A Good Stock Takes Time: Setting Up Your Kitchen for Making Stocks and Broths
A good stock takes time. This is part of the pleasure—making stocks is meditative and meaningful, if you allow yourself the occasion. Building a stock often happens in the background of most kitchens—a smell that permeates a residence, a gentle warmth that radiates from the kitchen. Be inspired by Rachel Mamane’s approach to truly slow cookery and her effervescent love for food itself.
Mastering Stocks and Broths – 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award Finalist – is the definitive and most comprehensive guide on stocks, broths, and how to prepare and use them. As a special treat to celebrate the book, we’ve got an excerpt that just might help clear your culinary confusion.
Now, get ready to make stocks & broths a new staple in your diet.
The following is an excerpt adapted for the web from Mastering Stocks and Broths by Rachael S. Mamane.
Setting Up Your Kitchen for Making Stocks and Broths
If you cook at home often, your kitchen is likely supplied with the equipment you need to make a good stock. At a minimum, a stockpot and strainer will produce worthwhile results; for the serious cook, the addition of a scale and thermometer will help attain precision. The tools outlined in this chapter will guide you in maintaining the right temperature; achieving the right color, clarity, and consistency; and ensuring a safe environment to produce and preserve your stocks and broths. A review of staple ingredients, such as water and salt, is also included.
Tools and Equipment for the Home Cook
There’s no real magic to making a good stock or broth at home, only a commitment to tend the pot and an ability to be patient, sometimes very patient. Correct tools will help you achieve the best results—proper color, concentration, and clarity––as well as measures that ensure food safety. There’s a good chance your home kitchen is already equipped, ready to enrich your household with warmth that emanates from the pot. If you are limited on space, time, and equipment, or are a stickler for energy efficiency, consider cooking stocks and broths in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
A scale allows you to measure the weight of ingredients to achieve precise concentration and consistent results. A scale for this purpose can be digital or analog; it is optional for small batches and recommended for large batches. If you require consistency across batches, then you’ll want to weigh the bones and vegetables. The recipes in this book list primary ingredients, such as bones, meat, fish, and vegetables, by weight; all recipes include metric conversions for accuracy of measurement.
An oven is used to roast and defat bones and vegetables for brown stocks. The process of roasting creates a golden-brown crust on the bones and vegetables; it also develops a fond, the caramelized drippings that stick to the bottom of the pan, which is responsible for the darkened color and depth of flavor in a stock. When marrowbones are roasted, much of the fat is rendered, which helps clarify the stock before adding water.
You can use a conventional oven or a convection oven to roast your ingredients. A conventional oven—the standard for most home kitchens—works by radiating heat up and pushing cold air down. This mechanism can cause uneven baking; simply turn the bones or stir the vegetables throughout cooking to ensure even distribution. Alternatively, a convection oven is outfitted with a fan that circulates air around the inside, and results in more evenly cooked food. This type of oven typically requires less cooking time because it heats the contents faster. Regardless of oven type, it’s always a good idea to keep an oven light on to observe the cooking process.
Selecting the correct pot is an important step in building a quality foundation. Appropriately, the stockpot—a wide pot with a flat bottom, straight sides and an opening that extends the full diameter of the pot—is intended for making large quantities of stock or broth. Two handles should reside on the sides, and though not all stockpots come with a lid, one with a top handle can be useful.
Stockpots circulate liquids through convection and are wide enough to accommodate frequent skimming from the top. The height of a stockpot determines rate of evaporation. For a stock or broth, you want a tall, narrow pot, which limits evaporation during a long simmer.
The most common materials for stockpots are stainless steel or aluminum. Stainless steel has many advantages over aluminum, except the price. Stainless steel is heavier and therefore manages heat better; unlike aluminum, it has a nonreactive surface, which means you can cook acidic or salty foods. Stainless steel can be used on a gas or electric range, as well as an induction surface (provided it is magnetic stainless steel and contains some iron); aluminum cannot be used on an induction surface, unless it is constructed with a magnetic layer on the bottom surface. Anodized aluminum exists to solve the challenges that aluminum presents and offers a solution that is less expensive than stainless steel. You can find more expensive options in copper, vitreous enamel (most often as enamel coated cast iron) and layered metals that are all designed to improve heat conductivity.
