Salted vs. Unsalted Chicken Stock

Published March 1, 2015. From Cook's Illustrated.
Update: January 2015
Since our 2013 chicken broth tasting, Swanson slightly changed the ingredients of our favorite Swanson's Chicken Stock; having tasted it, we still recommend this product. Swanson is also in the process of changing the packaging: the 24-ounce stock containers will match the standard 32-ounce cartons already used for its broth products.

Overview:

Our favorite chicken broth is Swanson Chicken Stock, which we appreciate for its “rich,” “meaty” flavor. This broth stood out because it’s made with a relatively high percentage of meat-based protein compared with similar products and a moderate amount of sodium for the broth world—510 milligrams per 1-cup serving. Still, since many people monitor their sodium intake, we wondered how the “unsalted” version of this product would measure up.

Swanson Unsalted Chicken Stock has 130 milligrams of sodium, which is just under the United States Department of Agriculture’s 140-milligram ceiling for “low-sodium” products. (In fact, “unsalted” means only that no salt was added during processing, so some unsalted broths can contain much more sodium per serving.) When we compared ingredient lists, we found that the company didn’t simply omit the sodium in the unsalted version but reformulated it from the ground up. While both products begin their ingredient lists with “chicken stock,” the regular broth adds salt next, followed by vegetables… read more

Our favorite chicken broth is Swanson Chicken Stock, which we appreciate for its “rich,” “meaty” flavor. This broth stood out because it’s made with
 a relatively high percentage of meat-based protein compared with similar products and a moderate amount of sodium for the broth world—510 milligrams per 1-cup serving. Still, since many people monitor their sodium intake, we wondered how the “unsalted” version of this product would measure up.

Swanson Unsalted Chicken Stock has 130 milligrams of sodium, which is just under the United States Department of Agriculture’s 140-milligram ceiling for “low-sodium” products. (In fact, “unsalted” means only that no salt was added during processing, so some unsalted broths can contain much more sodium per serving.) When we compared ingredient lists, we found that the company didn’t simply omit the sodium in the unsalted version but reformulated it from the ground up. While both products begin their ingredient lists with “chicken stock,” the regular broth adds salt next, followed by vegetables and an herb. In the unsalted version, the vegetables disappear, replaced by more chicken-centric ingredients, including dehydrated chicken and chicken fat. Despite these differences, both contain
 4 grams of protein per cup, identically low levels of sugars, and trace amounts of fat per 1-cup serving.

To compare how each tasted, we sampled the broths side-by-side 
plain, in vegetable soup, and in a simple Parmesan risotto, rating them on flavor, saltiness, off-flavors, if any, and overall appeal. We weren’t that surprised to find that our tasters preferred the regular chicken broth in 
all three tastings, but the unsalted broth fared surprisingly well. When we need to restrict sodium, we won’t hesitate to reach for Swanson Unsalted Chicken Stock.

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