Broth, Stock and Bouillon: What’s the Difference?

Broth Stock Bouillon

Have you ever wondered “Broth, Stock and Bouillon: What’s the Difference?” Even the experts seem to disagree. So, me the amateur, will try to explain the subtle differences between each and share a few stock making tips I’ve learned over the past 30+ years of making my own broth, stock and soups.

Did you know that there is a long standing rule within the cooking industry that says, “the measure of a good cook or chef is how well he or she makes soup…and with out a doubt the stock or broth can make or break the soup!”


Always remember that the essence and success of good stock and soup lies in:

  • using the best quality ingredients possible
  • selecting ingredients that compliment and round out the flavors
  • seasoning the the ingredients
  • cooking them in ways that bring out their elemental flavors.

Martha Stewart says,

“No mass-produced broth can rival the freshness and authentic flavor of a good, home-simmered stock, nor will it come close in versatility (or health giving properties *Posey’s note).”
Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook

Broth, Stock and Bouillon: What’s the Difference?

The words broth, stock and bouillon can be confusing and many recipes use them interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences but even the experts disagree. In the quote above by Martha Stewart, she uses broth and stock interchangeably, others do too. So let’s see if we can get some clarity on the subject.

What is “STOCK”?

According to The Chef’s Companion: A Culinary Dictionary by Elizabeth Riely, stock is,

“Broth in which meat, game, poultry, fish, or vegetables have been cooked; stock is usually seasoned, strained, degreased, concentrated, and used as the foundation for soups and sauces – what the French call fond de cuisine; meat stock usually contains gelatin, from veal and other bones, and can be white or brown.”

Hummm, they use them interchangeably too. However, The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, says that stock is,

“…made using more bones than meat. The bones contribute gelatin, which adds richness and body to stock. The characteristics of a good stock are flavor, body and clarity. The best stock is make from mature vegetables cooked slowly to extract every bit of flavor. Stock provides richer taste and more body than broth.”

What is “BROTH”? 

The Southern Living cookbook mentioned above gives this description,

“A thin, clear liquid resulting from simmering meat, poultry, vegetables, herbs or seafood in water. A big difference between broth and stock is that broth counts on flavor from meat, while stock is made using more bones than meat.

Broth simmers less than stock and has a fresher, lighter flavor.”

What is “BOUILLON” pronounced as boo-yonh? This definition is from The Chef’s Companion: A Culinary Dictionary,

“In French cooking, stock or broth that forms the basis of soups and sauces; it can be made from vegetables, poultry, or meat boiled in water, depending on its use, and need not contain gelatin.”

Again they use all three interchangeably.

Posey’s Clarification on the Difference Between Broth and Stock

Here is what I can see by looking at these definitions and other sources.

STOCK ingredients include a good quantity of bones, which when cooked release the gelatin from the bone marrow and connective tissue. This is what the French call fond de cuisine. Stock can also include meat, vegetables, herbs and seasonings that are strained from the liquid once cooking has concluded. Stock takes a longer time to cook and is usually reduced in volume by the cooking process. It is thicker and fuller bodied in taste.

BROTH is made from pieces of meat that are cooked in water and may include herbs, vegetables and seasonings, which are strained from the liquid. Broth has a fresher, lighter taste (than stock) and is thinner and clarified.

What are Bouillon Cubes or Granules?

A bouillon cube is a commercially processed, compressed, flavor-concentrated cube of dehydrated broth or stock. Bouillon granules are the granular form of the dehydrated concentrate.

Posey’s TIP #1 – Bouillon Cubes & MSG: Keep in mind that many bouillon cubes and granules, as well as commercially prepared stocks and broths, contain high levels of sodium and MSG. Mono-sodium Glutamate, MSG, is not healthy for our bodies, brains and hearts. To learn more about MSG, click here.

Posey’s TIP #2 – Strength of Flavor: After you have strained the bones and or meat, vegetables and herbs from the cooked liquid – taste it. Both stock and broth  should have a lovely taste and strength that it could be enjoyed all by itself. If it tastes weak – then reduce even more it by cooking longer.

Posey’s TIP #3 – Removing the Fat: The easiest way to remove the fat from home-made stock or broth is to place the room temperature liquid into an air-tight jar or container and place it in the refrigerator over night. In the morning, simply run a thin knife between the edge of the container and the solid disk of congealed fat resting on top of the liquid. Use a spatula to remove the fat solids and dispose if you are not planning to use them.

When I need to remove most of the fat the same day I make my stock or broth I use a special fat separator that I purchased at a kitchen equipment store, like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Here is a link to it OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Fat Separator. This works really well and it’s quick and easy to use. The link I included even has a video about how to use the Fat Separator.

I hope this post has been helpful to you. Be looking for instructions for making both types of Stock: White and Brown. There is more to this than whether you use white meat or dark, poultry, fish or beef and other red meats. You don’t want to miss these professional stock making tips.


Print pagePDF page

Share your thoughts...