Making bone broth was something that really intrigued me once we ended our decade-long vegan journey. At the same time, I didn’t know much about it. If I remember correctly, we started our omnivore foodie life with organic, pastured-raised eggs, along with grass fed organic ghee and high vitamin butter oil , and then we added sardines (learn how you, too, can love sardines here) .
Shortly after, I was mystically drawn to bone broth so I started playing around with it. Seemed weird, mostly because I was using the term “bone broth” yet I couldn’t help myself because it sounded wickedly fun. Bone broth is also referred to as stock (chicken stock, beef stock, fish stock), so when you’re talking to people outside the Paleo or Nourishing Traditions spheres, they might look at you like you have two heads if you say you make bone broth, which is really just good ol’ stock.
When I started the bone broth journey, I had no idea what to do or where to begin, but I quickly learned. It’s my hope to introduce this into your home if you’re new to it, with ease and excitement, because making bone broth (i.e., chicken or beef stock) is really fun and crazy easy. With a few simple tips, you will be well on your way.
To begin, there are many ways to make bone broth, by adding a variety of ingredients, as well as using different cooking methods such as a slow cooker , sous vide , or oven. They’re all amazing, and you pretty much can’t go wrong. It’s as simple as putting grass fed bones and joints along with optional muscle meats, organ meats, vegetables, and/or spices, and filtered water into a slow cooker. (I’ll detail using a sous vide and oven below as well.) It’s up to you with how varied the ingredients are for your broth. It can be super simple or super complex.
My whole family loves bone broth, especially when I use it to make other recipes like chili, stew, soups, sauces, and mashes by using the homemade bone broth (i.e., stock) in place of water. The flavor of your recipe deepens so much that you’ll think you’re sitting in a Michelin Star rated restaurant (a hallmark of fine dining quality), whether you’re saucing up a steak with it or making a simple soup.
Bone broth (and stocks) has a reputation for bringing on health and nourishment because it has minerals, gelatin, and more. It’s comfort food at its best. Some even classify it as a superfood. Is it? Perhaps. People drink bone broth to fortify and increase strength and healing while sick, and also to maintain health and prevent connective tissue problems. Who needs chondroitin sulfate supplements when you can make bone broth inexpensively from grass fed bones, joints, and meats. Two prominent amino acids common in bone broth are glycine and proline. Glycine is important for many reasons, most notably to help make other amino acids as well as making heme, plus detoxification and enhancing digestion. Proline is important for collagen and therefore… skin, bones, ligaments, etc.
See that jelly-like broth fresh from the cold refrigerator? That’s a sign of gelatin-rich bone broth when using joints and knuckles to make it.
Bone broths are made around the world, and have been since the beginning of time practically… but sadly, most americans buy stock in a box. I suspect it’s because they don’t know how easy and fun it is to make. I have a slow cooker making stock at least once a week, sometimes two times a week. The smell alone seems healing. I love waking up in the morning after it’s been cooking all night, and opening my bedroom door to the intense aroma of comfort. My husband loves coming home to the smell of broth cooking away after he’s been gone for a few hours.
There are a handful of basic rules that should be followed for optimum bone broth:
Other than those rules, you have free reign and can become a wonderful witch creating a fabulous brew of all sorts of stuff. Below, I’ll share some different ways I make my broth with a variety of pictures to tell the story.
There are three main ways we enjoy bone broth in our house:
Frozen grass fed bone broth ready for my toddler to eat.
Stored in a glass container in the freezer. Take it out, cut it in half, eat right away.
Broth just poured into molds using nifty little pourer and ready to freeze.
Some random notes about bone broth…
I have made chicken broth a few times and it’s extremely tasty. I think most people are familiar with chicken bone broth because it’s given to people in times of sickness for its healing benefits (though all bone broths can promote health). I admit that I don’t make chicken bone broth nearly as often as I make beef bone broth. With chicken broth… you typically use the bones of chicken that you’ve already cooked. But since the bones from one chicken isn’t really enough, in most cases, it requires freezing the bones until you accumulate enough and then making the broth. Furthermore, the best chicken bone broths are made using the bones of roasted chickens which I don’t do very often because when I make chicken, it is often in the slow cooker with a recipe like this slow cooker chicken recipe … so in my opinion, I’m already extracting a lot of the nutrition out from this first go at it. I’m not sure there’s much left. However, I do roast chickens on occasion and when I do, I store the bones and wait until I have 2 to 3 chicken’s worth of bones and then make amazing chicken bone broth. When making chicken bone broth, you cook it for 12 to 24 hours.
