Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

What’s a Bouillon Cube?

posted in Pantry, Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

Recipe terminology can be very confusing, particularly if there are several terms for basically the same ingredient. When making soups, stews, sauces, stir fries, casseroles, etc. the recipe often says to add chicken, fish, beef, or vegetable stock or broth.

Broth is the strained liquid left from cooking vegetables, meat, or fish in water. It is often used as a synonym for bullion.

Stock is basically the same thing but cooked more slowly and has a more intense flavor than broth.

Bouillon cubes or granules are compressed stock that needs to be dissolved before using.

In the olden days, you always had to make your own stock. It is not difficult but it can be time consuming. Food Wishes has an excellent recipe video for making Home Made Chicken Stock. Today, most people buy it in the grocery store.

Store bought stock/broth and bouillon cubes can be VERY salty. Many people cook rick with stock instead of water. You may want to cut back on the salt in your recipe if you are substituting the water for stock.

Reviewers often say the best broth/stock on the market is the Swanson brand name, which comes in liquid form. (The only drawback is that it is heavy to carry home from the grocery store! I have not owned a car for over 20 years!)

A bouillon cube is dehydrated stock formed into a small cube or dried granules. When you want to use one, you just add boiling water.

There are a range of different flavors available. I find the most useful ones are chicken, vegetable, beef and fish. You can get others including lamb, shrimp, duck and tomato.

Do experiment with the different brands of bouillon cubes available in your local stores. There is a real difference in taste and it is well worth finding one you like.

Even before you start adding the stock to your cooking, you might find it handy to make yourself a cup of quick soup by just dissolving a stock cube in hot water.

My cupboard is always stocked with a variety of these cubes!

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13 Comments

mona said:

i am no chef, and i don’t pretend to be, so when i see something requires a bouillon cube i know where to find it in the family pantry but I’m always thinking what the heck is this!

thanks for the great post!!

hope you’re doing well.

m

Shaula Evans said:

The default brand where (/when) I grew up was Oxo.

In my high school home ec class, a number of kids knew what “oxo cubes” were xxxxmdash; but had no idea of what boullion was.

When we lived in Vancouver, we’d sometimes get frozen stock at Granville Island Market xxxxmdash; very tastey, much less salty, and fewer preservatives. xxxxnbsp;(Considerably more pricey, too.)

When I’m really healthy and organized (i.e, not lately), I’ll keep a container in the freezer for all the clippings and peelings from preparing vegetables. xxxxnbsp;Whenever the tub gets full, I’d put it in a stock pot with water and sometimes some fresh herbs, and then cook it down into a stock. xxxxnbsp;To store it, I’d freeze it into icecube trays and then transfer the icecubes into ziplock bags, so it was easy to measure the amount I’d need. xxxxnbsp;

I realize that making vegetable stock from scratch is not a priority for beginner cooks xxxxmdash; but it also doesn’t require fancy cooking skills or tools. xxxxnbsp;If you’re on a tight budget, making your own stock helps get those last few nutrients in peelings into your body instead of into the compost bin and it saves a few pennies.

Tony said:

Please tell me that you are not actually advocating boullion cubes over canned stockqqqq It may be lighter to carry than stock, but come on….

Also there is a better product called a soup base (a few brands are Minor’s and Knorr’s) that work well. I would only use a boullion cube as an addition to a dish that already contained stock, or to a stock I’m making, to help round out the flavor. I don’t even use boullion to flavor the water I boil rice in.

Check the first ingredient, if it isn’t the main flavor (i.e. chicken or beef, NOT salt) use it sparingly or not at all.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Tony, Welcome to startcooking! You clearly know your way around the kitchen!

Like you, I keep a variety of “stock options” in my cupboard. However, I stand by my opinion that bouillon cubes are a good first step, since startcooking.com is for the absolute beginner with zero experience in the kitchen.

Everyone has to start somewhere and I do think this discussion on bouillon cubes is really important for someone who does not know how to cook. Discovering what you like and don’t like is all part of the fun of learning to cook.