If you plan on making stocks on a consistent basis, go one step further and consider the gauge—or the thickness—of the pot. A heavy-gauge stockpot ensures even heat distribution and durability during lengthy simmering times. Remember that the numbering system for gauge structure is in reverse: The smaller the number, the thicker the gauge. If no number is listed, look for a description that mentions “heavy-gauge” and examine the base of the stockpot for multiple ply construction. Even the smallest heavy-gauge stockpot will possess heft.
You can select the correct capacity based on the size of your kitchen and the quantity of stock you plan to use or store at a time. I recommend an 8- to 12-quart (8- to 12-liter) pot for home kitchens, a 20-quart (20-liter) pot for restaurants and upwards of a 60- to 80-quart (60- to 80-liter) pot for commercial productions. Jacketed steam kettles are also wonderful for commercial use, though they require a specialized ventilation system and certified installation procedures.
You can use other pots—such as a saucepan or even a slow cooker. Make sure you have enough room in the pot to cover all solid ingredients with water.
An obvious heat source, the kitchen stove is mentioned here because of its significance to the process. The stovetop allows you to control the rate of heat as it transfers to the pot, which dictates the temperature of your liquid and therefore the amount of simmering time. Whether gas, electric, or induction, it is important that your stovetop can maintain a steady temperature for a long period. If it cannot, refer to methods using a slow cooker or pressure cooker to achieve similar results.
If your gas stove runs hot or you are using an induction range, a burner plate will help diffuse the heat and assist with even cooking. Look for a plate made of cast iron or stainless steel; skip those made of aluminum. The plate should be thick and heavy and fit over the burner to lock in heat.
The best thermometer to use when making stock is one that clips to the pot. Select a deep-fry or candy thermometer, which are typically outfitted with a built-in clip. For those thermometers that don’t, such as instant-read thermometers, you can improvise with a binder clip: Clip it on the edge of a pot with one arm arranged over the liquid and the other lifted toward the outside of the pot; insert the probe into the former and rest the digital reader on the latter—the probe will securely settle into the liquid. The temperature range of your thermometer should reach 100°F (37°C) on the low end.
A skimmer is an easy and effective tool for removing fat and impurities from stock or broth. Choose a fine-meshed skimmer with a long handle and a flat bottom. I keep my skimmer handy—set in a bowl next to the stockpot and close to the sink for periodic cleaning. You can attribute the clarity of a stock in part to the skimming process; it helps eliminate impurities as they rise to the surface, making this tool an essential part of the mise en place of stock making.
There are three types of strainers that are ideal for finishing a stock: A conical strainer, called a China cap, and a reinforced bowl-shaped strainer, simply known as a double-mesh strainer, are used most frequently. Use the China cap for passing large objects, such as bones, and the double-mesh strainer to catch smaller particles. If you can’t locate a double-mesh strainer, simply lay cheesecloth in a single-mesh strainer to catch finer bits. At Brooklyn Bouillon, we first ladle our stocks from pot through China cap, and twice more through a double-mesh strainer. For further refining the texture of a sauce, you can also add a tamis, also known as a drum sieve, to your strainer collection.
Cooling Ice Paddle
An important food safety measure when making stock is the rapid cooling period that comes after removing a pot of stock from the stovetop. This step helps prevent the harmful bacterial growth that can occur when hot liquids are suspended in the danger zone—from 135°F (57°C) to 41°F (5°C)—during their transition from stove to refrigerator. If you are in the business of producing stock, or find yourself making multiple batches at home, consider acquiring an ice paddle, typically found at restaurant supply stores. Ice paddles are simple to use: Simply fill with water and freeze until needed. When added to hot liquid, the frozen paddle cools liquid from the inside out in a quick and even manner. Alternatively, you can make an ice bath in your kitchen sink or in stainless steel hotel pans (found at restaurant-supply stores) to achieve the same effect.
