Stock and broth. More an more people are discovering the power of this food, given it feeds us so much of what is missing in a modern diet. This is why people notice such quick health improvements soon after starting to incorporate them into their diets.
A few years ago I wrote a sort of mini manual on the why we should be incorporating stocks and the ‘how’ of basic stocks – chicken, fish and beef. It’s here.
And I’ve been asked a whole bunch of questions in between on facebook. I thought it would be a good thing to collate all of the FAQs into a post to help anyone on the stock making road – new or veteran, as we can always pick up new tips and ideas. The most important thing to remember is HOW EASY STOCK IS!!! Some bones, some veg, some herbs. Simmer either an hour for fish, couple of hours to 12 for chicken to 2 days for beef, pork and lamb… Filtered water if you can. Done. But, because we do like to indulge a little obsession into ‘doing it right’…
Here we go!
1. What is the difference between a stock and a broth?
Stock or “bouillon”, according to cookery mecca Larousse Gastronomique, is the liquid obtained from either simply Mirepoix (carrot / onion / celery) and bouquet garnis (bay leaf / thyme / parsley) OR a soup made with those things and meat pieces. Some say the broth is the bone stock fine strained and fat separated, for utmost clarity of liquid, able to be served alone. Stock is ladeled here and there into sauces, stews, soups and not as ‘refined’ looking / texture as a broth. Then, some say that broth is the meat / veg / herb flavoured water simmered, but without the bones. Stock is then a broth made with bones also and not really with meat. It is then argued that ‘vegetable broth’ doesn’t exist as there are no bones… And so the arguments go on. So, I like to keep it simple and just call everything stock that has bones in it and is cooked long enough to extract all the good things out of the bones. I don’t love argument for arguments’ sake, because in the time it takes some people to argue about this stuff, they could have got a batch of stock on the stove – THAT is far more important, don’t you think? So, stock is without bones and broth is with, and depending on your gut health, you will either cook it briefly (2 hours-3hours) or longer to extract the most goodness from the bones (GAPS note: Check question 26 for specific GAPS definitions / what to do if following that protocol).
2. Do I have to use organic bones for broth?
I’d say this one is a non negotiable, yes. Bones store a lot of body toxicity – heavy metals, antibiotic residues… You want the animals to not only have had a lovely life while alive which for me is also a non negotiable, and you also want them to have been disease-free and free from pesticide from grains, genetically modified grains, excess vaccinations and antibiotics… “Clean eating” means a clean food system and I encourage you to explore ethical, organic meat in general. The great thing about it is if you learn some good slow cooking, then you move into being able to buy secondary cuts. With stock, bones are the most economical way that exists, to benefit from organics, returning about a litre of nourishing, healing goodness for around $4.
3. So how long do I need to cook it for?
It depends on the broth and depends on your sensitivity to histamines which increase slightly as cooking continues. If you have anyone in your family who has a propensity towards hives, skin reactions and issues, hayfever or feeling ‘wired’, it’s best to do short cook broths of 1-2 hours. With lots of meat, veggies, onion and herbs in there, there’ll still be plenty of flavour and plenty of goodness from the bones.
Fish 1-2 hours is all it needs to extract the gelatin and mineral goodness. Longer, and it turns bitter also, which isn’t great for flavour.
Chicken – 1-12 hours depending on whether doing short or long cook.
Beef / Lamb / Pork – 2 to 24 hours depending on short or long cook.
4. So how long does it last in the fridge?
Provided you have a good, thick layer of fat that has solidified on top of the liquid, then you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
If you don’t have a good fat layer on top, 3-4 days. Best is to keep a couple of jars in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.
5. What should I freeze it in?
Glass jars of a few different sizes are the best solution. Always leave a good inch off the top of the liquid level from the top of the jar. This means when the liquid slightly expands when in the freezer, you won’t risk a cracked jar.
6. How long can it be frozen for?
3 months fish
6 months meat
7. Can I use bones we’ve eaten from?
Yes. It’s just about to spend hours in a pot bubbling away. I really don’t think you need to worry about having chomped at the drumstick! USE IT ALL UP. While we’re at it, I keep all scraps from cutting raw onion, carrot, celery or ends of herb bunches in the freezer in a big pyrex, ready and waiting for the next broth batch. Waste NOTHING!
8. Can I use raw bones?
Yes, you can. I do personally pan fry them (say chicken carcasses) for a couple of minutes if they’re raw, to get a little flavour on them before the simmering starts. In a little coconut oil, butter, tallow or ghee is fine. For beef knuckle, I roast those first on high 220C / 450F temperature for 45mins before adding to the marrow bones… Read the original post for details.
