Bone broth is a stock made from meat bones. It’s rich in protein and is an amazing flavor-base for so many dishes. This recipe is full of flavor and is guaranteed to gel when cooled. Get all my tips and suggestions for making your own perfect bone broth.
There are three main reasons to make your own bone broth:
- You have a bunch of meat bones and you want to do something with them.
- You’ve heard there are great health benefits associated with drinking bone broth.
- You already know that it tastes delicious and you need some right now.
I totally get the first and third reasons. If you’re someone who collects meal scraps and puts them in a big bag in the freezer, then bone broth is your thing. Keep all chicken carcasses (even from store-bought rotisserie chickens!) and any other meat bones that come along. When you have 2-3 pounds of them, it’s time to make stock.
If you like rich savory things, then making your own bone broth is a no-brainer too. Can you see that jar of bone broth in the picture up there? See how the top surface isn’t smooth? That’s because this is cooled broth that has gelled from the richness involved. Even when this broth is hot, it has amazing body and so much flavor.
As to the health benefits…well…let’s step back and ask what bone broth even is first, and then let’s talk about health.
What is bone broth?
Well, bone broth is technically not broth. It’s technically stock. The difference between broth and stock is really all about which ingredients are used and how long it is simmered for. For stock, you use mainly bones, some aromatic vegetables, and very little or no seasoning. Stock is simmered for a very long time to really break down the tissues. One of the things that comes from the bones is collagen, which turns into gelatin and gives stock a thicker mouth feel, and can even make it gel when cool, like in the jar above. Since stock isn’t seasoned, you wouldn’t typically consume it on its own.
Broth on the other hand is any liquid that meat has been cooked in. It doesn’t not need to contain bones, and it is typically simmered for a shorter time. It therefore has a milder flavor and doesn’t have the gelatinous texture. Broth is typically seasoned and is ready to consume as is or to use in soups or in making side dishes.
Okay, that tells us what stock and broth are. Now back to what is bone broth…bone broth is typically made from bones and is simmered for a long time. Most people expect or hope that their bone broth will gel. I therefore think that bone broth is more technically stock. However, many people make bone broth to drink on its own. If planning to do so, they will often season it. It then is somewhat like a broth. I guess it’s a bit of a hybrid in this way, a seasoned stock made from bones that is ready to drink, thus a bone broth.
Is bone broth healthy?
I really don’t like to make health claims and so I will hedge a bit here. There is clearly some protein in bone broth, and there are other nutrients too. If you use marrow bones, as I’ll be calling for below, then you get the nutrients which are claimed to be found in bone marrow which are:
- vitamin A
- vitamin K
- fatty acids
However, it’s not clear how much of these nutrients end up in the broth. Some people add vinegar when making bone broth and claim that this helps the nutrients dissolve into the broth. I have no way to assess this claim. I do add vinegar to my bone broth though. I figure it can’t hurt and it does add the slightest bit of flavor so why not?
Many people also claim that collagen from bones is good for our joints and skin. I’ve been doing some reading about collagen supplements and about collagen in bone broth and I’m not sure that the evidence is super-strong right now. But, it doesn’t seem that collagen in homemade stock can hurt you. So if you want to get a bit of collagen in case it helps, then making your own stock seems like a good idea.
I guess my answer to the second reason for making bone broth (that it is supposedly really good for you) is to not expect any miracles but if you like the taste and enjoy making it, then go for it. It’s a wonderful drink to sip on and it’s delicious in soups and sauces and for making side dishes (like, you can cook rice in it…mmmm).
What bones can you use for bone broth?
You can use any kind of bones for bone broth. Leftover chicken carcasses, even from rotisserie chickens, are great. Fish bones work. Any bones from roasts that you’ve accumulated are also good. Whenever you have bones, you can put them in the freezer in a bag and then when you get enough of them (2-3 pounds) make bone broth. That will totally work but….
Which bones are best for bone broth?
I find beef marrow bones to be the best for bone broth. You buy these at the butcher or grocery store. My regular store sells them. Marrow bones have bone marrow in them, right there – look, you can see it in the picture below. The center circle of stuff is the bone marrow.
That’s where all the good collagen is. If you want a thick bone broth that will gel when cooled, then you want to use marrow bones.
If you’re intent on using your saved up bones, you still can. Use 2 pounds of saved up bones and one pound of marrow bones. That will totally make a difference.
