What Is Bone Broth?
Have you heard of bone broth? Maybe you’ve heard it mentioned, or you have friends who gush over how much they love it, but you aren’t quite sure what it is why it is so highly praised by many.
Bone broth is a liquid obtained from simmering bones from chicken, turkey, pork or beef in water.
Honestly, that’s it. (Well, there’s a lot more to be said, but that really is the basics of it)
What everyone calls bone broth today is what Grandma called ‘soup bones’ and Mom called ‘broth’ – it comes from long, slow simmering of bones in water. The biggest difference between bone broth and regular stock is that bone broth is cooked a lot longer. The end result is a tasty liquid that’s delicious on its own, but also makes a wonderful and nutritious base for soups and stews.
Nutrition is one of the main reasons people make and consume bone broth regularly. Of course it’s also very tasty, but we’ll talk more about that in a minute. When you simmer bones for a long period of time, you leach all sorts of nutrients, minerals and other things that are good for you like glucosamine and collagen.
It’s also good for your immune system. Really, really good for you, in fact.
Remember Mom or Grandma making a big pot of chicken soup anytime someone would get sick? The same principal is at work here.
Think of bone broth as a more concentrated version of Grandma’s healing soup. The broth may even help you sleep better at night. Sip a cup of the tasty liquid before bed. It’ll work better than the hot milk your mom used to bring you.
To make bone broth you take bones like those from that leftover chicken or turkey carcass that’s still sitting in your fridge from last night. Cover it with plenty of water and simmer for hours.
How long you cook your broth is up to you. Twelve hours gives you a very decent broth, but cooking it even longer makes it even more nutritious. If you’re using the bones from a roasted chicken, consider tossing them in a large slow cooker and making your broth right in there. They can safely bubble away as you go about your day. A pressure cooker makes incredible bone broth and cuts the time down considerably.
You can drink the finished hot broth as is, season it up with your favorite herbs and spices, or use it to make a pot of soup or stew. The cooled broth can be stored in the fridge for about 4 days or in the freezer for up to a year.
The next time you pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or roast that Thanksgiving turkey, don’t toss out the bones when you’re done. Use them to make a batch of delicious bone broth. Once you try it, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is to make and how truly wonderful it is.
We’re not done yet. I have a lot more to tell you about bone broth, so keep going.
Why Make Bone Broth?
Okay, it’s fine for me to tell you that bone broth is good for you, but what exactly do I mean by that?
Let’s start with the obvious – homemade bone broth tastes really good. If you haven’t tried making any of these, do yourself a favor and get on it. Bone broth has a deep rich flavor that you just won’t get out of a cartoon of chicken stock.
Drink the broth on its own, or use it as the base for soups, stews and sauces. You can use bone broth in any recipe that calls for broth or stock. Or try simmering your rice or vegetables in the broth for added flavor and nutrition. Rice that has been cooked in dark, nutritious bone broth rarely requires any other seasoning.
After you taste your homemade broth, and then try cooking with that insipid colourless stuff from the grocery store, you’ll be convinced.
Bone broth is made from water and the bones you’d toss in the green bin (or garbage if you don’t have compostable pickup). It doesn’t get a lot more frugal than cooking … let’s face it … garbage! For no more than the cost of a little power to simmer the bones, you have something that’s even tastier than high-end stock you buy at the store. Mom says the old folks just called this ‘soup bones’ – and it simmered forever on the back of the wood cookstove.
If you’re buying quality chicken, turkey or beef, you can make the most of every dollar you spend by using every little bit including the bones. Then take it even further by making soups and stews with the broth. It’s a great way to make even little bits of meat and veggies go a long way.
It’s Good For You
Let’s not forget about the health benefits of bone broth. There’s a reason Grandma would put on a pot of homemade chicken soup when someone got sick. Bone broth is full of minerals including magnesium and calcium. The fat content in the broth helps our bodies absorb the various minerals. It’s also full of collagen and gelatin which are good for your skin, hair and joints. Add to that the immunity boosting properties of a good cup of broth and it’s no wonder this has been praised for centuries.
