Many folks in the food industry believe that you just can't buy good stock at the store. That for decent beef broth, you must spend hours roasting bones, caramelizing vegetables, and simmering aromatics until an amber, collagen-filled liquid emerges. And while it's true that a properly executed homemade stock is the best option—and you're super lucky if you live near a butcher (or gourmet shop) where they make stock the right way and are willing to sell it, I'm here to tell you that there are a few delicious pre-made stocks out in the world, if only you know where to look.
So come with me, past the pantry aisle with its shelves full of boxes, away from the rows of metal cans. Let's reconvene in the freezer section, where our favorite broth, Brodo awaits. If it's not where you live yet, don't worry: its regional availability is extending every day (and you can also buy the stuff online). One word of caution: it is more expensive that you might be accustomed to. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, we've got you. Read on for our other high-scoring picks to get you through soup and braising season.
Find the Impossible Burger impossible to understand? Don't know where exactly Beyond Beef is going to take you? Now that these plant-based meats are finally available in grocery stores, it's time to ask (and answer) some questions.
One word on terminology: I've been using the words "stock" and "broth" interchangeably, but they aren't really the same thing. And bone broth is technically different, too. However, lots of commercial brands use the terms interchangeably and inconsistently. We're mostly concerned about finding you the best-tasting beefy liquid for cooking, so we won't worry too much about terms for our purposes. Cool?
For our taste test methodology, go ahead and scroll to the bottom. But keep reading below for the many reasons why Brodo is our favorite—and which other stocks are worth buying.
The Best Beef Broth: Brodo
Like any good stock, Brodo is gelatinous when chilled. And all that gelatin is what gives this bone broth its exemplary body. When heated, it has a rich, velvety texture and deep, beefy flavor with dynamic undertones, including a hint of tomato and warm black-peppery spice.
One thing that makes Brodo really stand out is a prominent note of ginger, and while that is not a traditional ingredient in classic French broths and stocks, it's a frequent player in many other broths like those you might want to use for Japanese ramen or Vietnamese pho. But you don't need to feel limited: when senior editor Maggie Hoffman recently made French onion soup using a package of Brodo, she said it was "the most amazing, full-flavored French onion soup" she'd ever simmered. You'll either like the hint of ginger or you won't; we are into it, especially as part of such a rich, intensely flavored broth.
This is also our pick for the most ready-to-go, heat-and-drink option on the roster, in case you're into drinking bone broth straight because you're on a keto or paleo diet or you just really like broth. One of our staffers even left the tasting room, only to come back with a coffee mug and pour herself a cup before heading back to her desk. We've been seeing Brodo at more and more grocery stores; you can also get it cheaper online if you subscribe to a recurring mailing.
Our Favorite Down-the-Line Beef Broth: Bonafide Provisions
If you're not into Brodo's ginger-and-tomato sweetness, Bonafide Provisions might be the broth for you. It has the most straightforward big beefy character of the broths and stocks we tried. Maggie praised its "roasty" flavor while senior food editor Anna Stockwell loved its "fatty richness." It also has a very light, clear, golden color, in case appearances matter to you.
BUY IT: Bonafide Provisions Organic Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth, $7 for a 24-ounce freezer pouch at Whole Foods Market via Amazon Prime
The Best Beef Broth You Can Find Nearly Anywhere: Swanson Cooking Stock
Not every grocery store has the favorites we've listed above. But don't despair! There's actually a decent option at most stores that don't offer Brodo or Bonafide Provisions. Our blind tasting confirmed that you could do a lot worse than this classic brand. The stock is quite vegetal, with prominent tomato and onion hitting the palate before the beefy flavor kicks in. But the flavor is robust and fragrant and it's a good option to use in a pinch.
What We Were Looking For
The best beef broth offers prominent, potent beef flavor and a rich, not watery, texture. We welcomed aromatics like carrot, celery, tomato, onion, garlic, and herbs, as long as those flavors didn't overpower the beef. Big roasted (but not burnt) flavor was also a bonus—many brands tasted of raw onion and carrot peel or of overly bitter charred onion, instead of the caramelized veg we expect in a great broth or stock.
Bone broth is hot these days, and there's a whole wave of new brands on the market. Many (but not all) bone broths are made with vinegar in order to fully extract the collagen from the bones. What does this mean for the taste? We were nervous, but found several of these broths to have a pleasant brightness, though some did veer in the direction of being oddly sour.
We pitted the new-wave bone broths against industry standard stocks and broths, but only included products that had a sodium level below 500mg per cup. We deem anything higher too salty for cooking, especially if you're boiling down the stock for sauce. For many brands, this sodium cutoff eliminated even supposedly low-sodium offerings.
How We Tested
You're usually going to season any soup or dish made with broth—and salt accentuates flavors. To judge these fairly, we calculated the amount of added salt each broth would need per cup in order to bring each contender to the same level of salinity. Other than adding the right amount of salt to balance the playing field, we made no additions to the broths before bringing them to a simmer.
The warm broths were sampled by a team of Epicurious editors and staff and all samples were tasted blindly in random order with no distinction made between manufacturer-designated stocks, broths, or bone broths during tasting.
The Other Broths We Tasted
- Imagine Organic Low-Sodium Grass-Fed Beef Broth
- Osso Good Co Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth
- Swanson Unsalted Beef Broth
- Kettle and Fire Beef Bone Broth
- Kitchen Basics Unsalted Beef Stock
- Pacific Organic Low-Sodium Beef Broth
- Thrive Market Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth
- Trader Joe's Organic Beef Bone Broth
Use your newfound favorite stock in one of these warming meat stew recipes:
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Originally Appeared on Epicurious