Always have clean containers on hand for your finished stocks. You can store liquids in plastic containers with tight-fitting lids in the refrigerator or freezer. Stocks will also hold well in sealed plastic bags. Lay the securely sealed packs flat in the freezer with kitchen towels between each layer to prevent sticking.
Alternatively, if you dislike plastic, transfer and store the liquid in glass jars. If you plan to freeze the stocks in glass, make sure to chill the liquid in an open jar until frozen; this allows the liquid to expand during the freezing process and prevents the glass from breaking under pressure. When the liquid is frozen, seal the jar with a lid.
My preferred container sizes are pint and quart containers. Depending on the recipe, a pint is a sufficient amount of stock for one meal; a quart will provide enough base to feed a small family. A clever tip for freezing in small portions: Pour the liquid into ice cube containers, freeze until solid, and transfer the cubes to a container that is easily accessible in the freezer. Keep in mind that the cubes will be exposed to more surface area, which encourages freezer burn; plan to use the cubes more quickly than stocks stored in larger containers. In all instances, label your stocks with a name and date.
Another obvious yet essential asset to the stock making process is cold storage. After the initial cooling stage, you can store a batch in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for much longer. For large batches made in a professional kitchen, a blast chiller is recommended. This commercial appliance rapidly cools hot liquids to a safe temperature, typically within 90 minutes. Any fat in the stock will solidify on the top when chilled, allowing for easy removal. If preserving in the freezer, you can store and stack sealed bags or pour into ice cube trays for single portions.
Invest in an electric dehydrator if the idea of making dried bouillon cubes and gelatin powder appeals to you, or if you are limited on freezer space. Dehydrating is a healthy method for preserving nutrients in food while extending shelf life. Look for a dehydrator that heats through convection and is outfitted with stackable trays. You will also need non-stick drying sheets that fit on your dehydrator trays. The manufacturer often sells them as an accessory.
Though a terrine mold is not a tool for making stocks, it is a great piece of equipment to have around if you are regularly cooking with them. Terrines are typically packed with forcemeat or vegetables that are held together by a chilled gelatinous stock, or aspic; they are commonly served as an appetizer. A terrine mold can be rectangular or oval in shape, has vertical sides and is fitted with a lid. Traditionally crafted from glazed earthenware, terrine molds tend to be made with enameled cast iron these days. If you do not have a formal mold, you can use a regular loaf pan; simply line it with parchment and weight the contents with full cans in lieu of a fitted lid.
A Note on Staple Ingredients
In addition to basic equipment, there are a few ingredients that, when sourced with consideration, will produce a better tasting stock or broth. The quality of your water, for instance, plays a significant part in the quality of a foundation; water, after all, is what carries the flavor and holds the texture of the infusion. The choices you make when selecting other staple ingredients, such as salt, oil, and tomato paste, also make a difference in the pot.
It is easy to overlook a basic ingredient like water, which is provided to our kitchens as a natural municipal resource. Water comprises the largest volume ingredient in a stock or broth, however, and treated well water will always produce a healthier result. Toxins, such as chlorine, reside in our water supply and can counteract the benefits of a good bone broth. I recommend learning about the quality of your water so you have better control over the end product.
The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards and regulations for which contaminants are allowable in the public water supply. Ask your community water supplier for an annual Consumer Confidence Report to learn more about the quality of your local drinking water. You can acquire a low-cost test kit from your local hardware store to determine what is coming out of your tap.
Based on the contaminants in your water supply, select a filtration system that is qualified to remove those toxins. A reverse osmosis filter, which purifies by pushing tap water through a semi-permeable membrane, is highly recommended. If you are making only a small quantity of stock, store-bought filtered water or counter-top filtration carafes are sufficient. If neither home filtration nor store-bought water is an option, proceed with the water on hand, but be aware that the purity of the stock might be compromised.
