Stock. Broth. Bouillon. They are all words for the liquid part of soup, right? Yes... and no. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, professional chefs will insist that there are distinct differences between the three, particularly between stock and broth. Unfortunately, even the chefs don't seem to agree on exactly what those differences are.
Bouillon is the least controversial. Most chefs use "bouillon" as a term for dehydrated stock or broth that is later rehydrated for use. Occasionally, the word is also used to described the liquid created from rehydrated bouillon. Bouillon is commercially produced for home use in the form of cubes and powders.
Both "stock" and "broth" are derived from vegetables simmered with meat and sometimes bones, leading to a lot of confusion on the difference between the two. Some chefs draw the line between the two at the use of animal bones, stating that stock must be made with bones while broth may not. Others contend that bones are optional for either. Of course, vegetable stock and vegetable broth use neither meat nor bones, confusing the issue even further.
Most often, the line is drawn at seasonings. A stock is generally understood to be a rich, unseasoned liquid intended for use as a base for other dishes -- sauces, stews and soups, for example. Broth, on the other hand, is seasoned and satisfying all on its own; but can also be used as a light soup base.
The next time you wonder whether you need stock or broth, consider the purpose for which you will use it -- if you will drink it plain or make a light soup, purchase (or make) broth. If you will use it in sauces, thick stews or heavy soups with varied seasonings, purchase (or make) stock.
What do you think? Is the difference between stock, broth and bouillon to be found in their ingredients? Their form? Their purpose? Or perhaps some combination of these? Please SHARE this article with your culinary friends and tell us what you think in the comments below!