How To Use Beef Bouillon Cubes?

Cooking fatigue is so severe at this stage of the pandemic that we’ve all started to move away from labor-intensive cooking. Half-scratch meal kits were included in Well Good’s list of wellness trends for 2021 for this reason. But that doesn’t imply that we’re willing to give up on taste. We want entrees that taste like they took all day to make, but we don’t want to spend the time making them in this age where simple pleasures like delicious, home-cooked meals matter more than ever.

That’s where bouillon cubes come in. These tiny broth cubes are made from either vegetable or meat stock and are dehydrated. Bouillon cubes used to contain a lot of sodium and preservatives, but today’s top products are lower in sodium and, in some cases, packed with anti-inflammatory spices. By including them in your meals, you can add flavor without having to guess which spices to use together or spend a lot of time making stock.

According to Chopped winner and Institute of Culinary Education chef Palak Patel, “Bouillon cubes are a great way to add quick flavor, especially when it comes to spices that you normally wouldn’t use every day.” The individual cubes are simple to use, make preparing small portions simple, and are reasonably priced. They can also remain unspoiled in your pantry for a full six months, which is definitely a plus during pandemics.

One cup of boiling water mixed with one bouillon cube makes one cup of broth. You can melt a bouillon cube directly into a sauce to add a layer of meatiness and umami-rich flavors, or you can use it to make a broth which you then add to the sauce.

Know your cubes and dilution ratios

The liquid in your soup, sauce, stew, or even to sip by the fire requires rehydrating bouillon powder because it is dehydrated broth whether it is in the form of a cube or not. However, how much water should be added to each bouillon cube to avoid creating a liquid that is too thin and lacks flavor? If you don’t use enough water, the result will be a salt bomb.

Knowing the appropriate dilution ratio for your bouillon cubes—that is, how much water to use to properly rehydrate your bouillon cube or cubes into a broth—is therefore a crucial component of successfully using bouillon cubes. The consensus among experts and on the internet is that there should be one cup of water for each bouillon cube.

But, there are multiple different brands of bouillon cubes. While the 1 cup to 1 cube ratio will work for many brands (Wylers or McCormick, for example), it would result in doubly concentrated broth for two of the most popular brands: Knorr and Maggi. For those brands, the ratio is 1 cube to 2 cups of water. The answer to this problem is simple: read the label to know the proper dilution ratio.

Boost your stock with bouillon cubes

Making a stock recipe can be a very grounding experience. In a large pot, combine some browned bones with chopped celery, onions, and carrots, as well as some herbs. Simmer everything for at least six hours for chicken stock and up to eight hours for beef bones while occasionally skimming the surface. Stock is defined by the process of flavor extraction from the bones through the prolonged cooking process.

So yes, stock-making can be a rewarding and not too challenging endeavor. But it is, inarguably, a time-consuming enterprise. Except if you were a chef or had plenty of free time, you wouldn’t do it every day.

This is where bouillon cubes can come in handy. Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, enhances the flavor of the chicken stock before making a chicken pot pie by adding bouillon cubes. But why not apply the same technique to the stock itself and, instead of simmering it for six to eight hours, shorten the cooking time and stir in a few bouillon cubes? The intensity of flavor those tiny cubes of dried brothy goodness bring to the party more than makes up for any loss in the body of the stock.

Think of bouillon cubes as a spice rub or seasoning

Sure, bouillon cubes are excellent for turning water into broth, but their true value comes when you realize that they are a flavorful cube that can be used anywhere that flavor is desired. You can still use that bouillon as a powder even though it comes in cube form.

Perhaps the simplest and most direct way to do so is to grate the bouillon cube itself and sprinkle the resulting powder over the meat of your choice as a seasoning salt or spice rub before cooking. Or you could use the grated bouillon cube as a straight-up salt replacement for roasted vegetables. As Food Network Canada points out, some chefs see the benefit of scattering the stuff over foods to give them an extra kick of umami.

To make your own umami-driven seasonings, however, grating bouillon cubes can be a good starting point. For instance, Kwame Onwuachi, a former contestant on Top Chef, substitutes ground bouillon cubes for the Suya spice blend in his recipe for Nigerian mixed grill. You can also add some pepper and a grated beef bouillon cube to make a perfectly seasoned steak. For a distinctly Tex-Mex flavor, combine a chicken breast with a grated tomato bouillon cube that has been spiced with cumin. For this recipe for crispy veal parmesan, blend some Italian seasoning and combine it with some grated chicken bouillon to create the ideal seasoning to go with the flour.

The mere fact bouillon cubes can be used as a substitute for, or even an improvement on, salt highlights the reality that they are little sodium bombs. Cravings in Amsterdam observes that a single bouillon cube can contain up to 1,000 milligrams of sodium, and a Wylers chicken bouillon cube, for example, contains 800 milligrams of sodium. To put that in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions dietary guidelines for Americans recommend an intake of fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. In other words, one bouillon cube can be over ⅓ of an individuals total recommended daily salt intake!

