Chicken stock is the liquid resulting from cooking chicken, vegetables and seasoning in water (see our recipe). So, if you’re looking for stock that’s closest to homemade, you’ll want a liquid made only from chicken and a handful of other familiar ingredients. Of the 10 liquid chicken stocks we found in stores, only two aren’t reconstituted.
Not surprisingly, the genuine liquid stocks, Maggie Beer and Moredough Kitchens, are the most expensive. These “gourmet” stocks, typically found in grocers, not supermarkets, cost up to 10 times more than the cheapest liquid stock and far more than cubes and powders. They are worth the investment if non-reconstituted stock closest to homemade is your priority, but making your own costs about 37c a serve (250mL), compared with $6 for the Maggie Beer. As well as water and chicken, Maggie Beer stock contains celery, carrots, onion, herbs and spices. Moredough Kitchens is almost half the price but contains added “flavour”.
The other liquid stocks, although cheaper, are reconstituted — a fact only Woolworths Select reveals on its carton, albeit in fine print in the ingredients list — so a portion of what you’re paying for is added water. Campbell’s and Gravox stocks are reconstituted from a liquid concentrate, and Woolworths Select is reconstituted from liquid and powder. But Chef’s Cupboard and Massel liquid stocks are simply reconstituted powders.
Be wary of descriptions such as “real” and “natural” on the label, as these marketing terms aren’t regulated and are open to interpretation. Many packaged liquid stocks contain ingredients you won’t find in the average home pantry, such as vegetable protein extracts and powders, dehydrated vegetables, maltodextrin and flavours.
On a positive note, liquid stocks will appeal if you want to avoid additives. None of those we looked at contain the flavour enhancers (such as MSG) common to cubes and powders and, generally, liquid stocks contain fewer additives. Of the reconstituted liquid stocks, Gravox Real Chicken Stock Salt Reduced is the best option: it’s free of additives, contains the fewest processed ingredients and has the least salt. And, unlike some chicken stocks, it actually contains chicken.
Lower salt alternatives
For a stock
with minimal impact on your daily salt intake, you can’t go past Maggie
Beer Chicken Stock. It contains only 73mg sodium per 250mL and meets
the requirement of a “low-salt” product, according to Food Standards
Australia New Zealand’s Code of Practice. A significantly cheaper
option is Gravox Real Chicken Stock Salt Reduced.
If you want
a lower-salt stock, don’t be guided solely by “salt-reduced” claims.
Campbell’s Real Stock Chicken Salt Reduced may have less salt than its
regular equivalent, but still packs a saltier punch than eight others
(including cubes and powder versions when made up as directed), half of
which don’t carry a salt-reduced claim.
Campbell’s Real Stock,
Woolworths Select and Maggi stock cubes are the saltiest on test. Food
made with one cup (250mL) of these gives you substantially more than
the adult daily sodium requirement of 920mg.