How to Make Soup Stocks: Beef, Chicken, Fish & Vegetable

Hands up if you love a bowl of homemade soup! Few things evoke the emotions of satisfaction and nostalgia quite like a pot of simmering, homemade soup. Or the solace and comfort of a cup of broth when you’re under the weather.

How to Make Stock | Foodal.com

For truly outstanding flavor in your soups, homemade stock is a must. Not that there’s anything wrong with pre-packaged – it’s handy and convenient, and I always have some in the cupboard.

But as many a chef will tell you, their secret flavor ingredient in successful soups, sauces and other dishes is a stock created in their own kitchen.

A well-crafted sock has body, a slightly savory flavor, and clarity. They’re essential for soups, slow cooker recipes, casseroles and sauces.

Simple and easy to make, they also freeze well for two to three months. Freeze in ice cube trays to pre-portion the smaller amounts needed in sauces, and in quart containers for soups.

So let’s cover the basics of making stock – and then you can try them out in a couple of soup recipes below, and taste the difference for yourself. You’ll need a stock pot, preferably a few in different sizes. Other large pans may also work.

What’s the Difference Between Broth and Stock?

Although opinions and definitions vary, broths are generally made from the more meaty parts while stock is mainly derived from bones, scraps, and all of the other bits and pieces that are edible but that aren’t real appetizing. Pretty much “everything but the squeal.”

Stock is very nutritious, and contains more collagen and trace minerals from the bones and marrow than does broth.

Some folks will say the difference between the two is that broth is seasoned while stock is unseasoned, but that is not the definition used by most credible cooking schools and other culinary authorities.

For the purpose of this article (and most others on Foodal) the words (and the recipes) are interchangeable. Both work equally well for making delicious dishes and sauces.

Soup Stock Basics

The larger the bones used, the longer the liquid needs to simmer – so the vegetables should be cut proportionate to the cooking time.

Remove the paper skins from onions, but leave the tops on both onions and carrots. Wash carrots and celery, and scrub carrots with a brush.

Herbs should be whole, not ground, and preferably fresh. They can be bundled up in a small cheesecloth sack, tied into a bouquet garni (herbs tied with a strand of leek or kitchen string) or added loose.

Herb Garni | Foodal.com
A bundle of herbs tied into a bouquet garni.

The cheesecloth and bouquet garni are meant for easy removal, but everything gets strained at the end, so loose herbs work fine – you might as well keep it simple! Alternatively, you can use an herb or tea diffuser.

Salt doesn’t need to be added to the liquid, as it can be added in your soup recipe instead, and this will keep the sodium content low.

Making Beef Broth | Foodal.com

For vegetable stock, you can add more than just the basic veggies if you keep a few points in mind:

  • Don’t use starchy vegetables such as potatoes, as they’ll turn the juice murky.
  • Liquid will take on color, according to the veggies used (i.e. it’ll turn red, if you add beets).
  • If you add garlic, it will retain a garlicky flavor, so bear that in mind when using your stock to make sauces, etc.

Broth (and Stock) vs. Bouillon: Are they the same?

The simple answer: yes and no.

Although a lot of folks are confused about this, in the common vernacular of the USA, bouillon is not the same as stock or broth. Bouillon is a combination of salt (the primary ingredient), MSG, spices, and dehydrated broth – it’s not the most healthy thing to put into your body.

That being said, in many French speaking countries, bouillon is the same as a meat stock, and the name also implies that some spices have been added.

If you want a premade product that offers the best of both worlds, why not try Better Than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base.(reduced sodium version) It’s also available in beef, vegetable, and mushroom, in organic and conventional variations. Plus, it contains no MSG. See all of the flavors now.

