Ask a Chef: How to Make Stock

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Stock, broth, whatever your version of boiling things until they break down and form a flavorful liquid that can be used to make other flavorful things is called, is probably one of the easiest things to make. There are many kitchen staples you can excuse not making yourself, but letting some onions and a leftover chicken carcass simmer for a few hours while you hang around in your underwear isn't one of them. If anything, it's just an excuse to cancel plans and hang out in your underwear, all while sounding very impressive. "Oh sorry, Phil, can we push back plans until later tonight? I've got a great stock going right now." But let's get one thing straight — this whole bone broth thing? That's just stock. Ask the Stock Stickler.

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Even Chef Marco Canora of Hearth, who opened their stock take-out counter Brodo in the fall, admits that people get a little precious about stock and what it can do for you. Even he has before, telling Eater that bone broth is "magical' and that he cooks his for 24 hours or more. But over the phone he admitted to Men's Journal that's just because he can, and it's not at all necessary to make a good stock. "People are like 'I cook my stock for four days.' Well congratulations. It doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make for a better stock just because you’ve spent four days on it." In fact, by chopping up some chicken wings, he insists you can get a decent stock in about three hours.

Which, to be clear, you should give a shot, just because it will almost always automatically enhance your home cooking. It's a foundational ingredient in any chef's kitchen, and not having it "is like not having onions. You can't be a chef and not have onions." And while there are stocks out there in the grocery store shelves, they could never come close to something homemade. "The vast majority of broth you buy in the supermarket are shelf-stable at room temperature," says Canora. "They are completely dead food."

Luckily, stock is an incredibly forgiving food to make as long as you follow a few rules. First, if you’re making a meat stock, make sure the bones you’re using actually have meat on them. Boiling clean, white marrow bones will just give you a lot of fatty water — you want the cartilage, the joints and the meat to give it flavor. Canora uses the classic mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) as a flavor base, as well as bay leaves and black peppercorns, but also sometimes adds acidity with a tablespoon of tomato paste. "You can feel free to be very flexible" though, using what vegetables you have on hand and seeing what you like. There's really no wrong answer.

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It's also incredibly cheap — you probably don’t even need to buy anything. Save your bones after you roast chicken or beef, add some vegetables that you probably already have or vegetable ends you've kept in the freezer, cover with water and simmer, then skim some extra fat off the top (or don’t, you're an adult) and freeze until you need it. That's it. You can freeze it in ice cube trays if you want a quick few ounces to deglaze a pan, or in bigger containers for making soups and stews. And you can keep experimenting, adding different vegetables (Canora says sweet potatoes add a lot of flavorful starch) and seeing what you like. "After a few times if you pay attention, you’ll be an expert. It’s not rocket science."

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