The Unassuming Pantry Staple To Thicken Meat Stock

Whether you're looking to make a hearty soup or stew, a rich pan sauce, braising liquid, or gravy, chances are, the recipe calls for some kind of meat stock, often chicken or beef— both can also be enjoyed as is, with the latter popularly consumed as a bone broth. To properly make stock, you need to boil and simmer meat bones or cartilage for at least six to eight hours, per Healthline, until the collagen from the bones or cartilage have released to thicken the stock. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of time to make meat stock from scratch, which is where store-bought chicken and beef stock comes in handy.

The downside of using store-bought meat stock is that it is often thin and watery, explains PureWow. Luckily, there is a pantry staple that you can use to easily thicken the meat stock, without any noticeable impact to the flavor of the stock. That staple? Gelatin. Yes, the same stuff used to make Jell-O can also help improve a watery store-bought or homemade meat stock by giving it the luscious and velvety mouthfeel that defines a good stock, without making it "dull and pasty" as using flour would (via Serious Eats).

How to thicken meat stock with gelatin

Gelatin is made from the collagen that is found naturally in the bones and connective tissues (like ligaments and tendons) of animals like cows and pigs, explains Livestrong. Traditionally made by simmering animal bones for hours until the collagen has been extracted, there is a convenient shortcut — packaged gelatin, which comes in both powdered and sheet form. Although similar, there are some differences between sheet and powdered gelatin: powdered gelatin is easier to measure out and dissolves more quickly while sheet gelatin is more transparent, with less of an aftertaste.

For the best results, and to avoid lumps, it's important to "bloom" the gelatin first. Simply take the gelatin powder and mix it with cold or cool water (or other liquid) to properly hydrate it before adding it to a warm or hot liquid (via What's Cooking America). Per Cook's Illustrated, use two teaspoons of gelatin for every cup of broth or stock. Additional tips for using gelatin include always measuring the amount of gelatin (since actual amounts do not always equal what the package says) and using less gelatin if you plan to serve the dish the next day, since gelatin continues to thicken over 24 hours.