There you have it. Bone broth is one of the tastiest and inexpensive health foods that you can make right in your own kitchen. Grab that chicken carcass leftover from last night’s dinner from the fridge, get out your large stock pot and get cooking.
How To Make Broth
Bone broth gets better the longer you simmer the bones in the water. Good bone broth has cooked for at least 12 hours. Great bone broth takes a good 48 to 72 hours. There are a few different ways to make it. We’ll go over them in more detail, but the general idea is to either use a stock pot on the stove, put your slow cooker to work, or make something called perpetual broth where you continually cook and use the broth.
The method you use is a matter of preference. If you are going to be around, use the stove top method. If you work outside the home or want to keep the broth going overnight, a crockpot will be a better choice. And if you have a pressure cooker, that’s probably the fastest, most energy-efficient method. Pick what works for you and start making some of this delicious broth.
There are two ways to pressure cook, and I have done both. I have a 23 Quart Presto Pressure Canner/Cooker (despite several years of insisting that I’m getting rid of it, I haven’t yet!) and an 8 Quart Gourmia Electric Pressure Cooker.
On the stovetop, simply bring your big canning pot full of bones and water to pressure and then lower the heat so that it cooks at 10 PSI (adjust if you are at a higher altitude) for an hour. Let the pressure decrease naturally until the safety lock opens, and then carefully open the lid.
My electric pressure cooker has a Soup option that runs for 25 minutes. I actually run it through that twice in order to get intensely rich and flavourful broth.
Stock Pot Broth
This is the traditional way of making broth and when I made it on my wood cook stove, this is the method I used. I use my 21 gallon pressure canner pot – it has a good solid lid and is heavy enough to handle hours and hours of slow cooking. You can make a large batch of bone broth and use even the largest batch of bones or the Thanksgiving turkey carcass.
The easiest way to make your first batch of bone broth is to start with a cooked chicken. Roast it yourself or head to your local grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken. (Home cooked is best, but those pre-cooked chickens are definitely convenient!)
Pull the cooked meat of the chicken and serve it for dinner. Store any leftover meat in the fridge to use later on to make chicken and noodle or chicken and rice soup with the bone broth you’re about to make.
Put everything that’s left – all the bones and any remaining bits and pieces of meat – into a large pot that has a lid. I include the skin, too, because it has nutritional value that is better off in my broth.
Fill it with plenty of cold water. The more water you add, the more broth you’ll get in the end. Don’t fill it all the way to the top or you risk the liquid bubbling over.
Next, add a good splash of apple cider vinegar to the pot. If you don’t have the vinegar in your pantry don’t fret it. You can add a splash of red wine or white vinegar if you have that, and even some fresh lemon juice works. The acid in the vinegar helps get all the minerals out of the bones and into the broth. But again, don’t worry if you don’t have it. Your broth will be just as tasty and almost as good for you without it.
Cover the pot with the lid and crank up the heat until everything comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
Always simmer your bones, by the way. Sometimes we slip up and say ‘boil’ but you’re not boiling it other than the times when you very quickly bring it to boil and then lower the heat!
Cook your bone broth for a minimum of 12 hours. Letting it simmer even longer – up to 72 hours – would be perfect, but you don’t want it on the stove while you’re out of the house or sleeping. Of course you can use your slow cooker for that long, but what if you don’t have one?
Start the broth in the morning on a day when you know you’ll be home, using a heavy pot that has a very tight lid. I use my heavy duty pressure canner since it seals tight.
Simmer it all day until you’re ready to go to bed, and then turn up the heat just long enough to bring it to a boil with the lid on.
Turn off the burner for the night, and make sure the lid is on tightly, but keep the broth sitting on the stove. Do not remove the lid.
In the morning, as soon as you wake up bring the liquid back to a boil without taking off the lid. After it has become bubbly hot again, lower the heat and continue simmering.
This is actually, in my experience living off the grid without a refrigerator, is safer than trying to cool down that big pot of broth quickly enough and then bringing it back to boiling. The trick is to bring it to a boil briefly in the evening and then again in the morning, both times with the lid on.
