Bone broth is one of the “super food” trends sweeping the health community currently. Experts claim bone broth benefits include everything from sleeping better to boosting your immune system. Health gurus swear that bone broth is a fix-all for gut health, a more youthful appearance and better skin and nails. Although some of these claims have been disputed — check out this TIME article on bone broth benefits (or a lack thereof) — bone broth is still great staple to have on hand in the kitchen.
Whether you’d like to try bone broth for its supposed healing properties or to enjoy a fresh, warm cup to keep you warm in the winter, we’ve got the full breakdown on bone broth benefits and how to make it.
What Is Bone Broth?
The title “bone broth” is really a lit bit of a mistaken identity.
To explain, we have to dive a little bit deeper into the roots of broths and stocks. Broths and stocks have been used to cook in cultures across the world for as back as anyone can remember. Broths and stocks were most likely invented as a way to avoid waste when civilazation consisted of nomadic groups with scarce resources. However, since then, broths and stocks have evolved into a staple of most modern day kitchens.
There’s actually a difference between broth and stock althought the terms are often used interchangeably. The proper name for this tasty, translucent liquid is derived from how to the liquid was prepared.
“Stock” is usually used to refer to a water mixed with vegetables, seasonings and bones and simmered for a a few hours. This is how the chicken stock and beef stock you frequently buy at the store is created.
On the other hand, “broth” is usually made by mixing chunks of meat, water, vegetables and seasonings together and cooking them on the stove top for a shorter period of time — usually less than two hours.
“Bone broth” is a little bit of an incongruity since bone broth is created the same way as stock, with the main difference being that bone broth is cooked for a much longer duration of time — sometimes for a full day.
How to Make Your Own Bone Broth
Because bone broth continues to rise in popularity, some companies and health food stores now offer bone broth in store. However, it’s also incredibly simple to make at home if you’re more of a DIY-type of person.
You can cook bone broth on the stove in a large stock pot, in a slow cooker or even in a pressure cooker depending on the recipe.
Get Your Hands on Some Bones
Getting your hands on bones to create your bone broth with is the most difficult aspect of making your own bone broth. You can contact your local butcher or meat market to purchase bones or save your own if you’re in the practice of buying fresh, bone-in meat.
You can stick to one animal if you’re aiming for a certain type of broth — i.e. beef broth or chicken broth — or you can throw in a hodgepodge of bones to create bone broth. The most important thing here isn’t what animal the bones come from, but what part of the animal’s body these bones came from.
The goal is to create a healthy ratio of joint bones to meaty bones. Joint bones are those found in the — you guessed it — joints and contain lots of cartilage and collagen. Think necks, feet, knuckles or marrow. These types of bones should comprise at least half of your mixture, if not more. Other bones — referred to as meaty bones — can be included as well, but the jointy bones are really your bread and butter for a successful bone broth.
There are a few steps you can take to optimize the taste and flavor of your bone broth before throwing it together in a crock pot to simmer. Some people start by blanching the bones. This entails putting them in a pot on the stove, bringing them to a boil for ten to 15 minutes and then immediately removing the bones and placing them in cold water. Traditionally, blanching is used to stop the cooking process to preserve minerals and nutrients.
Once you’ve blanched the bones, many people roast them in the oven for up to an hour before adding them to the broth. This really brings out the flavor of the bones, allowing the marrow to carmelize. You should roast the bones at a high temperature — think 400 degrees or more — and be sure to use the bones and the drippings in your final pot to create a deep, flavorful broth.
Decide on Your Veggies
When you’re adding vegetables to a bone broth, you don’t want to get too carried away and distract from the deep, rich flavor of the broth. Choose one to two vegetables — stick with aromatic veggies like onions or ginger. Other popular accompaniments to broth include celery, carrots, leeks or garlic.
Don’t Forget the Water
Water can make or break a good bone broth — the trick is figuring out the right amount of water in relation to how many bones you have to cook. There should be just enough water to cover the bones. If the bones are floating, you’ve got too much water on your hands.
And Season It To Perfection
When it comes to seasoning, the same rule that applies to vegetable accompaniments — less is more — applies. Focus again on aromatic, flavorful spices and herbs like bay leaves, peppercorns, salt and black pepper. You can get creative with fresh infusions of herbs like rosemary or thyme, but be very careful to only add a little at a time in order to enhance, not overwhelm the rich broth flavor.
You don’t want to aggressively boil your bone broth — it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Bring the liquid to a slow simmer on the stove top or turn it on low in your crockpot and keep it there for a long time. You want to cook your bone broth for a minimum of 12 hours for a rich, deep flavor profile.
When you feel your broth is complete, you have a few different options for preparing it. You can put the broth through a colander or strainer to remove any large chunks of bone or vegetable. If you’re looking to remove any and all pieces for a purer liquid broth, try straining the bone broth through a cheese cloth or taking it through a mesh sieve multiple times.
When cooking, fat may accrue at the top of your bone broth or you may notice your broth “gelling” as it cools. This is completely normal and the fat is safe to eat. In fact, if the animals are grass-fed and pasture-raised, the fat has a lot of great health benefits. If you prefer your broth a little less fatty, skim it off the surface. If you’r enot comfortable with your broth looking like Jello, pop it in a sauce pot or in a microwave safe dish. The heat should cause it to liquify again.