I also always include some more fatty/gelatinous chicken. If you can get your hands on chicken feet, use a few of those. If not, chicken backs work so go in with 2-3 of those. And if you can’t get those, and trust me this works since I rarely get my hands on chicken feet or backs, a chicken leg quarter thrown into the mix does wonders. Use the whole thing. It’ll be about a full pound. It has skin and bones and dark meat that together add so much flavor to the stock.
Should you use meat when making bone broth?
Remember above when we said that stock doesn’t use meat and that bone broth is technically stock? But then we said that it’s seasoned to be drinkable as-is, making it more of a broth. I therefore think that the rules don’t fully apply here. I mean, we’re not at the Cordon Bleu trying to pass a French cooking exam, right? We’re in our kitchens trying to make something delicious. So do whatever you want. I typically add meat to my bone broth and for good reason: Because I immediately turn some into soup!
Here’s what I do. When I’m making bone broth, I include the big chicken leg quarter mentioned above. I also include some kind of beef. In the picture up there, behind the marrow bones you’ll see meat that has a marrow bone in its center. That’s beef shank. I’ll throw something like that in there. Then it all cooks together.
Afterwards, I strain the broth to remove all the other ingredients from it. Then I pick through those ingredients. If any bones still have marrow, I poke that out and put it into a bowl. To the marrow I add bits of beef and chicken (being careful to not include any skin or bones). I break all that meat up into pieces. I divide that meat and marrow between some soup bowls. If any of the aromatic vegetables are intact enough, I’ll slice those into the bowls. The veggies will be really soft but so seriously flavorful from their simmering time. The onions will be nearly mush, but do include some of that onion mush into your soup bowl. It’s so, so good.
If you have any leftover rice or noodles, add that to the bowls as well. Then pour over some of your newly made broth, add a slice of bread and butter on the side, and dinner is served!
My point is that if I’ve spent the time making a big pot of broth, then why not have the means to quickly turn it into dinner? There will still be a lot of broth left to package into the fridge or freezer afterwards. Promise.
Which vegetables should you use in bone broth?
As with the bones, you can use anything, really. I have friends who keep all kinds of vegetable scraps when they’re prepping meals. You can even put those scraps into the freezer bag with your bones. Anything that you like the taste of will work in your stock.
If, on the other hand, you don’t have scraps frozen in your freezer and you’re heading to the grocery store to buy bone broth ingredients, then you should get carrots, celery, onion, garlic and flat leaf parsley.
A few notes on vegetable prep for bone broth. This is to make your life easier. What I’m about to tell you is that you can make bone broth without needing to chop or peel anything. Yes, really!
Carrots: If you aren’t planning to eat the carrots after making the broth, then don’t peel them or even cut them. Wash the carrots and leave them whole.
Celery: Rinse off a few ribs of celery, break them in half and throw them in untrimmed and with the leaves on.
Parsley: I actually just use the stems. They have tons of flavor and since they’re just going into the garbage afterward, it doesn’t matter what they look like. Save the nice leaves as garnishes for dishes or for when you want a more subtle flavor.
Garlic: If you’re planning to strain your broth and throw out all the veggies, then throw it in unpeeled and whole. If you’re going to try to separate out edible bits of veg and meat from the stock to make bowls of soup as discussed above, then peel the garlic and then throw it in whole. I recommend taking the skins off before cooking because the skin sometimes comes off the garlic when simmered a long time and they’re small and hard to separate from more edible items.
Onion: Halve or quarter the onion and then put it in with the skins on. Why? There’s some good color in onion skins that will help tint your stock a wonderful golden color. Also, since the skin sizes are larger than garlic skins, I find them easy to locate and extract later\ if needed.
Do you have to roast or brown the bones before making bone broth?
The quick answer is no, you don’t have to. And, if the bones have already been cooked (like your saved frozen chicken carcasses), then you definitely don’t have to. However, browning or roasting bones does add a level of flavor and color.
You can do one of two things to brown the bones.
- Set your oven to 400ºF and then spread the bones out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook until the bones start to brown in places, 30-40 minutes.
- You can do it in your Instant Pot. Set the Instant Pot to sauté. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Let it heat up then add your bones. Two pounds of marrow bones fit in a single layer in my Instant Pot. Cook them, flipping occasionally, until the bones start to brown in places, about 10 minutes. It will look like this:
If you use the Instant Pot to brown the bones, you need to do an extra step here. Remove the bones from the pot along with any accumulated juices and/or fat. Then either wash the pot or de-glaze it well with water. You need all the bits that are stuck to the bottom to become unstuck, otherwise you risk getting a burn notice from your Instant Pot. One of the things that causes the burn warning, and thus the Instant Pot to stop cooking, is if it senses heightened temperature right on the pot. One of the things that can cause this is if food is stuck to the pot. So make sure nothing is stuck before you proceed.
