What is Broth?
Broth (or technically, stock) is a mineral rich infusion made by boiling bones of healthy animals with vegetables, herbs and spices. You’ll find a large stock pot of broth/stock simmering in the kitchen of almost every 5-star restaurant for its great culinary uses and unparalleled flavor, but it is also a powerful health tonic that you can easily add to your family’s diet.
Broth is a traditional food that your grandmother likely made often (and if not, your great-grandmother definitely did). Many societies around the world still consume broth regularly as it is a cheap and highly nutrient dense food.
Besides it’s amazing taste and culinary uses, broth is an excellent source of minerals and is known to boost the immune system (chicken soup when you are sick anyone?) and improve digestion. Its high calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus content make it great for bone and tooth health. Bone broth also supports joints, hair, skin, and nails due to its high collagen content. In fact, some even suggest that it helps eliminate cellulite as it supports smooth connective tissue.
It can be made from the bones of beef, bison, lamb, poultry, or fish, and vegetables and spices are often added.
Anyone who has read Gut and Psychology Syndrome knows the many benefits of bone broth and how it can improve digestion, allergies, immune health, brain health, and much more.
What isn’t as well know is that broth can help reduce cellulite by improving connective tissue, increase hair growth/strength, improve digestive issues and remineralize teeth.
Broth is also helpful to have on hand when anyone in the family gets sick as it can be a soothing and immune boosting drink during illness, even if the person doesn’t feel like eating.
Broth is very high in the amino acids proline and glycine which are vital for healthy connective tissue (ligaments, joints, around organs, etc). The Paleo Mom has a great explanation of the importance of these two amino acids:
“In addition, glycine is required for synthesis of DNA, RNA and many proteins in the body. As such, it plays extensive roles in digestive health, proper functioning of the nervous system and in wound healing. Glycine aids digestion by helping to regulate the synthesis and of bile salts and secretion of gastric acid. It is involved in detoxification and is required for production of glutathione, an important antioxidant. Glycine helps regulate blood sugar levels by controlling gluconeogenesis (the manufacture of glucose from proteins in the liver). Glycine also enhances muscle repair/growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone secretion from the pituitary gland. This wonderful amino acid is also critical for healthy functioning of the central nervous system. In the brain, it inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters, thus producing a calming effect. Glycine is also converted into the neurotransmitter serine, which promotes mental alertness, improves memory, boosts mood, and reduces stress.
Proline has an additional role in reversing atherosclerotic deposits. It enables the blood vessel walls to release cholesterol buildups into your blood stream, decreasing the size of potential blockages in your heart and the surrounding blood vessels. Proline also helps your body break down proteins for use in creating new, healthy muscle cells.”
What Kind of Broth?
Homemade, nutrient dense bone broth is incredibly easy and inexpensive to make. There is no comparison to the store-bought versions which often contain MSG or other chemicals and which lack gelatin and some of the other health-boosting properties of homemade broth.
In selecting the bones for broth, look for high quality bones from grass fed cattle or bison, pastured poultry, or wild caught fish. Since you’ll be extracting the minerals and drinking them in concentrated form, you want to make sure that the animal was as healthy as possible.
There are several places to find good bones for stock:
- Save leftovers from when you roast a chicken, duck, turkey, or goose (pastured)
- From a local butcher, especially one who butchers the whole animal
- From local farmers who raise grass fed animals (ask around at your local Farmer’s Market)
- Online from companies like US Wellness Meats (also where I get grass fed Tallow in bulk- they sell pre-made high quality broth) or Tropical Traditions (I order high quality beef, bison, lamb and chicken bones from them at good prices)
This recipe for broth is my favorite and is an adaption of the recipe in Nourishing Traditions.
Bone Broth Ingredients
- 2 pounds (or more) of bones from a healthy source
- 2 chicken feet for extra gelatin (optional)
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- Optional: 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon or more of sea salt, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, additional herbs or spices to taste. I also add 2 cloves of garlic for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Bone Broth Instructions
The first step in preparing to make broth is to gather high quality bones. As I said, you can find them from sources listed above or save them when you cook. Since we roast chicken at least once a week, I save the carcass for making broth/stock.
I usually aim for 2 pounds of bones per gallon of water I’m using to make broth. This usually works out to 2-3 full chicken carcasses. If possible I’ll also add 2 chicken feet per gallon of water (completely optional!).
You’ll also need some organic vegetables for flavor. These are actually optional but add extra flavor and nutrition. Typically, I add (per gallon of water and 2 pounds of bones):
- 1 onion
- 2 large carrots (if from an organic source, you can rough chop and don’t need to peel)
- 2 celery stalks, rough chopped
I also add, per batch, a bunch of parsley from the garden. Since I make in bulk, I usually use about 4 times the amount of each of these. You can make in any amount, just multiply or divide the recipe up or down.
If you are using raw bones, especially beef bones, it improves flavor to roast them in the oven first. I place them in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes at 350.
Then, place the bones in a large stock pot (I use a 5 gallon pot). Pour (filtered) water over the bones and add the vinegar. Let sit for 20-30 minutes in the cool water. The acid helps make the nutrients in the bones more available.
Rough chop and add the vegetables (except the parsley and garlic, if using) to the pot. Add any salt, pepper, spices, or herbs, if using.
Now, bring the broth to a boil. Once it has reached a vigorous boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer until done. These are the times I simmer for:
- Beef broth/stock: 48 hours
- Chicken or poultry broth/stock: 24 hours
- Fish broth: 8 hours
During the first few hours of simmering, you’ll need to remove the impurities that float to the surface. A frothy/foamy layer will form and it can be easily scooped off with a big spoon. Throw this part away. I typically check it every 20 minutes for the first 2 hours to remove this. Grass-fed and healthy animals will produce much less of this than conventional animals.
During the last 30 minutes, add the garlic and parsley, if using.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Strain using a fine metal strainer to remove all the bits of bone and vegetable. When cool enough, store in a gallon size glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for later use.
How to Use Bone Broth
Homemade Broth/Stock can be used as the liquid in making soups, stews, gravies, sauces, and reductions. It can also be used to saute or roast vegetables.
Especially in the fall and winter, we try to drink at least 1 cup per person per day as a health boost. My favorite way is to heat 8-16 ounces with a little salt and sometimes whisk in an egg until cooked (makes a soup like egg-drop soup).
In times of illness (which doesn’t happen often) we will usually just drink bone broth until we start feeling better as it supports the body but is very easy to digest so the body’s energy can go to healing. In cases of stomach bugs or vomiting, bone broth often calms the stomach very quickly and helps shorten the duration of the illness.
If you aren’t already, make bone broth a regular part of your kitchen routine. It’s health boosting, inexpensive and easy… you can’t afford not to!
The Whole9 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.