For new cooks, broth making can be a bit of a learning curve. While your Mom, or Grandma may have made broth by feel, it may not come so naturally to most people. Many recipes instruct one to cover the bones with water. The problem is, the amount of water you use can vary a lot, depending on the size of pot you're using. So here's a tip, make sure the slow cooker you use is 2/3-3/4 full of bones and scraps all the way around, not just in the center of the slow cooker insert. The slow cooker tends to cook too hot if it's not 3/4 full. If it's too full, it tends to not cook hot enough. For best results, try to keep it close to 3/4 full after adding water. If you don't have an appropriate amount of bones for the size of your slow cooker, use a different size slow cooker, save up more bones until you have a bigger batch, or do it in a pot on the stove (see directions in notes.)
Beef broth is a little different than chicken bone broth. With a chicken carcass, you basically have the same thing every time. Beef bones can vary a lot from batch to batch. Bones with more connective and soft tissues, like joint or knuckle bones will yield a more gelatinous broth. In addition, beef bone broth tends to taste gamey if the bones are not roasted first. Depending on the type of bones you use, you can generally get more batches of broth from beef bones than you can from chicken bones.
Some bone broth enthusiasts cook their broth for days on end, adding water as it evaporates. This is not necessary; in fact, I don't recommend it for flavor, nutritional and economical reasons. You can get several batches of broth out of your bones if you cook them long enough to extract nutrients, but not so long that there are no nutrients left for another batch. Below is a guideline and instructions to help you get the most out of your bones and scraps.
Beef Bone Broth: First Batch
Organic beef bones, fat, soft and connective tissues, drippings etc.
Water to cover
Raw, organic apple cider vinegar, optional
1/2-1 onion, optional
3-6 cloves garlic, optional
1 tomato, optional
Good quality salt, optional
1. Heat oven to 425.
2. Place bones in a glass, stainless steel or cast iron baking dish
3. Roast for 30 minutes per side
4. Fill a slow cooker 2/3-3/4 full with the bones, fat, soft and connective tissues, drippings etc.
5. Deglaze the roasting pan, optional. Deglazing the little tidbits on the bottom of the roasting pan and adding them to your bones, will add great flavor to your broth. Place the roasting pan over a burner on the stove. Add hot water to cover the bottom of the pan and heat over medium high heat. Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon, or pancake turner. When the bits and pieces on the bottom of the pan are softened and can easily be scraped up, add the deglazing liquid to the bones in the slow cooker.
6. Add onion, garlic, tomato and herbs, if using, into a pot or slow cooker. Onion and garlic are fairly standard when making broth, but I love the flavor a tomato adds to beef broth, so I usually include that as well.
7. Add water and vinegar, if using. I generally use about 2 1/2 tsp. vinegar, for every quart (4 cups) of water that I add. You could also just glug a bit in, or leave it out. There is no right or wrong here, just what you prefer. I think it adds good flavor, so I usually add it.
3. Cook on low for approximately 12-14 hours. A high temperature is not recommended when cooking broth. Some recipes indicate that the scum that rises to the top of a pot when cooking broth is impurities rising to the surface. This is inaccurate. It's actually an indication that the protein is being cooked at too high of a temperature. Keep your broth low and slow, giving it time to properly break down.
4. Drain the broth through a fine mesh strainer.
6. Cool broth and store it in the fridge. It's important that you cool broth in a reasonable amount of time, to keep it food safe. Either divide the broth into individual jars, or containers to cool faster on the counter, or cool the whole amount of broth in a sink of ice water. Take care that the container the broth is in can take temperature change without breaking. For instance, a glass bowl or a slow cooker insert can break or shatter when exposed to extreme temperature change. A stainless steel pan is a better option. Additionally, a big container of hot broth placed in the fridge will drop the temperature of the fridge, putting all the food, as well as the broth, at risk as far as food safety goes.
5. You may start another batch of broth with the bones, scraps and juices, or reserve it all in the fridge for up to a week, or freezer for several months. * See instructions below.
7. When the broth is chilled, the fat will rise to the top and solidify on top of the broth. Congratulations, you have essentially rendered beef fat. Scrape off this fat and reserve it in the fridge or freezer. This is a good healthy fat, that can be used in other food preparations. This free healthy fat is another way that making broth can lower your grocery bill.
Beef Bone Broth: Second Batch
Repeat the process as instructed above, discarding onion, garlic and tomato from the previous batch and adding fresh onion, garlic and tomato.
If you don't have enough bones to fill up a slow cooker 2/3-3/4 full, save them in your freezer until you have enough. The slow cooker tends to cook too hot if it's not 3/4 full. If it's too full, it tends to not cook hot enough. For best results, try to keep it close to 3/4 full after adding water.
