Brewing up a batch of bone broth is simple. It’s bones, water, and veggies. Maybe some spices or herbs thrown in for extra flavor. But, not all ingredients are created equal. For the very best tasting and nutritious broth, follow these guidelines.
In my last post, I wrote about what bone broth is, and why bone broth is now part of my wellness routine. Today, I want to share HOW to make your own nutritious and nourishing broth.
Here’s everything you need to know!
Bone Broth Ingredients
The amount of bones, veggies, and water needed to make up a batch of bone broth can vary, but it’s usually dictated by the size of the pot you are using. Keep that in mind when gathering up your ingredients- they all need to fit! Recipes are often written in pounds, which can be hard to translate into sizes of bones and bits- it might take a few times of broth brewing to learn what fits best in your equipment.
There are no hard rules when making bone broth, but if you need some guidance on quantity, aim for:
- about half the volume of vegetables for bones. So if you have 4 pounds of bones, you want 2 pounds of veggies.
- you want the water to cover the ingredients, but a general rule of thumb is about 4 quarts of water per 2-3 pounds of bones.
Understanding the Crucial Ingredient: Bones
Types of Bones to Use for your Bone Broth
Any kind of bones can be used for broth: fish, lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, veal, shrimp, or venison. Think about what your end goal recipe is- chicken soup is best made with chicken stock, a pho will best be with beef broth. I like to make single-origin broth, only using one type of animal in my broth. However, it’s perfectly fine to mix different types together.
If you don’t have many bones at one time, keep them in a container in the freezer until you have a large enough batch to bother with
If your goal is to enjoy bone broth for your health, aim for bones from animals that were grass-fed, organic, and pastured.
Cuts of Bones
Any type, or cut, of bones can be used! Joints and feet contain the most collagen and will produce a broth that is higher in gelatin. Some bones, like femurs, won’t contain much collagen but are still make a very good, nutritious broth. If you’re buying a chicken, skip buying a whole bird, and ask your butcher for the feet, necks, wings, or backs- they are often much more affordable!
Preparation of Bones:
Bones can be purchased from a meat market or butcher shop, they might be bones that you removed at home while preparing a cut of meat, or, bones leftover from a roast. Your bones can be fresh, frozen, uncooked, or already cooked or roasted. However, bones that have been previously boiled may not yield as much flavor or nutrients.
Bits of meat- cooked or raw, left on the bones is good! I often purchase a whole chicken and piece it out myself, and use the carcass for broth. Or, when roasting a whole chicken, I make sure to save that as well. And those bits that come in that bag stuffed in the cavity? Throw those in as well!
Vegetables & Aromatics:
Vegetables and aromatic herbs add flavor to your broth and can be flexible based on what you have at hand. The standard in a mirepoix of carrots, onion, and celery. In my kitchen, I also add garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns.
Other ingredients you can use may want to use in your broth are thyme, sage, rosemary, leeks, mushrooms, parsnips, fennel, corn cobs, fennel, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, marjoram, basil, celery root, or Parmesan cheese rinds. Some ingredients may impart a flavor to your stock, so think about what you’ll be using it for.
Ingredients to avoid are turnips and rutabagas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, artichoke trimmings.
The broth caldron is an excellent way to use up ends and trimmings of things otherwise less palatable, but remember, it’s not a dumping ground. Any spoiled foods should be avoided.
Adding a splash of acid will help draw nutrients from the bones. I use apple cider vinegar, but you can also use wine. White wine is best for chicken, pork, or fish while red is great in beef or veal.
How to Make a Really Great Bone Broth
Bone Broth Method One
This is how I make chicken bone broth, and leave in a crockpot overnight.
Place all your ingredients in a big stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat and let simmer, partially covered, for the allotted time. If using a crockpot, set on low and crack the lid a bit.
- Fish and shellfish have lighter and delicate bones, and make a great broth in 1-2 hours.
- Chicken is best in 8-16 hours.
- Dense pork or beef bones you’ll need to simmer 24 hours, or even longer!
Strain, and enjoy!
Bone Broth Method Two
This is how I usually make my beef bone broth. I have the crockpot on low for 24 hours, then add the veggies for another 8.
Place your bones on a baking sheet and roast at 400ºF for 30-45 minutes (note– don’t roast fish bones, they are too fragile).
Place the roasted bones in a big stock pot or crock pot and cover with cold water. The gradual temperature increase will help pull out impurities (ie, scum- see below). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered.
Skim off any foam, scum or impurities that rise to the surface. I usually don’t get this on chicken, but I do on beef bones. Skim again as needed.
Once scum has stopped appearing, add a splash of acid.
Roughly chop veggies. For a deeper flavor, roast them for 15-20 minutes.
Add veggies and any spices and herbs to the pot with the bones. Add more water if needed to cover. Return broth to a simmer, and cooked, covered, for an allotted amount of time. NOTE: if you plan on cooking the broth for a day or two, wait until the last 8 hours to add the veggies. Otherwise, they might burn.
For long simmers, you may need to add additional water to make up for evaporation. Don’t worry, the gelatin and nutrients are concentrated in the pot!
Strain, and enjoy!
A Few Words on Fat
Depending on bones you use, sometimes you’ll have lots of fat in the broth, other times not much at all. When I make chicken broth, I’ll leave the fat and just stir it into the broth. However, I don’t like the beef fat, so I’ll separate that off. Once the broth is strained, let it cool and then skim or scoop it off- it will come to the surface and form a solid layer.
A Few Words on Gelling
As the bone broth cools, it might start to firm up, creating what looks like a jiggling bowl of broth-colored jello. This consistency is impossible to strain, and can be more difficult to measure. Because of this, I strain my broth and portion it out while it’s still warm.
The “jiggle factor” is often viewed as a badge of success for broth brewers, a sign that the wonderful collagen in the bones was pulled out. If your broth didn’t gel, it could be because you didn’t cook your broth long enough. Or, it’s simply because of the types of bones you used. It’s not always about the gel. A femur bone, for example, or a body of a chicken, don’t have much collagen in them. But, gelled or not, you still made an excellent broth.
If you’re aiming for a jiggy bowl of broth, try for a good mix of bone cuts- you want a 1:1 ratio of main structural bones to parts with lots of connective tissue- like joints and feet.
Storing your Bone Broth
Broth will keep in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for a year.
I freeze the majority of my broth in wide-mouth mason jars. This size jar holds just shy of 2 cups, which conveniently, is just the right amount for cooking a cup of rice. It’s also very equivalent to a store-bought can of chicken stock, so it’s easy to know how much to pull out of the freezer when a recipe calls for cans of broth.
When freezing in jars, make sure you use ones that are straight sided, and leave room for the broth to expand. I fill only to the bottom rim of the threads on the mason jar rim.
Make sure to label your jars! Trust me from experience, a jar of light-colored chicken broth looks just like a jar of lemon juice.
Ways to Use Bone Broth
Not into the idea of sipping bone broth? Use your newly brewed broth to cook rice or any grain that will absorb the liquid, braise veggies or meat, deglaze a pan, and of course, soups and stews!