stock and broth will have a rather cloudy appearance, and become jelly like when cooled, because the gelatin present in the bones and cartilages will be extracted and mixed into the water during the cooking process.
Stocks and broths can be used for a variety of purposes. Stock especially is a versatile preparation that can be used to make a wide array of dishes, and the rich flavors, when infused with the right kind of herbs and vegetables, makes for a very healthy and tasty preparation.