I want to quickly throw in here that fish broth is another popular option but I’ve never made it. I never have bones from fish (or heads) to use. I do know that you don’t cook it nearly as long though.
Many people will use whatever left over veggies they can find in the refrigerator that are on their last day or beyond. Personally, I’m not into that. I want really fresh foods whether I’m eating them straight from the fridge or making a stock. But, that’s me. I also don’t use “cooking” wine. When I cook with wine, I use a good quality wine that I like to drink. And, on that note, wine in broth is fabulous.
Bone broth loaded up with organic vegetables.
How to make fabulous bone broth (directions)…
As mentioned above, I recommend browning your meat and bones in the oven before adding them to the slow cooker. This really elevates the taste. If you don’t do it, you risk not only a color-less looking broth, but possibly a kind of icky tasting one, too. I roast my bones (and meats when using) at about 350 to 400 degrees F in my Breville Convection Smart Oven for about 45 to 60 minutes. It’s a good idea to turn the bones (and meats) over once during roasting.
Top Left: Bison Knuckle. Top Right: Oxtails. Bottom: Marrow Bones. All grass fed.
The consensus is that bones and knuckles give the bone broth “body” while the meat (like soup meat or oxtails) gives “flavor.”
Top Left: Cow Knuckle. Top Right: Oxtails. Bottom: Soup Bones w Meat. All grass fed. Note: I recommend using aluminum foil to make cleanup easier like I did in the other photo.
For the “bone part” of my grass fed bone broth, it usually consists of marrow bones and a big ol’ knuckle. Beyond that I might add soup bones that have grass fed meat on them as shown above.
Get your slow cooker out and add some filtered water to it, about half way. Add a couple splashes of apple cider vinegar . Once the bones are done cooking, add them to the slow cooker. At this point you need to decide if you want to add anything else such as vegetables, organic meats, seasonings, etc.
This time it was simply bones, apple cider vinegar, bay leaf, and dulse.
If you want the bone broth to be extra easy then you can simply keep it as bones and not add anything else. I say “extra easy” because I’m thinking ahead to the straining process that happens at the end of broth making. Fewer items in the slow cooker to strain out, the easier it is. However, that doesn’t necessarily make for a fun broth.
If you want more oomph to your bone broth, but still want to keep it fairly easy to clean up, then consider adding a couple more things such as garlic cloves and an onion or two (skin and all – quartered), plus the bay leaves, some grass fed meat (any cut will do, I often use oxtails or buy a package of soup bones with meat on them), and of course always add the apple cider vinegar. The idea is that the bones give nutrition and body (good for mouth feel) and the meat gives more flavor. I didn’t always use the combo of bones and meat in my beginning bone broth making days, but I do now. It is definitely better but I won’t say it’s absolutely critical.
And, if you’re going all out, then consider doing what I wrote above, and then also adding chopped carrots, celery, and whatever veggies you fancy or have on hand.
After you have the items you want in your slow cooker, you’ll need to add enough filtered water to cover it all, but be sure not to fill your slow cooker too high or it’ll bubble over. Speaking from experience here. Turn your slow cooker on LOW, put on the cover, and walk away. You’ll want it to cook for 24 to 48 hours. During this time you can open the lid and give it a quick stir. You’ll notice that some of the liquid has decreased. You can add some more water at this time or not. Obviously, adding more water dilutes it a bit, but there’s really no downside to that and it’ll give you a bigger yield.
When you’re ready to harvest your bone broth after it’s been cooking for a good 24 to 48 hours, turn the slow cooker off, and let it cool somewhat so you can handle it. It’s important to chill quickly as possible for food safety reasons.
Get a big bowl out and remove the bones using tongs (putting them in the bowl). Throw the bones away.
Get another bowl out and put a strainer in it, better yet spend a little money on a well-worth-it chinois to get the highest quality result. Carefully scoop the veggies, herbs, and broth out, and pour through the chinois . I usually use a pyrex glass measuring cup for this scooping step.
Chinois set in stainless steal bowl for optimal straining and clean bone broth.
Pour the freshly strained broth into a vessel of choice that will be put in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, where the fat will accumulate at the top and you can easily skim it off. I use various vessels for this such as an 8-cup pyrex glass measuring cup , mason jars , and sometimes I just use mixing bowls where I put aluminum foil across the top.
Ice bath for bone broth ready to stick in the refrigerator. A proper ice bath is equal parts ice and water, which is what I do lately. Also, adding salt brings the temperature down even more.
I then put it in a big bowl of ice to facilitate chilling and stick the whole thing in the fridge. When I was growing up in Michigan where the winters are cold and filled with snow, mom would often stick the vessels right out in the snow overnight.
