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Is there a difference between broth and stock? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some will say there's a world of a difference, while others will tell you it's the same exact thing. If you ask me, I say use them interchangeably.

Most trained chefs will tell you that a stock is made from the bones of the meat, including any of the connective tissue and joint material. While there is no actual meat, flavoring agents in the form of vegetables are typically added, such as carrots, celery, onions, and leeks. Water and herbs and spices, like peppercorns and bay leaf, are added and simmered nice and slowly. A stock is said to have more of a rich flavor and fuller mouth feel due to the collagen in the bones that turn to gelatin when heated.

A broth on the other hand, is a liquid in which the meat has been cooked. It, too, may have flavoring agents, such as vegetables, herbs and spices, as well as water added. However, it includes the actual meat. According to Alton Brown from the Food Network, our "stocks" that we produce in our home kitchens are really more of a hybrid between a stock and a broth since most of the bones still have meat clinging to them. While it's still tasty, it just won't be as rich in flavor since it likely does not contain as much collagen-filled bones as what a true stock would have.

Commercial stock and broth aren't very different in their ingredients. In fact, many commercial broths will actually have "stock" as an ingredient. Which is why I say to use them interchangeably. Look for the lowest sodium option available and go with that!

Slow Cooker Beef Soup

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz. can tomatoes, undrained

6 cups unsalted beef stock or broth

½ teaspoon pepper

1 ½ cups mixed vegetables (can be frozen)

½ cup uncooked orzo or instant brown rice

Cook beef, onion and garlic in a large saucepan until beef is browned. Transfer mixture to slow cooker crock and add the rest of the ingredients except orzo or rice. Cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours. Add orzo or brown rice for the last 30 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition analysis per serving: 230 calories, 7g fat, 390mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 19g protein