Beef Bone Broth: Third Batch
You can often get more batches of broth out of beef bones than chicken bones, depending on the type of bones that you use. Continue to repeat the above process until the broth no longer becomes gelatinous and/or there is no fat rising to the top of the broth when cooled, or it is weak and flavorless.
Broth following your first and second batch will not be a rich or as gelatinous, and that's just fine; it will still be soothing, healing, nutritious and better than what you can buy.
Beef Bone Broth: Final Batch
I often add a batch of bones/scraps that I have already made several batches of bone broth with, to vegetable scraps when making vegetable scrap broth. Both the vegetables and beef bones/scraps work together to produce a rich, more nutritious broth than either would on their own.
If you're tired of your bones and scraps, go ahead and store them in the freezer. I keep a bag of bones that have already been used to make broth in the freezer, as well as vegetable trimmings from my food preparations. When I feel up to it, I pull them all out and make a huge pot of mixed broth with bones/scraps and vegetable trimmings/scraps as mentioned above.
For a single serving mug of broth, season warm unsalted broth with 1 tsp. RealTaste Seasoning per cup of broth, or the seasoning of your choice. Let it steep for several minutes and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer to remove the herbs and seasoning solids, or go ahead and drink it without straining, if you don't mind the texture. Enjoy in place of coffee or tea. Broth is especially helpful to drink before a meal as a digestive aid, especially a meal that contains meat. It's also beneficial to drink before bedtime, if you're having problems with the quality of your sleep. Microwaving broth is not recommended, but a single serving of broth heats up in a extra small pot in just a minute or so.
I add vinegar according to my taste preference. Feel free to adjust to the acidity level you prefer. There is no right, or wrong here. You can also leave it out if you like, but I think it adds a nice balance of flavor.
Many of my recipes call for an unsalted broth. I often keep my broth unsalted, so I have the flexibility to flavor it as I like in different dishes.
I often get asked about making broth quickly in a pressure cooker. I don't recommend this. As I explained above, bones and soft tissues need time to properly break down to produce a healthy and healing broth. High heat and pressure are not recommended when aiming to produce high quality food. It most often benefits us to look to more natural ways of food production that have been successful for generations. We generally see negative effects upon food when we process it with more modern hurry-up, convenience based techniques.
I don't use carrots or celery when making bone broth; it's just not necessary. I'd rather save my carrots and celery to chop up and actually eat in a soup, stew or other dishes. I do; however, save the peelings off my carrots, celery end and leaves for vegetable scrap broth. However, if you like, go ahead and add carrots and celery.
There are bone broth products on the market, with varying degrees of quality, but when you're trying to eat healthy in an affordable way, this will kill your budget! It also hurts my soul to see packaged items. I can't help but imagine the landfills and damage the waste and production of such containers has on our planet and in return on our own health. A healthy planet = a healthy you. Moreover, I think home produced foods trump anything you can buy at the store both in quality and flavor.
If you're going to the trouble to make broth, you might as well make the best quality broth you can. I highly recommend using high quality, organic bones from grass fed animals. Why make broth with a herbicide, pesticide, anti-biotic and hormone animal? And yes, even though your beef is not a plant, it will still be contaminated with herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals.
Stove Top Directions
You can also make broth on the stove top in an appropriately sized pot. Keeping in mind that you'll want your pot 2/3-3/4 full of bones. Bring the water to a gentle boil and reduce heat to low, to maintain a very gentle simmer- just a slight ripple. Cook for approximately 4-5 hours, using less time for a small pot of bones and more time for a larger one. If you want your broth to reduce, leave your pan uncovered, otherwise keep the lid on while simmering.
You may safely store broth for several months in the fridge, if it has a good fat seal. If you're ever in question, you can boil the broth for 10 minutes.
I rarely freeze broth, because I make it about as fast as we use it; however, if you do need to freeze your broth, here are a few tips:
1. Mason jars work well for freezing broth.
2. Do not overfill your jar.
3. The liquid will expand as it freezes, so make sure to leave a few inches of headspace. I usually fill to just below where the jar narrows to the neck.
4. Wide mouth jars work best for freezing because there is less pressure on the shoulder area as the liquid expands.
5. Thaw broth in the fridge for at least 24 hours. In a pinch, you can place the jar of broth in a container in the sink. The container should be slightly shorter than the jar of broth. Fill the container with cold water. With running water, gradually increase the temperature of the water running into the container, allowing it to spill out over the sides into the sink. The gradual temperature change will keep the glass from breaking, but also allows you to more quickly thaw the broth. You can do this until the temperature of the water has reached the hottest temperature. Add more hot water as the temperature cools, if needed. Let the jar of broth sit for a bit until the broth is thawed enough to remove. Of course, I don't like to waste water, so this is not ideal, but it works in a pinch when you don't have any broth on hand.
6. Microwaving your broth is not recommended.