What Is Chicken Base? (It’s Not Your Mama’s Bouillon!)
There are certain similarities in all cooking styles, and one thing that chefs and novice cooks alike can agree on is that they want their creations to taste good.
In my quest to build recipes, I came across chicken base. I thought this might just be a fancy name for chicken bouillon, but boy was I wrong. I set out to answer the question "What is chicken base?"
Any cook has heard of stocks and bouillons. Many have heard of bases as well, but the confusion lies in what their differences are, so let's clear that up first.
In your cooking adventures, you will find many recipes requiring chicken broth or chicken stock. These two terms are often used interchangeably, although some would argue that they have their differences.
According to the Food Network, the main difference lies in what the flavored liquid was made from, which can be either the meat or the bone.
- When made with bones, the stock liquid will have a deeper, heartier flavor due to the bones breaking down, which is what also causes the liquid to gel as it cools.
- Stocks are often made with herbs, vegetables and seasonings as well, and they can be strained so that just the liquid remains, which can then be used in recipes.
Bouillon - those salty little wrapped cubes that add so much flavor to a variety of dishes get their name from the French word for broth.
Interestingly, with all the arguing over the difference between broth and stock, bouillon cubes are called stock cubes in many places. Whatever name you know them by, bouillon cubes are created by dehydrating meat stocks.
After the liquid is removed from the stock, salt and other seasonings are added, and the powder is pressed into a cube.
While bouillon cubes impart a ton of flavor to anything they are added to, they contain a whopping percentage of salt, which is bad news for anyone on a salt-restricted diet.
Chicken base is a heavily concentrated form of chicken stock. A base is a stock simmered for a much longer time, and the vegetables in it literally melt into the liquid, creating a rich reduction.
This results in a fragrant and flavorful base from which you can build. Commercially, bases may be powdered, in cube form or in a thick liquid.
My go-to base is Minor's, one that is known as a chicken-first base that is likewise 100 percent natural with no artificial ingredients or flavors. Ingredients are listed from the most prominent, or main ingredient, and then go down in order of how much they're present in the content.
You might be surprised to learn that there are chicken bases that have something other than chicken listed first; this is obviously not something we want!
What Is a Good Substitute for Chicken Base?
If you come across a recipe calling for a chicken base and you do not have any, don't fret! It is easy to substitute bouillon cubes or chicken stock and still come out with similar results.
Generally, a teaspoon of base equals a bouillon cube, and when added to one cup of water, it is the same as one cup of broth; just be aware, though, that there are caveats to these substitutions as every recipe is different.
1 teaspoon of base = 1 bouillon cube
1 bouillon cube + 1 cup of water = standard chicken broth
For many recipes, there is a little math required. As previously mentioned, your base likely indicates that one teaspoon of the base added to one cup of water will make a standard chicken broth. In this case, you can substitute each teaspoon of the base for one chicken bouillon cube.
- If using liquid stock from a can or a carton, use one cup. Multiply as needed to get the ratio you need from there.
- If the base is used for flavoring instead of being added to a liquid to create a broth, use one crushed bouillon cube for every teaspoon of the base called for in the recipe.
- Liquid stock or broth would not work in this case as it would cause the recipe to be watered down.
Can I Make Chicken Base at Home?
I love making things from scratch at home so that I know that I am feeding my family in the healthiest way possible.
If you do as well, you will be happy to know that you can make chicken base at home that is free of all of the added salt and chemicals that you might find in some commercial bases. If you can make a stock, you can make a base.
- Start off by gathering all of the ingredients you would use to make a stock: chicken, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaves and anything else you might like to add.
- Wash them all, place them in a big stockpot, cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Don't forget to add whatever spices you like, such as pepper, cumin and fresh herbs like parsley, rosemary, basil and sage.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir every once in a while to make sure no bits are sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Once the chicken is done, remove it to take off the skin and fat and to debone it; you can then cut the chicken into small cubes and return them to the pot.
- You will have to be patient at this point because decreasing the stock will take a few hours. You will want to reduce it by at least two-thirds.
- When the stock is done, let it cool in the refrigerator until the fat separates. Remove the fat and then press the base through a cheesecloth to strain.
Your base will stay good in the freezer for approximately three months. You can make easy-to-use servings by freezing the base in ice cube trays and then placing them in sealable freezer bags. When you need them for a recipe, just grab a cube or two and get cooking!
Chicken base really is a wonderful substitute for broth and bouillon, but if you do not have the time or patience to make your own, I highly recommend Minor's.
As with anything, watch out for subpar commercial products and be mindful of the measurements in recipes. I guarantee you are going to love this stuff!
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