Soup and stew season is upon us! What is the best liquid/base to use: stock, broth, or bouillon? The quick answer is ... they are interchangeable!
First, let's define our terms!
Stock - What defines this liquid is BONES! To be a true "stock" it has to be made from a combination of animal bones, usually with some meat attached, mirepoix (carrots, onions, and celery) and water. The bones are roasted first in the oven, then placed in liquid with the mirepoix and simmered from 2 - 6 hours.
Broth - This is a liquid with meat cooked in it. It also has a mirepoix and simmered with some aromatics and seasoned. The broth will be prepared in under two hours on the stovetop.
Bouillon - Very simply, bouillon is dehydrated stock! The word is French meaning broth, and comes from the French verb bouillir, "to boil". It can be found in many varieties, vegetable, meat, chicken, mushroom! It is all about what has been simmered in the water.
(as a quick sidebar - I do not usually reach for the bouillon cubes - they normally contain MSG to extend their shelf life pretty much indefinitely!)
Now...what do we use?
For the most part in my cooking I use Bouillon. Mostly, because it comes in a small jar and I can add water to it, saving a ton of room in my kitchen cabinets! There are 38 servings in a 3.5 ounce jar of my favorite brand "Better than Bouillon". You can also skip adding the water put a dab in sauces to create additional depth of flavor.
I rarely make my own broths from scratch. It is such a time saver to use a ready made product! I really do not notice a significant difference in the taste, homemade vs. store bought. I prefer to purchase "low sodium" versions if available. You can always add more salt, but you can not take it away.
The only time I reach for Stock is when I am making a "meaty" dish, but even then for the most part I still use the Bouillon! Really it is up to you! I find you will cook more if you do not get hung up about the details, use what you have on hand instead of standing in the grocery store line at 6pm to buy stock instead of the bouillon you already had in the cabinet!