Ingredient Essentials

The most common soup stocks are made from chicken, beef, fish and vegetables. The essential ingredients are:

  • Soup bones (with the exception of vegetable-based products)
  • Vegetables – onion, celery and carrots
  • Herbs and spices – bay leaves, parsley, thyme, savory, peppercorns
  • Water
  • A large stock pot to cook it all in

Dem Bones

The primary flavor source of the meat and fish based stocks comes from the bones. Beef, chicken and fish are all made in the same manner, and the more bones used, the more gelatinous the liquid will be. And, as mentioned above, the larger the bones are, the longer they need to cook.

Use fresh, cold water for all extractions.

Foodal recommends James Peterson’s “Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making”

You can pick up beef and chicken bones from your grocer or butcher, but you’ll probably need to go to the fish market for fish frames, or the bony skeletons.

If you want to make a thick, gelatinous stock for chowders, add some fish heads to the pot. Remove the gills and rinse well. For super stock, use the whole fish.

After your liquid has finished simmering, you can use it right away. If you’re not using it immediately, allow it to chill thoroughly, for 2-3 hours.

Types of Stock

Beef

Use this liquid in hearty stews, vegetable soups, Vietnamese pho, and Chinese lo meins, or condense a little further using a Windsor or splayed pan to make a tasty brown sauce. It can also be use as au jus served over roast beef, or clarified and turned into consommé.

What is Consommé and How Do You Make It?

Consommé is beef or chicken stock that has been clarified. It’s used when you want a nice clean soup without all of the floaty tidbits. This clarified liquid can be served in piping hot soups, or in cold dishes dishes such as the French aspic.

Making it is not hard. The traditional method involved adding lightly whipped egg whites to the broth, which swirls around and collects all of the bits and pieces. This egg white concoction is called a “raft.” The raft is removed (and eaten with a bit of salt and pepper when no one is looking) and your clarified stock remains in the pot.

Chicken Consommé | Foodal.com

You can achieve nearly the same effect by refrigerating the broth overnight, and skimming the congealed fat off the top. Most of the small chunks and pieces float to the top and get stuck in the flat layer. This is not true consommé, but for many dishes it may serve the same purpose.

The third option is to use a pot that has a spigot at the bottom, such as those designed for cooking clams, crab, and lobster, to allow you to drain most of the liquid out and leave the uppermost layer where the bits and pieces normally float. Again this will not produce a consommé that’s quite as clean as what you’ll get using the traditional approach.

How to make beef stock | Foodal.com
Beef Stock
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How to make beef stock | Foodal.com
Beef Stock
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Ingredients
  • 6 quarts water
  • 5 pounds soup bones
  • 1 large onion halved
  • 2 large carrots halved
  • 2 celery stalks halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 sprigs of parsley
  • 10 whole peppercorns
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Place bones in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add the vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns.
  3. Reduce heat and skim the surface of any debris – push the foam to the edges of the pot with a ladle for easy removal. Cover and simmer on low for 6 – 8 hours.
  4. Strain into a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow any fat to surface and solidify for easy removal.
Recipe Notes

How to make beef stock | Foodal.com

 

Chicken Stock

Used in various soups, stews, and one-pan dishes such as:

Chicken Stock | Foodal.com
Chicken Stock
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Chicken Stock | Foodal.com
Chicken Stock
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Ingredients
  • 4 pounds of chicken bones or sectioned chicken
  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 large onion quartered
  • 2 carrots quartered
  • 2 stalks of celery quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 4 sprigs of parsley
  • 6 peppercorns
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Place chicken bones or a sectioned chicken into a large pot and cover with water.
  2. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for a few minutes to release fat if using sectioned chicken.
  3. Drain, rinse the chicken and the inside of the pot. This step, and the next, can be omitted if using bones only.
  4. Cover with fresh water again and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns
  6. Reduce heat and remove any foam from the surface. Cover and simmer on low for 3 – 4 hours.
  7. Strain and chill to remove fat as per beef stock.
Recipe Notes

Chicken Stock | Foodal.com

 

Fish Stock

Used in various French Provincial stews, Italian stufatos, Korean Jjigae, Japanese nabemono, and in countless other culinary creations deriving from cultures that reside close to the ocean.

