How to Make Bone Broth
No hype, all flavor. This (former) bone broth skeptic dishes you the real scoop on bone broth, including every tip you need to make a big stockpot full at home.
I confess, when I first started to hear a lot about bone broth, I was dubious. Dubious about the purported health benefits. Dubious about the people who promoted it alongside BulletProof™ coffee as part of an [insert trendy fad diet here] wellness lifestyle. “Phooey,” I thought. It’s like my BBQ friend Gary said, “Bone broth is beef stock with a PR firm.”
So when I decided to take on this topic for Yummly, I was ready to mount my soapbox and unleash a spirited take-down of bone broth fake news. I’d speak Bone Broth Truth to Bone Broth Power and dismantle the bone broth conspiracy. BONE BROTH IS JUST BROTH! ACCEPT NO PIPING HOT HYPE!
But you know what? It turns out I’m not that mad about it. Bone broth is delicious and with each mug I drank, my anger about the internet’s spurious claims about bone broth health benefits softened and started to crumble like a long-simmered marrow bone after 24 hours of gentle heat.
So, what is bone broth? What makes it different from “regular” broth? From stock? Should I drink a mugful right now? Will it fix my leaky guts? Read on for answers to all of these questions and judge for yourself whether you’re a Bone Broth True Believer!
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Bone broth FAQs
The meat of the story
What is bone broth?
Friends, bone broth is broth. It’s broth made from bones.
A more germane set of questions might be: “What is broth?” and “Ain’t that stock?” Good questions! Glad you asked.
Language is malleable and there is little universal agreement on fixed boundaries between “broth” and “stock.” My local butcher proposed the following distinction: “We use the words stock and broth to differentiate between a finished, seasoned product (ie. broth) and an unseasoned product intended for further processing (ie. stock).” In other words, if you’re making bone broth to sip on a mug of it, or serve in a bowl with noodles, it’s broth. If you’re going to reduce it to a demiglace or use it as a base for a pan-gravy or a nourishing stew, it’s stock.
Notwithstanding the semantics, if you limit your bone broth’s salt content, there’s no reason it couldn’t sub in for stock in any recipe that calls for it.
The bone broth recipes that became popular in the last decade call for long cooking (8-24 hours over gentle heat). They start with lots of meaty roasted bones and a judicious selection of aromatics (carrot and onion are common). Most are spiked with a little apple cider vinegar — allegedly to increase calcium extraction, but that claim has little scientific evidence to support it.
Bone broth should gel when cooled, showing off its high gelatin and collagen content. It should be salted enough that it’s tasty when sipped on its own. It should be rich and hot and should clear out your nasal passages with meaty steam.
What is bone broth good for?
Bone broth is good for drinking on its own. It’s good for making a bowl of tortellini in brodo. It’s great with rice and even better with rice noodles. It’s a calming pre-bed drink to sub in for your sleepytime herbal tea and a bracing afternoon snack to help you make it from one end of a winter afternoon to the other.
You won’t catch me citing a long list of dramatic health benefits here. Bone broth evangelists will talk your ear off about chondroitin and glucosamine and amino acids like glycine and how bone broth and only grass-fed bone broth can fix a leaky gut (whatever that is, Dr. Oz). There’s not enough room on the internet or time in the world to individually refute all these claims.
There is some evidence that eating chicken soup can help you feel better when you have a cold — I reviewed the literature on chicken soup’s effects on mucous velocity so you don’t have to. And there’s mountains of evidence for the efficacy of placebo. As for the rest, I’m still dubious. Also, mea culpa, I like eating carbohydrates.
How long does bone broth last?
The FDA says you can keep broth in the fridge for 1-2 days and in the freezer for 2-3 months.
How to make chicken bone broth
It’s easy, make bone broth ... but with chicken bones! I encourage you to include some chicken feet and chicken backs. Heck, throw in the bones from your last trip to Popeye’s — I keep a gallon ziptop bag full of leftover chicken carcasses and meat scraps in the freezer for my monthly stockpot.
How to make beef bone broth
Choose a mix of meaty beef parts and marrow bones — your grocery store meat counter should have some! Add some more cartilaginous pieces like necks or oxtails to give your beef bone broth body and depth.
What about vegan bone broth?
Friends, if it’s vegan, it ain’t bone broth. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a satisfying bowl of vegetable stock — carrots and mushrooms and onions and leeks make a very tasty infusion, but it’s tough to replace the collagen and gelatin that come from animal sources.
Do I have to cook it on the stovetop?
