Store-Bought vs Homemade Stock

Is it stock or broth? Stock indicates that bones were used; broth is not made with bones. However, these days, I see people using them interchangeably all the time, so don’t sweat the nomenclature.

  • By Jess Dang
  • June 19, 2013

In my kitchen, I typically use all three options: store bought stocks and broths, bouillon, and homemade.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when professional or TV chefs say, “Everyone should make their own stock. It’s so easy.” And yes, while I believe that making your own stock is an easy skill to learn, I definitely don’t feel guilty when I opt for a more convenient option.

If I was spending all day in a kitchen and my sole job was to cook, I’d always have homemade stock on hand. However, our lives are crazy and hectic, and I believe in giving myself a break. Anyhow, my point is. . .

Do not ever let anyone make you feel guilty about not doing it from scratch.

This is how I use the three different options:

1. Canned and boxed stocks and broths:

This is my go-to option for weeknight dinners and forms the base of curry sauces, stir-fry sauces, quick soups, and risottos. I also use it when sautéing vegetables and want to add some more flavor. If your pan ever looks too dry, add a glug of pre-made stock, and your dish will be rescued from burning.

I love Swanson’s chicken stock and buy in bulk at Costco. For vegetable broth and beef stock, I typically use Trader Joe’s, mostly because that’s where I shop for my pantry essentials.

2. Bouillon:

One of my cooking students introduced me to Better Than Bouillon last year. Instead of the compact powdered cubes, this is a concentrated paste. I use this when making “chicken rice” without the chicken. I cook rice as I normally do but just add a few scoops of this into the water. The result: really flavorful rice.

I also use it to add needed flavor to soups that may not have started with a stock base. I realize it’s not the healthiest (I do buy the low-sodium version), but I use it sparingly and you only need a little for a lot of flavor.

3. Homemade stock and broth:

If I have homemade on hand, it’s what I’ll reach for first when a meal calls for it. However, I don’t ever make a point to make stock. It usually happens if I’ve bought a rotisserie chicken and have bones on hand or if I’ve bought shell-on shrimp and need to discard the uncooked shells anyway. Those stock-bases get thrown into a pot of water with onions, carrots, and celery added, and I boil away.

However, if I’m too lazy or don’t have the rest of the stock ingredients on hand, I’ll put the bones or food scraps into a bag and freeze it until I find the motivation or have the other ingredients available.

Stock or broth is one of the most common ingredients I use in my cooking, and I want to know what you do in your kitchen when it comes to this pantry essential, so share with the Cook Smarts community in the comments below. I’d love to know what you do and if there are some creative ideas you have for stock or broth!

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