What’s the Difference Between Broth, Stock, and Bone Broth?

There are key differences between meat stock and meat broth, although many use these terms interchangeably. Culinary professionals differentiate between the two. It is important to know the proper terminology so that you will interpret cookbook recipes correctly and get the best results from your cooking.

  • Stock is made by simmering bones, with or without meat, in water. Vegetables or other flavorings may or may not be included. Stock may be used in place of oils or fat for sauteing.(1)
  • Broth is meat without bones simmered in water. Many of the canned and boxed chicken broth products are made without bones and are properly labeled as broth. Broth, because it is not made with bones, lacks the mineral content of stock and is not as nutritious (1).
  • Bone broth is a very different type of broth because of its nutritious value. The term ‘bone broth’ is largely a health foodie term that has become more popular with the Paleo and Primal crowds and has always been popular in many Jewish and Italian homes. Bone broth can mean bones simmered in water alone, with or without meat, and with or without vegetables. Recently we are seeing commercial boxes containers labeled bone broth. The goal of bone broth is maximum nutrition, extracting as many of the nutrients from bones as possible. Stocks and broths are usually cooked for less time, while bone broths may be cooked for up to several days. Clarity is less important than pulling all of the gelatin, minerals, and other nutrients possible out of the bones. Bone broths are frequently opaque or creamy in appearance because of the additional nutrients extracted from the bones during cooking.

That said, I have found that good bone broth is almost always a good fit for any recipe that calls for broth; the exception is pan sauces. Except for pan sauces, bone broth may be used in any recipe that calls for stock or broth, though the final appearance of the dish may vary due to bone broth’s opaque appearance. I think it’s beautiful. Bone broth is generally the most nutrient-dense of the three, given its content of gelatin, collagen, bone marrow, vitamins from any vegetables simmered with the bones, and finally the minerals extracted from the bones during the lengthy cooking process. It can be speckled and beautiful in a way that the boxed color water labeled broth never, ever is – no bones about it.

(1)The Professional Chef (9th ed.). (2011). Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.

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