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Stock cubes, what's your opinion?

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ChrisFlanders View Drop Down
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    Posted: 07 November 2012 at 05:12

I wonder how you all feel about the use of stockcubes?



A few weeks ago I was in Sluis, a touristic place in Holland especially visited by Belgian tourists amongst many Germans bustourists nowadays and what not. Sluis is also the homeplace of Hollands best restaurant "Oud Sluis", owned by Sergio Herman.

There's also a small shop selling Italian specialties where I often buy things. Such as dried porcini and I just discovered this new Italian product in their assortiment; porcini and truffle aromatized stock cubes... with much less salt than usual and no MSG!

I'm telling this because probably most households in Europe use stock cubes for making soups. So do I.



My homemade stocks are kept in too small portions in the freezer to make soups, so I keep my homemade stock -the good stuff so to speak- for making sauces. Whenever I have no homemade stock available, many times I break off a tiny corner of a stockcube and crumble it in the sauce.



Allow me to make a very bold statement; I'm very convinced I can knock anyone out with fantastic soups made with stockcubes...



An example; This is the first soup I made with the above mentioned porcini stockcubes:



This soup is made with 1 kilo (2 lbs) of white mushrooms, a small handfull of dried porcini, a small hand of dried shiitake, one onion, one large potato, a pinch of chili flakes and a dash of cream, plus 1,5-2 liters of "stock" made with only 2 cubes; that's half the amount of cubes that's recommended. I do add salt if necessary and pepper of course. A real tastebomb!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2012 at 05:41
No question they're convenient, Chris. And have been so, in various forms, for at least 300 years.
 
I've never had the pleasure of using European varieties. In America, however, literally every brand of them contains far too much salt.
 
The same sort of dichotomy exists with bases. Those available commercially are well balanced. But those available at retail contain too much salt.
 
I do keep jars of base around (my preference: Better Than Boullion) for when I need a quick stock, or a small amount. But, fortunately, I have ample room to maintain quantities of homemade stock, and prefer using those.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2012 at 06:36
I'm very curious about that "Better than Bouillon" stuff, Brook.

From what I understood of Ron's picture of the product that he recently posted, it looks like some vegetable paste and I'm sure it's not available around here.

Here's Ron's picture;



Another addition - maybe a little similar to "Better than Bouillon" - that I use more often now, is this "Vegeta" that Darko mentioned here first (if I remember well), many many moons ago. No regular supermarket around here sells it, but my beloved etnic store has the most exotic things, including Vegeta! The product looks and handles like freezedried stuff since it dissolves, but not entirely. A fantastic vegetal flavor booster in sauces!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2012 at 07:11
The Better Than Bouillon is a great product that I have been using for years. It was also reviewed by Cook's Illustrated a while back and got quite good reviews.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2012 at 08:35
Chris,

"Better Than Bullion" is indeed a pretty good product, and is my top choice. It comes in vegetable, beef, chicken and - if I remember correctly - seafood. Basically, it seems to me that the product is somewhere between demi-glace and glace de viande - like a paste made of super-concentrated stock. It is still pretty salty, but I don't think it is nearly as salty as bullion cubes, which also, if I rememebr correctly, can be loaded with chemicals.

A person can of course use these prodcucts and compensate by adding less or no additional salt, but I wish that the idea of using less-salty alternatives would catch on here in the US.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lupinus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2012 at 11:11
I've never been a fan personally. I much prefer a good brand of boxed stock. Takes up a little more room, but well worth it in my opinion.

But I agree, of the cube/base type things Better then Bullion is probably the best available at retail.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2012 at 14:21
Ron pretty well summed up the Better Than Boullion situation, Chris. I can't think of anything to add except that it's branded as "fish stock" rather than "seafood stock."
 
Even the BBB is fairly salty, though. The chicken runs 500mg/serving. Fish is 590. And beef goes 680. I don't have a vegetable version at hand, but imagine it's well into that range.
 
Powders, cubes, and some boxed stocks run considerably higher, though; as much as 900 mg/serving.
 
Show you how this can effect things. While trying to replicate a simple broth served at a local Thai restaurant, I used a cup of chicken stock made with BBB. To this was added 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, and some rice noodles, bean sprouts, and green onions. All we could taste was the salt.
 
Repeating the same experiment with homemade stock (which I make with zero salt) the broth was perfect.
 
In other words, the saltiness of the fish sauce combined with the BBB base put the sodium levels over the top.
 