The recipe below is a western version, and it uses fish bones, fish heads, or whole gutted fish as the foundation.

Sempio Dried Anchovies (for stock) available on Amazon

Most Asian recipes use dried anchovies (of various sizes and species) to make their fish stock, although fresh and semi-dried fish are also used. You can pick up dried anchovies at your local Asian market or you find them on Amazon.

Fish Stock | Foodal.com
Fish Stock
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Fish Stock | Foodal.com
Fish Stock
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Ingredients
  • fish bones or whole gutted fish as much required as needed to suit the concentration
  • 1/2 cup white dry wine
  • 2 medium carrots thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 4 sprigs of parsley
  • 4 peppercorns
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, place the fish frames (bones) or the whole (gutted) fish on the bottom of the pot and add ½ cup white wine (dry), and just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, skimming off the foam on the top.
  3. Add the vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns.
  4. Add enough water to cover all ingredients completely. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the liquid from heat. Stir well and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Strain with a fine strainer to catch any bones and meaty parts, and refrigerate.
Recipe Notes

Fish Stock | Foodal.com

 

Vegetable Stock

Although it’s a vegan and vegetarian staple, omnivores also make use of vegetable stock in many dishes. Try boiling some with a little quinoa and see if you like it. I bet you will!

Vegetable Stock | Foodal.com
Vegetable Stock
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Vegetable Stock | Foodal.com
Vegetable Stock
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Ingredients
  • 2 large onions cut into eights
  • 4 carrots cut into fifths
  • 4 celery stalks cut into fifths
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 4 sprigs of parsley
  • 2 peppercorns
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 45 minutes.
  3. Strain and refrigerate.
Recipe Notes

Vegetable Stock | Foodal.com

 

Now that you have your soup stock ready, it’s time to try it out. Granddad’s Beef Barley Soup is a hearty dish that makes a complete meal if served with a salad, some country bread, and a slab of tangy cheese. For something a little spicier, try your hand at this Mulligatawny Soup – rich and flavorful, it’s sure to please.

Please note that this post was updated on June 3rd, 2015 per concerns about terms of reference by our readers – specifically the definition of bouillon.

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About Lorna Kring

Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.

45 thoughts on “How to Make Soup Stocks: Beef, Chicken, Fish & Vegetable

  1. I’ve always been put off making my own stock as it takes so long to make and I feel it’s a waste of the vegetables as they are so expensive.

    I must ask why add celery? I hate celery and I see it in all recipes for vegetable broth. Can’t I add something else instead or just leave it out? I know most soups do taste better with a homemade broth, but maybe I can add spring onions instead?

    • A few years ago, I worked out the cost of organic veggies and bones for 8 quarts of soup stock (which can be frozen) and it was considerably lower than the cost of commercial stock, per quart. But it does take a long time to make waiting for the bones to simmer – I find it’s a good rainy day project to have on the go while doing other things

      And certainly you can omit celery or any other ingredient… it adds a subtle flavor to stock that adds body to other ingredients, but if you don’t like it substitute for something you do enjoy.

      • For those who do not like celery, cabbage or kohlrabi is a good alternative. They also add a fullness to the lighter flavor of onions and carrots, and also can be added as veggies on their own in pot roasts and soups as well.

  2. Okay, so the thing is — bouillon is the French word for stock or broth and when you look it up, its actual definition is: “a clear, usually seasoned broth made by straining water in which beef, chicken, etc., has been cooked, or by dissolving a commercially prepared bouillon cube or cubes in hot water. ” And not “an unhealthy mix of MSG and sodium and dehydrated broth”. So even though you might just see it referred to in groceries where that’s what it is — it’s not as a rule, just a possibility (as the second part of the definition points out). People are not being confused when they relate it to broth.

