What is Stock in Food Production? Components, Categories and Types, Uses, Preparation, Evaluating Quality

  • Post last modified:4 July 2023
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What is Stock in Food Production?

A stock is a flavorful liquid made by gently simmering bones or vegetables in a liquid to extract their flavor, aroma, color, body, and nutritive value. When bones, vegetables, flavorings, and aromatic ingredients are combined in the proper ratio and simmered for an adequate amount of time, the stock develops a characteristic that is peculiar to a stock type.

Components of Stock

Stock is used as the foundation for soups, stews, and sauces. They are not served “as is”, however. Stock is prepared by simmering various ingredients in water, including some or all of the following components:

  • Major Flavoring Ingredients – The major flavoring ingredients are usually bones and trimmings for meat or fish stocks. Vegetables are used for vegetable essences and court bouillon. The bones may be used fresh or frozen.

  • Bones – Bone, Veal, beef, and chicken bones are most commonly used. The flavor of the stock comes from the cartilage and connective tissue in the bones. Connective tissue has collagen in it, which gets converted into gelatin that thickens the liquid. Stock made from bones needs to be simmered for longer than stock made from meat (often referred to as broth). Bones should be cut into 3-inch lengths for a quicker and more thorough extraction of flavor, gelatin, and nutritive value. Most bones may be purchased pre-cut into the proper length. Chicken and fish bones can be cut with a heavy knife or cleaver.

  • Vegetables – Vegetables for a vegetable stock or court bouillon should be prepared according to type. Mushrooms should be trimmed and wiped to remove dirt. Celery should be trimmed and rinsed and the tomatoes should be peeled and seeded.

  • Liquid – Water is the most frequently used liquid for making stock. Remouillage is the best choice for the most richly flavored stock. Wine may also be used. The liquid should be cold when combined with the bones and vegetables.

  • Mirepoix – It is a combination of onions, carrots, celery, and sometimes other vegetables. Often the less desirable parts of the vegetables (such as carrot skins and celery ends) are used since they will not be eaten.

  • White mirepoix – It replaces carrots with parsnips, additional onions, and leeks, and occasionally includes chopped mushrooms or mushroom trimmings. It is used for pale or white stocks, sauces, and fish fumet.

  • Matignon – It is an edible mirepoix, intended to be served as part of the finished dish. The vegetables are peeled and cut into uniform dice. Diced ham is also used to enhance flavor. The ratio in the Matignon is two parts carrot, one part celery, one part leek, one part onion, one part mushroom, and various herbs and spices.

  • Herbs and spices – The herbs and spices used depend on availability and local traditions. In classical cuisine, the use of a bouquet garni (or bundle of herbs) consisting of parsley, bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and possibly other herbs, is common. This is often wrapped in a cheesecloth “bag” and tied with string to make it easier to remove it once the stock is cooked.

A stock should taste definite enough to allow for ready identification but not strong enough to compete with the other ingredients used in a finished dish. Fish stock, chicken stock, and brown stock tend to have more assertive flavors. White veal stock is considered “neutral” in flavor and can be used as a “universal” stock.

Categories and Types of Stocks

White Stock

It is made from meaty bones and trimmed from veal, beef, poultry, some types of game, and fish. The bones are frequently blanched in order to remove any impurities that might cloud or discolor the finished stock. Ordinary white stock is classically prepared from veal meat and bones, with the addition of poultry carcasses.

A white beef stock (sometimes referred to as a “neutral stock”) is often prepared by first simmering the stock at a higher temperature than would be used for most stocks for several minutes. The aim is to produce a stock with a nearly neutral flavor. It is often flavored for use in vegetable soups or bean dishes. White beef stock can contribute a significant body to these dishes, while still allowing the flavor of the major ingredient to predominate.

Brown Stock

Brown Stock is one of the most commonly called-for stocks in the classic and contemporary repertoire of any kitchen is likely to be brown veal stock (fond de veau brun). Brown stocks are prepared by first cooking meaty bones and meat trim to a deep brown color, as well as the mirepoix and a tomato product before they are simmered. This changes both the flavor and color of the finished stock. Brown stocks are especially valuable in sauce cookery, as they are used as the foundation for brown sauce, demi-glace, and pan gravies.


Remouillage the word translates as “rewetting”, which is a good way to think of the way that remoulade is made. Bones used to prepare a “primary stock” are reserved after the first stock is strained away from the bones. The bones are then covered with water, and a “secondary stock” is prepared. Some chefs argue that, if the first stock was made properly and simmered for the correct amount of time, there will be little if anything left in the bones to provide either flavor or body in the remoulade.

Others feel that this second generation of stock can be used as the basis for other broths or as the cooking liquid for braises and stews. The food being prepared will provide the majority of the flavor in the finished sauce, and a first-rate stock can be reserved for use in dishes where its role is more significant.

Broth (or Bouillon)

Broth shares many similarities with stocks. They are prepared in essentially the same fashion. Meaty bones (or in some cases, the entire cut of meat, bird, or fish) are simmered in water (or remoulade or a prepared stock) along with a variety of vegetables and other aromatic ingredients. Many meatless dishes are prepared with vegetable broth. Some chefs may refer to this preparation as vegetable stock.