The good news is that there are now lower sodium bouillon cube alternatives. For example, Edward & Sons makes a plant-based “Not-Chickn” product with only 120 milligrams per serving, Herb-Ox also has a sodium-free version, and Knorr has introduced both reduced sodium and “Zero Salts” chicken bouillon cubes. Sadly, neither of those products is widely available in the United States, though Knorr does offer the Zero Salt chicken bouillon in powdered form.

The best course of action is to understand how much salt is in the particular bouillon cubes you are using in relation to the food you are cooking. Use them as a component of a sauce or as a flavoring for mashed potatoes in a side dish. Keep an eye on the sodium content and modify your recipes as necessary.

Some of the sodium in bouillon products—cube or otherwise—comes from MSG, not table salt, which is wrongfully dreaded and unfairly maligned. But monosodium glutamate is not, contrary to popular belief, evil. Yes, seasoning improves the taste of food, and MSG can be used in a variety of ways since it is essentially powdered umami.

That, not to put too fine a point on it, is a very good thing. Umami is delectable. Lots of your favorite foods already contain MSG. Indeed, per Ajinomoto, umami in Japanese means the “essence of deliciousness.” It makes everything it touches taste more intensely like itself. As Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, the celebrity Chef creator of the Nobu empire of restaurants puts it (per Shun Gate): “Umami is vital for creating delicious food.”

One particularly intriguing way of using bouillon to embrace the umami is to mix different types of bouillon. For example, mixing vegetable bouillon (which contributes guanylate) with chicken bouillon (which brings inosinate to the party) results in a profound umami effect that is seven to eight times as intense as is either alone, per the Umami Information Center. Another, possibly unexpected, benefit of combining the two different types of bouillon cubes (read: sources of umami) and the resulting synergistic effect is that it allows you to achieve the same result using less sodium.

Use bouillon cubes in a marinade

Bouillon cubes are typically thought of in the context of making some kind of delectable liquid. Of course, bouillon was developed as a time-saving technique or way to preserve broth or soup. Therefore, those applications or even a stew are not too far-fetched.

One that does not come immediately to mind, though, might be one of the best options out there: a marinade. Knorr, one of the major bouillon cube manufacturers, recommends combining its tomato bouillon along with herbs, wine or vinegar, and olive oil in a tasty marinade for chicken. Or use ground chicken bouillon cubes with lemon, garlic, and oregano for a simple, elegant marinade. Add some of Knorrs chipotle cube to that marinade for a spiced flair.

Ironically, although bouillon’s high sodium content is one drawback, it also makes the cubes a valuable marinade ingredient. Again, one way to use bouillon cubes as a prominent marinade ingredient is to grind them into powder. After being ground, that powder can be used as a 1:1 replacement for salt in marinade recipes. For instance, prepare bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs by marinating them in a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, an acid, a ground chicken bouillon cube, pepper, garlic, and Mediterranean herbs (like rosemary and thyme), then broiling them until they are cooked through.

Make a sauce or compound butter

It is easy and tempting for the snobby amongst us to think of bouillon cubes as something of a cheat. That little devil on our left shoulder seems to whisper in our ear: “no real chef would do something like that.” Well, tell that to legendary Chef Marco Pierre White who has been known to make a paste with bouillon cubes and olive oil to season and enhance the caramelization of steak. Pierre White once told the Guardian that a certain brand of bouillon cubes was “one of the greatest inventions in gastronomy …” perhaps stemming from the fact he had a Knorr endorsement contract, though he professes (per BusinessLive) to use the products at home as well as professionally.

You could prepare the steak similarly to Chef White, but finish it with a compound butter made from bouillon cubes. You could also create a red wine reduction sauce, which is a variation on a traditional French mother sauce, but instead of using beef broth, use beef bouillon that has been prepared using the right dilution ratio as described above. Although this might appear to be a type of cheat that no restaurant would use at first glance, the truth is quite the opposite. The kinds of browning agents and base ingredients that almost every restaurant keeps in the pantry (short of the Michelin level) are comparable to bouillon cubes.

Use bouillon cubes as a cooking liquid

One application for bouillon cubes that might be a little less obvious comes from the pasta industry. Spaghetti allubriaco, also known as drunken spaghetti, gets its name from the fact that red wine is used both as a star ingredient and the cooking liquid for the spaghetti rather than sauce. Why not perform the same procedure using broth made from bouillon cubes instead of a different liquid?

The flavor of the liquid it cooks in transfers to the spaghetti in a similar way that the color of the wine does. Because of this, the majority of traditional pasta recipes call for salting the water before cooking it. It tastes good because of the seasoning, and the bouillon cube does a great job of seasoning the water and the cooked pasta as a result.

