For years I thought “stock” was the same thing as “broth” but learned the hard way that it is not. I made chicken noodle soup for a group and intended to use boxed chicken broth but mistakenly bought chicken stock. My guests asked me why the broth was so “brown” – and while it tasted OK, I knew the soup was too heavy.

The distinction between the two has inspired countless articles in magazines, cookbooks and on the internet and debates among culinary professionals. In short, stock is an ingredient ready to be combined with other ingredients and then seasoned into a final dish; broth is a fully seasoned “finished product” ready to be heated and eaten. For me, “stock” is made with bones, simmered a long time, jelly-like when chilled and not eaten in its unadorned state. Unlike broth, it can be used as a base for braises and reduced for sauces.

Stock also lacks salt and pepper as seasonings. Fish can be poached in vegetable or chicken stock but it would be too salty if the stock were pre-salted. It is safer to omit salt and pepper from the stock and add them to taste at the time of each preparation.

Freeze stock in quarts for soups or in ice cube trays to add a couple of the cubes when making rice, risotto, or stir-frying. Regardless of the definition, stocking up to enhance your meals is easy and smart.

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