Why on earth would I want to make bone broth?
First, real broth made homemade from bones, vegetables, and seasonings tastes incomparably better than the stuff you buy from the store. Start making soup with real broth, and you will never go back.
But, taste isn’t the only reason for making bone broth a part of your regular diet. Bone broth contains amino acids that nourish the gut. This makes bone broth a great addition to the diets of tube fed individuals since many tube fed individuals live with GI issues. While bone broth nourishes the gut, it does not cure all ills or cure GI issues. But, a well nourished gut will function at its most optimal level, whatever level that may be for each individual. Bradley experiences notably less GI issues when he receives 1/2-1 cup of bone broth daily.
Bone broth also nourishes the immune system. The old advice to eat chicken noodle soup when you’re ill isn’t just an old wives’ tale. Homemade chicken noodle soup with chicken bone broth actually does give your immune system a boost and aids with illness recovery. So, even if you have no desire to consume it year round, it’s an excellent addition to a daily diet during cold and flu season.
NOTE: One common misconception about bone broth is the belief that it is loaded with calcium. It would make sense to come to this conclusion given that bones themselves contain large amounts of calcium. However, bone broth actually contains very little calcium and should not be counted toward one’s calcium intake. It does, however, contain other minerals very important for good bone health.
I’m sold! Now what?
There are many different variations for bone broth making. Post online asking how to make bone broth, and you’re likely to get many, many answers from different people explaining how they make bone broth. For example, some people like to make quick broths while others like to simmer their broth for days. So, rather than giving a specific recipe, I’m going to guide you step by step through the process of making bone broth and explain what options you have to choose from for each of these steps to help you develop a method you prefer.
Step 1: Choose and obtain bones
It’s not particularly shocking that to make bone broth, you need bones. In fact, to make bone broth, the only 2 necessary ingredients are water and bones. Anything else enhances a broth, but is ultimately optional.
Here is where you decide, first of all, what kind of bone broth you’d like to make. Chicken, beef, pork, or fish? While not included in these directions, you can also make turkey broth, duck broth, lamb broth, and broth from the bones of other animals.
Bones do not necessarily need to be raw. I always save bones from chicken or other meats that I’m cooking for other purposes, and friends and family know to save bones for me when they make ham or turkey so I can snag them for broth making.
For chicken broth, obviously, you need chicken bones. You can use a whole raw chicken with meat, skin and all. You can use chicken thighs, drumsticks, or wings. You can use the bones with or without the meat on the bones. If you use bones with meat on them, the broth will have a flavor that is more rich.
For beef broth, you can choose stew or marrow bones. These typically are sold with no meat on them.
For pork broth, you can use ham hocks and/or pigs feet. Some like to include pork belly for added flavor.
For fish broth, you can use a whole fish carcass and/or multiple fish heads. You will want to use a non-oily fish to avoid your house smelling horrifyingly bad (learn from my mistakes!). Some good choices are sole, turbot, rockfish, or snapper.
NOTE: While I do not typically push people to buy organic food, which can be cost prohibitive, I do recommend using organic bones whenever possible, and even further recommend purchasing bones from a smaller, local farm. Bones store toxins, and bones from animals raised on industrialized farms can contain pretty high levels of toxins. Find a local farm in your area and talk to them about purchasing bones after they’ve processed their animals. And the good news is, while these bones may cost a little more, bones can often be used to make more than one batch of broth as they can be frozen and used again.
Step 2: Choose bones that will make the broth gel
Gelatin is one of the aspects of bone broth that make it so nourishing. When cooked properly, the gelatin will cause the broth to gel when it is cold (it will become a liquid again when heated). Don’t worry if you broth does not always gel. It happens! The broth is still very nutritious. Still, for some reason, I always feel so accomplished when I pull my homemade broth from the refrigerator to find it perfectly gelled.
To make this happen, you must include some bones that have a lot of cartilage. While there is a tendency to use these types of bones from the same animal species as the other bones, it is completely ok to do some mix and matching here. For example, if you are making beef broth, it is fine to use turkey necks. The exception to this, in my opinion, is to avoid using oxtail or beef knuckle in a poultry broth.
