Fish Stock

Halibut Steaks

by Cat, Sept 2008 (Photo, right, from More To Door (a site in the UK that may contain malware, so I don’t include the link)

Don’t curl your lip at this.  Fish stock is extremely nourishing, and lends wonderful flavor to fish soups, stews, and chowders.  It’s also easy!

I don’t live near the sea, but trout are abundant here in Western Montana, so I use their heads, fins and bones.  But the best fish to use is halibut or flounder.  David Ansel warns that red snapper is “no bueno” (not good).  You can also add clam, mussel, shrimp or lobster shells, which are high in minerals. I save all my fish heads, fins, bones and shells, and I ask my local grocer to save me the bones of a halibut or cod when I’m ready to make a broth.

NOTE:  In a pinch, clam juice is a good substitute for fish stock, and you can usually find it in the drink-mix section of your grocery store, in 8-oz bottles.  Dilute 8 oz clam juice with 1 cup filtered water, or with ¾ cup filtered water and ¼ cup dry white wine.  You can also add a bouquet garni as described in the recipe below. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes

See also: 1. Beef Soups and Stocks Menu; 2. Fish Bone Broth, Stovetop method; 3Court Bouillon recipe that accompanies my Poached Salmon recipe, 4. Potato Peel Broth, 5. Vegetable Broth

Fish Stock

I have adapted this recipe from the Slow and Difficult Soups book by David Ansel. David is a little sketchy on quantities, so I added quantities and suggestions from Simca’s Cuisine, by Simone Beck.  Makes 2 ½ cups stock, sufficient to poach a 4-pound fish.  You can also experiment with different herbs, such as fresh parsley, thyme, and/or tarragon.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • 1 pound combined:  fish bones, fins and heads; shells of shellfish may also be added
  • 1 -2 celery stalks, with leaves, cut into 2-inch lengths; or 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, without peels, halved or sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • bay leaves, or bouquet garni* of thyme (or tarragon), 1/2 bay leaf (or 1 small bay leaf) and parsley
  • whole black peppercorns
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • Unrefined sea salt and ground white pepper(optional)
  • Equipment:
  • stockpot
  • cheesecloth

* A bouquet garni is a collection of fresh herbs tied into a bundle, or wrapped into a bit of tied-up cheesecloth, then immersed into the cooking broth.  It is easily removed all in one bunch, when needed.


  1. Chop up the fish trimmings (except shells) coarsely.
  2. Melt butter in stockpot, then lightly saute carrots and onions in the melted butter.Add fish trimmings, bay leaves or bouquet garni, peppercorns and white wine.  Cover with cold filtered water.  NOTE:  David simply puts all ingredients into the stock pot, skipping the saute step, and omitting the butter.  And he only uses enough water to cover.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce to heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours. OR bring to a boil & keep at a low boil for 25 minutes.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth.
  5. Return strained liquid to rinsed-out stockpot. and reduce to 2 1/2 cups. [NOTE:  David skips this step, because he uses less water to begin with.]
  6. Add salt & white pepper to taste, if desired, or wait to salt the soup or sauce which uses this stock.
  7. Pour into jar, cover and cool, then refrigerate if not using right away. It will keep, refrigerated, for a few days, or it can be frozen.


  • The Soup Peddler’s Slow & Difficult Soups, by David Ansel
  • Simca’s Cuisine, by Simone Beck
  • Soup, by Coralie Castle

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