Updated: May 31, 2019
Bone broth has gained more popularity in recent years. This flavorful, nutrient-dense staple can elevate home cooking (and health) in numerous ways. Whether you’re creating a soup, pot roast, cooking rice, or just making a simple sauce, you should always have some on hand. There is always the store bought option, but once you make this yourself, you will understand the difference in quality. In culinary terms, there are technically different definitions for “broth” and “stock,” but for the purposes of the home cook, you need not worry about the differences.
The most important ingredient is time. You’ve got to give these dense beef bones an adequate amount of time to release their magic, and you shouldn’t rush it. We’re talking around 24 hours or more at a very low, barely simmering temperature. The best flavors come from this slow method, as boiling it too vigorously can produce some noticeable differences. I’ve found the most convenient method is to use the slow cooker as it can safely run for long periods of time without a problem. If you are in a time crunch, you can also use a pressure cooker, but for the purposes of this recipe, we will focus on a slow cooker or an appropriate-sized pot for the stovetop.
To roast or not to roast? If you prefer a lighter, less dark, bone broth, you can go straight into a pot with raw bones. But if you’re like me and love the look, color, and deep roasted flavor of caramelized meat and bones, I recommend roasting first. This will also release some of the remaining fat from the bones, creating less work in the end. If you do decide to roast the bones first, simply arrange them on a sturdy tray and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes. You’re looking for a dark, golden brown exterior.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: Up to 24 hours
5 lb. bag of beef bones
Water (ideally filtered)
2-3 tablespoons vinegar
Step 1: Start with the bones. Take your 5-pound bag of mixed bones (roasted or unroasted) and add them to the pot or slow cooker. In terms of size and volume, I’m typically looking to use about 50% bones and 50% water. For a much stronger broth, you can also reduce the broth down to a more concentrated liquid once it’s been strained (at the end of the process). Start with cold or room temperature water. You can also add a couple tablespoons of vinegar, which is said to help release the minerals and nutrients from the dense bones.
Step 2: Bring the pot to a boil. This is going to take some time, especially if you’re using a slow cooker. In fact, sometimes I will start the process on the stove to get it going and transfer to the slow cooker once the broth has come to a boil. But if you’ve got plenty of time, you can start right from the slow cooker. You need to keep an eye on this because once the liquid comes to a boil you want to immediately turn it down to a very low simmer. Probably close to the the lowest setting on your stovetop and the low setting on the slow cooker. For the first 20 minutes of simmering, skim off any extra bits and grayish foam that rises to the top. This will help ensure a clean color and flavor. Once skimming is complete, I prefer to leave the pot uncovered or just partially covered. If using a slow cooker, I’ll keep the lid on.
Step 3: Leave the pot or slow cooker to simmer for 24 hours or more and let the magic happen. If you’re making a really big batch or the bones are pretty large, you can go up to 48 hours. But 24 is usually enough time to do the work. Once you’ve hit the mark, remove from the heat and let it cool down. This can take a couple hours because of the volume we’re working with.
Portioning and freezing: Once you’ve got your broth cool enough to handle, you can first remove the bones with a large spoon, tongs, or any appropriate tool. Discard the bones. Then you can go about pouring it through a fine strainer to remove any of the finer particles or leftover solids. Removing the bones first will create less mess once you strain it. I recommend using pint containers and ice cube trays for storage. Pint containers are easy to pull from the freezer and thaw. Ice cube trays are good for using a cube or two at a time when making a sauce. A great pan sauce is a couple cubes of stock melted into a pan, a pinch of fresh thyme, and a couple tablespoons of butter stirred in at the end. Season with salt as necessary. This is the perfect addition to a vegetable or meat dish. *Note: The broth will expand in your freezer once it fully freezes, so leave some room at the top of the containers to account for this.
Variations and seasoning: Most of the time I prefer to have unseasoned, straight bone broth on hand so that I can flavor it depending on the application/recipe. But if you want something more seasoned and ready to heat and serve, here are a few suggestions:
Add vegetables towards the end of cooking (2-3 hours before done). If you let the vegetables cook in the broth for extended periods of time, they can eventually become bitter. Favorite additions are onions, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs and spices like peppercorns, clove and star anise. Roast the vegetables first for an even more deep, roasted type flavor.
Add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste for a little added acidity and sweetness.
Bacon. Add some strips of bacon for a smoky flavor. You know it will be good.
Ginger, scallions, soy sauce and/or fish sauce also create a distinctive taste.