The broth will be tasty after a few hours of simmering but will get better with time. After it has cooked for 12 hours you can start to use it. Just replace the liquid you’re taking out with more water to keep stretching the broth.
Strain some of the finished bone broth into a smaller pot, add the shredded chicken along with some rice or noodles and leftover veggies to make some soup. Or just drink the broth. It’s delicious.
Strain the liquid and store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 Days. You can also freeze the broth for up to a year.
Crock Pot Broth
If you don’t want to “baby-sit” your broth all day or continue to simmer it for 24 to 72 hours straight, and you don’t have a pressure cooker, put your slow cooker to work. This works particularly well for a chicken carcass or any small batch of bones. (Why don’t you have a pressure cooker or canner?)
Put the bones in the crockpot and cover them with plenty of water. Again, adding a splash of apple cider vinegar will help get the most nutrients and minerals from the bones. Cover and cook on low as long as desired.
Strain out the liquid and if you’d like, start another bath with the same bones, since you’re using a lot less water than if you were using a stock pot. You can get up to 3 batches of bone broth out of each batch of bones.
Last but not least there’s something called perpetual bone broth. The basic idea is that you have a pot of broth simmering at all times. You dip out what you need to drink or cook with, add more water and bones as needed and keep it going. You can do this on the back of the stove, turning it off at night, but unless you have a wood stove it may be safer and more efficient to make your perpetual broth in the slow cooker.
This is a good idea if you’re sick and are trying to get a constant supply of hot broth to sip on without a lot of work. Put your chicken bones in the slow cooker along with any herbs or seasonings you like, cover with water and cook for 12 hours. Then start dipping out a cup or two of broth at a time, refilling it with water each time. Use the broth for 3 to 6 days, then remove everything from the slow cooker, clean it and start over.
What Bones Can Be Used?
Bone broth can be made from just about any type of bone, but for best result, make sure you include some larger bones containing marrow and some knuckles and/or feet (chicken) to get plenty of collagen. Let’s look at some of the different types of bones you can use and where to find them.
Here’s something easy. Chicken bones are the perfect “gateway” bones to make your first batch of bone broth. Go buy a nice organic chicken. Roast it and enjoy the meat for dinner. Toss everything else into a large stock pot, cover with water and simmer at least 12 hours. It’s a great way to make sure you’re using up every little bit of the bird and you and up with some tasty broth.
If you have a farmer in your area that raises chickens for meat or eggs, ask what they do with the bones. You may just find a source of chicken bones free of charge. You can make broth from raw bones, but the flavor will be better if you roast them in the oven first.
Turkey works just as well as chicken. You may just want a larger pot. Before you toss that turkey carcass leftover from Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, make a big batch of broth. Bone broth freezes really well. Make a big batch and run the broth through a strainer. Store it in containers and freeze until you’re ready to use it.
Bones can be boiled several times to make more batches of broth. Make one batch to freeze and then another one to use right away. Use less water the second time around to still get a flavorful broth.
Beef and Pork Bones
Both beef and pork bones make for some amazing broth. They are a little bit harder to find though. Talk to the butcher at your local grocery store and ask him to save the bones for you. Sometimes you can even find inexpensive soup bones in the meat department.
Your local farmers market is another great place to source your bones. Talk to the farmers. Even if they don’t raise beef or pork themselves, they can get you in touch with someone who does.
Roast your bones before you make the broth for best results. Just spread them out on a baking dish and bake at 450 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow them to cool until they are comfortable and safe to handle. Put the bones in a large stock pot, add plenty of water and boil for at least 12 hours. Use a combination of marrow bones and knuckle bones to get the best broth with the most health benefits.
Bison and Wild Game Bones
If you’re lucky enough to have a hunter in the family, ask him to save the bones for you. Or call up your local game processing business and ask about buying bones from deer. You treat them just like pork or beef bones.
The same goes for bison bones. If you have a bison farm in the area, it is worth making a call. While you’re there, pick up some ground bison too for some of the tastiest burgers you’ve ever had.