How to remove fat from stock or broth
Depending on what bones and meat you’ve used in making your bone broth, there might be some fat in it. When you’re done cooking it, if you see a slick layer on top, or if you see lots of shimmering circles floating around, there is likely fat. There are two main ways to remove the fat from stock or broth.
If you’re not planning to eat/drink your broth right away, you can make use of your refrigerator to remove the fat. Put the strained broth into a container or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Put it into the fridge. The fat will rise to the top and solidify there. Some people say this layer of fat protects the broth under it and keeps it fresher longer. I’m honestly not sure about that. But if you believe it, then leave the fat there until you want to use the broth. Then, before using the broth, use a soup spoon to scrape away all the fat. It will be easy to do because the fat will be solid. You can discard the fat or save it in the fridge to use in cooking.
The second way to remove fat is something you do before chilling the broth or stock. You can either let the fat rise to the top and then use a spoon to skim off the liquid fat. Or, you can use one of my favorite tools in the whole world, a gravy separator, also called a fat separator. A gravy separator doesn’t actually separate gravy, it separates fat from liquid so you can use the liquid to make gravy. It’s essentially a large measuring cup with a spout that takes from the bottom of the measuring cup, rather than from the top. So you pour in your liquid and then let the fat rise to the top. Once the fat has risen, you pour from the measuring cup’s special spout. Since the spout grabs from the bottom, it only takes the liquid that is at the bottom, and thus below the fat. Stop pouring when the fat level gets to the spout entrance at the bottom. Now you have fat-free (or mostly fat-free) liquid in a bowl and fat in the gravy separator. Discard the fat or save it in the refrigerator to use in cooking.
Why make bone broth in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker?
Ever since getting my Instant Pot, I’ve stopped making broths and stocks on the stovetop. There are a few reasons for this.
- It’s way quicker in the Instant Pot. I set mine to pressure cook for 2 hours to get amazingly rich and thick stock. That would take at least 8 hours on the stove.
- You can walk away from the Instant Pot much easier. I don’t like to leave things on my stove without checking on them frequently. With the Instant Pot, I can set it and walk away. I set the timer on my phone for about 3 hours to remind myself to go strain the stock. In that time it will come up to pressure, cook for two hours, and then slowly release pressure on its own.
- I find that the pressure from the pressure cooking really extracts the most flavor out of the ingredients. The bone broth I get from my Instant Pot is so much tastier that what I used to get on the stove.
Okay, I think that’s all of my bone broth info. Now here’s my recipe for making homemade beef bone broth that gels when cooled.Print
- 1 Tbsp. cooking oil
- 2 lbs. beef marrow bones
- 8 cups of filtered water, divided
- 1.5 lb. beef shank with bone
- 1 lb. chicken leg quarter or chicken backs or feet
- 3 carrots, peeled* and cut in half
- 3 stalks celery, cut in half
- 1 onion, unpeeled and halved
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled*
- a big handful of fresh parsley leaves or stems or both
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns (optional)
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- Set the Instant Pot to saute. Add the oil and heat.
- Add the marrow bones in a single layer. Cook until beginning to brown underneath, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown all over, about another 5 minutes.
- Transfer marrow bones and any accumulated liquid to a plate.
- Pour 1 cup of the water into the Instant Pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot making sure that nothing is stuck on.
- Return bones to the pot along with the shank, chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, parsley, vinegar, salt, peppercorns and bay leaf (if using), and the remaining 7 cups of water. Stir.
- Put the lid onto the Instant Pot and make sure the knob is set to sealed. Set the Instant Pot for high pressure pressure-cooking for 2 hours.
- After the Instant Pot is finished its cycle, let it release the pressure naturally. To do so, just let it sit undisturbed until the float valve drops down.
- Set a large strainer over a large bowl. Pour the contents of your Instant Pot into the strainer, catching the liquid in the bowl.
- Discard the contents of the strainer or pick through it to get any edible bits of meat or vegetable, but be careful to avoid retaining any bones. Bones of all kinds, vegetable skins and any chicken skin should be discarded now. Use any salvageable bits of meat and/or vegetables in a soup using your broth or save for another use.
- Remove fat from broth either by using a fat separator (highly recommended) or by refrigerating your broth and then skimming off the hardened fat layer on top.
*You only need to peel the carrots and garlic if you’re planning to separate out the usable meat and vegetables to eat them after. If you’re just going to discard everything, don’t bother peeling them. Just give them a quick wash.