Nope! The beauty of broth is that meaty bones don’t care how you cook ‘em. Pressure cookers make short work of long cooking. Slow cookers work well, too; just make sure your stock is at a low simmer.
The 5 easy steps to making bone broth
Whether you're using bones from beef, chicken, turkey, or pork for the bones, read the steps below to familiarize yourself with the homemade bone broth process
Step 1: Roast the bones and aromatics
Choose bones that have a lot to offer. Beef marrow bones boast an enviable ratio of marrow-to-bone by volume: Marrow is the key ingredient that releases flavor and texture into great broth. You’ll want to include some bones with ample connective tissue. Chicken or turkey wings are good; feet are even better. Meaty beef shanks or neck bones are great, too.
Next, choose your aromatics. The French tradition is mirepoix — diced carrots, onions, and celery. That simple trio is a great place to start if you’re a first-time simmerer. Later you can express your own culinary personality by choosing different veggies and aromatic grace notes to customize your soupy output.
Then, concentrate those flavors by roasting the bones and aromatics. Yes, I know it dirties a sheet pan that you’ll have to wash. Yes, I know your grandma used to throw a whole chicken in the pot raw and her chicken soup cured your uncle’s gout. But stick with me here — we want to roast those bones and onions with olive oil till they’re nice and brown. After a half-hour at 400 degrees, thanks to the flavor-magic of the Maillard reaction, you’ll end up with beautiful crispy bits stuck to your baking sheet and a deep char on your onions and carrots.
Those caramelized drippings are culinary gold. Deglaze your roasting pan on the stove with a little water: Scrape off all the good stuff with a wooden spoon or spatula. You'll want to pour the murky results into the pot with everything else.
Step 2: Everything into the pot!
Fill a large stockpot with the bones and aromatics you just prepared. In go the roasted bones, roasted aromatics, and deglazed drippings.
Now, add other seasonings. Do you like bay leaves? Throw in a few! Peppercorns? Have at it! Want your broth to have Thai flair? Drop in some lemongrass and ginger. Like a little tart roundness? Add your apple cider vinegar or a little lemon juice. I like to keep my options open and hold off on the salt at this point.
Cover the whole concoction with cold water. The more water, the more broth you'll have.
Step 3: Cook the soup ... for hours
Bring just to a boil over high heat. Some scum may collect on the surface; skim as needed.
Reduce the heat and simmer, simmer, simmer. After it boils, keep cooking over low heat so that only an occasional bubble breaks the surface. Let the broth simmer for as long as you can stand it — at least four hours and up to twenty-four. If the liquid level starts to dip, you can top off with a little extra water. You want to cook this broth to death! Ideally, at the end, the bones will crumble and the aromatics will dissolve completely, giving up all their precious essential flavor in the crucible of the stockpot’s gentle heat.
Step 4: Make perfectly clear broth
Now strain! I use a chinois — it’s a cone-shaped fine mesh strainer big enough to filter off all the detritus from a stockpot in one go. You can also line a traditional colander with cheese cloth or just use whatever strainer you’ve got on hand.
Separate and remove the fat. There will be a fair amount of fat. Refrigerate your broth overnight and it’s easy to remove the fat the next day. It’ll float to the top and form a solid cap that you can spoon off into a mason jar to keep by the stove … or into the trash if you’re not up for cooking with repurposed animal fat.
Step 5: Enjoy!
When you’re ready to eat, reheat the soup, add salt to taste, garnish as desired, and sip away.
Bone broth recipes
Snag inspiration for your own personal bone broth from these basic recipes. You’ll be improvising on a bone-broth theme in no time.
Stripped down to only the essentials, this is bare-bones bone broth at its best. Beef marrow bones provide all the meaty flavor and rich collagen you need for a satisfying bowl.
This hearty stock starts with the parts of the chicken that most of us don’t eat — necks and backs — and extracts all the flavor and goodness. With the sweetness of leeks and the floral woodsy scent of fresh thyme, it’s a winner. Though the recipe author doesn’t specify it, you can roast the bones first; I won’t tell.
If you don’t mind losing out on the 24-hour aroma bomb of stovetop-simmered bone broth, try this Instant Pot method, which cuts the cooking time down to a few hours.
This traditional Korean noodle soup shows how the bone broth tradition predates keto-eating fads. Higher heat leads to a more rapid boil, which causes the rich marrow to turn the broth a milky white.
Pork bones make great stock, too! Ham bones and pig feet (trust me) give tonkotsu ramen base its signature creamy richness.
More soup to soothe your soul
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