premier-mcdougal 5/2/20
Nigel Essential Cuisine

Stock it to ‘em!

Powder, pastes or always kitchen-made – where do you stand in the great stock debate? With help from Essential Cuisine, Take Stock investigates.

So you think Michelin starred chef Marco Pierre White has sold out now that he fronts an advertising campaign for ready-made stock? Should stock, in your opinion, only ever be a labour of love, produced from scratch in the kitchen?

Advocates of pre-made stocks, whether they come as powder, pastes, granules or ready-to-use, cite time saving as their major advantage, along with consistency of flavour and also, economy. Using a good bought-in stock is the most cost effective way to deliver
great taste in your cooking, with the stock component cost of an average dish coming in at under five pence.

According to Nigel Crane, founder of Cheshire-based specialist stock company Essential Cuisine, which markets pre-prepared
stock mixes including Halal stocks, sauces, demi glaces, gravy and jus mixes to the foodservice industry, it’s not the format that the product comes in that’s most important, but rather what goes into it at the start that matters most.

Explains Nigel, who trained as a chef under the legendary Anton Mossiman at the Dorchester: “Stocks are one of the cornerstones of a good kitchen, but whilst a good bought-in stock can deliver great taste in a chef’s cooking, a sub-standard stock can equally destroy it.”

Having spent 15 years in technical product development a‡er working in some of the country’s top kitchens, Nigel founded
Essential Cuisine in 1995 when he couldn’t find a high quality manufactured stock powder that met all of his requirements. Says Nigel, whose company sponsors the North West Young Chef of the Year Competition:

“Across our range, we strive to recreate the taste and performance of a kitchen made product, giving the professional chef the confidence to focus on the final dish.” All Essential Cuisine’s products are made in the UK in a purpose-built facility, which is accredited to BRC (British Retail Consortium) Standards and is also approved and certified for Halal production. Only the finest ingredients are used, and flavour enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate) are never added.

The ranges come in powder, paste or ready-to-use variants but none contain artificial preservatives, hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is a classic bulker, or GM (genetically modified) materials, and because they have a natural balance and depth of flavour, they have a lower salt content than most of their commercial rivals as there is no need to use salt to boost taste.

Adds Nigel: “We’re all in the foodservice business together and provided your stock is good and based on quality ingredients, it shouldn’t really matter whether you buy it in or make it yourself.”

For the full range of Essential Cuisine products, recipes, free samples and information on the North West Young Chef of the Year Competition, visit

Did you know?

The first commercial stock cube was made by Maggi in 1908, swi‡ly followed by the Oxo cube in 1910. Both used salt as a flavour carrier. Today, the majority of manufactured stocks still contain salt to deliver balance of flavour and depth to a dish. When considering buying in stocks, put a variety to the test and check for:

  • Make up – yield is the number of litres produced by the pot, enabling you to calculate the cost per litre. Compare stock prices based on cost per litre. Generally, you will need more of a lower quality stock and it’s still unlikely to deliver on taste making it a false economy.
  • Appearance – it must look good with a natural colour. It shouldn’t be too cloudy and there should be little or no fat sitting on top. It should also have an authentic aroma and smell of a stockpot on the stove.
  • Taste – always taste stock when hot (not boiling or tepid). Swill your first sip around your mouth then the second taste will give you the optimum taste profile. Drink water in between stock tastings and taste one stock at a time. Should not taste salty.
  • Mouth feel – a good stock should not contain particles or herbs. Your mouth should not feel as if it’s been coated in fat.
  • Aftertaste – good stock should not leave an aftertaste nor should it be juicy.
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