No wonder people are confused about these distinctions, says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CLT, a California-based nutritional consultant. Although regular broth is different from stock, “bone broth actually is a stock.”
Here’s how she describes the differences:
Broth: “Typically, broth is made from meat, without bones, plus seasoning and vegetables, and usually takes anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to cook. It’s thin and light in flavor.” It has a wide range of culinary uses, including soups, stews, sauces, gravy, and braising liquid.
Stock: “It’s typically made with bones — roasted first to improve flavor — plus meat, vegetables, and herbs. Unlike broth, it can be made without meat. It typically simmers for three or four hours.” The bones supply flavor but also thickening, as their cartilage breaks down into the body-structuring proteins called collagens. It’s often used as broth is, but stock will be thicker.
Bone broth: This is a stock that’s typically cooked longer, though there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long it takes to turn regular stock into bone broth. “A chicken bone broth usually takes about six or more hours to cook, and beef or lamb broth can take from eight to 24 hours,” says Angelone.
The longer cooking time produces more collagen, so bone broth is generally the thickest of the three. It’s also the most flavorful, assuming equal seasoning.
Bone broth has become a staple of the paleo diet; it’s often consumed on its own as a sort of nutritional supplement. But some of its health claims strike Angelone as over the top.
“Whenever you have something with some health benefits, there are going to be people who push them to the limit,” she says. “Most of the claims for it — for gut health, for example — are hard to separate from the basic benefits of eating protein as part of a balanced diet. Bone broth is a good source of minerals and protein, but it’s not a superfood.”
She notes that many of its nutrients, and those of regular stock and broth, come from the vegetables that are added during cooking.
Nonetheless, Angelone recommends broth as a first-thing-in-the-morning drink. “It is nutritious, and it’s good against dehydration,” she says. “We forget that when we wake up, we haven’t had any liquids for several hours, and warm, tasty broth can be more inviting than water at that hour.” It’s also good to sip while you’re cooking, in order to avoid nibbling.
“The main thing to remember with nutrition is the big picture,” she adds. “Bone broth — which has the most protein of the three options, along with other nutrients, depending on what you’ve added — still isn’t a magic bullet. If your diet is unhealthy, just adding bone broth won’t improve your nutrition significantly.”
This originally appeared as “What are the differences between broth, stock, and bone broth?” in the October 2019 print issue of Experience Life.