Mystery of the Bland Stock **Solved

Almost every recipe that has some sort of liquid base to it, will call for stock. If this was my mother cooking, she would just add water. I don’t think she understood the importance of what stock can do to the flavor of the dish. It’s not only critical, it elevates the whole dish. It might even make it so tasty that people will think it’s restaurant quality.

The recipe itself to make white or brown stock as per Julia Child does look easy. She has a recipe that can be used for chicken or beef with some basic principles to follow. It can be found on page 106/107/108 in the Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia explains the fundamentals of making stock and how it is scientific really. What’s important to understand is what you are really trying to do. The largest ingredient in the pot is water.

Water is supposed to play 2 roles:

1- By boiling the water with your food items in the pot, it will extract all the flavour from what is being boiled and transfer it to the water. The idea is no different than when you make a cup of tea.

2- You then need to get rid of most of the water and keep the flavor. Water then needs to evaporate so that all that is left behind is the flavour you extracted from what you just boiled. Tricky. The more water you are to get rid of, the more flavor it will have.

It’s #2 that most people don’t realize how important it is and the length of time this really takes.

When I first attempted to make this, I really saw it as a bunch of stuff getting thrown into a big pot and I boil the poop out of it for a couple of hours. I thought I would end up with this glorious chicken flavour liquid similar to homemade chicken soup. Nope. Tasted like nothing and my hours of babysitting that pot was for nothing. I then moved to just buying Canned or Ready Made Stock. Still didn’t taste like much and was sometimes too salty.

This has been a secret battle of mine for years. Why is stock bland? Especially my homemade version where I add a bunch of salt to give it flavor at the end so I don’t feel like I wasted all that time for nothing. I just could not understand why a lot of my sauces were bland when using this stock.

I’m much more seasoned now and realized that I again probably skipped some important details in the recipe. Julia starts with 12-15 cups of veg/meat in her large pot (holds about 40 cups). Then she covers that with 2 inches of water. That’s probably about 25-30 cups of water. That’s a lot of water. She gets about 10 cups of stock out of that when it’s all over. That means that she boiled away about 60-65% of the water. Think about that for a second. That is slightly more than half what she started with. This process took 4-5 hours. I don’t think I ever waited this long and I also didn’t really look at the proportions of what I added to the pot.

She ends her recipe with the most important thing to know when making stock.

From Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

The art of making stock is not an exact science no matter how great the recipe is. You need to taste it. If it’s bland, keep boiling. And if you strain it and keep boiling, you will end up with a glaze. Now, this is amazing. America’s Test Kitchen has a great recipe using Sous Vide. It’s crazy good.

We don’t all have 4-5 hours plus prep time, strain time to make fresh stock and instead buy canned or packaged stock. Julia has solved that too.

She still wants you to enhance it by again adding your basic mirepoix (onion, celery and carrot combo), wine (of course) and some herbs. You are again getting some water to evaporate as well to make this concentrated.

In classic Julia style, she is able to create an even better stock by layering recipes on top of each other. I think what is funny about this, is that she calls this “Chicken Stock” which has her white or brown stock in it. This recipe is also the basis for the Broiled Chicken by America’s Test Kitchen. It’s the best weeknight dinner you can imagine. (

Her chicken stock takes a total of about 6-7 hours of time/effort. It absolutely does make a big difference in your cooking. Hands down. I am willing to invest this time, patience and babysitting for something really special like the base for my Turkey Gravy on Xmas or a Prime Rib Roast on a special Sunday. Just not often. I think that this bland stock problem has also been solved by Campbell’s and Better Than Bouillon. My new favorite go-to products are:

They provide instructions to dilute but I use it straight up. I highly suggest you try it and you can even dilute it, then give it the Julia Child Experience to take it to a further level of flavor. Better Than Bouillon is very much like a glaze and use sparingly.

The mystery is solved. It’s about time and evaporation of all that water or find Campbell’s or Better Than Bouillon 🤣.

Say goodbye to bland stocks forever.