Those stocks made from meat or fish bones will reach a state of clarity and body through the extraction of proteins found in bones and meat. Vegetable broths vary greatly in the degree of body and clarity that they may achieve.

Fumet (or Essence)

The most common fumet is one prepared by sweating fish bones along with vegetables such as leeks, mushrooms, and celery, then simmering these ingredients in water, perhaps with the addition of dry white wine. The end result is generally not as clear as a stock, but it is highly flavored. Fumets and essences can be prepared from such ingredients as wild mushrooms, tomato, celery or celery root, ginger, and so forth. These essences, nothing more than highly flavored infusions made from especially aromatic ingredients, can be used to introduce flavor to other preparations, such as consommés or broths and a variety of “small sauces”.


Estouffade is the classic formula set down by Escoffier is virtually identical to what was then known as a brown stock. There are some differences to note, however. Estouffade is prepared by simmering together browned meaty veal bones, a piece of fresh or cured pork, and the requisite vegetables and other aromatics. Contemporary kitchens tend to prepare a brown stock that does not include pork. Today, etouffee is less widely used as a basic preparation, although it is still regarded as a classic preparation.

Court Bouillon

Court Boullion, a “short broth,” is often prepared as the cooking liquid for fish or vegetables. The basic components of a court bouillon include aromatic vegetables and herbs, an acid such as vinegar, wine or lemon juice, and water.

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock should be cooked for 4–5 hours. Veal stock should be cooked anywhere from 8 hours to overnight.


Jus is a rich, lightly reduced stock used as a sauce for roasted meats. Many of these are started by deglazing the roasting pan, then reducing to achieve the rich flavor desired.

Fish Stock

Fish stock is made with fish bones and finely chopped mirepoix. The fish stock should be cooked for 30–45 minutes—cooking any longer spoils the flavor. Concentrated fish stock is called “fish fumet”. In Japanese cooking, a fish and kelp stock called dashi is made by briefly (3–5 minutes) cooking skipjack tuna (bonito) flakes called katsuobushi in nearly boiling water.

Prawn Stock

Prawn stock is made from boiling prawn shells. It is used in Southeast Asian dishes such as laksa.

Master Stock

Master stock is a special Chinese stock used primarily for poaching meats, flavored with soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and other aromatics.

Glace Viande

Glace viande is stock made from bones, usually from veal, that is highly concentrated by reduction.

Uses of Stock

The three major uses of stocks are:

  • as a base for sauces and soups.
  • as a base for stews and braises.
  • as a cooking medium for vegetables and grains.

Preparing the Bones

Preparing the Bones

The bones have to be the right size for a particular stock and be blanched or sweated depending upon the kind of stock that is being made.

Blanching the Bones

Frozen bones for white stocks are generally blanched to remove any impurities that might cloud the finished stock

  • Place the bones in a stockpot

  • Cover them with cold water

  • Bring the water to a slow boil. Skim the surface as necessary.

  • Once a full boil has been reached, drain the bones through a sieve or allow the water to drain away through a spigot. Disregard the water.

  • Rinse the bones thoroughly to remove any debris or scum.

  • Follow the remaining recipe.

Browning the Bones and Mirepoix

The bones may be browned in a rondeau on the stovetop when working with small amounts. A large number of bones may be more efficiently browned in the oven, which promotes more even browning with less chance of scorching.

  • Prepare the mirepoix and reserve.

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.

  • Rinse the bones and dry them well.

  • Place a thin layer of oil in a pan, and place over direct heat or in the oven to Preheat.

  • Add the bones in a single layer. Cook until evenly browned, stirring or turning occasionally.

  • Transfer the bones to the stockpot and continue with the next step.

  • Place the mirepoix in the pan used for the bones. Cook until evenly browned. Stir occasionally. Add tomato product after the mirepoix has been browned. Allow the tomato product to brown. Reserve the browned mirepoix and add to the stock during the last hour of cooking time.

  • Deglaze the pan with water and add to stock.

Sweating Bones or Shells

Bones or shells are used in fumets. The proteins present in fish bones and shellfish can take on an unacceptable flavor if allowed to cook too long. Sweating is a procedure that starts flavor release quickly. The stock can be cooked in less than 45 minutes, with full extraction of body and flavor.

  • Heat a small amount of oil or clarified butter in a rondeau.

  • Add the bones or shells and mirepoix.

  • Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the flesh on the bones turns opaque, or the shells have a bright color, and the moisture is released from the mirepoix.

Stock – Basic Preparation Method

Although the ingredients may vary, the basic preparation for making stock is the same. Once the major flavor ingredients have undergone any preliminary steps such as blanching, sweating, or browning, all stocks, essences, fumets, and court bouillons are prepared the same way.

  • Combine the major flavoring ingredients with cold liquids and bring to a simmer. The stock will throw scum to the surface as it begins to cook. This should be skimmed away as necessary throughout the simmering time to develop a clear stock with good flavor.

