Store-bought is fine, but it can be better.
Homemade stock is wonderful, but you don't always have the time to make it. It's for that very reason that we stock up (pun intended) on store-bought, even if it isn't quite as flavorful.
The best way to use boxed stock is as a starting point. They've taken a lot of the work out of making stock for you, including the time-consuming simmering. By adding a few pantry staples, some fresh herbs, or a touch of heat, you can take a good product like store-bought stock, and turn it into something great. Here are eight of our favorite ways to make store-bought stock better.
Add Parmesan Rinds
Before tossing out your cheese rinds, use them to enrich premade stock with some of their concentrated flavor. By slowly simmering in stock, Parmesan rinds soften and break down, infusing the stock with extra savoriness. Even just 20 minutes of simmering the rinds can impart a ton of flavor.
Throw In Extra Aromatics
The base of most stocks are flavorful aromatics, like onion, carrot, and celery. An easy way to punch up the lackluster flavor of boxed stocks is by adding more of those basics. An onion sliced in half, plus a few chunks of carrots and celery can go a long way in flavoring store-bought stocks. For added smokiness, char aromatics like your onions before adding them to the pot. Garlic, sliced ginger, and lemongrass can also be simmered in the stock for extra flavor.
Use Dried Mushrooms
Dried fungi of any variety can add a depth of flavor that boxed stocks often lack. They’re especially great to use in stocks used for rich stews and braises. They can also be used to add a heartiness to lackluster vegetable stocks without using meat.
Add Whole Spices
Spice up store-bought stock with whole peppercorns, bay leaves, star anise, or a cinnamon stick. Whole spices can add tremendous flavor to a stock. You might not think that bay leaves do much, but those dried leaves add an herbal flavor that helps make your stock more complex. While bay leaf and peppercorns are traditional in classic European stocks, warm spices like star anise and cinnamon are used in stocks in other parts of the world, for instance, in rich pho broths.
Make A Bouquet Garni
Similar to whole spices, fresh woody herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage, can add layers of flavor to boxed stock. It's best to use hearty herbs for stocks, as they can hold up to extended cooking without getting bitter. When tied together with kitchen twine (for easy removal) a bundle of fresh herbs like this is referred to as a “bouquet garni.”
Mix In Some Acid
Acid is the quickest way to brighten an otherwise bland stock. You can use a splash of white wine or your favorite vinegar to make a more balanced stock for soups and stews. Citrus, like lemon juice, works well too, especially in chicken stocks or soups.
Add A Pinch Of Heat
Spicy ingredients like fresh chile, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce, can make stocks and broths more flavorful and vibrant. Add as little or as much heat as you like. Even simmering just a few slices of jalapeños, or finishing a broth with a couple dashes of Tabasco can go a long way in making boxed stock less boring and onenote.
Use A Savory Sauce
Pantry staples like Worcestershire, soy, or fish sauce, are essentially concentrated flavor in a bottle. A little bit of any of these sauces can quickly make grocery store stock more nuanced and complex. They do contain a lot of salt however, so be mindful how much you use, especially when adding to full sodium store-bought stocks.
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