How To Use It In Cooking
You’ve made a big batch of broth and end up with more than you can possibly drink before it goes bad. Freeze what you can’t use right away and thaw it down the road to use in your everyday cooking. Store your broth in glass jars or plastic containers and store them in the fridge or freezer. Thaw them as you need a big batch to make a pot of soup.
Another option is to freeze the finished broth in ice cube trays. Once they are frozen solid, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. Pop some of the frozen broth cubes into the pan / pot whenever you’re cooking veggies for a little extra boost of flavor and nutrition.
Aside from drinking fresh broth by the cup, you can use it anywhere you would use chicken broth or vegetable stock. The obvious first choice is of course as a base for soups and stews. The bone broth will add a lot of extra flavor and nutrition to all your favorite soups. Instead of adding water, or water along with a couple of bouillon cubes, use your bone broth. The broth gives all your soups and stews that yummy homemade flavor. Even something you throw together quickly will taste like you’ve cooked it for hours on the back of the stove.
But don’t just stop there. Try boiling your rice in beef broth instead of plain water for a tasty side dish. Not only will it taste much better, you’re also adding a lot of extra nutrition. You can do the same with pasta. Boil your noodles in the broth, then serve the broth in bowls before the meal.
Speaking of meals, we like to enjoy a cup of bone broth at meal time. In addition to adding lot of minerals and other good nutrients, it fills us up faster and keeps us from over eating.
If you’re making mashed potatoes, add a couple of splashes of broth to thin them out as needed. Much tastier than using water and better for you than adding more milk. Or go all out and make a batch of potato soup instead of mashed potatoes.
If you’re cooking a big pot of dry beans, replace some of the water with bone broth. You’ll get a lot of great flavor without having to add a ham bone or bacon. Give it a try the next time you put on a pot of pinto beans.
Storing and Freezing Broth
Do you remember that first little batch of bone broth you made? Chances are that it was gone before it had time to cool all the way down. Since then you’ve invested in a much larger stock pot and you’re buying soup and knuckle bones by the pounds. The end result is a lot more broth then you can use up right away. Making big batches is a lot easier and more efficient. Now let’s find out how to store everything you can’t use up right away.
Storing Bone Broth In The Fridge
Allow your bone broth to cool completely after you’ve finished boiling it. Anything you haven’t used up by this point should be strained into clean jars and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
You can use the broth straight from the fridge in your favorite soups or stews. If you want a cup to drink, pour some in a small pot and warm over the stove. Add a few herbs and spices to taste. This will come in particularly handy after the broth has set for a few day and doesn’t taste quite as good as the first day.
Freezing Bone Broth For Long Term Storage
If you have more broth than you can use over the course of a few days, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and freeze the majority of it. Once your pot of broth and bones has cooled enough to be safe to handle, strain the liquid into a large bowl or pitcher.
Depending on how you plan to use the broth later on, you can either freeze it in glass jars or plastic containers, or pour it into ice cube trays for smaller portions of broths that you can add to veggies as you cook them, think out mashed potatoes etc. Or use a combination of both.
Get your freezer containers ready and stir up your broth to make sure all the nutrients are equally distributed. Pour the broth in the freezer containers and allow them to stay on the counter until they have cooled down to room temperature.
Label your containers with the contents and today’s date and move them to the freezer. When using ice cube trays, set them in the freezer for a few hours or until the broth is frozen solid, then pop them out and transfer them to a freezer bag. Label the bag and put it back in the freezer. You can grab individual bone broth cubes as you need them.
Stock vs. Bone Broth vs. Vegetable Broth
It can get a little confusing and many of the terms are used interchangeably. Let’s break down what they mean and how each type of liquid is prepared. Before we dive in, please be aware that there is no standard as to what is called stock and what’s called broth. A recipe may call for stock or you may buy chicken broth at the store. In those instances think of the terms interchangeably. In other words, if a recipe calls for stock and all you can find is broth, go with it. Don’t stop making a recipe because it calls for one of them and you have the other. If you’re making it at home from scratch on the other hand, you can make true stock or broth.
