Meat Stock (Bone Broth)

This post has been updated and republished. It was originally written by Alicia but I’ve updated it to reflect how I cook my stock now.

Stock is the easiest thing in the world to make, and takes hardly any effort. I always try and have some ready in the freezer and fridge. If it’s kept in the fridge in jars with a layer of fat left on it can last ages. Without the fat it will only keep a few days so I tend to only have half a litre or so in the fridge at a time.

My stock is often partly made out of leftovers. I bag up carrot peelings, onion skins (not the very outer skins but the second layer) and any other root veg peelings (parsnips, swede) and herb stalks (especially parsley) in the freezer as I cook. Whenever we have any meat bones (usually chicken) left after a meal or deboned from a piece of meat it goes into a bag in the freezer (it’s just for the two of us so I’m not too fussy about the fact they may have been chewed on a bit). If I happen to be at a butcher or buying my meat from a farmers market, I’ll get pig trotters as a first preference (they make the best gel and the best tasting stock!) or beef marrow bones as a second preference. If they have chicken carcasses going cheap I’ll buy them too. I usually get enough bones or trotters to use half on the day of purchase and set the other half aside in the freezer for another day.

I did it once on a stove top but found it too much trouble – you have to keep topping it up if you want to cook it for a long time, you have to keep the heat steady, you have to worry about the gas flame, etc. I moved on to doing it in my slowcooker which was good because you could just forget about it but then you have to wait a day for it. Then I got my Instant Pot and my world changed. I followed instructions from Nom Nom Paleo for making stock in the pressure cooker and have never looked back. I’ve listed all three below but the most detail is given to the Instant Pot, because that’s my preferred method. Incidentally, I spoke to Holly Taylor about whether or not pressure cooking made a difference to the quality of the end product in terms of nutrients and she thought not. I then did a bit more research to find out what others thought. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking (a great book and highly recommended), pressure cookers ‘reduces cooking times by trapping the steam that escapes from boiling water, thereby increasing the pressure on the liquid, and so raising its boiling point – and maximum temperature – to about 250°F/120°C,’ although he doesn’t give an indication of whether pressure cooking affects the nutrition of the food. Food Renegade cites a couple of studies that show pressure cooking to preserve heat-sensitive nutrients due to reduced cooking time, so I have tentatively concluded that pressure-cooked stock is as good as a gently simmered one.

By the way, if you’re wondering what the difference is between broth and stock – well there isn’t one really, not in the actual end product. Some would argue that ‘stock’ is cooked for less time and used for cooking while ‘broth’ is cooked for at least 24 hours and used for cooking but also as a hot drink. Personally I think it’s an American vs British thing, but bone broth for drinking sounds better than drinking stock. So broth won out and became the trendy term for it. I guess I distinguish by calling the stuff I drink in a mug ‘broth’ and the stuff I use for soup ‘stock’ but it’s the same thing – I don’t make a different version for each.

You need…
Bones from the butchers – trotters are my favourite but chicken carcass or beef marrow bones are good too. If you use the latter, try and get chicken necks or feet to add for the gelatin
Saved bones from previous meals (if you have them)
A few peppercorns
2-3 bay leaves
A tablespoon of cider vinegar
Veg odds and edds and peelings (or a carrot, a celery and an onion, roughly chopped)

Stovetop method: Add all ingredients into a large pan. Cover with water and bring up to the boil. Skim of impurities. Leave to simmer for 2-3 hours (or longer if you are happy to leave it; overnight is good!), then strain.

Slowcooker method: Add all ingredients to a slowcooker, cover with water. Cook on low overnight or for as long as you want (I’ve done it for 24 hours).

Pressure cooker method (Instant Pot): Add all ingredients into Instant Pot, cover with water. Set to ‘Soup’ and adjust to 1 hour. It will take around 20 minutes to come up to pressure. Once it’s done, turn off Keep Warm and cover with a damp tea to reduce temperature quickly. It will take quite a while to come off pressure so if you’re impatient like me, leave it on Off for 10-15 minutes and then do a quick release.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve or muslin into a large dish and allow to cool. Or you could strain it into a jug and then pour into jars/small freezer bags/Tupperware/ice cube trays and when cool, place in the fridge overnight. Depending on the make up of your meat content it will reach varying stages of jelly, and the fat will rise to the top. Leave the fat on if you want to keep it in the fridge or scrape it off if you want to freeze it. You can use the fat for cooking but be aware that it may have bits of stock clinging to it so it might start spitting when it heats in a pan!

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