The Ultimate Guide To Bone Broth

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Have you heard of bone broth? Maybe you’ve heard it mentioned but aren’t quite sure what the big fuss is about.

Bone broth is simply a liquid obtained from boiling bones from chicken, turkey, pork or beef 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.

Speaking of nutrition, it’s one of the main reasons people make and consume bone broth regularly. Of course it’s also very tasty, but more on that in a minute. When you boil 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. Remember grandma making a big pot of chicken soup anytime someone would get sick? The same principle 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 sitting the fridge for example. Cover it with plenty of water and simmer for several hours. How long you cook your broth is up to you. 12 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 crockpot and making your broth right in there. They can safely bubble away as you go about your day.

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 Difference Between 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. 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 boil bits of meat and sometimes bone along with some vegetables and herbs in water. Broth is only boiled 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. 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. 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 and often apple cider vinegar is added to the pot to encourage more minerals to leach out into the broth.

How To Make Your First Batch Of Bone Broth

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. 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.  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. This step is optional. 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’d like. 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. Cook your bone broth for a minimum of 12 hours. Although, if you can cook it for 48 to 72 hours, that is better. Of course you don’t want to simmer the broth while you’re out of the house or sleeping.

Start the broth in the morning on a day when you know you’ll be home. Simmer it all day until you’re ready to go to bed. Turn off the burner for the night, but keep the broth sitting on the stove. In the morning, bring the liquid back to a boil and continue simmering.

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 stretch the broth.

Pour 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.

The Benefits Of Making Bone Broth

It’s Tasty

Let’s start with the obvious homemade broth, stock or bone broth tastes really good. If you haven’t tried making any of these, do yourself a favor and get in the kitchen now. Bone broth, in particular, 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.

It’s Frugal

Bone broth is made from the bones you’d toss in the trash otherwise and water. It doesn’t get a lot more frugal than that. For no more than the cost of a little power to boil the bones, you have something that’s just as tasty as or better than high-end stock you buy at the store.

If you’re buying quality chicken, turkey or beef, you can make the most of every dollar you spend by utilizing 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.

Different Ways Of Making Bone 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 crockpot 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 stovetop method. If you work outside the home or want to keep the broth going overnight, a crockpot will be a better choice. Pick what works for you and start making some of this delicious broth.

Stock Pot Bone Broth

This is the traditional way of making broth and stock. You can make a large batch of bone broth and use even the largest batch of bones or the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. Here’s how to do it.

Get out your stock pot and put the bones in there. It’s perfectly fine if they have some meat and cartilage on them. In fact, that cartilage will dissolve and make the broth even better for you and your joints.  Add plenty of water and a good splash of Apple Cider vinegar.

Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow your broth to simmer for 12 to 72 hours. Start the broth in the morning on a day when you’ll be home and let it simmer all day. Turn the stove off right before you go to bed. The next morning, crank up the heat and bring the broth back to a boil, then simmer all day again. Rinse and repeat for as long as you see fit. After a good 12 to 24 hours of simmering and sitting the broth will have most of the nutrients leached from the bones and taste great. The longer you boil it the better it gets.

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 Bone Broth

If you don’t want to “baby-sit” your broth all day or continue to simmer it for 24 to 72 hours straight, put your slow cooker to work. This works particularly well for a chicken carcass or any small batch of bones.

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 batch with the same bones. You can get up to 3 batches of bone broth out of each batch of bones.

Perpetual Bone Broth

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 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 You Use To Make Bone Broth

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.

Chicken Bones

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.

If you’re in a rush, you can even pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and use the bones when you’re done to make broth. 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 Bones

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 Bone Broth In Cooking

Aside from drinking fresh bone 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 mealtime. In addition to adding a lot of minerals and other good nutrients, it fills us up faster and keeps us from overeating.

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 Bone Broth

Making big batches of bone broth 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 (like mashed potatoes, stir-fry veggies etc). 

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. 

Adding Variety to Your Bone 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 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 :
    • Parsley
    • Basil
    • Oregano
    • Rosemary
    • Sage
    • Chive
    • Thyme
  • Spices:
    • Cayenne
    • Turmeric
    • Curry
    • Cumin
  • 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.  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.

The Benefits Of Using Apple Cider Vinegar When Making Bone Broth

Many recipes for making bone broth mentions the use of apple cider vinegar. And for good reason. Vinegar and apple cider vinegar, in particular, is a great addition to your broth and will add to the health and nutritional benefits you get from consuming this delicious hot liquid. Let’s take a look at exactly what you get but adding a gulp of vinegar to your stock pot.

Get More Minerals From Your Broth

The main reason to add vinegar to your broth is to get more of the minerals and trace elements out of the bones. The acidity of the vinegar helps dissolve minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium from the bones and into the broth itself.

One of the big health benefits of broth comes from the fact that it is so dense in minerals and nutrients we are lacking in our modern diet. So do yourself a favor and add a big splash of vinegar to the pot. It doesn’t have to be Apple Cider Vinegar. Even plain white will do in a pinch.

It’s A Preservative

The second reason to add vinegar is because it acts as a preservative. The acidic nature of any type of vinegar will kill bacteria and make sure your finished broth is still safe to consume after a few days. This works similar to the way pickling preserves vegetables and fish.

Don’t rely on just the vinegar alone though. There isn’t enough to kill everything (which we don’t want anyway). Store your broth in the fridge after it has cooled or freeze it for long term storage.

Why Apple Cider Vinegar

If any type of vinegar will work to leach out minerals and act as a preservative, why do so many recipes call for apple cider vinegar?  ACV is the vinegar of choice in health food circles because of its added benefits to digestion. Good, organic, unpasteurized ACV is full of gut-healthy bacteria. It also includes active yeast and essential amino acids. Adding this type of vinegar to your broth gives it that extra nutritional boost you just won’t get from plain white vinegar.

Where to Get Apple Cider Vinegar

You can find quality apple cider vinegar at your local health food store and even in the health food section of your local grocery store. A popular brand is Braggs. If you can’t find it locally, Amazon is a great source of Bragg’s products including their ACV.

Are You Ready To Make Your Own Bone Broth?

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.