Homemade bone broth has a variety of benefits. It’s lower in sodium, high in healing properties and helps you actually use more of what you buy (which is ecologically and economically friendly).
When a lot of people hear about bone broth, their first thought is how gruesome it sounds. But grannies and their grandkids around the globe have been doing it this way for centuries. It’s not like they had that weird powder/cube stuff in 1720, but that didn’t stop them from making soup.
Here’s what you need to know to make the best bone broth:
1. Roast the bones
Roasting them beforehand gives your broth a richer flavor and color. Some people also find that unroasted bones seem to have a metallic flavor. Toss the bones in olive oil, and roast at 400 degrees F for about 1 hour, turning occasionally, until deeply browned.
2. But it isn’t all about the bones
Bones make healthy broth because the nutrients from the marrow seep out as it cooks. But bones aren’t the only part of the animal you can or should use. Necks, feet and other parts many Americans consider inedible are awesome for broth.
The neck, joints and feet contain collagen, which makes broth better (both tastier and healthier). With these collagen-filled animal bits in your stockpot, your broth will come out with a load of gelatinous goodness on top, and believe it or not, that’s a good thing — it means you’ve maximized the nutrient-sucking powers of the stockpot.
3. Save those veggie and herb scraps
Lots of recipes call for you to cut up perfectly edible veggies and herbs you’d have to later toss out when your broth is done. No, no, no, no, no. As you cook, put those supposedly unusable bits into a freezer-safe bag or container each day, then pull them out of the freezer when you’re ready to make broth (you’ll want about 4 cups, depending on how much stock you’re making). You can keep just about anything that’s safe to eat. Be careful with too many bitter flavors like cabbage and broccoli, though — if you use them, do so in small quantities, and add them toward the end.
- Onion cores, bulbs or skins
- Leek bulbs or leaves
- Carrot peelings and root ends
- Potato peels
- Broccoli stems
- Mushroom stems
- Celery roots
- Sage, thyme and rosemary stems
- Celery or carrot leaves
- Tomato cores
- Cabbage roots
- Bell pepper bits
Things with stronger flavors or that are likely to get mushy (like tomatoes or delicate leaves of cilantro) should be added near the end.
And remember, while broth is a great way to use up veggies and herbs that are a bit past their prime, if they’re spoiled, you stock will be too.
4. Think big (vegetable chunks)
When you’re cutting things for your broth, keep them pretty big. It will cook for a really long time, so they’ll just turn to mush if they’re too small.
5. Lightly brown aromatics
Onion, celery, carrot and other aromatics add a depth and sweetness to broth when lightly browned beforehand. You can do this on the stovetop in a little vegetable oil, or just roast them.
6. Start with cold water
I know it seems counterintuitive, but starting with cold water is the way to go. Hot water makes it cloudy.
7. This is one time you don’t salt
It’s OK to add peppercorns to your stock if you like the flavor, but don’t salt it. If you salt it too early, you’ll quickly find it becomes flavored salt water as it cooks down. Besides, the entire point of this is that it’s healthier and lets you control the salt in each recipe.
8. Socks are for soup too
Some people avoid stock because of the whole strain-everything-out-of-the-liquid step. Having tried this before in a kitchen so small it really should’ve been advertised as a kitchenette, I can totally relate. But it can be done. Try one of these mesh “socks” you can put all your ingredients in. Tie up the bag with twine, and tie the twine to the handle of your stockpot so you can pull it out easily.
9. Read the bones
How do you know when it’s done? Not only does finished broth smell and taste great, but the bones literally start to disintegrate as all the yumminess (and those almighty nutrients) is extracted. Start checking it at the 12-hour mark, but don’t be surprised if it goes for days. It depends on the kinds of bones you started with.
10. Try a slow cooker
If you’re nervous about leaving a pot on your stove while you’re gone or sleeping, try using a slow cooker. This limits how much you can make at a time (to the size of your slow cooker instead of a large stockpot), but many people feel a lot safer leaving a slow cooker with auto-shutoff safety features unattended.