So the long and the short of it is this: use a very gentle hand when adding additional salt to a dish if you've used any of these products.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 November 2012 at 02:10
Here are the chicken broth results from CI

Cooks Illustrated


CHICKEN BROTH

Published May 1, 2005. From Cook's Illustrated.

Most commercial chicken broths are dreadful, "fowl" concoctions. So what is the time-pressed home cook to do?

PRODUCT TESTEDSODIUMPRICE*
RECOMMENDED
Swanson Certified Organic Free Range Chicken Broth

We’re not ones to jump on the organic bandwagon for its own sake; the proof’s in the taste. Swanson’s newest broth won tasters over with "very chickeny, straightforward, and honest flavors," a hearty aroma, and restrained "hints of roastiness."

570 mg$2.79 for 32-ounce carton
RECOMMENDED
Better than Bouillon Chicken Base

Fairly salty, but tasters were fond of its "straightforward" flavor profile. Though it does take about 5 minutes to reconstitute the concentrated paste in water, the 18-month refrigerator shelf life means it’s a good replacement for dehydrated bouillon.

690 mg$4.99 for 8-ounce jar of concentrate (makes 38 cups)
RECOMMENDED
Swanson Natural Goodness Chicken Broth

Swanson’s standard low-sodium broth tasted almost as good as the winner, though some panelists found it "overly roasted." Very full chicken flavor, but several tasters noted an out-of-place tartness reminiscent of lemon.

570 mg$2.19 for 32-ounce carto
RECOMMENDED
Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth

A "decent flavor of chicken that lingers." This broth had very prominent onion notes, which some tasters loved and others disliked. Some panelists weren’t fond of the pale yellow color.

570 mg$1.99 for 32-ounce carton
RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS
College Inn Light & Fat Free Chicken Broth

Some tasters were sold on this broth’s "nice, mild chicken flavors," deeming its "understated" profile as optimal for blending into recipes. Others found it "blah and boring—nothing offensive, though."

450 mg$1.99 for 32-ounce carton
RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS
Orrington Farms Chicken Flavored Soup Base and Food Seasoning

The only dehydrated bouillon product in the top 10, we discovered, got flavor from a chicken and a cow. Beef tallow helped give this product "nice, and rich flavors."

680 mg$2.99 for 16-ounce jar of powdered concentrate (makes 91cups)
NOT RECOMMENDED
Trader Joe's Free Range Chicken Broth

Tasters couldn’t make up their minds whether this broth tastes more like "bad takeout Chinese soup" or the "cardboard" container it comes in. The "wretched odor" earned it no extra points.

570 mg$1.99 for 32-ounce carton
NOT RECOMMENDED
Kitchen Basics Natural Chicken Stock

Not one taster believed this brand really was chicken broth. "Medicinal and beefy—are you sure this is chicken?" asked one worried taster. "Tastes like Vegemite tea." Beads of oil floated on top.

480 mg$2.89 for 32-ounce carton
NOT RECOMMENDED
Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth

One taster noticed an "interesting mushroom smell," but that’s as positive a comment as tasters could muster. "Watery," "chemical," "dirty," and "like an entire vegetable drawer gone bad" were more-representative observations.

570 mg$2.49 for 32-ounce carton

*Prices subject to change.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 November 2012 at 05:25
Well, you guys in the US have quite a range to choose from! Stocks in carton boxes or "tetra brick" as we call them, are unknown over here. We do have a "ready to use" stock manufacturer (Lacroix, France) but they sell their stuff in small glass containers. It's quite expensive but perfect for making sauces and above all, it contains very little salt.
 
I tend to use far less of any of those products than required as I'm well aware of the much too high salt content. It is a fact that when using these products when cooking, they concentrate too much simply by evaporation during the preparation. And of course, you need to adjust your addition of salt, ...if any required.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 November 2012 at 07:17
Though it does take about 5 minutes to ......
 
Do CI's tasters not know how to follow directions? Only way it takes 5 minutes to dissolve Better Than Boullion is if you start with cold water and just leave it sit.
 
Never takes me more than a few seconds using hot water and a whisk.
 
Well, you guys in the US have quite a range to choose from!
 
In terms of quantity that's true, Chris. There are at least a half dozen brands of boxed stock, with several of the brands offering different versions of each product. Swanson probably has four or five chicken stocks all on its own.
 
If you include canned stocks among the boxed ones, there are at least another half dozen brands. Plus guys like Swanson can their stock as well as box it.
 
Then there are the bases (which, I notice, Pierre White calls "stock" in his adds for Knorr). Can't keep up with them,  because new ones enter the market all the time.
 
