Stock is composed of the strained liquid that remains after water has been simmered with
bones, vegetables and seasonings. The French word for stock is fond, or foundation,
which indicates its importance as the basis of many classical dishes. It is lightly seasoned,
so that it can be reduced substantially without being too salty.
Veal stock is the gold standard among stocks, being the most versatile, but it is rarely
made by home cooks. Fish stock (fumet in French) becomes bitter from the bones if it is
cooked too long, but unlike other stocks, which are simmered for hours, fish stocks are
simmered for no more than 20 minutes. It also has little in the way of aromatic vegetables,
generally including only onion or shallot. Vegetable stock is not considered a classic
stock, but is the basis of many successful soups.
Broth is essentially a soup in its own right. The production of broth is similar to that of
stock, including the long simmering of aromatic vegetables, herbs, and some form of meat.
It is more highly seasoned and flavorful than stock, and because of this, it is not reduced,
or it would be too intense. It tends to be lighter and less viscous than stock, however,
because it is made less of bones (with all their gelatin-forming collagen) and more often
with a whole chicken or pieces of lean meat. The water in which you poach a chicken or
beef ribs is technically a broth. If you try to make a classic sauce with broth, it will be too
The French word for broth is bouillon, but that is not to be confused with the bouillon
cubes that so many people use to make stock.
Broth can be served on its own or dressed up with vegetables, rice, pasta, etc. Most
soups are broth-based although there are many that are not broths – cream soups that
are thickened with flour, those thickened with pureed vegetables, rice, bread, etc., and
Consommé is the most refined soup made from stock. The stock is reduced, then ground
beef or chicken, additional aromatic vegetables, and frothy egg whites are added to the
boiling stock. The egg whites coagulate on top, acting as a filter that collects impurities in
the stock during 45 minutes to an hour of simmering. The consommé is strained through a
cheese cloth, and sometimes Madeira or sherry are added.
If the original stock was made with enough collagen-producing bones, there should be
enough gelatin in the consommé so that it is smooth when hot, and sets as a jelly when