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Should I learn how to make stock? What's the easiest method?

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Making stock is one of the cheapest and most satisfying culinary techniques. Essentially it is a nourishing, flavoured liquid that adds body and soul to other dishes.

My mother always had a stockpot bubbling away on the stove, which she fed daily with bones from the roast, the ends of onions, pieces of tomatoes and other bits and bobs. Her kitchen always smelled fantastic. Unfortunately, not many people make stock today, thinking it is time-consuming. Instead, they rely on processed, salty, MSG-filled bouillon cubes or tasteless boxed chicken stocks.

But there are so many reasons to make stock: It is not time-consuming – it takes five minutes to assemble and then five hours to leave alone. It contains no additives or salt. It is the basis for tasty soups. When reduced, it gives a full-flavoured zest to sauces. It enhances the essence of stews. And some even say it cures the common cold (Jewish penicillin).

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Chicken stock is versatile and can pass for beef in most applications. Buy chicken bones – backs and necks are good – and throw in a couple of legs for extra flavour (they taste good later in a chicken sandwich). Cover the bones with cold water, bring to a boil and skim off the greyish scum, which is the albumin in the bones.

Add vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, mushroom stalks and leeks. Don't add salt or pepper. Simmer for four to six hours until flavourful. If you continue to cook very gently for about 18 hours, it becomes trendy bone broth. Strain and cool. You can freeze the stock, but it will last for five to six days in the refrigerator if you don't remove the layer of fat that rises to the surface.

Vegetable stock is another winner; you can reduce food waste by bagging all your veggie ends, even potato peels, and freezing them until you have filled a large plastic freezer bag. Cover the scraps with water and simmer for a few hours. Lots of nourishment and it costs you nothing.

If you don't want to make your own stock, your best alternative is to buy it from your butcher (make sure it is unsalted). For an on-hand substitute, try Better than Bouillon, which is available at places such as Fiesta Farms in Toronto. Keep this in the refrigerator for whenever you need a flavour boost.

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Chef Matt DeMille shows you how to create a rich flavour base for soups, stews and other dishes Globe and Mail Update
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