What's the difference between stock, broth, and consommé?

 Tomato consomme

Many of us use the terms stock and broth interchangeably, although there are differences between the two. Throw consommé into the mix, and you have a recipe for confusion. Let's start with the differences between stock and broth. Sam Benson Smith explains how the two are different

Smith explains that the difference "ultimately comes down to ingredients; chicken broth would be made with the actual meat of the bird, while chicken stock would be made from the bones and the trim of the animal," he writes. Bones indicate stock; meat means broth - easy to remember, right? In practice, it's not as clear cut. People use the terms loosely, and call a broth made with vegetables "stock" (vegetables have no bones, so there is no such thing as vegetable stock, says Fine Cooking), and use the term "bone broth" to identify what it is actually stock. 

When it comes to consommé, Jess Kapadia of Food Republic clears up the matter by explaining the difference between it and broth. Technically speaking, consommé  is a type of broth -  as Kapadia explains, it's "the king of broths." You start with a broth, but clarify it using beaten egg whites and enhance its flavors with additional ingredients. The egg whites form a "raft" at the top of the simmering broth, absorbing any impurities that would cloud the mixtures.

A combination of ground meat and mirepoix "amplifies the existing flavors of aromatics in the broth you started with," says Kapadia.  The humble broth is thus transformed into a flavorful, completely clear liquid - one way cooks used to judge a consommé was by placing a coin at the bottom of the pot; the goal was to be able to read the coin's markings - that showcases the ingredients placed into it. 

Photo of Tomato consommé with basil and lemongrass from My Provence by Laurent Gras, indexed by an EYB Member

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