Meat stock is a broth which has been flavored with meat. It is used as the base for many soups, and it can also be used to make sauces and marinades. Many people are familiar with chicken stock, a common form of this food, and it is also possible to find beef, lamb, and pork stock, along with stocks made from fish and more exotic animals. Stock is an immensely useful thing to have around the house, since it is so versatile and it can be used in a wide assortment of recipes.
To meat make stock, cooks simmer browned meat, bones, herbs, and mixed vegetables in water for an extended period of time to leach the flavor out of the meat and bones. The broth is typically simmered at a very low temperature, as high temperatures can burn the stock or cause it to become very frothy. After many hours of cooking, when the meat is falling apart and the broth is richly flavored, it is strained to remove the pieces of meat and vegetables and put back on the stove to be clarified.
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Clarifying and skimming help to remove fats so that the meat stock will not be greasy. Skimming is typically accomplished with a large, broad spoon which scoops up the fat that floats to the surface; clarifying can be accomplished by dropping an cracked egg into the broth. As the egg cooks, it will collect the impurities, allowing the cook to simply skim the egg out and remove the chunks of unwanted material.
Once meat stock has been prepared, it can be frozen for future use, refrigerated for several days, or used immediately as the base for a soup. A wide range of soups call for meat stock, and cooks can also improvise their own recipes. Small amounts of stock can also be used to deglaze pans, thin sauces, and flavor an assortment of other foods. Essentially, imagination is the only limit when making and using meat stock.
Many markets carry packaged meat stock for cooks who do not want to make it at home. While this alternative can certainly be useful, especially in a hurry, homemade stock tends to have a fuller, richer flavor and it is lower in sodium, which is a concern for some consumers. It is also easier to adjust the flavor of homemade meat stocks with the inclusion or omission of particular ingredients.