One of the main practices that differentiate a great kitchen from an average one is making stocks from scratch.  While canned broths and dried bases have their place, nothing will add as fine a foundation to your cooking as real stock.  In 1903 Escoffier wrote “These culinary preparations,” of which stocks make up a major part, “define the basic fundamentals and the requisite ingredients without which nothing of importance can be attempted.  It is for this reason that they are so important and why they occupy such a place in the work of the cook who wishes to be successful.”  Things haven’t changed much as far as the place that stock holds in the kitchen.  Making your own stock takes a little time and effort but, once a routine has been established, it is one of the easier things in the kitchen to produce.  It is less expensive than prepared bases, is a great way to make use of various scraps, and will add a high-quality depth to many of your dishes while providing a perfect blank canvas to build different flavors on.  Fresh stock will also prevent half of your menu from having the same similar “soup base” taste and finish.

A stock is simply a flavorful liquid made by simmering bones, meat, vegetables and aromatics in water, and then straining out the solids.  It is used as a base for soups, sauces, stews and anything else that would benefit from something more flavorful than water in its preparation.  If one of the main goals of fine cooking is to develop and craft great flavors, then water, in general, is probably not the best place to start.  There are three basic types of stock: white beef stock, brown veal stock and chicken stock.  Depending on your menu and personal taste, one will probably be more useful to you than another.  Some kitchens use all three plus others.

Stocks are most easily made in quantity and stored refrigerated.  Steam-jacketed kettles, tilt skillets and stockpots with or without spigots all work well.  The quantity of stock you’ll need will be based on your menu and production.  When preparing your stocks, NEVER let them get any higher than a very low simmer.  Too aggressive a simmer, approaching a boil, will incorporate fat into the stock, making it cloudy and greasy.  You can’t correct this after the fact.  Also, don’t add salt to stocks.  You want them to be as neutral as possible so that they’ll be very flexible when you use them, especially in reductions.  Having no salt in your stocks is one of the main advantages to making them fresh and not using bases or canned products.  Although you want to extract all of the flavor and gelatin from the ingredients used in making your stock, cooking them too long will result in a flat, lifeless flavor and feel.  Taste the stock as it cooks, and stop the process when you feel it’s reached its peak.  The suggested cooking times are a good place to start.  Mirepoix is a term for rough-cut onions, carrots and celery in the ratio of 50%, 25% and 25%.  So, 8 lbs. of Mirepoix consists of 4 lbs. of onions, 2 lbs. of carrots and 2 lbs. of celery.  All of the bones called for can be purchased, sometimes frozen; the smaller the pieces, the better.  Bones you already have as a by-product of other recipes should be your first choice.  Lean scraps of meat can also be added if available.

Each stock recipe will need to be strained twice, first through a china cap, then through a fine strainer or cheesecloth.  Depending on how much you’ve made and in which utensil, it might be a good idea to remove most of the bones with a spider first.  After straining, for the sake of food safety, it’s important to properly and quickly cool your stock.  Transfer it to a metal container (it will transfer heat more quickly than plastic) and place on a rack in a sink full of ice.  Stir frequently until it reaches a temperature of 40˚F.  “Ice wands” are available and work well to cool the stock even quicker.  Once chilled, the stock can be stored in plastic containers, labeled, dated, and refrigerated.  Be sure to rotate your stock.  Also make sure that all your utensils are immaculately clean before using them.

White Beef Stock

This stock has a fairly neutral flavor and is often used for vegetable (although obviously, not vegetarian) dishes, or in kitchens where only one stock is used for a lot of different dishes.  It will let the distinctive flavors of any recipe shine through whether it is Italian braised fennel, Southwestern poblano chili sauce or a Chinese stir-fry.  It will also add a pleasant body and smooth underpinning to any dish.

White Beef Stock, makes five gallons

  • Beef Bones     40 lbs.
  • Cold Water     7.5 gallons
  • Mirepoix         8 lbs
  • Parsley Stems 20 ea.

Put the bones, frozen or thawed, in a stockpot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 3 minutes while occasionally stirring and skimming the scum off the top with a ladle (this skimming process is called depouille.)  Drain out the water, rinse off the bones and put them in a clean stockpot.  This initial blanching of the bones removes most of the impurities, resulting in much less skimming during the actual stock making, and a more clear final product.  Add the 7.5 gallons of cold water and simmer slowly for 7 hours, skimming the scum and fat off the top as necessary – don’t just ignore it or mix it in.  Add the mirepoix and parsley stems and simmer for one more hour.  Strain, chill, refrigerate.

Brown Veal Stock

This stock is very neutral in character as well as being richer and more complex in flavor and darker in color than white beef stock.  Brown veal stock is the basic building block of countless brown sauces, demi-glace, pan gravies and rich stews.

Brown Veal Stock, makes five gallons

  • Veal Bones     40 lbs.
  • Cold Water     7.5 gallons
  • Mirepoix         8 lbs.
  • Olive Oil         6 oz.
  • Tomato Paste  3 small cans
  • Parsley Stems 20 ea.
  • Thyme Sprigs 10 ea.
  • Bay Leaf         2 ea.

