I cook seasonally, and winter cooking means stocks. That can be using bit of chicken stock to deglaze a pan or beef stock to add richness to a stew. Stock is like the most basic soup you’ve ever had. It’s a clear liquid with meaty flavors; a good stock is fine to eat on its own, but it shines when it can augment a dish. It is like the bass in a rock band; it’s not the melody, but you’d notice its absence. The three things that make a great stock are:
- Richness: A meat stock should taste meaty! It should have a hearty, tasty flavor. If you use vegetables, you get those coming through clearly as well.
- Body: A good stock should set like Jell-O when it’s cold. This is a feature, not a flaw. That setting is from gelatin, which melts when warm and makes the stock slightly thicker. Yeah, I know that gelled stock sounds gross, but you can really notice a difference; thin stock doesn’t taste as good because it doesn’t coat our mouth like stock with gelatin does.
- Aroma: Great stocks smell rich, too. This means that you’re getting a full meat aroma and if you use vegetables or aromatic herbs, they are clear and inviting. A good stock simmering makes your whole house smell good.
Commercially-made chicken stock does a decent job of all three things here, but beef stock is all wrong. It’s not worth buying, it’s so bad. To find out why you should skip the commercial version and easily make your own, keep reading for my stock tips. (NOTE: my pictures I took for this sucked so I’m going to re-shoot and add them in later; I didn’t want to miss my Tuesday publishing time, though!)