The surprising truth about stock cubes

14 May, 2021

History of the humble stock cube

Broths and stocks are the basis of hundreds of nutritious dishes cooked around the world. The spices and herbs used in them may vary, but essentially each stock cube does the same job – it adds depth and flavour to your meals. 

But did you know that stock cubes have been around for over 100 years? Yes, they’re older than we thought too!

The invention of stock cubes is attributed to a few different sources. In the 1800s, chemists were breaking food down into their elemental parts and trying to work out which were the essential for our survival. Scientists discovered the importance of protein, and identified creatine – the key to muscle action. German chemist, Justus von Liebig, developed a liquid meat extract in 1840, that could be used in cooking. This was expensive for the average family budget so scientists created bouillon (stock) cubes which they brought to market in the early 1900s, to be sold at an affordable price; one penny per cube.

It wasn’t long before other companies started to produce stock cubes too and by 1913 there were ten brands available. 

What’s really in a regular stock cube?

The basis of a stock cube is salt and meat or vegetables. With liquid stocks and pastes, the ingredients are cooked and pulverised. However, when creating a stock cube, dried herbs, seasonings and dehydrated meats are mixed together, left in optimal conditions to mature, then shaped into blocks.

If you’re interested in making your own, check out this recipe for homemade, preservative free beef stock cubes. You can easily substitute chicken, pork or fish for the beef. Just remember that these will only last for a month in the fridge. In contrast, commercially produced stock cubes have a very long shelf life.

Pros and cons of using stock cubes in the modern kitchen

Stock cubes are a go-to flavour addition for many home cooks but it’s important to assess the pros and cons of using this kitchen ingredient to ensure that you know what you’re putting in your meals.

Pros: 

  • Stock cubes are really cheap
  • Stock cubes are small so they’re convenient to store
  • Stock cubes add intense flavours to your cooking

Cons: 

  • Stock cubes can contain a lot of preservatives and salt
  • They’re a highly processed product
  • Quality can be inferior to liquid forms of stock

Where to find stock cubes in Chatswood

Stock cubes are a common item on supermarket shelves, making them an accessible pantry staple. Head to Woolworths to the stock and spices section and you will find a wide variety of stock cubes (and other stock products) on the shelves. Try Asian City for soup and sauce bases too.

Do you use stock cubes when you’re cooking?

If you have stock cubes in your pantry you always have the beginnings of a great meal. Try this vegetable soup recipe or this simple seafood flavoured miso soup. Add a stock cube to your meat juices for a rich and delicious gravy, or pop one in a beef stroganoff or a stock pot casserole. 

Make food from every cuisine using different stock cubes. Try this African chicken stew, a Chinese stir fry sauce, or this Jamaican meat dish.

Let us know some of your favourite ways to cook with stock and share some of your favourite soups, curries and casseroles.

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