The Culinary Library Critiques – Stock Powders, Cubes and Liquids

So let’s take Stock

Product Review: Stock Powders, Cubes & Liquids: What to buy and why

Commercially available stock cubes and powders are important when we are time poor or don’t have the inclination to make stock from scratch. But what to choose? Which ones have the best flavour? What about artificial colours, flavours, animal products? At The Culinary Library kitchen we’ve done a comparison and taste test to help take the guesswork out of the selection process. We have ranked our results below (1-14) in two groups with our preferred products first and scaling down to those products we do not recommend you buy.

  1. Massel: Powder 16c/L and ultra cubes 52c/L are animal free products, but also lactose, gluten and MSG free. They are low in salt and very inexpensive. Massel Liquid (reconstituted powder) although dearer at $1.80 (salt reduced) – $3/L (normal). All Massel products are Kosher and Halal accredited. This is a Sydney company, established in 1982 some 30 yrs. ago and produces the best products in our view for flavour, price and your health. And if supporting Australian companies is important to you, they report, that of the large producers, they are the only Australian made and owned stock manufacturers left in the Australian market. Also, because they contain no animal content they are suitable for vegans and vegetarians and are an ethical choice. We use their chicken and vegetable stocks regularly and find they have the best flavour.
  2. Chef’s Cupboard: Powder, 28c/L, Liquid $2.68/L (reconstituted powder), and cubes 36c/L, average salt. The powder and cubes are gluten free and all are animal product free, as well as colour and flavour additive free. Available from Aldi stores. Halal certified. Good flavour and healthy but a little dearer than Massel or Vegeta.
  3. Vegeta: no MSG, no gluten, no GMO, no lactose and no animal products, low in salt and at 20c/L, the second best price after Massel. Vegeta has been in Australia for 30 yrs and was one of the first on the scene, being thought of as “hippy vegetarian stuff” when it first hit the shelves. It is well worth having on your shelf.
  4. Gravox Real Chicken Stock: Liquid only, low salt, $2.88/L, additive free. Contains real chicken.
  5. Fresh Brand: gluten free, no preservatives, South Australian but not widely known or available.
  6. Moredough Kitchens: Liquid only, $12/L. Too expensive for what you get but still half the price of Maggie Beer.
  7. Maggie Beer:Liquid, only. The most expensive by far at $24/L, contains both gluten and animal products. If your average cook pot makes 4-5 liters of stock then this is the equivalent of you spending a couple of hours at the most and a massive $96- $120 on ingredients for your stock pot!  Home made stock made with the finest ingredients you can find will cost you no more than $1/liter and probably only about 50-60 cents/liter. Maggie’s product does taste like a home made stock but its carrying bulk as a liquid and its high price were both factors in us rating it lowest in the brands we like. Sorry Maggie! We still love you and all the other wonderful products you sell.

    We do not recommended you buy the following products for various reasons:

  8. Woolworths Select: High salt & additives and it tastes like it. (Woolworths, Maggi and Campbells were the three highest salt products)
  9. Campbell’s Liquid:Oh Manu! Why are you endorsing this product? It is a reconstituted liquid concentrate (chicken) or powder (other) with an extremely high salt content. Their salt reduced still has the same or more salt content as other normal stocks (a massive 574mg sodium/100ml). This is more than twice the salt content of the liquid Massel salt reduced product. Also at $4/L there is just not enough flavour, which we found very watery and insipid. Even reducing it by half to try and concentrate the flavour didn’t improve it, but rather made it taste saltier. Also you will need to check their range labels as some have added milk products, a hidden disaster if you are lactose intolerant.
  10. Continental: Powder and cubes. Very high salt content. They also do salt reduced but again this only takes it down to average levels. An expensive product without a natural flavour.
  11. Knorr: Cubes only. Knorr cubes contain five different artificial additives, including MSG as one of three flavour enhancers. $1.16/L
  12. Maggi: Powder and cubes, very high salt, cheap at 44c-52c/L, but have a salty content and metallic taste on the palate.
  13. Oxo: Cubes, 64c/L, high salt, MSG + artificial additives.
  14. Star: Cubes, 68c/L, high iodized salt, environmentally unfriendly palm oil, flavour enhancer (MSG), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, dehydrated onion, artificial flavours including, mechanically separated dehydrated chicken meats (unspecified body parts).

NB: Transporting bulky liquids around Australia makes no financial sense and no environmental sense (high food miles) when most companies products are simply their stock powders reconstituted with water; ask yourself why you are paying more, carrying more and using cupboard space for exactly the same product you can buy powdered or cubed. Is it the marketing? Do you feel like it’s somehow fresher or better if it is a liquid? You might want to re-think this if you buy the liquids.

Some added colour and flavour enhancers have been linked to skin irritations, headaches and cancers. The flavour enhancer Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG, flavour enhancer 621 – look out for this number on your food labels) has been linked to headaches, flushing, numbness, and asthmatic irritation.


10 Responses to Taking Stock – Product Review

  1. Ash says:

    Thanks for this! I’m one of those people who is way too lazy to make their own stock, so this is super handy.*throws out all the Continental*

  2. This is great information and comparison of the available products. I have just started making my own stock in the last couple of months since I have been on a challenge to skip the supermarket. If I get stuck without stock in the freezer this post has changed the brand that I would purchase.

    • That is great you are making your own stock. When I do a roast I just put the leftover bones in a container in the freezer and when I feel like making stock one day just pull them all out and make a big pot. And using all the parts of the animal by making stock is respectful to the animal and is definitely worth doing. Very impressive about your challenge to avoid the supermarket, have you heard of The Year Without Groceries blog? You should check them out, they may have some usefult tips for you:

  3. Paul Isbel says:

    Done. I’m looking for Massel for sure. I’ve been buying the name brands all my life. Another dumb habit ditched. And yes, selling liquid stock should be banned. It makes no sense at all but certainly can fill shelf space.

  4. Carly says:

    I wish this was something I could save on my phone! You should create an iPhone app! Will try and burn it into my memory for now!

  5. Hi guys,

    Great article thanks. Love the blog!

    Also, I thoroughly agree with Massel stock being the best. It’s the one thing I’m sure to stock up on (hehe sorry) when I come back to Oz. Forget the Tim Tams and Twisties! I haven’t found any stock like it over here in the UK.

    I look forward to checking out your cookbook. I have a bit of a weakness for cookbooks – hence starting my own recipe blog when I first moved overseas – I needed a way to store all my favourites without taking up precious space in my luggage. I’ve discovered some great vegetarian recipes too:

  6. Sarah says:

    ‘Chef’s Cupboard’ is made by Massel for Aldi.

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