Taking Stock

Prachi Joshi

Want to make better soups? It’s all about the stock!

“Flavoured liquid preparation” seems too bland a description for something as integral to cooking as stock. It’s the base on which many dishes are built on, especially soups and the sauces that bring a dish together. Here’s your Stock 101 – learn more about stock, how to make it, and some tips to help you.

What is stock?
Simply put, stock is an extract made by cooking vegetables or meat and/or bones in water. Every stock is made up of 4 essential elements:

  • A flavouring ingredient, which could be meat or fish or bones or vegetables
  • A liquid, which is usually water
  • Some aromatics such as herbs and spices
  • The mirepoix, i.e. a mix of coarsely chopped onions, carrots, and celery (usually in the proportion of 2:1:1)

Types of stocks
There are 6 types of stock:

  • White stock, which is made by simmering poultry, meat, or fish bones. It results in a clear, pale liquid
  • Brown stock is made by first roasting the bones and then simmering with the mirepoix to make an amber-brown liquid
  • Fumet is a stock made using fish bones
  • Court bouillon is essentially a vegetable stock
  • Glace is made by reducing the white or brown stock
  • Bouillon (or broth) is made by simmering meats and vegetables

Make your own stock
Stock is the foundation of Western cooking – it is the base for soups and sauces, it’s a versatile stewing and braising liquid, and it’s also great for poaching. While you can easily buy stock cubes from the market, once you make your own stock (and see how easy it is), you will never go back! Here’s how to make a simple chicken stock using leftover bones and skin.

  • Place the chicken bones and skin in a large pot. Add roughly chopped onions, carrots, and celery. You can add herbs such as parsley or thyme or bay leaf (or all three)
  • Cover with cold water and bring to boil
  • Just as it’s about to boil, immediately turn the heat down to simmer
  • Cover the pot partially and continue to simmer for 3-4 hours while skimming any foam from the surface. Top off the water if it’s reduced too much
  • Remove the bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon
  • Strain the stock through a fine sieve
  • Cool and refrigerate. Use within three to four days.

If you want to make a brown stock, rub the bones with oil and roast in an oven at 220°C till they are brown. Then follow the steps above.

To make a vegetable stock, sauté the mirepoix in a little oil, along with garlic and some herbs. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and simmer for 30—40 minutes. Strain and store.

Tips & tricks
Now that you know how to make a basic stock, experiment with the ingredients and flavours as per your taste. Here are some things to remember

  • Chop the vegetables into large chunks so that they don’t disintegrate while cooking
  • Avoid adding starchy vegetables such as potatoes as these will make the stock cloudy
  • Salt is usually not added while making stock since it’s usually reduced to make soups and sauces and too much salt will make the final dish too salty. You can add a pinch of salt before you start heating or skip it entirely.
  • If you are not using the stock immediately, reduce it down to a thicker consistency and cool completely. Pour into an ice cube tray or a freezer bag and store in the freezer.