Next, let’s get vegetables out of the way.
When it comes to vegetable broth and stock, they truly are the same thing. You’ll see in a moment that the difference between stock and broth has to do with meat and bones. Since neither are found in vegetable broth or stock, they are the same thing. To make vegetable broth, you simmer things like onion, garlic, carrots, celery, broccoli etc. in a large pot of water. You can even add potatoes or sweet potatoes for extra body. Use whatever you have on hand. Even scraps will work. Boil them in water for an hour or until your broth has a good flavor. Strain and store.
Now let’s get to the meat and bones. We’re talking stock, broth and bone broth here. They can be made from chicken, turkey, beef, pork, etc. You can mix and match but most of us will focus on one type of meat at a time to make chicken stock or beef broth for example.
Broth is usually a lighter liquid. To make it you simmer bits of meat and sometimes bone along with some vegetables and herbs in water. Broth is only cooked for an hour or so and the finished liquid will remain liquid when cooled.
Stock on the other hand includes a lot more bone and cooks for at least a few hours. When I make it, I like to include a mixture of cooked meaty bones and raw bones. Meat and vegetables, herbs etc. are often included as well for more flavor. The longer cooking time allows things like cartilage and fat to dissolve into the broth. The end result is a liquid with a lot more flavor and body. It also tends to firm up (at least part of it) when cooled. Broth is a lighter liquid while stock has more body and more nutrients.
Bone broth is actually more of a specialty stock. As you’re reading this, if it’s familiar from childhood, you might have had a super frugal mom like mine. Bone broth is the only kind of stock I knew! It is made mainly from bones without much meat left on them and vegetables are optional. Good bone broth has cooked for at least 24 hours. Adding some apple cider vinegar helps dissolve the cartilage and bring out the nutrition from the marrow. In fact, when I make beef bone broth, I try to crack the big bones to get all of the nutritious marrow into my broth.
Adding Variety to Your Broth With Veggies and Spices
Once you’ve made a few batches of plain bone broth it’s time to spice things up and add a little variety. The beauty of making your own homemade broth is that you can add just about anything to it. It’s your broth and you can fix it how you want it.
There are two ways to do this. You can add some veggies, aromatics and spices during the cooking process, or you can spice things up once the broth is finished.
Adding some spices and seasonings after the fact is a great way to change up the flavor of individual bowls of broth. It also helps your bone broth flavor after it has sat in the fridge for a few days. Bone broth will always be its tastiest right after it’s cooked. But it’s easy to doctor things up with a little garlic salt, some pepper and anything else you like in your spice cabinet.
Keeping things basic when you make a big batch of broth makes it easy to use the broth later. You can boil your rice in it, add it to your favorite stew or drop a little (just a little!) in your green smoothie. With relatively neutral flavor of pure bone broth, you will get good results no matter what you make.
And as mentioned before you can season it to your liking after the broth is done. Here are a couple of herbs, spices and the likes you may want to add to your broth:
- Salt and Pepper
- Garlic Salt
- Onion Powder
- Green Onion
- Fresh or Dried Herbs :
- Soy Sauce
- Hot Sauce
Of course this isn’t an all-inclusive list. If it sounds tasty, try adding it to your broth for added flavor.
The other option is of course to add herbs, spices, veggies and aromatics to add during the cooking process – just remember that that can limit how you use it later. When you start your bone broth, look through the fridge for veggie scraps. Onions, carrots, celery, garlic and leek are all great options. Add them to the broth as it starts to boil. Even peels and scraps will work since you’ll be straining the broth. Just make sure they are clean before you toss them in the pot.
Dried herbs and spices can also be added in the beginning. When it comes to fresh herbs though, I wait until the end of the cooking process. Most fresh herbs are fairly delicate and you’ll lose all the good flavor and any nutritional benefits if you boil them for 12 hours or longer. Just hold off and throw them in for the last few minutes before cooling and straining your broth.
Now, at the end of this, do you understand how to make bone broth and why you should? This is what Grandma had simmering on the back of the stove for days, but you can make it, too!