How To Make Beef Bone Broth on the Stove or in a Slow Cooker

How To Make Beef Bone Broth on the Stove or in a Slow Cooker

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Emma Christensen
Feb 23, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

In the last few years, bone broth has become a grocery store staple. While you could always find beef broth or stock in the soup aisle of your grocery store, it wasn't until recently that you could find bone broth being sold as well, let alone being served like a latté at the coffee counter. We have our wellness-minded, Paleo-eating friends to thank for reviving our love and admiration for this long-cooked homemade stock. Make no bones about it, bone broth is essentially a deeper, richer beef stock made by simmering collagen-rich beef bones until you end up with a rich, nutritious, and deeply savory broth.

It's the kind of thing that's perfect for sipping from a mug on a cold day, or for dressing up and turning into a hearty soup for dinner. Want to try making it yourself? Let's do it!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

What Is Bone Broth?

Bone broth truly has been around for centuries — every world cuisine has their own version. Historically, bone broth was sometimes used as a health tonic, a warm breakfast, a handy ingredient for family dinners, or all of the above. It can be made with beef bones, pork bones, chicken bones, or a mix of all of them. It can also be flavored simply, with just a handful of vegetables, or it can be spiffed up with ingredients like fresh ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce, and dried mushrooms.

This slow-simmered bone broth is surprisingly delicate in flavor, with a nice balance of umami savoriness and a pleasing, vegetal sweetness. While it's no panacea, current research shows it's full of good-for-you nutrients, amino acids, and minerals. You can certainly drink it straight (and you should, because it's tasty!), but you can also save it for making stews or casseroles, simmering grains, or using it in any manner of meals. You can use bone broth in any recipe that calls for chicken or beef stock.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

For Your Information

  • This recipe calls for 2 pounds of mixed beef bones such as oxtail, marrow bones, and even short ribs. Make sure you rinse them before beginning.
  • Bone broth should be cooked for a minimum of 12 hours, although a richer, thicker stock is achieved with 24 to 48 hours. The slow cooker is ideal if you'd like a 48-hour broth.

The Best Bones for Bone Broth

The best bone broth uses a mix of different bones: large, nutrient-rich beef or pork bones, as well as some smaller meaty cuts so your broth has some flavor. I like to use a mix of big beef bones (saved from roasts or begged from the butcher), meaty short ribs or oxtails, and knuckle or neck bones. Those knuckle and neck bones have a lot of collagen, which give the broth body and rich flavor.

You can also mix in bones and meaty cuts from other animals. Throw in a ham bone or shank, leftover turkey bones, some chicken feet — use whatever mix of bones you find or that sounds appealing to you.

Roast for the Best Flavor

Roasting adds an extra depth of flavor and richness to the soup, plus it makes a beautiful dark-colored broth. Also, a broth made with a lot of bare bones, without much meat, can sometimes have a bit of a metallic or sour flavor, and roasting the bones helps prevent this flavor.

I usually do this in the oven, rather than on the stovetop, so I can do the entire batch at once. If there are a lot of caramelized bits on the pan after roasting, I deglaze it with a splash of water on the stovetop and pour the brown bits in with the cooking liquid.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

How Long to Cook Bone Broth

My instructors at culinary school would always say, "Cook it until it's done." Never is this maxim more true than with bone broth. Don't go by the clock; go by your nose, your tastebuds, and the color of the broth. When it's done, the broth will be deeply savory and have a rich mahogany color.

In practical terms, cook your broth for at least 12 hours, then start checking it. I'm usually satisfied with my broth at around the 24-hour mark, but you can keep simmering for days. The bones will eventually start to crumble when all their nutrients and proteins have been extracted — once you see this happening with the majority of your bones, you've probably extracted as much goodness as you're going to get.

The Slow Cooker and Electric Pressure Cooker

Cooking your broth for this long on the stove might make you raise your eyebrows and worry about fire hazards, but don't worry too much — we're talking about very low heat. You can leave the broth on a back burner or put it in the oven at low temperature and let it go overnight. If you need to leave the house and don't want to leave your oven on, you can also make bone broth in a slow cooker. Directions for that method are below.

You can also save yourself both worry and time by making bone broth in the pressure cooker.

Get the recipe: How To Make Any Bone Broth in the Pressure Cooker

What to Do with Bone Broth

So you've got yourself a batch of bone broth — now what? It's fantastic on its own, sipped from a mug first thing in the morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up. You can also use bone broth to make a batch of pho or ramen, braise some beef, or make your favorite soup.