(BTW I have not owned a car in over 20 years. The “weight” of what I’m carrying home does make a difference to what I’m buying! I do have big heavy stuff delivered or take a cab. Over the years I have become a master at substitutions!)

Tony said:

Kathy,

Thank you for your kind words, even though my rather rancorous reply to the original post probably did not deserve it. I admit that at one time I did have a couple of packets of boullion cubes mixed in with my spices. But I find them to taste like the packets that come in cheap ramen noodles (i.e. like salt). I realize that there are probably better boullion cubes out there than what I’m used to, but the soup base is still a much better option. Even when making a stock, or a stew, the addition of a little base does wonders for the flavor. The stuff is very concentrated and comes in pint (or less) containers. It should last you a while, and it’s not very heavy to boot.

In case you, or others, are not familiar with them…

http://www.soupbase.com

phatty said:

The problem I have with stock cubes is that my family are all wheat intolerant and, sadly most of the cubes contain wheat. We have a thing in the UK called “a touch of taste” which is a concentrated liquid in a bottle. I find its the next best thing to a proper home made stock. And home made ain’t that hard…. Keep your good eye on menscookeryclub.com and I shall post up a method (if sensi allows). You should make a stock vereytime you have a roast with bones in. It will keep in the freezer too.

Kathleen said:

All I can find in the grocery stores is Oxo poder that dissolves in boiling water. It’s not even close to the flavour that the oxo bouillon cube has.Is there a reason that Ican’t find the cubes anymore? I sure miss them.

Kathy Maister said:

Kathleen, I’d check with your grocery store manager. Perhaps it’s just that one store that no longer carries it. (My local grocery store in Boston is at least 1/3 smaller than most suburban stores. Obviously the selection is more limited.) If all else fails, I’m sure you could order it on line.

debby tate said:

I want to buy lamb cubes/bouillon cubes can’t seem to find anyone who sells them. I use to get them in Ireland and stocked up then but now I’m all out and desperately want more.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Debby, I’ve seen lamb bouillon cubes in Australian, NZ, and theUK but never here in the USA. (I’m not sure where you are from!)

I checked with my friend Lydia at The Perfect Pantry and she agreed with me. She did suggest that “if there’s a local restaurant that uses it, they will surely sell you some or let you order through them.”

God Luck!
Kathy

Ken said:

Ahh, OXO cubes, wouldn’t be without them. Because I visit the UK frequently I am able to replenish my stock each trip. Cold winter evenings, sit down and drink a steaming cup of OXO. That’ll warm the cockles of your heart. I also always use them in my gravy making for speed and while I haven’t seen the lamb flavour variety, can buy beef, chicken and Chinese flavours.

Kathy Maister said:

Fish and Vegetable cubes are also available at my grocery store. My new favorite is called Better Than Boullion and it has TONS of flavors-but no lamb!

KGWagner said:

Kathy: BTW I have not owned a car in over 20 years. The “weight” of what I’m carrying home does make a difference to what I’m buying!

I’m the same way. It’s been about 15 years now for me. My roommate will sometimes let me use his racecar if I’m going for a heavy load of things, but for the most part I call grocery trips my exercise. I hate excercising for exercising’s sake (it’s so boring!), but if I have a purpose in mind, like getting something I need from Kroger’s, it makes it easier to take. It’s only a 1/4 mile round trip, so walking only adds about 15 minutes to the whole ordeal.

As for stock, I don’t make too much of it – boullion cubes are really the way to go. But, there’s a lot to be said for real stock. It’s like the difference between garden-grown tomatoes and the pitiful hothouse variety they’d like you to buy at the grocery.

Still, I limit it to chicken stock. It’s just too easy. Simmer a pile of chicken parts – any parts will do – for about an hour. Remove anything useful, strain the balance, and simmer it as long as you’d like to reduce it as far as you’d like. The further you reduce it, the more intense it is, but there’s a limit. Don’t make syrup or dust out of it