Have you ever walked through the grocery store and seen a hundred different products that look like they do the exact same thing?
Beef-flavored products are amongst those and we could never really understand what all the fuss was about—honestly, why there is even so much variety!
You get beef stock, consommé, broth, bouillon and then you even get different forms of each! Cubes, powders, liquids, and concentrates—how are you supposed to keep track of it all?
Beef base is the newest thing we have seen and it took us some time to figure out what it is.
So, what exactly is it? Beef base is a form of beef concentrate. It is used as a flavoring ingredient in recipes, primarily in soups or stews, as means to intensify or introduce the savory flavors of beef. Beef base is also often a thick paste or syrup, similar to demi-glace
Today, we will be looking at exactly what this flavor-packed product is, how it is made, how it differs from other beef-flavored products, and the many ways in which you can substitute it.
What Is Beef Base?
Beef base is also known as “beef soup base” and is a form of beef stock. What makes it very different from stock is that it has been reduced to a concentrate (so basically it is concentrated beef stock).
In some areas of the world, you will also see it marketed and labeled as “beef concentrate”.
Beef base has a thick syrup-like consistency and sometimes even a smooth, runny paste-like texture. It has an incredibly dark brown color and a very concentrated and rich beefy flavor.
Just like a stock, broth cubes, and other similar beef flavoring products, it is considered to be an ingredient on its own and is used as one.
It is a fantastic way to add a ton of flavor to food without adding too much liquid that will change the consistency.
Beef base is mostly used in savory beef dishes. For recipes that use other forms of meat like fish, pork, chicken, or lamb, you can find and use their concentrated products as well.
This concentrate can be used in stews, broths, and soups, to make stuffing, to create sauces, and even to make bastings or marinades.
Beef base doesn’t really have a ton of minerals, vitamins, or any other nutritional value really.
It is mostly used to add flavor, not necessarily used for its health benefits. And because it doesn’t contain any salt, it is also not high in sodium.
When it does become unhealthy, or healthy, is in the recipe it is used in. So make sure you know the nutritional value of the ingredients you use to meet your dietary needs.
Beef Base Vs. Similar Beef Products
Here is where most people get confused with exactly what beef base is and how it is different from other very similar beef-based products.
Let’s first start with beef stock, seeing as that is what beef base is essentially produced from. Stock is an extremely flavorful cooking liquid used as the base ingredient for thousands of recipes.
Stock is made from animal bones and meat and combined with a vegetable mirepoix and other additional flavoring ingredients like spices and herbs. A mirepoix is a combination of carrots, celery, and onions.
These are some of the most aromatic vegetables that add a ton of neutral yet enhancing flavors. In addition to these, you can also add other ingredients like bay leaves, cumin or coriander, and even sage.
What makes stock so versatile is that you can add virtually any ingredient or any combination of ingredients and create a flavorful liquid.
For beef stock, bones from cows are used to add that meaty flavor. Sometimes beef offcuts are also used to add a more intense flavor.
These bones and meaty pieces are usually roasted or browned in a pan to enhance their flavor and ultimately, make a more flavorful stock.
Water is added to these ingredients and the whole mixture is simmered for up to 48 hours to create this liquid. A new and more modern way to make stock is in a pressure cooker, which simply concentrates the flavors much quicker.
Once the stock has been made, the ingredients are strained out and the liquid is used as-is.
A ton of people confuse beef broth with beef stock. The main thing that makes these different is that beef broth can be consumed on its own, whereas beef stock cannot.
Beef broth is made from bones, meat, or both, mirepoix vegetables, and a ton of seasoning ingredients like herbs and spices. This liquid is simmered for about an hour and creates a delicious liquid.
You can definitely use beef broth in other dishes and recipes, but we would rather use it as is. You can strain the ingredients and season the liquid with salt and pepper to taste.
This is a term that confuses so many people and is actually synonymous with beef broth—it’s the same thing! It is a French word that means “a savory liquid that has been boiled”.
Where there is sometimes even more confusion is that this term also means “highly concentrated broth seasoning”. So where beef base is a concentrated form of stock, beef bouillon is a concentrated version of broth.
Beef bouillon can be found in either paste form, cube form, and even powder form.
To make beef bouillon, simply combine either of these with a liquid, place it on the stovetop and reduce it. Again, you have an incredibly concentrated beefy flavor without all the moisture.
Consommé is kind of like a “clean” stock. Normal stock is always cloudy and doesn’t look very appetizing—which is why it isn’t used as is or in lightly-colored dishes.
To make consommé, a “raft” (which is a combination of eggs, ground beef, and some aromatics) is added to help impurities float to the top, making it much easier to skim off and completely remove from the liquid.
Ultimately, you are left with a beautifully clear liquid that is still equally flavorful. This liquid is very runny and not concentrated at all. It is meant to be completely void of all fat!
How To Make Beef Base
To make beef base is incredibly easy. First, you start by making a stock. As we have briefly mentioned before, a stock consists of meat and bones (or only one of these), vegetables, herbs, and spices.
Start by browning your meat and bones by either roasting them in an oven at very high heat or by browning them in a pan with olive oil.
This will help release their meaty flavors and enhance the quality of the beef stock and ultimately beef base.
Then, add the mirepoix chopped vegetables in the same browning pan or roasting tray, and continue to soften them and help release their flavors.
Finally, you can combine the browned meat, vegetables, spices, and herbs, and add some water to them in a large pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer. In general, stocks should simmer for at least 8 hours but can be left for up to 48. To prevent too much liquid from evaporating, you can place a lid on the pot.
To make the beef base, you can either remove the lid after 8 hours to start the reduction process, or you can wait the entire 48 hours.
This reduction takes anywhere between 2-4 hours and should be done over low heat. Your beef base is ready when the liquid has reduced to about half its original volume or once you’ve reached the desired consistency.
Beef Base Substitutes
Luckily, there are a ton of ways you can substitute beef base.
If your recipe calls for beef base and additional liquid like water, then simply use beef stock instead of water, as that is essentially what you are creating.
This liquid will be equally flavorful and will not affect the texture or consistency of the recipe.
If you want to substitute beef base using beef broth, you can do so in equal parts; however, you have to remember to season your food correctly. Broth is seasoned whereas beef base doesn’t contain any salt or pepper.
We would first recommend using the recipes originally called for salt and pepper quantities before adding more. You don’t want to over-season your food!
Substituting beef base with beef bouillon is arguably the easiest because both are already concentrated versions.
Again, broth is seasoned and stock is not. This means that you also have to take care not to overseason your food as the bouillon is already salty.
You can use consommé as a substitute for beef base; however, it will work virtually the same as when using stock. It works best if the recipe already calls for more water. If not, try to reduce the consommé to get the correct consistency.
Consommé is also a by-product of stock, so it is unseasoned. Remember to add additional salt and pepper to your liking.
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