Powders and cubes are like boxed stock. While Knorr and Maggi still control share of market there is a slew of Johnny-come-latelies offering all sorts of choices.
 
Powders and cubes tend to be the worst offenders, in terms of salt. For example, Orrington Farms' Ham flavored "Broth Base & Seasoning" has 920 mg of sodium per serving. Knorr's vegetable bouillon cubes contain 830 mg/serving. Etc.
 
If the quality was there there'd be no reason for anyone to make home-made stock. But, alas......
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 November 2012 at 08:22
Knorr is a popular multi national brand in both Italy and Spain. Personally however, I have found it to have too many preservatives ( chemicals ) and way too much sodium even, with the new 30% low salt
variety.
 
 
Maggi is another very sought after brand with a higher price tag. My viewpoint is the same. Overload of sodium and preservatives.
 
 
 
This Knorr soup starter is also quite popular and again, too many preservatives.
 
 
From my viewpoint, I personally prefer Italian Capri Flavor bouillon cubes however, they too have a large preservative factor.
 
I prefer to prepare my soups or chowders from scratch.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 November 2012 at 13:04
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

..
 
Do CI's tasters not know how to follow directions? Only way it takes 5 minutes to dissolve Better Than Boullion is if you start with cold water and just leave it sit.
 
Never takes me more than a few seconds using hot water and a whisk.
 

Yeah Brook...I had issues with that statement as well. 
I just toss the BTB in a mug and run a cup of hot water out of the coffeemaker, and ...voila! done LOL

And you can slap my ass and call me Susie if you can make 38 cups of broth out of that jar!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 November 2012 at 17:17
I never paid that close attention, Dave. I wouldn't be surprised, however, that if you assured a perfectly level teaspoon (yeah, right!) each time that you'd get that many servings.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 February 2019 at 12:48
Since this original posting (I've updated Chris's photos, as the links were dead), I've noticed that Better Than Bouillon has really expanded their product line; for a complete and current listing, see here:

https://www.betterthanbouillon.com/our-products/

In my opinion, it's gotten a little out of hand where the number of varieties are concerned; having said that, it is often nice to have choices. I notice that there are low-sodium versions of each chicken, beef and vegetable - with 25% less salt - but I've yet to find them locally to see if the difference is noticeable.

Based on re-reading this thread, I will have to see if I can find the mushroom base, so I can see if it compares as well as the product that Chris mentions in his opening post.

Speaking of "seeing if I can find," is it just me, or is it getting hard to find just the plain, ol' chicken and beef varieties? When I go to the grocery stores in the area, I can find some of the more esoteric ones, such as the ham base, organic vegetable and turkey; but I can never find the chicken and the beef in one place. They have gotten so scarce that I've finally resorted to ordering them online, saving some money by ordering a three pack each of beef and chicken. Unfortunately, the low-sodium varieties are substantially more expensive, online.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 February 2019 at 13:35


I rarely use, however when I do, I use the New Knorr Ecological with low salt .. 

Also the ones Chris mentioned, I have tried over the years, for curiousity ..  The  French and Italians have several brands as well.   

The norm is to make my own stock and freeze it .. However, it is time consuming for working publishers and professionals  ..  




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MyPinchofItaly.co.uk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 February 2019 at 02:55
I always try to prepare on my own the meat or vegetable broth, I like to combine the vegetables or meats that I have to hand.
But I admit that in my fridge there is always a pack of stock cubes that I use when I do not have what I need to make a broth or even when I have little time or I do not want to wait for the stock to be ready. I try to buy those that report 'low sodium content', hoping it really is like that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 February 2019 at 03:29
I too always have stock in the fridge or freezer.  If possible, I'll use a block of Glace de viande to start, but if that is not available I'll go with a product called "better than bullion"that I am very fond of, and like you...I use the low sodium versions.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 February 2019 at 08:51
Because I have more shelf space than freezer space, I generally can my stocks.  This requires a pressure canner, of course, and should never be done using a boiling water bath!

Typically I'll put up several gallons at once, divided among quart, pint, and half-pint jars.

Beef bones used to be readily available in most markets. Now I rarely see them. I've been saving them up, along with other scraps, to eventually make stock. Meanwhile, I use the BBB base when I need a brown stock. 

I also collect chicken bones and scraps in the freezer for stock making. When renewing my supply, I use them, plus two large chickens broken down.  After about 40 minutes I remove those pieces, strip off the meat, and return the bones to the stock pot.  This provides quite a bit of poached chicken to use in various recipes. 
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