9. Can I do anything with the cooked veggies after the stock has been made?
Absolutely. I use them in a mashed veggie ‘something’ over the next couple of days. They’ve got so much goodness in them with all those amino acids from the broth and it helps lengthen the uses. Great trick for a limited budget PLUS you create less waste. Win Win.
10. Do I throw out the fat?
NO keep the fat. The fat is great for both preserving the jars when keeping in the fridge and then for sauteeing onions / garlic / mushrooms / green leafy veggies down the track. It also prevents freezer burn when freezing your stock. Healthy fat from healthy animals is super good for your brain and body. If you feel challenged by that idea, Nourishing Traditions or Primal Body Primal Mind are both excellent, well researched and well backed up books with a wealth of information on traditional diets for healthy, strong bodies.
11. Do I have to use apple cider vinegar? Why is it added to some recipes and not others?
You don’t have to. It does help draw out minerals from particularly thick bones, so for pork, lamb, beef (especially marrow) I’d say yes, a couple of tbsp – 1/4 cup is a great idea. If you don’t have any however, it’s way better to make a stock than not make one because of not having ACV. It aids the process, but it’s not essential to the process itself, if that makes sense.
12. Which are the best bones to use?
There are certain bones that have more gelatin in them, so while all bones will provide amino acids and gelatin, these will provide the most benefit to them all. Make no mistake though… put ’em all in the pot anyway. It’s all good!
Chicken – wings, necks, feet
Beef – Knuckles, marrow
Pork – Knuckles, trotters
Lamb – shanks, knuckles, neck
Fish – White non oily fish, try not to get ones from too big a fish though to avoid mercury/radiation build up. I love using 3-4 leftover baby snappers after oven roasting them.
13. Can I use cooked bones?
Sure can. They add depth of flavour.
14. Why is it so important to have a gelatinous broth?
Firstly it’s not ‘super important’. BUT: The sign of the ‘jelly’ is what lets you know you’ve cooked the bones long enough, you’ve not used too much water, and you’ve used bones that have high gelatin in them. Gelatinous bone broth is the visual sign (when it’s wobbly once cooled in fridge) that you’ve got a great amount of gelatin in there. If you have any issues around bone / joint health, preparing for childbirth, recovering from surgery – especially joint / bone surgery, leaky gut, ibs, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s, issues with hair / teeth / nails / skin… that’s going to be gold! That’s why knuckle bones and trotters / feet are used in stock in so many traditional cultures for recovery. They’re not silly, they’re wise.
15. Isn’t leaving a pot on the stove for 12 hours / overnight dangerous?
I don’t want you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Play it by what feels right to you! Personally, I put the pot on the smallest gas element, and the lowest heat and that makes for a super slow simmer. I’ve never had an issue and have done this for years. A low oven on 100 could be a solution if you feel more comfortable with that. The alternative is to get a slow cooker (ensure it is teflon / “non stick” free and go for a ceramic one) and use that.
16. Does vegetable stock have the same benefits?
Unfortunately not. While you can get a beautiful flavour from veggie stock which is lovely to use in vegetarian dishes, you won’t be getting gelatin, the range of amino acids, the high levels of minerals (although there will be some!), the glucosamine or the colloids that set a bone broth apart.
17. Where can I source organic, pasture raised bones from?
This can be tricky out of the big cities but where there’s a will there’s a way. Try our organic directory in your country (for Australia it’s Australian Organics Directory) or google things like cow share, organic butcher, grass fed beef, organic co-op and your suburb/town name, ethical meat, pasture raised chickens… another place you could ask is at the local health shop, as people who work at health shops tend to ensure they have a supply of ethical, pasture raised meats if their meat eaters. My butcher is Ethical Farmers if you’re Sydney based. They deliver statewide.
18. Is there an optimal time to consume stock?
Best time is empty stomach or pre meal or during meal… so, as you can see, it’s always a good time, hehe. Stocks have something called hydrophilic colloid which attracts gastric juices and heals and seals intestinal lining. The reason it’s so great to add stock to cooked meals, is that cooked food doesn’t have those colloids and stock is the only cooked food that does (to my knowledge thus far in research). It really means you get much better absorption and utilisation of your foods if a little stock is ladled through here and there. I often give my son a little 1/3 cup a couple at breakky or before dinner, with sea salt.
19. If I have joint pain, how much do I drink?
This is not an exact science and most evidence is anecdotal, ie, loads of people across the interwebs with miracle stock/broth stories. I know someone who had an MRI showing zero cartilage left on his knees. He discovered traditional eating, got stuck into stock making and drinking, and has since been re scanned, with full recovery of cartilage – no supplements other than all the minerals, gelatin and glucosamine in stock, and a high quality fermented cod liver oil. I’m serious. He was as shocked as the next person to see the results! To think of all the pharmacy supplements and anti inflammatories for joint pain out there… Nature more often than not, has the answer! Of course, there are many different types of cases, so if in doubt see your health professional.