    • Just so everyone knows, I added the parts in the grey boxes.

      As for a response, you may be technically correct but 99% of those that read this blog speak English and not French and equate what they see labeled in the grocery store as “bouillon” as being exactly that – bouillon.

      And from reading the back of “Wylers Instant Bouillon” that is currently sitting in my lap (don’t hate – it makes for a great sear when rubbed sparingly on a steak) it’s composed of (from the most included ingredient to the least): salt, hydrolyzed soy protein, sugar, monosodium glutamate, beef fat, onion powder, hydrolyzed corn protein, dextrose, corn syrup solids, beef stock, natural beef flavor (read lips and butt holes – stuff that the meat stick factories turned away), soybean oil, hydrolyzed torula (your guess is as good as mine) and brewers, corn maltodextrin …and about 20 more ingredients with increasingly sounding industrial chemical-like names.

      Doesn’t sound too much like “a clear, usually seasoned broth made by straining water in which beef, chicken, etc., has been cooked” to me. Again, to 99% of the English speaking world, bouillon is synonymous with the powdered or cubed stuff found in the small jars.

      Which is how the “Better Than Bouillon” product obviously found its niche, it’s “need” in the marketplace. For folks wanting a better meat/vegetable/mushroom broth than that found in the little cubes. And without MSG as the fourth most included ingredient (it doesn’t have any). In fact it’s first most included ingredient is “organic chicken (or beef) meat and natural juices” rather than salt as is found in regular “bouillion” products (Wyler’s, Liptons, etc).

      On edit: I changed the wording within the box and I think that may alleviate confusion in case readers don’t get as far as the comments.

  3. I always buy my broth and stock even though I know I really should be making it. My family is on a quest to save as much money as possible so I think I’m going to start making my own stock using this method. Plus it’ll be healthier because I can control the quality of the chicken and sodium content.

    • Making your own stock is a great way to extend the grocery budget Michelle, and as you point out, you control what goes into to. It’s quick and easy to get the stock started, and then all you have to do is check it once in a while as it simmers… and freezes well too.

  4. I was just wondering the other day how to make fish stock. I live by the water, and have many fish markets, so I could get the bones there, but I like the idea of using anchovies, as well. I’m glad I have that option, in case I don’t feel like going out. I’ve made stock/broth before, mainly from chicken, so I’m glad you’ve included beef and vegetable recipes, as well. The meat I cook and eat the most is pork, and I don’t see a recipe for pork stock, nor have I ever heard of it, so maybe that doesn’t turn out as well?

    • Anchovies do make a good substitute, but check for salt levels as they can be high. And although not as popular as other broths, a delicious pork broth can be make very similar to the others. Cover the bones with water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes, dump out the water as for chicken broth, fill with water again and add the stock veggies plus a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Simmer low and slow for 6 – 10 hours depending on the size of the bones. Chill and remove any congealed fat from the top.

      The cider vinegar gives it just a hint of fruitiness, very nice… and good for soup/sauces using squash, legumes, pork, noodles…

      • I grew up on a pork farm in Iowa. Pork broth is often saved from a leftover roast and then after a night in the fridge turned into the recipes like beef broth, only we use pork meat instead. Use your Crock-Pot and it is a simple task to make it. It is made from fresh pork, not ham or cured pork like bacon, although ham bones would work, it is just quite salty. My mom made gravy out of the juice from the ham and milk, used it much like cream of __ soup when she used up the leftovers. Grandma saved the grease from bacon in the fridge to add extra flavor to all kinds of veggies or to fry veggies. Pork broth is great in those fall dishes that call for broth, but use squash, apples, or bread like pork stuffing or stuffed green peppers with ground pork/rice filling. Cinnamon added with the veggies gives it an exotic hint in Asian food too. I love to use it for sausage gravy over biscuits, too. Incidently, pork fat is used to render lard, but beef fat (tallow) is used to make candles as well as suet for bird feeders. It’s all good!