Bones great for gelling:
- Chicken feet (2-6)
- Pigs feet, split (1-2)
- Pork neck (1)
- Beef feet (1-2)
- Turkey necks (2-4)
- Oxtail (1-2)
- Beef knuckle (1)
NOTE: If you are using an uncooked whole chicken, drumsticks, or thighs with the meat and skin, you do not need to include additional bones from the list above. Also, you do NOT need to add bones from this section when making fish broth.
Step 3: Choose vegetables and seasonings
This is a highly variable category that you could omit completely if you prefer. Of course, adding vegetables and seasonings will enhance the flavor of your broth and increase its nutrition. But, you’d still have nourishing broth without them.
Whatever vegetables you choose, you do not need to worry about peeling most of them. simply wash them, chop them in half or in quarters and toss them into the pot. That’s right, even onions and carrots do not need peeled for broth making. Have any vegetables that are starting to wilt, but don’t want to waste them? Toss them into the pot.
Common vegetable choices:
- Onions (1-2)
- Celery sticks (1-3)
- Carrots (2-4)
- Mushroom stems (1 cup)
- Leek (1)
- Turnip-in this case, peeled (1)
- Parsnip-in this case, peeled (1)
Common seasonings (you can use more than 1):
- Bay leaves (1-3)
- Rosemary (2 sprigs)
- Parsley (2 sprigs)
- Thyme (2 sprigs)
- Whole black peppercorns (1 Tbsp)
- Freshley crushed green peppercorns (1 Tbsp)
- Freshley crushed white peppercorns (1 Tbsp)
- Fresh cilantro (1 bunch)
- Fresh mint leaves (2 Tbsp)
- Garlic cloves, cut in half (2-10)
- Fresh ginger (1-inch piece)
Some suggested mixtures:
- Chicken, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, peppercorns
- Chicken, onion, celery, carrot, cilantro, mint
- Chicken, onion, garlic, peppercorns
- Pork, bay leaves, peppercorns
- Beef, onion, carrot, celery, rosemary, bay leaves, garlic
- Beef, onion, carrot, celery, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns
- Fish, onion, carrot, mushroom stems, parsley, thyme, bay leaves
- Fish, celery, garlic, ginger, peppercorns
- Fish, onion, carrot, parsnip, peppercorns, bay leaves
Experiment and come up with your own!
Step 4: Roast the bones
This step is entirely optional. It enhances the flavor of the broth. Feel free to skip this step if you prefer.
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Roast the bones for 20 minutes.
Step 5: Fill the pot!
Whatever pot you are using, whether it be a stew pot to use on the stove top, a crock pot, a pressure cooker, or whatever else you can think of, stuff it with bones. How many bones really depends on how much broth you want to make. Don’t just dump the bones in all willy nilly. You want the bones pretty tightly packed (within reason).
Add filtered water to an inch or two above the bones. I strongly recommend using filtered water. The reason for this is that the water will cook down and concentrate. This means impurities from tap water will become more concentrated, which you don’t want. I use a home water filter so I don’t have to purchase bottled water for this purpose.
Add the vegetables and seasonings.
Step 6: Add vinegar and soak
Many people like to add a splash of vinegar and allow the pot to soak for 30 minutes prior to cooking. This is optional. There are mixed data about how effective this is. It certainly doesn’t cause any harm. The choice is yours.
Step 7: Simmer the broth
Believe it or not, there is variation with this step as well. There is a wide variation in cooking times for the bones of different species and there are also different ways of simmering. You can use a crock pot, a pressure cooker, or a stew pot on the stove.
The longer you simmer your broth, the more nutritious it will be. You would have to try really, really hard to overcook broth (fish broth is an exception to this and should not be cooked for long periods).