20. Is fish stock as rich in all the good stuff as meat stocks?
Oh yes! Fish stock is amazing. Only need to cook an hour or two at the most though, or it goes bitter. Rumour has it it’s wonderful for childbirth preparation and logically, I’d say that’s because it’s the most gelatinous of all the bone stocks thus preparing your ‘frame’ the best. Many traditional island cultures give it to the women in the lead up and to repair postpartum. Other cultures feed the women chicken’s feet and pork knuckle soups through Asia.
21. Does concentrating the liquid, ie reducing it down, make it better for you?
It does make it more concentrated and therefore more nutrient density per millilitre. If you’re short on space, reducing it is a great space saver, and you can thin it later with water to taste for your cooking.
22. What about the water you add?
The water must be filtered. At the very least chlorine/pesticide, which your standard filter will do. Best case scenario, however, is a filter that removes excess metals, as much bacteria as possible, endocrine disruptive chemicals and fluoride. Metals and fluoride accumulate in being heated, and you don’t want heavy metals present in water to intensify. You can get under the sink solutions but for a simple countertop solution, my water filter at home is the big benchtop one from the WatersCo team. So good! My parents have this beautiful water filter and they’re also super happy with it.
23. How long before I see benefits?
It depends on you, your physical state, what other dietary factors might be hindering healing… Best to see a practitioner if you’re concerned about your health in any way. Hair, nails, skin you will notice the difference within the week from a cup of day. That I can guarantee. When it comes to cartilage repair, that’s a longer term journey of a year +, and the gut if severely damaged, while you will feel soothed very quickly and less discomfort, the healing can take up to 2 years if you had a severe issue. Again, Doctor Natasha Campbell McBride’s GAPS book is a wealth of information for gut problems.
24. What can I do with the leftover bones? (And an important note on pets)
You could use the bones again for another batch IF you’re doing a short cook 1-2 hour batch. Or compost for chicken bones and for the larger, more dense bones, see if they’re soft enough to grind up into a bone meal – amazing garden fertiliser. If they’re still too dense, then you could try dehydrating them and turning into a powder in the blender after fully dried out OR you could give them to a lucky pet! BUT NOTE: Please do not give your pets cooked bones OR bone broth with onion in it. No good for them and potentially dangerous!
25. Do I leave the lid on or off while cooking?
On. Towards the end if you’re wanting to reduce your liquid for more intensity of flavour or for space saving in the fridge/freezer, then yes, take the lid off for 30 mins-1 hour at the end.
26. What if I am doing GAPS. Do I have to prepare my stock a special way?
If you’re doing GAPS then meat stock is where you cook the meat attached to bone for a couple of hours to make soup and bone broth is where you simmer meat free bones. For those with histamine issues or extremely sensitive digestion, it’s good to start with bones that are only cooked for a couple of hours. Chicken is a good choice to introduce first as it has a much milder flavour, especially for kids. (Thank you to my friend Kitsa Yanniotis, GAPS educator exceptionelle for sharing this specific GAPS information)
27. What if I’m on a FODMAP diet? Can I still make stock?
Absolutely. Depending on your sensitivity, leave out the onion altogether, OR chop into it a few green spring onion tips for the flavour if you can manage those.
28. Can I feed my baby stock?
As with all things, best start a little teaspoon or two mid morning and check for any reactions but stock is a seriously awesome thing to include in a baby’s diet, given the building blocks it provided the whole body! Cooking meat in it to make it soft and mixing with pumpkin will make a wonderful meat/veggie puree, for example. Have a little try from 6 months and be sure to leave out the salt for their tiny, precious kidneys. Include a little stock – a tablespoon or two into veggie purees too to make them a million times more nourishing and satisfying. Contented babies who are deeply nourished while they’re growing so rapidly? YES PLEASE!!
29. Can I use raw and cooked bones together?
No one’s going to know the difference! Yes! In fact I like a mix, the cooked bones give the stock/broth a great, deep flavour.
30. Can I re-use bones to make another batch of stock?
Yes. There’s even a name for it – Remouillage – A French term for ‘re-wetting’. This works especially well if you’re making shorter cook time stocks/broths. Just freshen up the veggies and herbs for the 2nd batch and voila – a ridiculously good way to stretch the budget.
31. Do you have a question we’ve not yet covered???
Then leave it in the comments. If it’s about how it’s made, times, amounts etc, don’t forget to check back to my original post here.
Enjoy making stock a regular part of your cooking prep. Once you’ve got it, it will take very little time to make and it will add flavour and nourishment to everything – sauces, stews, soups, warm dressings, roast tray deglaze, gravies…
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