Brown the bones in a 400˚F oven, turning occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides.  Be careful not to burn them.  Add the bones to cold water in a stockpot. Degrease and deglaze the roasting pan using water, and add the deglazing liquid to the stockpot.  Bring to simmer and simmer slowly for at least 6 and for up to 16 hours. This can be done overnight.  Skim as needed.  You can also add more water as needed to keep the level up, especially if cooking for a longer period of time.  In the meantime, coat the mirepoix in olive oil and roast in a 400˚F oven until very well browned.  Add tomato paste to the browned mirepoix and continue to roast until the paste is also browned.  Be careful!  The tomato paste will burn easily.  Add the browned mirepoix and herbs to the simmering stock for the last two hours of cooking.  Deglaze the pan with water and add it to the cooking stock as well.  Strain, chill, refrigerate.

Chicken Stock

This is a great and very useful stock.  It has a beautiful yellow color, a fresh, aromatic aroma and a pleasantly smooth body.  If also tastes a little like chicken which is usually not a problem, but might be in certain situations.  It works well in soups, sauces and braised dishes.

Chicken Stock, makes 5 gallons

  • Chicken Bones            40 lbs.
  • Cold Water                 7.5 gallons
  • Mirepoix                     8 lbs.
  • Parsley Stems             20 ea.
  • Bay Leaf                     2 ea.

Put the bones, frozen or thawed, in a stockpot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 3 minutes while occasionally stirring and skimming the scum off the top with a ladle.  Drain out the water, rinse off the bones and put them in a clean stockpot.  Add the 7.5 gallons of cold water and simmer slowly for 2 hours, skimming the scum and fat off the top as necessary.  The skimming is important to get a clear, fresh-tasting stock.  Add the mirepoix and parsley stems and simmer for one more hour.  Strain, chill, refrigerate.


Reducing a portion of your finished stocks will result in a product that has a lot of concentrated flavor, takes up less storage space and will last, refrigerated, for 2 months instead of 4 days.  Reducing the white beef stock will result in a product called glace de viande, the brown veal stock, glace de veau and the chicken stock, glace de volaille.  To make these products, boil 5 gallons of any of the above stocks down to 3 quarts.  Make sure that there’s no fat present before you start.  If the stocks were refrigerated before you reduce them, it’s easy to remove all the fat as it will have solidified.  Use these glaces to finish sauces, braised dishes or anything that can use a little “rounding out” in its flavor and texture.  Without the added salt of some prepared products, these reductions can be used without the worry of making the recipe you add it to taste like a pretzel.

Two other useful stocks are fish stock and vegetable stock.

Fish Stock

Although for many seafood dishes white beef stock or chicken stock work nicely, there are times when fish stock will make for a more cohesive dish.

Fish Stock, makes 1 gallon

  • Fish Bones and trimmings      10 lbs.
  • Cold Water                             5 quarts
  • White Wine                             2 cups
  • Onions, chopped                     8 oz.
  • Leeks, chopped                       8 oz.
  • Celery, chopped                      8 oz.
  • Parsley Stems                         5 ea.
  • Thyme Sprigs                         2 ea.
  • Bay Leaf                                 1 ea.


Combine all the ingredients in a stockpot.  Bring to simmer and simmer slowly for 30-40 minutes, skimming as necessary.  Be sure to only use very fresh fish, and avoid strong fish carcasses like mackerel.  Strain, chill, refrigerate.

Vegetable Stock

Although white beef stock, brown veal stock and chicken stock will add a certain depth and body to otherwise vegetarian dishes, sometimes vegetable stock is the only way to go.  In addition to the recipe below, a very tasty brown vegetable stock can be made by simmering the browned mirepoix and herbs from the brown veal stock recipe in water for 2 hours.  Use 2 gallons of water for every 8 lbs. of mirepoix and expect about a 1.5 gallon yield.  Strain, chill and refrigerate just like the other recipes.

Vegetable Stock, makes 5 gallons

  • Olive Oil                                 6 oz.
  • Garlic, chopped                      1 Bulb
  • White Onions, chopped          4 lbs
  • Shallots, chopped                    .5 lbs
  • Leeks, sliced                           3 lbs
  • Cold Water                             5.5 gallons
  • Carrots, chopped                     4 lbs.
  • Mushrooms, chopped             2 lbs
  • Celery, chopped                      4 lbs
  • Tomatoes, chopped                 1.5 lbs
  • Fennel Stalks, chopped           2 lbs
  • Black Peppercorns                  1 Tbs.
  • Bay Leaf                                 2 ea.
  • Parsley Stems                         20 ea.

Sweat the garlic, onions, shallots and leeks in the oil.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to simmer and simmer slowly for 45 minutes.  Strain, chill and refrigerate.


A classic technique in the production of stock is the use of remouillageRemouillage is a weaker stock, made from the beef or veal bones already used in making a prior batch of regular stock.  It is used in two ways.  First, as any other stock would be used, but when intensity and depth of flavor is not as important, perhaps in a very spicy sauce when the basic flavor of the sauce would overwhelm the subtlety of a normal stock, but would still benefit from the added smoothness of the remouillage.  It’s also used in this manner as a cost-saving device.  The other, more frequent use is to substitute the remouillage for the water used to make the next batch of stock, resulting in an extra fine “double stock.”

Remouillage, makes 5 gallons

  • Bones, already used to make stock with        40 lbs.
  • Cold Water                                                     7.5 gallons
  • Mirepoix                                                         8 lbs.
  • Parsley Stems                                                 20 ea.

Put the bones in a stockpot and add the cold water.  Bring to a simmer and simmer slowly for 5 hours while skimming the scum off the top with a ladle as needed.  Add the mirepoix and parsley stems and simmer for one more hour.  Strain, chill, refrigerate.

A lot of chefs feel that making one’s own stock is one of the main criteria that separate the men from the boys.  By trying some of the recipes in this article, you can make your bid to belonging in the former category.