March 24

Beef Consommé vs Beef Broth – What’s the Difference?

Written by: Sarah Cioffoletti

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While beef broth and beef consommé are related, they are not the same, nor do they serve the same function at mealtime.

While lightly flavored and easily prepared, beef broth typically acts as base for a more complex dishes. The fuller and more concentrated flavor of beef consommé, and its time-consuming process, lends to it being served on its own. 

In fact, the word consommé translates from French as "completed." 

But does this completed-ness of consommé leave beef broth in a realm of insignificance? Not at all! Beef broth, in actuality, is fundamental to consommé.

Let us explain...

The Difference Between Beef Consommé and Beef Broth

bowls-of-broth

Ingredients

Beef broth is made from a minimum of bone-in cuts of beef -- usually tougher ones such as shank, chuck and short-rib -- and water, but it typically also incorporates vegetables and aromatic herbs and spices.

Beef consommé is made from a base of beef broth to which lean beef (often ground) and vegetables are added and simmered. It is then clarified and concentrated with whipped egg whites.


Color

Beef broth is light to medium brown and hazy.

Beef consommé is deep brown and crystal clear.


Texture

The viscosity of beef broth is much lower than beef consommé.

Beef consommé will be considerably smoother and silkier without the fat and protein specks present in beef broth.


Flavor

Beef broth is much lighter in flavor when compared to beef consommé's rich and concentrated profile.


Uses

Rarely consumed on its own, there are a multitude of uses for beef broth. It is frequently used as base for soups, stews, sauces, casseroles and rice or pasta dishes.

Beef consommé, requiring time and attention to detail during preparation, is meant to stand on its own during the meal. It is typically served in very small portion as a palate teaser or as a first course.


Substitutes

Beef broth may be substituted with beef stock (regular or concentrated) or watered down consommé.

A rich mushroom broth may be a good vegetarian substitute for beef broth.

Beef consommé, on the other hand, is not easily replaceable or substituted as it's generally served on its own and regarded for its particular flavor.

In the rare case that consommé is called for as an ingredient in a recipe, it is possible to substitute it with concentrated beef broth.


Distinguishing beef consommé from beef broth (& vice versa)

Beef broth is lighter in color, texture and flavor than beef consommé. It is also distinctly hazy.

Beef consommé is darker in color, richer in flavor and texture, and completely transparent.


Can you substitute one for the other?

cup-of-broth

It's easier to substitute beef consommé for beef broth than vice versa. Because consommé has a much richer flavor, be sure to dilute it with water to achieve the right concentration when substituting for beef broth.

It's not advisable to substitute beef consommé with beef broth, however, in a pinch it is possible to make beef consommé with beef broth on hand by clarifying and reducing it.


How is beef broth made?

simmering-broth

Beef broth is made by simmering bone-in beef cuts, vegetables and aromatics in water for a minimum of three and up to forty-eight hours.


How is beef consommé made?

Beef consommé is made by gently simmering (never boiling!) lean ground beef and vegetables in beef broth, and then clarifying with aerated (whisked) egg whites.


Nutrition: Beef consommé vs beef broth

beef-meat

Beef bones are the defining ingredient of beef broth and are responsible for the nutritional quality of the final product.

They have a high collagen content which can be attributed to the presence of highly beneficial amino acids that aid in joint health and digestion, and are anti-inflammatory.

Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron, and vitamins A and K2 are also found in beef broth. 

Because beef broth is the base for beef consommé, the nutritional content is similar between the two.

Beef consommé, as a result of being clarified, is slightly lower in fat but higher in protein.

If using store-bought of either beef broth or beef consommé, one should be aware of the sodium contents which can be excessively high.


Can you substitute condensed beef broth for beef consommé?

Substituting condensed beef broth for beef consommé is not recommended, but it is possible to use condensed beef broth as a base for making beef consommé.


What’s the difference between beef broth and condensed beef broth?

broth-in-jar

Condensed beef broth is beef broth that has been reduced and therefore concentrated. It is stronger in flavor and darker in color.


Are beef broth and beef stock the same?

Beef broth and beef stock are frequently used interchangeably, but they are technically not the same.

The primary difference is that beef stock utilizes beef bones that are stripped of their meat, whereas beef broth is made with meat-on bones.


Vegetarian substitute for beef consommé

vegetables

Though beef consommé, and any traditional consommé for that matter, is intrinsically not vegetarian, it is possible to make a vegetable-based consommé as a stand-in for those who keep dietary restrictions.

The best way to achieve this is by using mushrooms as the "meat" in your preparation of a vegetarian consommé.

Porcini mushrooms work well, or a medley of mixed mushrooms that are not too strongly or uniquely flavored.

For instance, it may be best to avoid mushrooms such as shitake or lion's mane for vegetarian consommé unless planning for that particular flavor.


Can you freeze beef broth and beef consommé?

Both beef broth and beef consommé can be frozen, and it's a great option for those wanting to maximize their efforts by making large batches of either.

Be sure to store and freeze them in airtight or vacuum sealed containers, and to label with the date. It's best to consume within six months.


How to Make Beef Broth

raw beef meat

There are many variations that can be made according to preference when preparing beef broth, but the essential ingredients are meat-on beef bones (if you have a local butcher you shop with as for a selection of soup bones), chopped vegetables, aromatic herbs and spices, and water.

In the most basic iteration, put everything in a large stock pot and add enough water so that the ingredients are covered with at least 2" overhead.

Bring the liquid to an active simmer -- not a boil -- and then reduce the heat to low for at least 3 hours and up to 48 if you're looking for a super rich and flavorful broth.

You'll need to check the liquid level every now and then and add water so that the ingredients remain submerged.

An easy extra step to guarantee a very flavorful broth is to pre-roast the beef cuts in the oven at 400°F for 30-60 minutes.


How to Make Beef Consommé

To make beef consommé, combine in a stock pot lean ground beef, mirepoix (the French term for a chopped combination of carrots, celery and onion), herbs or spices of choice (but keep it simple since consommé is all about the beef flavor) and whipped egg whites.

Then to this mixture slowly add and throughly combine a strong beef broth that has been chilled and skimmed of any solidified fat.

Over medium-low heat bring the pot to a gentle simmer -- NEVER boil. A raft of the solid ingredients will form as simmering begins.

Do not disturb it. Turn the heat to low and let it cook this way for 60-90 minutes.

When done, strain through cheese cloth. The result should be a perfectly clear, deep brown and fragrant consommé.

It can be simply garnished with a sprinkle of chopped green herb such as chive or parsley.


Conclusion

Though beef broth and beef consommé stake claim to different kitchen and meal functions, their relationship is strong.

After all, we can sum it up like-so: think of beef broth is the parent to consommé, and consommé is the slightly complicated child. 

Once you've acquired the wise handle on beef broth, you can tackle the involved process of raising beef consommé.

Thanks for reading,

Sarah


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About the author

Sarah hails from Western North Carolina where her loves of outdoor recreation, gastronomy and agriculture all find a strong sense of place. She has special knowledge in wine and the spirit class of amaro, both of which she's most assuredly daydreaming of drinking on a cloudless day at red tin bistro table somewhere in Italy.

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