Broth adds rich flavour to soups, stews, risottos and much more. Making your own broth is a money-wise way to use up vegetables, meats and trimmings, such as bones, chicken necks, parsley stems, leek tops and mushroom stems. Plus, you control the amount of salt that goes into your stockpot. The best part? Broth freezes well, so you can make big batches to use in lots of different meals.
A Note About “Stock” And “Broth”
In home kitchens, the terms “stock” and “broth” are used interchangeably to describe a liquid made by simmering together meats, bones, aromatic vegetables, herbs, spices and water. Chefs use “stock” to describe a liquid made with bones, vegetables and spices only (no meat). In this article, we’ll be using the term “broth” throughout.
What You Need
- Tall stainless-steel stockpot
- Long-handled spoon
- Large colander
The process for any kind of broth starts by combining water with aromatic vegetables (such as onions, celery and carrots), herbs and spices. Parsley is the most common herb used—it adds freshness without overpowering the broth the way cilantro, dill or rosemary would. Spices are often limited to bay leaves and black peppercorns.
- For vegetable broth: Double up on the aromatic vegetables. Pop in potatoes and some chopped tomatoes, and add mushrooms, parsnips or turnips if you like their earthiness. Skip asparagus and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts—their flavours can overwhelm a delicate broth.
- For chicken or turkey broth: Add chicken or turkey meat and bones. Use whole poultry cut into pieces or a mixture of wings, necks, backs and bones. The fresher the ingredients, the tastier the broth—avoid using poultry meat that’s been frozen for more than a couple of months, and discard any that’s freezer burned, as it will make the broth taste flat.
- For beef broth: Add beef bones, and toss in a whole clove or two for a bit of subtle spice.
- For fish or seafood broth: Fish heads (minus the gills) are the old-fashioned favourite, but bones or flesh of firm white fish, like halibut, work just as well. If you’re making soups or pastas with shrimp, crab or lobster, save the shells; they add a wonderful depth to broths used in those types of dishes.
How to Make Broth
- Prep. Halve or quarter vegetables. Onion skins add colour, and celery leaves and the stalks of mild herbs such as parsley and dill impart flavour, so toss them in, too!
- Roast (if desired). Roasting makes broth darker and richer. Toss vegetables, meat and/or bones in a roasting pan with a little vegetable oil, and roast in a 400°F (200°C) oven for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until they’re deep brown all over. Scrape everything into the stockpot. Pour hot water into the roasting pan, scrape up the flavourful browned bits, and add those to the pot, too.
- Simmer. Fill your stock pot with enough cold water to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat until the liquid is bubbling gently, and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Meat and poultry broths need at least two hours of gentle simmering; fish and shrimp broths only need about 30 and 15 minutes, respectively.
- Strain. Place a large colander in a large bowl and line it with damp cheesecloth to catch tiny pieces of meat or vegetables and help achieve a smooth, clear broth. Ladle in the cooked broth. Press on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract the flavourful liquid (this will result in a cloudier-looking broth).
- Remove the fat. Scrape all visible fat off the top of the broth. Alternatively, let the broth cool for 30 minutes, and then cover and refrigerate overnight. The fat will solidify, making it easier to remove.
- Season (if desired). If you want to enhance the flavour, add salt a little at a time, tasting as you go. Remember: You can always add more, but you can’t subtract!
Simmer these add-ins with the rest of your ingredients.
- Mushrooms: Add dried or fresh mushrooms to vegetable, beef and chicken broths for an extra savoury note.
- Tomato paste: Combine paste with browned vegetables and cook until fragrant and deep red, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Garlic: Add to broths that will go into hearty, rustic soups, such as minestrone. Whole garlic cloves with skin on work best.
- Ginger and star anise: Add to chicken or beef broth to use in Thai- or Vietnamese-style soups.
Storing and Freezing Broth
Ladle cooled homemade broth into airtight containers and refrigerate for up to two days or freeze for up to three months. Canning jars work well; just leave 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) of space at the top for the liquid to expand if you’re freezing it. Resealable freezer bags make for handy storage too—press out the air before sealing the bags, and lay them flat to save space.
Try it: Use your homemade broth in these hearty recipes.