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Broth, Stock & Soup – the subtle differences that make all the difference

MBAB Bone Broth Bag

As the cooler months approach and we turn towards more hearty meals such as soups, casseroles and roasts to feed our families, you’ll notice recipes asking for either beef broth or beef stock as ingredients. The terms are often used interchangeably and you might assume they’re the same thing, but there’s a difference between them…

…And then there’s beef soup! Another flavoursome liquid made from beef, which may actually contain beef broth or beef stock. And if you consider that beef stock, beef broth and beef soup can each be consumed on their own, it can all seem a little confusing.

We aim to clear up any confusion through this blog.

On a very basic level, the main difference between beef stock and beef broth is that stock is made with cleaned animal bones and broth uses bones with meat still on them, or meat alone.

Note: Vegetable stock and vegetable broth are virtually the same thing (vegetables and herbs cooked in water to extract their flavour) so that removes that question, straight away.

Focusing first on beef broth. Any type of broth is usually thinner, lighter and more flavoursome than stock. It’s traditionally made by simmering meat or meat bones in water, often with vegetables and herbs.

In the past, the term ‘broth’ was only used to refer to meat-based liquids such as beef and chicken. However nowadays vegetable broth has become common.

Because of the rich flavour of broth and the health benefits it contains, you can drink broth plain.

Meat broth (as opposed to bone broth) is cooked for a relatively short length of time, since meat will become tough if you cook it for too long. If you’re making beef broth (not bone broth), remove the meat as soon as it’s fully cooked. The meat can then be used for another recipe, or chopped and added back to the finished broth to create beef soup, for example.

Bone broth can be simmered for hours and hours – actually the longer the better – to draw out the nutrients and taste from the marrow and bones.

Broth is thinner than stock because the liquid is strained after cooking to remove the flavoring ingredients. It’s most commonly used as a base for soups or as a cooking liquid in cream sauces, risotto, dumplings, casseroles, stuffing, cooked grains and legumes, gravies, sautées or stir-fries.

Now let’s consider stock. Because stock is made with cleaned bones that have no meat on them and high amounts of collagen, it tends to be richer and fattier than broth. And it also takes longer to make stock than broth (typically three to twelve hours for one batch, or longer).

Also, traditionally, stock was unseasoned and broth was seasoned, since broth was often consumed as-is in a soup, and stock was typically enhanced with other ingredients.

You can substitute stock for broth, and vice versa, but may need to adjust seasoning accordingly.

Now the terms ‘broth’ and ‘soup’ can sometimes be used interchangeably, but broths are always 100% liquid.

And finally, let’s talk about ‘soup’. Soup is a liquid food (which is its own category on menus) and comes in a wide variety, from clear to cream, to chowders to bisques, and even to fruit (?!). Generally, all soups fall into one of three groups; 1. thin, clear soups like broths, stocks, and consommé; 2. thin, light cream soups like cream of tomato, asparagus, pea, or even lettuce, and 3. thick, heavy soups like chowders and bisques. They can be served hot or cold depending on the ingredients. In the main, beef soups are made using flavorsome beef broths or stocks as a base.

So to recap and for a quick rule-of-thumb, stock is made with cleaned animal bones. Broth uses bones with meat still on them, or meat alone. And soup is made from either broth or stock, and has other ingredients added to it for texture and flavour.

I hope this explanation has helped make things as clear as a batch of Maleny Black Angus Beef bone broth for you now?