7/25/05 | Herb-Ox Bouillon Cubes
[ Currently Eating: Barley Tea ]
A few months ago, Cheap Eats reader Earl had suggested that I try out Chicken Bouillon Cubes instead of canned Chicken Stock in cooking. I had always been interested in this, though a bit leery because I remember trying soup made out of bouillon cubes when I was a kid and being disappointed. It just had a really artificial taste to it.
A side note, I keep wanting to type “boullion” instead of “bouillon”, darn french…
But I still wanted to see how it would do as a flavor agent for simple pastas and other sauces, if not straight up as soup. Because with canned chicken stock the majority of what you’re buying is basically water. So I went down to Albertson’s to look for some bouillon cubes.
They had the generic cubes and the “Knorr” brand and a few other ones there. But I was really interested in getting one that had NO MSG in it. Not that I’m a health nut about it, but if I could avoid it I might try.
In the end I picked up Herb-ox Bouillon Cubes. What a weird name. It sounds like a combination of Herbs and Botox, haha! Or maybe herb-flavored ox. Yums. Interestingly, this is made by Hormel of chili fame. In any case, it warn’t that cheap (I think it was 2 something for 25 cubes.) But I figured I’d give it a shot just because of the lack of MSG.
Reading the Hormel website I saw that Herb-ox has been made for nearly a century! I guess I’ve never bought bouillon before so I’ve never heard of it. Maybe I’ll ask my mom if she remembers it.
The bouillon comes in a little plastic jar of 25 cubes which are supposed to make 12 cans worth of broth. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of an actual cube but it basically looks like a compressed square of dried grass. It basically says to add 1 cup boiling water and 1 cube, so I went ahead and did that. I had a sort of hard time dissolving the thing… you have to sort of smash it almost.
The soup looks greenish, sorry that’s the photo not the soup. It actually looked like pretty standard chicken stock, but with little green bits of parsley floating in it. One of the interesting things about this Herb-ox Bouillon is that they have a LOT of herbs along with the concentrated chicken dust in them. Standard Swanson’s Chicken Stock doesn’t have the herbs, so I supposed if you wanted perfectly plain stock you couldn’t use this.
So how did it taste? Surprisingly decent. It kinda reminded me of Lipton Soup but less cloying and salty. Certainly better than the soup packets that come with Ramen. I would probably add a bit more water to it, but I was able to drink this just like stuff just like soup. And they did it without MSG! A bit more herby and flavorful than the canned stock, but in most applications that would probably be welcome.
I went ahead and tried it as a stock for a basic bacon pasta that I make a lot. Deglaze the pan with it and such. Dang, I seriously could not tell the difference when used in cooking. I guess one really good thing about using bouillon cubes for stock is that it saves a TON of space (my cupboard is full to the brim) and since it makes about a 1/2 can of soup you don’t have to refrigerate the remainder of the can if you don’t use it all.
As far as price goes, even with the more expensive stuff you’re looking at about the same price as cans of soup. Earl had mentioned that he gets his at one of those Dollar Stores at 25 cubes for a buck! I will have to check that out, but I can guarantee it’ll have MSG and won’t be as good as the Herb-Ox. However, if you’re just going to use a small amount for flavoring you might be better off getting the cheap stuff.
[Editor's Note: By the way, are you doing a project on how to make your own bouillon cubes? If so, here's a suggestion - go do some ACTUAL research. That's right: pick up some books and read. Go talk to someone who's involved with the industry. Don't use the web as a cop-out for actually LEARNING.]
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10