When used to make a risotto’s broth, bouillon cubes impart each grain of rice with the cube’s savory umami flavor. One of the best uses for MSG is in risotto with huitlacoche and black garlic, which triples the umami. The best simple method for making rice taste good may be bouillon. Or use it in an Amish-style chicken and noodles recipe. Almost any grain will taste better cooked in broth than plain water, including quinoa, couscous, potatoes, grits, masa, and many others.

Don’t forget the intended uses

Since serving as Lewis and Clark’s “portable soup,” bouillon cubes have advanced significantly. But they haven’t advanced to the point where there is a more suitable use for them than the most obvious one, soup. Since bouillon cubes are essentially a stock or broth substitute, they can be used in any recipe that calls for either one. But keep in mind to take into account bouillon’s higher salt content.

Consider a creamy potato leek soup recipe where bouillon cubes are a key ingredient. You could also go with a classic chicken noodle soup. For a fantastic pork pozole recipe, you can also use vegetable or pork bouillon cubes in place of the water. It is natural to substitute beef broth for beef bouillon when making birria tacos.

Bouillon cubes can still be useful even if you do not intend to replace the stock in your soup or stew with water and bouillon cubes. Sometimes soup or stew lacks the intensity youre striving for. Thats when bouillon cubes can come to the rescue. Try adding just half a bouillon cube to see if that works. Ina Garten does that to enhance the flavor of her chicken stock, as we’ve already seen.

Use bouillon cubes in salad dressings

The inclusion of bouillon cubes as a primary ingredient in salad dressings is possibly one of the least obvious uses for them. We advise using cubes to season Italian-style vinaigrettes rather than salt. There is no reason why that wouldnt work. To make a salad dressing, simply combine a portion of a bouillon cube with oil, mustard, lemon juice or vinegar, and optional herbs in a high-speed blender or food processor.

If you want your salad dressing to have a hint of sweetness, add some honey or maple syrup and use apple cider vinegar. If you want some of the nuances that fermentation offers, add white miso’s layered complexity to your dressing. Add eggs, a few anchovies, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce for an extra rich, decadent depth that will make the dish more akin to a Caesar salad.

But for our money, the choice would be simple: ranch dressing. There is just something about the tang and creaminess of this bona fide American salad dressing classic. Indeed, the flavor profile of bouillon cubes captures so much of what is there in the original that it feels natural if not an original. Just substitute the grated bouillon cube for the MSG and the garlic and onion powders, and you do not just have a variation but perhaps an improvement.

Don’t sleep on the wide range of flavors

Once upon a time, the choice of flavors for bouillon cubes was limited. The original Maggi product was a meat extract, probably beef (per Serious Eats) though the specifics are lost in time. Beef, chicken, and vegetable bouillon cubes are widely available in the United States. Four companies have historically dominated the market: Maggi, Knorr, OXO, Wylers, and until recently, McCormick (which has discontinued a number of its bouillons).

That was then; this is now. More recently, the types of bouillon cubes available in the market have expanded greatly. OXO now sells a lamb stock cube product. Edward & Sons offers a full line of vegan products. Look a bit further, and youll find that Knorr offers shrimp cubes, tomato with chicken, and a line of cubes that include ham and seasonings like cilantro and achiote, garlic, onion, chipotle, and more. Around the world, Knorr sells different products (many of which are available online), including porcini mushroom cubes.

With many of the methods outlined above, each of these new bouillon cube flavors offers a plethora of recipe options. Consider incorporating those porcini mushrooms or achiote bouillon cubes into a spice rub or a marinade for chicken breasts, for instance. Alternately, use the ham and cilantro cubes as the foundation for the compound butter. Almost any of those products would be excellent choices for a rice-cooking liquid.

The Basics with Jim – Bouillon Cubes vs Beef Base


How do you use beef bouillon cubes instead of beef broth?

Most recipes that call for broth or stock can be replaced with bouillon cubes or granules. For every cup of broth, it is advised to dissolve 1 bouillon cube (or 1 teaspoon of bouillon granules) in 8 ounces of boiling water.

What do you do with beef bouillon?

As a flavoring, beef bouillon is added to liquids to give them a particular flavor. Red meat dishes are frequently flavored with beef bouillon. Beef stew, beef and vegetable soup, and marinara meat sauce are a few dishes that use beef bouillon.

Do you have to boil bouillon cubes?

All you have to do is mix the cube with water to activate the flavors. Most bouillon cubes call for one cup of water per cube, but make sure you read the instructions on the particular product you’re using. Add a few of the cubes after heating the water in a saucepan.

What is the ratio of bouillon cube to water?

In general, use one cube or one teaspoon of chicken bouillon per cup of water when using it. The amount of salt and seasonings in your bouillon may vary depending on the manufacturer.

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