It is important to note that bone broth does contain a natural form of MSG that is similar, but not the same, as the MSG used in many restaurants and food products. Some people will need to cook their broth for only a few hours if they have extreme sensitivities to MSG. This is not the case for everyone with MSG sensitivity, however. I am extremely, extremely sensitive to MSG added to foods and become very ill if I consume it. However, I tolerate the natural form of MSG in bone broth completely fine. If you find your child has difficulty tolerating bone broth, you may want to try cooking for a shorter time to see if toleration improves. If there is no known sensitivity to MSG, this will not likely be an issue for you to be concerned with. For most people, even those with GI issues and food sensitivities, this will not be a problem.
Use a stew pot. Heat the broth on high only until you get a very low simmer. You do NOT want your broth to reach a full boil as this can make it much less likely to gel (who wants to miss out on that happy, satisfied, accomplished feeling when scooping out some gelled broth?). However, if it comes to a full boil by mistake, continue with the steps as this will not ruin the broth. Simmer with the lid on top, but slightly off center so there is a gap for moisture to escape. Only add water if you are cooking for an extended period and water is getting an inch or more below the top of the bones and vegetables.
- Poultry broth: 2-24 hours
- Beef: 4-48 hours
- Pork: 4-12 hours
- Fish: 1 hour (fish broth should not be cooked for long periods)
Cook the broth in the crock pot on low using the simmering times listed above for stove top preparation.
If you become a regular broth consumer, a pressure cooker will change your life. If you don’t become a regular broth consumer, a pressure cooker will change your life. Seriously. Get one. You can make so many foods in a fraction of the time. Electronic pressure cookers today make it as simple as ever. I don’t understand how I functioned in my kitchen without one.
Like on the stove and in the crock pot, there is a range of time you can cook broth in a pressure cooker. You can choose the extreme minimum or maximum or somewhere in between. Most pressure cookers automatically switch to a “warm” feature when the pressure cycle is complete, and this handy feature can be used to simmer bone broth.
Cook at high pressure:
- Poultry: 2 hours of high pressure followed by natural release – 2 hours of high pressure followed by 6 hours on warm
- Beef: 1 cycle of 2 hours of high pressure followed by natural release – 2 cycles of 2 hours each of high pressure followed by 8 hours of warm.
- Pork: 2 hours of high pressure followed by natural release – 2 cycles of 2 hours each of high pressure followed by 4 hours of warm.
- Fish: 20 minutes of high pressure followed by natural release (do not cook longer)
Step 8: Strain the broth
You’re almost there! Place a strainer over a large bowl and strain the broth. Once cooled, check the bones. If they are brittle and easily crumble in your hands, discard them. If they do not easily break, you can save them for another batch of broth making (however, you will need fresh cartilage bones for gelatin in the next batch).
Step 9: Cool the broth
You’re so close! Allow the broth to cool for a little while and then, move it to the refrigerator. Allow it to cool completely (up to a few hours).
Step 10: Remove the fat…or not
When the broth is completely cooled, the fat will have risen to the top and solidified. This can be removed and discarded, removed and saved for other uses (such as in the place of oil when sauteeing), or it can be left in the broth. Which option you choose depends on your individual health goals.
Bradley has a congenital heart defect, so heart health is of extra importance. I keep all animal fats to a minimum and instead, Bradley gets his fats from plant sources such as nuts, seeds, coconut, and avocado. Because of this, I remove and discard the fat. You may have different health goals, so a different choice may be better for your individual situation.
I’m all done! I made broth! What do I do with it?!
Broth can be consumed on its own. Bradley gets 1/2-1 cup of warm broth every morning an hour before breakfast. You can warm it up in a mug and enjoy. Have some whole grain crackers with it for a snack. You can also use it in place of broth and stock in recipes for soup. Don’t like soup? You just may fall in love with it if you start using bone broth. Real bone broth gives much more depth to the flavor of soup. Broth can also be used in the place of milk or water when making gravy and a variety of sauces. You can also use it as the liquid base in blends.
Broth is good in the refrigerator for about 4 days. I freeze in individual containers of about 4 cups each and thaw overnight in the refrigerator as needed.
If you’d like to see a video about bone broth making, my friend and fellow tubie mama, Weronika Brill, has a video here. Check out her YouTube channel for other informative videos as well!