Read more: 10 Delicious Ways to Turn Bone Broth into Dinner

How We've Made This Recipe Better

Over the last few years, we've made this recipe again and again improving it here and there over time. We've ditched the olive oil, celery, and bay, which sometimes made for a bitter broth. Rinsing, roasting, and then resting the bones, water, and vinegar are now essential, non-optional steps. You may also notice that the amounts are smaller — making for a batch of broth that more readily fits a standard Dutch oven or a 6-quart slow cooker. The results are still a richer, deeply flavored broth that is even thicker and more luxurious than before. -Kitchn Team 2018

How To Make Bone Broth on the Stove or in the Slow Cooker

Makes 2 to 2 1/2 quarts

What You Need

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds

    mixed beef bones, short ribs, oxtails, knuckles, and neck bones (see Recipe Note)

  • 3 quarts

    filtered water, plus more as needed to cover

  • 2 tablespoons

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1

    large carrot

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • Equipment
  • Baking sheet

  • Tongs

  • Chef's knife

  • Large stockpot or 6-quart or larger slow cooker

  • Strainer

  • Cheesecloth (optional)

Instructions

Stovetop Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and rinse the bones. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place the bones in a colander, rinse under cool water, and pat dry with paper towels.

  2. Roast the bones for 30 minutes. Arrange the bones in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until golden-brown, about 30 minutes.

  3. Cover the bones with water and the vinegar and rest for 30 minutes. Transfer the hot bones to a large stockpot. Add the water and vinegar and stir to combine. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

  4. Bring the pot to a simmer over high heat. Bring the water to a rapid simmer over high heat.

  5. Skim the broth for the first hour. Immediately turn the heat down to the lowest setting possible. Check the pot occasionally, skimming off any foam that collects on the surface and adding additional water as needed to keep the ingredients covered. Cover and keep the broth at a low simmer for 24 hours.

  6. Add the onions and carrots and cook for another 12 to 24 hours. Add the carrots and onions and continue to simmer for 12 to 24 hours more, adding more filtered water as needed to keep the bones covered. The broth is done when it is a rich golden-brown and the bones are falling apart at the joints.

  7. Strain the bone broth. When the broth is finished, strain and cool the bone broth as quickly as possible. Set a strainer over a large pot or even a stand mixer bowl and line it with cheesecloth if desired. Carefully strain the bone broth into it. Discard the spent bits of bone and vegetables.

  8. Cool the bone broth and store. Prepare an ice bath by either filling a sink or basin with cold water and ice and set the pot of broth inside the ice bath. Stir regularly until the broth is cooled to about 50°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer the broth to airtight containers or jars. Refrigerate or freeze.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and rinse the bones. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place the bones in a colander, rinse under cool water, and pat dry with paper towels.

  2. Roast the bones for 30 minutes. Arrange the bones in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until golden-brown, about 30 minutes.

  3. Cover the bones with 3 quarts cool water and the vinegar and rest for 30 minutes. Transfer the bones to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Add the water and vinegar and stir to combine. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

  4. Bring to a simmer on the HIGH setting. Turn the slow cooker to the HIGH setting high and bring the broth mixture to a simmer.

  5. Skim the broth for the first hour. Check the slow cooker occasionally, skimming off any foam that collects on the surface the first hour and adding additional water as needed to keep the ingredients covered. Keep the broth at a low simmer on HIGH for 24 hours.

  6. Add the onions and carrots and cook for another 12 to 24 hours. Add the carrots and onions and continue to simmer on the HIGH setting for 12 to 24 hours more, adding more filtered water as needed to keep the bones covered. The broth is done when it is a rich golden-brown and the bones are falling apart at the joints.

  7. Strain the bone broth. When the broth is finished, strain and cool the bone broth as quickly as possible. Set a strainer over a large pot or even a stand mixer bowl and line it with cheesecloth if desired. Carefully strain the bone broth into it. Discard the spent bits of bone and vegetables.

  8. Cool the bone broth and store. Prepare an ice bath by either filling a sink or basin with cold water and ice and set the pot of broth inside the ice bath. Stir regularly until the broth is cooled to about 50°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer the broth to airtight containers or jars. Refrigerate or freeze.

Recipe Notes

Bones for bone broth: You can use any mix of beef, pork, or chicken bones for making bone broth. Adding some meaty bones, like short ribs or ham bones, will make a richer-tasting broth; you can also use the meat from the bones in other dishes.

Filtered water: We used filtered water for more neutral testing. If you've got great-tasting tap or well water, feel free to use it here. Water filtered with a filter or faucet filter works well; bottled filtered water is not required.

Storing and reheating: The broth can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, pour out as much broth as you'd like and reheat it gently on the stove or in the microwave.

Reducing bone broth for storage: To save on freezer space, you can simmer the broth over low heat on the stovetop until it's reduced by half. Keep it at a very bare simmer — you should see just a few bubbles as it simmers. Make a note on the freezer container that the broth needs to be thinned with water before using.

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