Brown Stocks are Made from Many Starters but Always Browned.
Exercise 2: Brown Stock
Intermediate Lessons > Intermediate Stocks, Sauces, and Soups > Intermediate Stocks > Brown Stock
Exercise Checklist:
Recommended Pre-requisites
Basic Level-Introduction to Stocks

Are you a Smart Kitchen™ Chef?

Try it FREE or take a TOUR to explore Smart Kitchen!
Exercise 2: Brown Stock

In the Beginning Level, we learned quite a bit about making Stocks. Going forward we should know to develop a Stock by Sweating the Mirepoix; adding cold water; Simmering the stock; Degreasing the Stock by skimming it frequently, Straining the Stock gently, Venting the Stock quickly, Refrigerating the Stock to cool it and hold it, and Degreasing it further by skimming it again when it is cold.

You will call upon these steps each and every time you make a Stock, and as you cook more, the steps will become almost second nature. They are a vital part of a good chef’s education. As Escoffier said, “stock is everything in cooking...without it, nothing can be done.”

To make a Brown Stock, we will use all that accumulated knowledge and just tweak it a bit by sweating and Browning the Mirepoix and Browning the bones (and Meat) to make a Brown Stock. If you want to review the steps from the Beginner Lessons before we start, just click on the link which will take you to Lesson 8: Stocks, Sauces & Soups Basics,Topic 2: Stocks. But, before we move on to the actual Stock Making Lessons, we thought this would be a good place to clear up some misconceptions about Stocks.

First, chef's and food scholars fight about the definition of Stock versus Broth (the ingredients, the process, etc.). Basically, we believe that you can Simmer all kinds of good stuff and make it better good stuff.

For the sake of clarity (not an intentional Stock making pun), we use Straining to set a Stock, which is an ingredient, apart from a Broth, which can be an ingredient but is primarily a food/dish.

According to many of the technical definitions you will see, a Brown Stock is made with water, a Brown Mirepoix and browned bones. That being said, rules were made to be broken and have been broken since at least as early as Chef Auguste Escoffier, the scion of the Golden Era of French Cooking. Escoffier made a Brown Stock, which he called Estouffade, with Beef Bones, Veal Knuckle, raw Ham, etc. Because it is not as darkly colored and slightly milder than a strictly Beef Brown Stock, later chefs have put it into a separate category of Light Brown Stocks or “Fonds Brun Clair.” We won’t split those hairs, but be aware that others might.

Subsequently, no less an authority than Larousse Gastronomie, describes a Brown Stock as a stock “made with beef, veal, poultry meat and bones, and vegetables which have been browned in fat and then had the liquid added to them.” Larousse’s definition is broader and also includes “Meat & Bones.” Our point with the definitions is to know that they exist and then choose what works. We will work with meat and bones to make a Brown Chicken Stock in the next exercise and then show you how to make a Brown Beef Stock along the lines of the technical definition.

This leads us to another “rules were made to be broken” debate. Despite the classic definition, the term Brown Stock means different things to different chefs. For some chefs, the term Brown Stock always means a Brown Veal Stock made only with veal meat and bones. For others, Brown Stock means a Brown Beef Stock made only with beef meat and bones. We are not, as a rule, that inflexible but we try to be aware that other chefs have rigid definitions and can’t agree with one another. We want you to be aware of the differences, and the debate, so that you know to ask questions when there is ambiguity.

If a chef or cook, is aiming for a certain outcome, or specifically desires a Veal Stock or a Game Stock, a rigid definition may be called for, but in practice, we like things that work and don’t like to quibble. Brown Stock, as a general ingredient, can work well made any number of ways, as long as the Mirepoix and bones are properly browned and everything is simmered and strained properly.

Jacques Pépin, the famous French chef and PBS cooking personality, is no stickler for definitions. Typically, he uses Beef, Veal and Chicken bones in his Fond but if he is short of these bones, Pépin will often make up the difference with the more easily found chicken bones. Escoffier, made his Estouffade Brown Stock with Beef Shin Bones, Veal Knuckle Bone, raw Ham, etc.

If you are fresh out of Beef shin bones or Veal knuckles, you can work with what is at hand. Remember, a lot of the functional benefits of Stocks (Brown or White) are as storehouses of flavor and ways to increase the yield on your ingredients. You can use Brown Stock as a catch all term if it tastes good and suits your purposes. Being a stickler for definitions won’t get Soup in the pot or dinner on the table.

Generally, if you are planning to use other bones/meats than your recipe calls for, keep in mind the different density of flavors. If you have less-strongly flavored bones and meat, use more. If you have robust bones/meat, use less. And as always make sure to work with good technique.

That being said, there are times to make specific Stocks, and specific Brown Stocks for specific purposes. We think it’s best to have the full spectrum of Stocks in your repertoire to choose from. Not always choosing to make a specific Stock is not the same as not even knowing how to make a specific Stock.

Now that we have a lot of the background issues covered, we will look at a few of the accessory techniques that help give a Brown Stock its complexity of flavor, before moving on to making an actual Brown Chicken Stock.