  5. For making a heartier vegetable stock, I’d recommend adding mushrooms. The give a nice, meaty flavor to just about anything. I certainly have a weakness for homemade stocks. It’s a good way to use all the leftover bits that you or others in your household might have, as well. I may not buy meat, but I have no qualms about snagging the cut-out bones when others do to make a nice broth! And, if you use instant potatoes for whatever reason, you can hydrate them in the broth for an excellent serving of mashed potatoes. And if you like, you can use the rest of the broth to whip up some gravy for it, too!

    • Mushrooms do add a nice earthy tone, if that’s what you’re looking for. Yes, great for cooking instant potatoes, rice, couscous, quinoa …

  6. I love soups and I agree that homemade is always better. I like some canned products there is always something lacking. If it is not the flavor it is the amount. I like a lot of noodles and I want it to taste good. I know that if you’re sick you want it not just to make you feel better but to taste good. You already sick and have to take nasty medicine. I would not want to eat bland soup too, no matter how good it is for you.

  7. My mother made chicken soup as an appetizer to Sunday dinner throughout my childhood. It was always delicious. I thought it was a special family recipe passed down from generation to generation back in the old country. Well, now I know it was simply chicken stock with rice.

  8. I much prefer homemade soups over canned, but I have yet to make my own stock. Lots of great tips here for both technique and usage. Store-bought vegetable stocks always seem to be missing something, and I like that you can choose what goes into a homemade one. Soup weather is still happening over here, so I’d like to try it soon… watch me say that, and then it gets all hot and sunny, haha.

    • Store bought stocks have their place, but they do seem to be missing the TLC ingredient. And it is nice to control what does or doesn’t go into my stockpot.

  9. Again this article runs the gammit for sauce making. I always marveled at the chef in a French restaurant I used to work in. His ability to make these stocks from scratch always eluded me. Until I found out about the flavor of marrow I always wondered “what is he doing with all those bones?”. Hoping the local library has that book on sauces. If not I can certainly make due with the above!

  10. I would also be interested to hear some variations on bouquet garni. I imagine some fish stock preparations could use anise, or thai basil for a more subtle licorice flavor. I would think that bouquets vary by the chef.

    • Well, homemade stock is one of those foundational elements that other dishes are built upon, and many successful chefs and cooks will have their own signature stocks. And bouquet garni’s. Anise, Thai basil and Sweet Cicely will all add a hint o’ licorice to a bouquet, and as you say, will vary chef by chef and dish by dish. Thanks for your comments Brocker.

    • Vegetable broth works very well with a strong primary flavor. But with those types of soups, I personally would add a bit of complimentary flavor as well – basil with the tomato, or ginger with pumpkin… just for a flavor counterpoint.

  11. My mother typically makes and saves the chicken stock for whenever one of us gets ill and she needs to whip out a nutritious meal. I’ve never tried or heard of anything with beef before, however; I’d like to try that one (unfortunately, as I am not that fond of fish, the fish broth does not seem appealing to me, but it might to one of my family members). Thank you for these recipes!

    • There’s nothing better than Mum’s homemade chicken soup when you’re feeling sick! Glad you enjoyed the recipes…

  12. I have not had the leisure to read through the entire article or all the comments, but I will say that unwittingly, I have been creating various stock-broth combinations, because I have a severe aversion to handling meat. However, I did find this read informative, due to the fact that, a lot of the technical prep-work detailed in the article, provides simpler-more efficient ways to manage spices, broth, stock, etc, when creating soups/ other concoctions. On a side note: I have always found soup to be the most interesting of chemistry experiments because you can get away with eye balling how much herbs, salt, pepper, etc, you want, without having to use a tablespoon or teaspoon measurer. Or maybe that’s just the touch of how I cook. Your thoughts?