  • Add the mirepoix and aromatics at the appropriate point.
    • Add them at the start of cooking time for stocks, fumets, essences, and court bouillons simmered for less than an hour.

    • Add them for the last hour of cooking time for stocks simmered for less than 1 hour.
  • Simmer for the appropriate time, for developing a good flavor, aroma, color, and body.

  • Drain the stock through a sieve or colander into an appropriate container for cooling. A stock’s clarity is better preserved if the major flavoring ingredients and mirepoix are disturbed as little as possible. If the pot does not have a spigot, ladle the stock from the pot rather than pouring it through a sieve. This is much safer because it is less likely to spill or splash hot liquid. Disregard the bones and aromatics.

  • Cool the stock in a cold water bath. Stirring from time to time helps the stock cool more rapidly.

  • Store the stock in containers that are easy to handle to avoid injury from the weight. Remove any fat from the surface after the stock has cooled. The fat will harden and form a protective seal. When the stock is to be used, the fat seal can easily be lifted away and discarded.

Preparation of Stock Components

The preparations of some important stock components are given below:

Preparation of Mirepoix

Yield: 2 cups
Onions, peeled and chopped
Carrots, trimmed and chopped
Celery, trimmed and chopped
1 cup
½ cup
½ cup
Cut the vegetables into an appropriate size based on the cooking time of the dish

Preparation of White Mirepoix

Yield: approx. 2 cups
Onions, peeled and chopped
The white portion of leeks, trimmed and chopped
Parsnips, trimmed and chopped
Celery, trimmed and chopped
Mushroom trimmings
½ cup
½ cup
½ cup
½ cup
¼ cup
Cut the vegetables into an appropriate size based on the cooking time of the dish.
White Mirepoix

Preparation of Matignon

Yield: 2 cups
Onions peeled and diced in small
Carrot, trimmed, peeled, and diced small
Celery, trimmed, peeled, and diced small
Mushroom, diced small
Bacon or ham, diced small or minced
½ cup
½ cup
½ cup
¼ cup
¼ cup
Cut all the vegetables and the bacon or ham into neat, small dice and combine. Sweat in whole butter.

Preparation of Sachet d’epices

Yield: ¼ cup
Parsley stems, chopped
Thyme leaves
Bay leaf
Cracked black peppercorns
Garlic clove crushed
3 or 4
½ teaspoon
½ teaspoon
1 glove
The above ingredients are placed into a 4″ square of cheesecloth and tied into a sack.
Sachet d’epices

Preparation of Stocks

Preparation of Chicken Stock

Yield: 4 ltrs
Chicken bones cut into 3-inch lengths
Cold water or remoulade
Standard sachet d’epices
3 kg
6 ltr
2 cup
1. Rinse the bones; blanch them if they are frozen.
2. Combine the bones and water.
3. Bring them slowly to a boil.
4. Skim the surface, as necessary to remove scum and dirt.
5. Simmer the stock for 5 hours.
6. Add mirepoix and sachet d’ epices. Simmer an additional 1 to 2 hours.
7. Strain and cool.
Chicken Stock

Preparation of Fish Stock

Yield: 5 ltrs
Fish bones and trimmings of Beckti, surmai
Cold water
Finely sliced onions
Bay leaf
Parsley stalks
White mushroom trimmings
Juice of lemon
2 kg
5¼ ltr
250 gms
1 no
8 nos
20 gms
15 gms
1 lime
75 gms
1. Place the aromatics in the bottom of a buttered saucepan on top of the blanched shredded onions.
2. Add the cleaned and cut fish bones and trimmings.
3. Add the lemon juice and sweat the bones etc.
4. Moisten with water, bring to a boil, skim, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes (maximum)
5. Strain through muslin, reboil and cool or use as required.
Note: 20 minutes will extract all the flavors from the bones, excess cooking will make the stock bitter and cause it to deteriorate. Care must be taken over the simmering as a fish stock, will “cloud” much more quickly than a meat stock.
Fish Stock

Evaluating the Quality of Stock

A good stock is evaluated by flavor, color, aroma, and clarity.

  • Flavor – If the correct procedure and ratio of bones, mirepoix, and aromatics to liquids have been followed, the flavor should be well-balanced, rich, and full-bodied.

  • Color – White stocks and fish fumet should have a very light color that turns translucent. Brown stocks are a deep amber or brown because of the roasting process.

  • Aroma – The aroma should be appealing but not over-pungent. When stock is reboiled it should be tested for sour taste and smell.

  • Clarity – Most stock, with the exception of vegetable essences and fish fumet, should be almost crystal clear when hot. This is maintained by proper simmering. Never allow the stock to boil continuously, and also skim the stock during the cooking process. Skimming removes the impurities that are trapped by the coagulated albumen that rises to the top during the cooking process.
Article Reference
  • Escoffier (1941), The Escoffier Cook Book, Crown Publishers, New York.

  • Peter Barham (2001), The Science of Cooking, Springer.

  • Fannie Merritt Farmer (1896), The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Little, Brown, and Company.

  • Simone Beck, et al (1961), Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Alfred A. Knopf.

  • Susan Fuller Slack (2001), Fondues & Hot Pots, HP Books.

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