Over the weekend, we posted an Instagram photo of the bone broth simmering on Dallas and Melissa’s stovetop, captioned, “Bone broth for A.M. sippin’ is going down in the Hartwig household. Are you intimidated by bone broth? Ask your questions here?”
We knew some of you thought the idea of making your own bone broth was a little scary, but we had no idea you had so many questions! So many, in fact, that instead of answering them all on Facebook and Instagram, we decided to create this Bone Broth FAQ, with everything you ever wanted to know about broth.
Let’s take the intimidation factor out of this incredibly health-promoting food! After this monster question-and-answer session, you should be totally prepared to make your own beautiful broth.
The Bone Broth FAQ
What kind of nutritional benefits does bone broth offer?
Bone broth is a source of minerals, like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, in forms that your body can easily absorb. It’s also rich in glycine and proline, amino acids not found in significant amounts in muscle meat (the vast majority of the meat we consume). It also contains chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, the compounds sold as supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain. Finally, “soup bones” include collagen, a protein found in connective tissue of vertebrate animals, which is abundant in bone, marrow, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. (The breakdown of collagen in bone broths is what produces gelatin.)
What are the benefits of consuming a properly prepared bone broth?
Proline and glycine are important for a healthy gut and digestion, muscle repair and growth, a balanced nervous system, and strong immune system. In fact, a study of chicken broth conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the amino acids that were produced when making chicken stock reduced inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion. (There’s a reason your mom always made you chicken soup when you were sick.)
The gelatin in bone broth can help to heal a leaky gut, which may be of specific benefit those with inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. These compounds also reduce joint pain, reduce inflammation, prevent bone loss, and build healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Can I just buy broth from the grocery store?
Nope. Broth (often labelled “stock”) from the grocery store relies on high temperature, fast-cooking techniques, which result in a watered down, non-gelling liquid, so you’re missing out on some of the benefits of a gelatin-rich broth. In addition, unnatural additives (like MSG) and flavors are often added. If you just need a small amount for a recipe, store-bought stuff will do, but if you’re interested in the healing properties of bone broth, you have to make it yourself.
Where do I get bones?
Your local butcher, a local farm (ask around at the farmers market), a friendly hunter, your local health food store (if they have a meat department), or order bones online from U.S. Wellness Meats. You can also save the bones if you roast a whole chicken, turkey, duck, or goose.
What kind of bones should I use?
You can use bones from just about any animal—beef, veal, lamb, bison or buffalo, venison, chicken, duck, goose, turkey, or pork. Get a variety of bones—ask for marrow bones, oxtail, and “soup bones.” Make sure you include some larger bones like knuckles, or feet (like chicken feet), which will contain more cartilage, and therefore more collagen. You can even mix and match bones in the same batch of broth—some beef, some lamb, some chicken—but know that will change the flavor. (Most folks prefer to stick to one animal source at once.)
Do I have to get grass-fed or pastured bones, or organic bones?
You should. The animals have to be healthy to impart the maximum health benefit to you, and factory-farmed animals are the furthest thing from healthy. (And we don’t want to encourage more purchasing of factory-farmed animals.) Do your best to seek out pastured chicken or 100% grass-fed beef bones from a local source.
Can I have a recipe, please?
First, there are a wealth of recipes online—just search for “bone broth recipe” until you find one that looks good to you. However, we like the Master Recipe for Bone Broth found on page 274 of our book, It Starts With Food, created by our friend Melissa Joulwan of Well Fed and Well Fed 2 fame.
- 4 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 large onions, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
- 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 2-3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
- 2-4 lbs. meat or poultry bones
Place all ingredients in a large slow cooker set on high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the setting to low for 12-24 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes! Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter into a large bowl, and discard the waste.
Even if you don’t have a slow-cooker you can still reproduce this recipe on a stovetop, with a large pot on low heat.
Do I have to skim the fat?
Only if you want to. Feel free to drink your broth as-is, but if you prefer a broth with less fat (as we do), then follow these instructions: After you’re done cooking, remove your broth from the heat, and run it through a strainer as usual. Then let your broth sit in the fridge for several hours, until the fat rises to the top and hardens. Scrape off the fat with a spoon, and your broth is ready to go. We think skimming off most of the fat is more important if you’re using bones from animals that are conventionally raised.
What other kind of things could I add to my broth to help with flavor?
Here is a list of vegetables, herbs, and spices you could add. Feel free to mix and match, or invent your own recipe.
- Green onion
- Whole peppercorns
- Red pepper flakes
- Bay leaf
Avoid using broccoli, turnip peels, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, collard greens, or mustard greens, as they will make your broth bitter.
Why do you add vinegar to the broth?
Adding an acid (like lemon juice or vinegar) will help to extract minerals from the bones. Use a mild-flavored vinegar, like apple cider or rice wine, as white vinegar may taste too harsh in a mellow broth.
Should I roast my bones first?
You can—roasting will impart a rich flavor and color to your broth—but you don’t have to. If you choose to roast your bones first, place them in a pan in an oven set to 350 degrees, and roast for one hour before continuing with your favorite broth recipe.
Why does my broth look so jiggly?
That’s the gelatin—when cool, it makes your broth look a little like meat Jell-O. No worries—just heat it gently on the stovetop and it will return to a liquid state.
My broth doesn’t look jiggly! Why didn’t it gel?
This article from the Healthy Home Economist lists five reasons your broth didn’t gel, but in our experience, it’s generally one of two reasons. First, you might not be using enough bones (or enough of the right type), or you simply might have added too much water. Bones with more visible cartilage will yield more gelatin. Another common reason is that the broth was not cooked for long enough. The remedy? Set your crockpot or burner to the lowest heat setting and just let it go for at least 8 hours (poultry) or 12 hours (beef)—if not longer. Less than that will likely not draw enough gelatin into the stock from the bones. A good rule of thumb: the larger the bones, the longer you’ll want to cook it.
Can you reuse bones for another broth?
You sure can—Paul Jaminet of The Perfect Health Diet says you can reuse bones to make multiple batches of broth until the bones go soft. (Make sure you use fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices each time, though.)
What’s the longest you can leave bone broth to cook?
Chicken bones can cook for 24 hours, beef bones can cook for up to 48 hours.
What do I do with my broth?
We like to drink a mug of it, just like you would coffee or tea. In fact, a warm cup of broth is a great way to start your morning—try drinking 8 ounces a day, every day. Of course, you can use it in recipes wherever it calls for broth or stock, or turn it into a base for your favorite soup.
How long will broth keep in the refrigerator and freezer?
Keep broth in the fridge for no longer than 3-4 days. It should keep in the freezer for up to a year.
How should I store frozen bone broth?
For an easy addition of small amounts of broth to recipes, store some in an ice cube tray in the freezer. One cube is about an ounce, so recipes that call for 1/4 cup of broth would take 2 cubes, 1/2 a cup is 4 cubes, etc. You can store larger amounts in glass mason jars, but be sure to let the broth cool down before transferring to glass. Finally, make sure you leave enough space in a glass container for the frozen broth to expand—otherwise, the glass could break.
Did we answer all of your bone broth questions? Do you feel prepared to go forth and simmer? Share your thoughts in comments.
photo credit: Nom Nom Paleo, who has a pretty sweet slow-cooker bone broth recipe on her site!
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