  13. Soup making is decidedly one of those areas where ad-libbing ingredients to suit personal tastes is called for. And it’s a very forgiving medium when our “a dash of this, and a splash of that” routine goes a bit awry… glad you enjoyed the post.

  14. Thanks for the article. I make soup for my family almost daily. I normally use the chicken stock cubes. I have been wanting to try a homemade stock for a long time, but have just been putting off learning how to do it. You make it sound so easy! Do you think storing it in the freezer would take away from the taste?

    The vegetable stock also looks good. I’ve been wanting to ease into having a vegetarian soup at least once or twice a week, but its really difficult to get a satisfying flavor. Any tips?

    • It is easy phoenix, the ingredients do all the work! And no, freezing it doesn’t result in any discernible flavor loss.

      As for the veggie soup, herbs and spices are important for a robust flavor. Parsley, tarragon, savory, sage, rosemary and oregano all work well with veggies. And spices depend a bit on the ingredients but cumin, nutmeg, cayenne and turmeric all seem to find their way into my winter soups. Hope that helps!

  15. I’m glad I read this – if for no other reason than it reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking. I still recall her making homemade chicken soup when I and my sister were under the weather. That said I simply lack the time (and patience) to make a decent broth – so what would you say is the next best thing aside from that store brought thingy you showed? I’m not exactly in a big city and it can be difficult to come across certain products – oh but we do have some specialty stores.

    • Not much can beat Gramma’s soup! For convenience, most store will have pre-made stock – but I would stick with the low-sodium varieties and add flavor with herbs Esperaholon.

  16. I usually buy my stock it’s cheap and easy. However I find a lot of per-prepared and canned ones are very salty, even the low sodium ones. This recipe sounds very easy and delicious. I always prefer making homemade food as opposed to buying it premade.

  17. Something you can do if you’re frugal is to keep all of your meat and vegetable trimmings, freeze them, and use them to make broth. That way, you can minimize food wastage. I also use the trimmings to make sauces and gravies.

  18. Thank you for this lovely article, I am planning to make my own stock as soon as we have moved into our new house and my husband starts growing some veggies 🙂 Now I know the difference between stock, broth and bouillon.

  19. Thanks so much for the great information! It’s a little embarrassing, but I honestly didn’t know that there was a difference between stock and broth. I thought they were one and the same, and had never really thought about their nutritional value or what went into each. I just thought that depending on what part of the world you lived, that is how you called it. I know it’s rather silly LOL. I thought that if it said chicken broth or stock, that the boiling of a chicken took place, but never really took into account which parts of the animal went into the preparation of each. Thank you for the eye opener and the recipes.

    • Broth, stock, bouillon, consomme… I think it’s pretty common to use the terms interchangeably Michelle. But glad you enjoyed the post and the recipes!

  20. My parents make stock out of whatever leftover bones and veggies they’ve got, and I never thought of it before I read this article, but that’s got to be why their soups always turn out so much better than mine 😛 I don’t buy meat with bones very often, but I think this is something I’m going to have to try next time I do…I always thought the whole process was way more complicated than what you’ve outlined here, but it seems fairly straight forward!

    • It’s a very simple process cck, it just takes some time to let the goodness come out – and the results are well worth the wait!

  21. Well I for one just love having stock on hand at all times. Mostly it is because I love making soups, especially in the winter time, but there are also just so many uses for it and it can make cooking so much easier and more fun. I remember when I was younger I started trying to make stock and I did not have a cheesecloth….that was a little rough, so having that on hand is certainly a must for me. Thanks for sharing, and I will certainly have this in mind when the colder months start to roll around.

  22. I have also had some success with saving up veggie bits that would normally end up on the compost heap, carrot tops, bean tips, the tap root from turnips and even onion skins; anything that has flavor but you wouldn’t feel right putting into the salad really. It works really well, plus every time I have tried to make stock with whole veggies I end up making a soup instead because they smell so yummy! Thanks for the lovely range of recipes.

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