Why You Should Reconsider Buying Beef Broth At The Grocery Store

If one item is the platonic ideal of "a pantry staple," it would probably be broth, be it chicken or beef. Broths have so many uses around the kitchen, from pan sauces and soup to wilting greens, that having them on hand at all times is pretty close to essential (via The Spruce Eats). Any home cook would be hard-pressed to go more than a week without using some kind of broth, and even when they aren't essential they can make a great addition in place of water to add extra flavor and depth to a dish.

As much as everyone wants to tell you to make broth and stock yourself, the convenience of being able to crack open a box of broth at a moment's notice is just too much for most cooks to pass up. Bon Appétit will tell you that the benefits of homemade broth, especially in the flavor of soups and stews, are very real. But, even with such clear improvements, it can be hard to justify the hours it takes to produce your own broth, when the reality is most of the time canned or boxed broths and stocks will do the job fine. The one exception to that rule may be beef broth, where the boxed version you get at the grocery can be bad, even by the standard of other premade broth, and for a slightly unexpected reason.

Grocery store beef broth is made with almost no actual beef

Did you know that the federal government regulates how much meat is in your store-bought broth? It's true, but the sad fact is that, according to Serious Eats, beef broth is only required to have one part protein for every 135 parts liquid. That means almost all the flavor in beef stock is coming from other ingredients like yeast extract, so the broth barely tastes like meat, let alone beef. By contrast, regulations say chicken broth must have almost twice as much protein in it. If your beef stew turned out less-than-stellar and you are wondering why it was so bland, it's likely because your beef broth didn't even have any real beef in it.

It's not just that beef broths aren't beefy enough, America's Test Kitchen notes that the way most premade beef broths are produced makes them downright bad. Tests of commercial brands, even high-end ones, often had no beef flavor and bitter, burnt notes. Most beef broth bought in a store is produced by large-scale generic distributors, who sell very weak stock to brands, who then use chemists to increase flavor with concentrated or distilled additives. It all adds up to a taste that is a lot more science than beef. Even in dishes that would normally use beef broth, the much superior premade chicken broths end up being a better choice. Sometimes convenience truly comes at a price.