Salt is a naturally occurring mineral found in abundance on earth—mostly in seas and oceans, but also from dried surfaces and underground deposits. Most commercial salt, such as table salt and kosher salt, is produced through a process called solution mining. This method injects fresh well water into salt beds to dissolve the salt, after which the brine is pumped out and delivered to plants for evaporation. Alternatively, sea salt is gathered through solar evaporation, where the wind and sun assist salt collection from shallow pools.
Though the chemical composition of commonly used salts is the same, there are some considerable differences in texture and density across type and brand. These nuances, once known, might make a difference in the way you approach cooking. Table salt, which is denser than other salts and often contains stabilizers and conditioning chemicals, as well as an off-putting metallic taste, has no place in my kitchen. Kosher salt, which is less processed than table salt, is employed for curing and blanching; while sea salt, itself with endless variations, is often reserved for finishing dishes, a final enhancement before the meal reaches the table.
The recipes in this book rely on a singular brand of kosher salt and specific types of sea salt, depending on the application. Kosher salt offers coarse grains that coat ingredients well without dissolving, making it an ideal salt for seasoning meat and vegetables before cooking. Its affordability also makes it a good choice for blanching and brining. The size and density of kosher salt flakes depend on the evaporation process. This means that each brand of kosher salt has a different weight. For consistency, the recipes in this book use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, which weighs 135 grams per cup.
All stocks and broths in this book call for sea salt, preferably unrefined, the most natural type of salt available for cooking. Sea salt is collected around the globe from evaporated seawater, and its color variations are indicative of trace minerals that are specific to its origin. Grey sea salt (also known as Celtic sea salt) from France, for instance, gets its color from the clay bottom pans of salt marshes where it is harvested by hand. Other types of unrefined sea salt include Real Salt, which is mined from salt deposits in Utah, or Himalayan sea salt, a rose-colored flake from Pakistan. These salts contain trace minerals, which are imparted into the dish when cooking and add to the overall nutritional value of stocks and broths.
If you cannot locate unrefined sea salt, you can substitute refined sea salt, which might be processed for flake consistency and could contain an anti-caking agent. For finishing dishes, I prefer Maldon Sea Salt, a soft, pyramidal flake that exhibits a clean flavor and an almost effervescent texture.
This book does not make use of table salt. It is also commonly fortified with iodine—a global health initiative introduces iodine in societies where it is deficient, an effort that unfortunately lends an unpleasant metallic taste to the salt.
The roasted stocks in this book use grapeseed oil to coat and cook bones and vegetables before simmering in water. Grapeseed oil is recommended for this purpose because it has a higher smoke point and a more neutral flavor than olive oil. This means it does not turn rancid during the roasting step, and the oil does not interfere with the flavor of ingredients.
Grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of wine grapes after the juice is pressed from the fruit. As you might imagine, the seeds of grapes do not contain much oil and therefore require a method that coaxes oil from seeds. Unfortunately, cold pressing, the healthiest method, is not effective with grapeseeds, and solvent extraction, the most harmful method, should be avoided. Instead, look for expeller-pressed grapeseed oil, a process that uses a mechanical press to release the oil. Keep in mind that grapeseed oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids and should be used sparingly. Lastly, do not confuse grapeseed oil with rapeseed oil, which is made from the flowering plant of the Brassicaceae family and is otherwise known as canola oil.
Some classic brown stocks, such as veal, lamb and duck, benefit from a boost of flavor and color; the char from bones can sometimes darken liquid to an unpalatable tint. For these roasted stocks, tomato paste is the ingredient that provides necessary enhancement. A roasted duck stock, for instance, goes from a dull brown to a deep mahogany when the tomato paste is folded in. This step also mellows gaminess from the bird by adding the natural umami found in concentrated tomatoes.
As with most of the ingredients reviewed, the type of tomato paste you use makes a difference in your cooking. Most commercial tomato paste is made from flavorless tomatoes—those hard fruits that are picked from the vine too early. It is also sometimes fortified with citric acid to improve shelf stability and/or sugar to balance overall acidity. The canned version often tastes metallic—the acidity of the tomatoes competing with the packaging material. Even though tomato paste is used sparingly, the combination of these factors is detectable on the palate.