Lots of precious bone broth chilling. This big batch was made with my Sous Vide Supreme (details below).
Chicken broth chilling in an ice bath.
After it has chilled in the refrigerator, you can skim the fat off of the bone broth. Some people keep this fat (i.e., tallow) for cooking, but I hesitate doing that because it’s been cooked so long I can’t help but wonder if/how much it’s oxidized and perhaps not as healthy? I am inclined to feel that way when using a slow cooker since you get simmering with a slow cooker for a long period (depending on how long you cook it). But, if you use a sous vide to make broth, which I detail below, the temperature doesn’t get as hot as a slow cooker so the tallow could prove to be great?
Fat accumulated at the top, ready to be skimmed off.
Nice easy disc of fat I skimmed off my bone broth. Um… it’s not always that pretty and in one piece.
Now your bone broth is ready for consumption, for the most part. Obviously, if you’re just drinking it straight, you’ll need to warm it up on the stove (add some sea salt ) and enjoy. Otherwise, save it in the refrigerator for up to 4 to 5 days.
Sometimes I won’t use all that I’ve made so I love to freeze it. Keeping a stash of bone broth in the freezer is smart. I pour the broth into silicone muffin pans , freeze it, then pop out the pucks and FoodSaver them. (Food Savers rock… though, my dream is to one day have one of these where you can vacuum seal liquid items! Ummm, Greg? If you’re reading this, ummm, I really want one of these.)
I have also frozen my bone broth in glass mason jars, but be sure that you don’t fill the jar all the way with the bone broth because it needs room to expand a bit. Err speaking from experience here. Sigh.
Frozen bone broth pucks ready to FoodSaver and put back in the freezer.
I mentioned above that you can also make bone broth in your sous vide supreme as well as your regular ol’ oven. These are great options because it allows you more control of the temperature so it doesn’t simmer to heavily or boil as can happen in a slow cooker. Why is that important? Well, kitchen professionals will tell you that bone broths (stocks) should never boil and some say it shouldn’t even simmer, because it affects perfection when making broth. Once the broth starts to simmer or boil, you get an end result that’s cloudy in both taste, feel, and look.
Sometimes perfection is overrated? I don’t know what cloudy tastes like, but I do know that slow cookers are easy and cheap. So, if that’s how you want to make bone broth, then do it. The important thing is making it.
That being said…. I’m hooked on making bone broth with my sous vide. There’s something satisfying about having such precise temperature control, and therefore knowing that I’m producing the finest and prettiest broth. Plus it makes a lot. When I use my sous vide to make bone broth, I can get out my big roasting pan for lots of bones and meat (pictured below).
The Sous Vide Supreme allows me to make a lot of broth. Here, I’m using my regular oven and a big roasting pan.
I learned about using my sous vide for bone broth from Chef Steps , a unique and very cool culinary site. I’m so glad they featured this because I never would have imagined using my sous vide for anything other than food sealed in FoodSaver bags (except for eggs, those just go in the sous vide as is, in shell, for the best soft cooked eggs ever). Obviously, making bone broth in my sous vide supreme means not using bags and therefore using the whole thing like a temperature controlled slow cooker. Beautiful!
Sous Vide Supreme and roasting pan.
Here’s what you do… follow the same instructions above for using a slow cooker, but put everything in your sous vide. Set the temperature to 194 degrees F. Put the lid on. Let it cook for 24 to 48 hours.
Using the oven is my least favorite because, although I could sort of control its temperature using a careful eye, monitoring, and a thermometer, it meant lots of monitoring. Not easy to do while sleeping. Maybe my oven sucks. Also though, too much water evaporated during the oven cooking process.
Using two slow cooker inserts (7 quart and 8 quart) to put in the oven and make bone broth.
If you want to use your oven to make bone broth, you can use your slow cooker inserts like I did or any nice cooking vessel that is oven safe. Fill it up with ingredients like I noted above for using a slow cooker. Put the cooking vessel(s) in the oven (uncovered). Set a thermometer ( like this one ) inside the broth to efficiently monitor the temperature from outside the oven. Set the oven to about 200 degrees F or less and keep track that your broth doesn’t rise above that. Again, not my favorite method, because it requires monitoring it if you’re really trying to narrow down the temperature range, you’re using your oven all day which can heat up your kitchen (not fun in the summer), and too much evaporates off in my opinion.
Lastly, you can use a pressure cooker to make broth but I don’t for a couple of reasons. The temperature gets higher than I want, and frankly my pressure cooker wouldn’t make the quantity of bone broth that I like to make.
Now, go get your bone broth on!