Bone broth — that traditional concoction of bones, water, heat and time — is seeing renewed popularity. Served up from urban street-side stands or brewed up at home, Bone Broth is hotter than ever, but this old-timey food trend is tried and true. Back in the day, people wasted less food and made what they had stretch, and bone broths are more than just terrific waste-savers. They can transform your cooking and, some say, your health.
Simmered low and slow — some broths stay on the heat for an entire day — bone broths take their time teasing out every last bit of flavor and goodness into the pot. The resulting elixir has a deep, rich flavor that is delicious enough to enjoy straight up but also brings a magnificent complexity to anything from soups and stews to braises and sauces. The long warm bath melts the bones’ collagen into the brew giving it a silky, unctuous quality that adds luxurious body to any dish.
As Sally Fallon Morell, founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, wrote in her 2014 book, Nourishing Broth, it is the dissolved collagen, cartilage and marrow that not only give bone broth its pallet appeal but also supply us with vitamins, minerals and amino acids essential to our good health. Science is only beginning to analyze the nutritive benefits of bone broth but you won’t find many who deny the healing goodness of a bowl of homemade chicken soup aka, “Jewish Penicillin.” Across many cultures, broth is administered like medicine to the young, ill and aging for its preventative and curative powers. Devoted broth sippers report clearer skin, decreased joint pain and burly immune systems as just a few of the benefits of enjoying a daily cup.
You can source the bones specifically for the purpose (chicken feet make particularly good broth) or just save up the bones as you go. The bones from your roasted bird, the hock from the ham (I’ve even collected the bones from our dinner plates) can be stashed away in your freezer until you have a potful. Feel free to mix and match different types in the same batch of broth.
The key to good broth is to start with good bones. You can use any variety that you like --chicken, turkey, beef, veal, pork, fish, even exoskeletons such as shrimp and lobster shells all make excellent broths. But because the simmering process pulls from deep inside the bone, sourcing is particularly important here. Your local farmer, trusted butcher or a trusted resource such as The Eat Well Guide can help you find ingredients from the well-raised animals you want.
Ready to get cooking? Follow this recipe to bone broth bliss.
Bone Broth Master Recipe
There is no single way to make Bone Broth. You can use raw bones for a light, delicate broth or roasted bones for a more pronounced flavor. Beef bones particularly benefit from a good roasting to bring out their full character. Chicken, turkey, beef, veal, fish, pork, the addition or lack of vegetables – the choices are up to you. Each choice yields a variation on the theme – a little twist that makes the broth your own. But the basic method is the same and here it is:
At least two pounds of bones
Flavorless oil, such as organic canola or grape seed, if roasting the bones
Enough water to cover the bones
Vegetables such as onion, carrot, celery or garlic peels, ends and skins (optional)
For blonde broth, place the raw bones in a large stockpot and proceed with simmering instructions, below.
For brown broth, begin by roasting the bones. Preheat the oven to 325. Place the bones in a heavy roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer without crowding (avoid disposable aluminum pans – they won’t allow you to scrape up the “fond,” the beautiful brown bits on the bottom of the pan, when you are done roasting). Drizzle with just enough oil to coat and sprinkle lightly with salt. Rub the oil and salt into the bones so that they are all thoroughly coated. Roast until well browned, about an hour. Remove the bones to a large stockpot and set aside. Place the roasting pan on a burner. Add two cups of water to the pan (or one cup of water and one cup of wine) and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Use a spatula to scrape up all of the dissolving fond from the bottom of the pan. Add the liquid to the stockpot full of bones and proceed as follows.
- To simmer either the blonde or brown stock, add enough cold water to the pot to cover the bones by two inches.
- Slowly bring to a simmer, skimming any scum that forms in the first hour.
- Continue to simmer very gently for at least 2 and up to 24 hours.
- Add any vegetables that you’d like in the last two hours of cooking (vegetables cooked for more than two hours will go bitter).*
- Scoop out the bones or strain the broth through a colander into a large heatproof bowl. Strain again through a fine mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl or container.
- Refrigerate for at least four and up to 24 hours.
- Ladle the fat off of the top of the chilled broth and reserve for another use.
Store the stock:
Refrigerate for up to five days. Freeze for up to six months. Pressure can and the stock will be shelf-stable for up to one year.
*Except fish stocks — bones or shells and any veg go right into the pot all together and only need to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Bone Broth Variations
Turn Basic Bone Broth into a tasty little sip by simmering up these combos:
- Spicy Chicken — Chicken broth with grated ginger, minced garlic and Sriracha
- Ready for Ramen — Pork broth with Five Spice Powder and a nub of bacon
- Tasty Thai — Shrimp shell broth with lime peel, lime juice and cilantro
- French-ish — Beef broth with red wine and caramelized onions
- The Cure — Turkey broth with sautéed Mirepoix (finely diced onions, celery and carrots)
Using up Bone Broth
Now that you’ve got a stash of tasty Bone Broth, what can you do with it?
- Drink it like tea. A hot cup of broth kills the chill like nothing else. Devotees say that a cup a day keeps the doctor away.
- Braise meat or vegetables. Give your meat or veg a good sear in a hot pan and then ladle on the broth, cover and simmer until tender.
- Soups and stews. Broth brings rich body to soups and stews.
- Risotto and rice. Use broth when making risotto or even as the cooking liquid for rice for an extra layer of flavor and just plain yummy goodness.
- Gravies and pan reductions. Restaurant quality sauces are at your fingertips. Stir a little cornstarch into your broth (one teaspoon per cup) and add it to your sauté pan where a quick boil will transform it into a silky rich sauce.