By now you've probably heard of bone broth, the meaty elixir that's beloved around the web. Made by stewing bones in water with vegetables and spices, it's full of flavor and nutrients, and it's an excellent addition to all sorts of things, whether that's a bowl of pho or a mushroom risotto. People love bone broth so much there are now even restaurants that specialize in it in major cities across the country. Of course, if you don't want to trek all the way to a specialty restaurant in NYC, you'll have to satisfy your bone broth cravings on your own.
Though it may seem like a fairly straightforward process, there are lots of details involved that you should be aware of before you take on the project. To find out more about how to make good bone broth, SELF talked to Marco Canora, chef and founder of Brodo in NYC (one of those restaurants that specializes in bone broth!). He told me all about the tips only experts know, the common mistakes you should be on the lookout for, and the surprising way you can put your finished project to work.
You might be wondering about the difference between bone broth and stock.
At least, I know I have. Canora is here to tell you that it's not much! "They are essentially the same [thing]," he explains, "meaty bones, plus aromatics, plus water, plus heat—but bone broths have somewhat longer cook times to maximize nutrient extraction."
Typically, you can make a stock in a few hours, but bone broths require much longer (anywhere from 12 to 24 hours). That's how long it can take to break down the collagen-containing connective tissue in the bones. Collagen is responsible for giving the broth a gelatinous texture when it's at room temperature or below. Never fear, though—a little bit of heat will turn that freaky meat Jell-O back into the soupy broth you actually want. By the way, bone broth often comes with a lot of health claims, and while it is a good source of protein, there isn't much evidence to support the assertions that it can make your skin look younger or relieve joint pain.
You can use bones from any animals, but use the ones with the most connective tissue.
Chicken bones, duck bones, cow bones, and so on—you can use whatever you prefer to make your bone broth. Just be sure to pick bones with a lot of connective tissue, like neck bones, feet, or knuckles, says Canora. He explains that that connective tissue is where all those extra nutrients come from, and is essential to making your bone broth a broth and not a stock. Though you won't be able to find bones in the meat section at the supermarket, you will almost always be able to find them behind the butcher counter.
Before you really get started, you may need to blanch your bones.
For this story, I took the task of making bone broth upon myself, and as I was researching recipes, I found that some of them suggested blanching the bones and some didn't. Blanching is a process when you boil something, in this case bones, to remove the impurities. When I asked Canora if I needed to include this step in the process, he said I should, but only if my bones aren't up to snuff. "If one uses lesser quality bones, I would recommend blanching and skimming."
My cow bones weren't the finest quality. I live in Berlin and I don't really know how to ask for "the best bones" in German, so I just went ahead and blanched to be safe. Honestly I'm glad I did, because when I blanched them, it made all this gunky foam rise to the top of the pot. My house smelled like a tannery! As you can see from the above photo, it was…a little weird. If this happens to you, though, it's totally fine. The bones weren't bad—this process just gets rid of all the nasty bits that would make your broth taste kind of funky.
To do it, add your bones to a large stock pot and cover them completely with cold water. Bring the pot to a boil and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Drain out the water and set aside.
Roasting the bones is the next thing on your to-do list.
I know this seems like a lot of steps to make broth, but trust me, they're all necessary. Especially roasting, which will brown your bones and ultimately give your broth a rich flavor and caramel color.
After blanching (if you've decided to do that step), transfer the bones to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and cook them for about an hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, says Canora. Just be sure not to burn them, as he explains that can impart a bitter flavor to the finished broth.
Get your vegetables and spices in place.
You can't make bone broth with only bones—you need veggies and spices to deepen the flavor. Which ones? Well, Canora recommends sticking with a basic mirepoix, which is a combination of carrots, onions, and celery. As for spices, all you really need are bay leaves and peppercorns, though if you'd rather mix it up you can add other whole spices like star anise or chili peppers. Some recipes also recommend adding about a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar, but when I asked Canora about that he said you'd need to use a lot of vinegar to really affect the flavor, so it's not necessary.
You can get experimental with what you add to the broth if you like, but you can also doctor it up after it's finished.
I decided to follow Canora's instructions and keep it simple with just the veggies, bay leaves, and peppercorns. The nice thing about broth is that if you make it plain, you can always add more to it later. Keeping it plain increases its versatility, so you can use it in a bunch of different things, rather than just one specific thing. For example, if you want to use it in a risotto, you don't necessarily want it to be spicy, but if you brew it with chili peppers, it's going to be spicy no matter what. Rather, just wait till the end to spice it up with a chili oil or chili flakes so that way you can use it in your risotto and your spicy soup.
Cover the contents of your pot completely with water and let it stew slightly covered with a lid for a long, long time over low heat.
Like, a really long time. According to Canora, "Too little time produces a watery, flavorless broth," which is more of a stock than a bone broth. In general, you should let your pot simmer over low heat for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Don't leave the pot going overnight (that's dangerous!). Instead, turn it off, cover it up, and resume cooking it in the morning when you wake up—the results will be the same, and it's way safer than leaving a flame going while you sleep.
During the first few hours, check on it occasionally to skim off any foam from the top.
"If you spend the time and effort skimming the broth in the early stages of cooking, blanching isn't required," says Canora. So if you've decided not to blanch, you'll have to spend more time skimming off the layer floating on top during the first few hours of the stewing process.
Either way, check on your broth occasionally over the first few hours just to make sure you're getting any bits out that might affect the flavor later.
Store it in the fridge if you want to use it right away, or keep it in the freezer if you want to save it for later.
To store bone broth in the fridge, you'll need to cool it down as fast as possible so that bacteria doesn't start to form (try dunking the stock pot in a bowl of ice water) and store it in a clean airtight container—doing this will give it a lifespan of about a week, says Canora.
If you want it to last closer to three months, stick it in the freezer. Canora recommends pouring it into an ice tray; that way you can pop out a cube or two when you need a little broth for a recipe that you're cooking.
Try it in soups, stir-fries, or even drink it by itself.
Yep, that's right—Canora loves to drink bone broth like you would tea. It's a warm, satisfying drink that lands somewhere between a beverage and a soup, and it's the perfect thing for when you want something hot that isn't necessarily sweet.
Other than that, you can use your bone broth all the ways you normally might. Turn it into soup, cook rice in it, or add it to your sauces for a meaty flavor. And you don't need to travel all the way to a specialty shop in New York to enjoy it.