Time permitting, I recommend stocking up on many pounds of late summer tomatoes and making your own tomato paste. One day of preserving will produce enough conserva for your winter pantry. The freshness of the fruit combined with the slow touch of a home kitchen promises a tomato paste that is silky in texture and caramelized in flavor. The recipe for tomato paste includes honey as a natural component to further mellow the concentration. If you are unable to make your own, look for tomato paste in a jar, tube or can that lists only one ingredient: tomatoes.
Whether making a small batch for your home or a large batch for a crowd, the tools and equipment required to make stocks and broths are straightforward—a vessel, a heat source and cold storage. It might be tempting to throw all your ingredients in the pot and leave them to simmer, but there are nuanced details that go into producing an excellent foundation. The next chapter explores each step of the process—from tending the pot to cooling for safety—and the science involved therein. Combined with great ingredients, this culinary knowledge offers a sincere approach to cooking—slow and steady, thoughtful, and meditative.
My “Seasonal” Kitchen
For those of us who adore good food, the word “seasonal” evokes memories that match ingredients to time and place—cider apples in fall, root vegetables in winter, lamb in spring and endless nightshades in summer. The appearance of our kitchens might reflect the seasonality of what we pick from the land or find at market—perhaps a big, heavy enamel pot takes residence on the stove throughout the cold months, and a canning operation moves in at the end of the warm ones. Indeed, this movement from season to season is how I perceive the functional use of a kitchen, and yet, in my world, the kitchen itself is not a constant, knowable thing.
In the tough real estate market of New York, the life of a conscientious broth maker is a mobile one—yes, there are days spent skimming pots and producing stocks in bulk, but much of the work includes meeting with farmers, courting investors and assessing infrastructure. The truth of our trade is that slaughterhouses have fallen out of commercial favor over the past generation, and professional kitchens are rarely outfitted to meet the needs of small producers. Living between urban industry and rural farmland means my personal cooking spaces are also in flux—from the compact commonplace kitchen of a Brooklyn apartment to the rickety kitchen expressions of an old farmhouse.
As a commercial broth maker, my ideal industrial kitchen includes steam-jacketed tilt kettles and perhaps deep braising pans; other less ideal spaces offer multiple well-ventilated heat elements that can accommodate huge stockpots. I sometimes deliver filtered water to the pot from a food grade hose; in rare, less-than-satisfactory instances, a spigot assists with transferring finished product from pot to sieve-lined container. The set up of the kitchen dictates ease of production: Heat in a jacketed kettle, for instance, is managed through steam, which stabilizes temperature better than the heating element on a stove. This feature requires less monitoring once the stock is setting in for a long simmer. The tilt mechanism on both kettle and braiser eliminates the need for heavy lifting; enormous stockpots, the cumbersome alternative, require more than two hands to manage. Admittedly exhausted by the end of a production day, I sometimes invite friends or colleagues to assist with hand-labeling units. For these instances, the kitchen is almost always equipped with a stock of wine.
Over the years, my home kitchens have garnered an enviable collection of beautiful, functional pots and pans. These vessels rarely travel with me, but knowing they exist is comforting: Each pot with a unique feature—say, a conductive property that improves the structure of a sauce or a visual vibrancy that invites guests to gather in the kitchen. I have a similar adoration for my collection of shiny sieves and strainers, knowing they hold the secret to proper viscosity and silken texture of foodstuffs. Still, the mobility of my business has forced me to become agile in the kitchen. One day of producing stocks will build a frozen arsenal for future cooking experiences––whether a quick, late night meal for one, or a multi-course production for friends. These days, my personal kitchens are as utilitarian as my commercial production space; the romance is less about fancy equipment and more about lasting nourishment.
This confession isn’t intended to discourage you from building a well-stocked kitchen. There are fewer pleasures in life than owning a warm, developed kitchen, one that encourages friends and family to join in the cooking experience. Instead this view into my mobile culinary life is an invitation to cook without interference from limited resources. Regardless of how well a kitchen is outfitted, it is almost always possible to make stock. And with a good stock, nourishment is within reach.
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