Demystifying Oxo Cubes: Are They Really Just Beef Stock?

Walk through the soup aisle of any grocery store and you’ll likely spot the familiar red and yellow Oxo cubes These small concentrated cubes of flavor have been a cooking staple for over a century But what exactly are the mysterious Oxo cubes? Are they just beef stock or something more?

In this article, we’ll unravel the history and composition of Oxo to determine how it relates to beef stock. Whether you’re a passionate home cook or curious foodie, understanding the science behind this ubiquitous kitchen ingredient can elevate your culinary knowledge.

The Origins of Oxo

To understand Oxo’s identity, we have to go back to its origins. In the early 1800s, German scientist Justus von Liebig developed a viscous, concentrated beef extract through an industrial process that extracted proteins and flavors from beef. This early meat extract was commercialized under the Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company starting in 1866.

In 1899, the company introduced Oxo as a brand name for their signature beef extract product. The origin of the name Oxo is unknown, but it was likely derived from the word “ox.”

So in its original formulation, Oxo was quite literally a pure beef extract. However, it was only available as a rather expensive liquid.

The Creation of Oxo Cubes

To make their beef extract accessible to more home cooks the company developed a technique to dehydrate the liquid Oxo into solid cubes in the early 1900s.

These cubes could be sold for just pennies apiece while still delivering concentrated meaty flavor. The development of Oxo cubes revolutionized the product’s popularity.

So the original Oxo cubes were essentially dehydrated beef extract – the same base product as the liquid form, just transformed into portable cubes.

Oxo Cubes Today

Of course, food technology and production practices have changed dramatically since Oxo’s early days.

While still branded as an icon of meaty richness, modern Oxo cubes no longer contain pure beef extract. Instead, they function more like bouillon cubes or stock cubes.

The current ingredients of Oxo’s beef stock cubes include:

  • Salt
  • Flavor enhancers
  • Yeast extract
  • Vegetable oil
  • Beef flavoring
  • Onion powder

Rather than using beef extract, Oxo cubes now achieve their savory umami taste through additives like yeast extract, flavor enhancers, and natural beef flavors.

So Oxo has transitioned from a pure beef product to more of a artificial flavor-boosting stock cube.

How Do Oxo Cubes Compare to Beef Stock?

Given Oxo’s origins as beef extract, it’s only natural to wonder how it compares to good old-fashioned beef stock nowadays. Here are some key points:

  • Ingredients – Beef stock is made by simmering beef bones and vegetables. Oxo uses flavor enhancers and yeast extract.

  • Flavor Depth – The long simmering of stock develops richer, more complex flavor. Oxo aim for convenience.

  • Versatility – Both can be used to enhance the flavor of soups, stews, gravies, risotto, etc.

  • Convenience – Oxo cubes dissolve easily while stock takes time to prepare.

  • Cost – Oxo is far cheaper than homemade beef stock from high-quality bones.

So while Oxo can add a quick boost of savory flavor, traditional beef stock delivers greater complexity and depth. Many chefs use the terms interchangeably, but they differ in production methods.

Oxo Cubes as Flavor Shortcuts

At the end of the day, Oxo cubes serve as flavor shortcuts for home cooks. Their portable convenience and nearly instant beefy punch makes them a staple for enhancing soups, stews, pot roasts, casseroles, and other dishes.

They don’t replicate the nuanced quality of homemade beef stock. But their accessibility and affordability ensures Oxo’s enduring popularity.

For cooks short on time, they provide an easy way to inject some meaty umami. Purists may scoff, but Oxo fills a useful role in enabling home cooks to deliver satisfying flavor with minimal effort.

So while no longer a pure beef extract, Oxo cubes offer a legitimate flavor-boosting function. Their history may be rooted in beef, but today they act more as quick-dissolving flavor enhancers.

Whether using them to stretch a pot roast or add richness to gravy, Oxo cubes offer an easy avenue to infusing dishes with savory meatiness. Understanding their composition and convenience helps home cooks better utilize this storied kitchen staple.

So don’t feel guilty relying on Oxo’s meaty magic – just recognize them for what they are. When time or budget is tight, let the power of Oxo bring some beefy joy to the dinner table.

What Are Bouillon Cubes? (15 Little Known Facts About This Popular Ingredient)

Are Oxo cubes the same as beef stock?

This means that the flavor of OXO cubes may not be exactly the same as homemade beef stock. OXO stock cubes were invented in 1910 by the OXO company, which was founded as an attempt to create a cheaper version of the bottled meat extract sold by the Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company.

Are OXO meat-free beef stock cubes vegan?

You could use vegan OXO cubes or get vegan bouillon cubes such as Marigold vegetable bouillon cubes. These are options for those following a vegan diet. Knorr has recently released a range of vegan liquid seasonings which includes deep smoke, miso mushroom, and rich vegetable. You’ll find these OXO cubes exclusively at Tesco.

Can you use oxo instead of beef stock?

Simply dissolve your stock cube in 450 mL of hot water and mix into your meal to experience that delicious beef flavor, or simply add the cube right into the dish — whichever suits your taste! Can I use OXO instead of beef stock? Our delicious stock can be used undiluted for a full bodied stock, or for a lighter stock dilute to 500ml (1 pint).

What is oxo food?

OXO is a brand of food products that includes stock cubes, herbs and spices, dried gravy, and yeast extract. The original product was the beef stock cube, but the company now also markets chicken and other flavor cubes, including versions with Chinese and Indian spices.

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