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The #1 Biggest Mistake When Making Bone Broth

You’ve likely heard about some of the health benefits of bone broth from your favorite paleo bloggers, and maybe you’re already accustomed to making bone broth at home.

While some of the claims that drew you to add bone broth to your diet require more research, there’s evidence that the constituents found in bone broth – namely the amino acids found in collagen and gelatin – can help decrease joint pain, seal the gut lining, and improve skin elasticity (1, 2, 3).

We know that soups and stews with a bone broth base are a great source of vital nutrients, a great base for vegetables, and are just plain delicious. We also know that drinking bone broth instead of coffee in the morning is a great way to start the day.

It’s pretty easy to make bone broth. But did you know that there’s a critical step in the bone-broth making process that’s often forgotten?

You have a few options when deciding how to make bone broth, each giving you similar results, but that one critical step can mean the difference between so-so results and the very best, most nutritious broth around.

The Basics

The first thing you need to decide when making bone broth is the method you’ll use. There are three main cooking methods, each requiring a different vessel:

  1. Stove top and stock pot
  2. Slow cooker (Crock-Pot)
  3. Pressure cooker (Instant Pot)

Which method you decide to go with will depend on how much time you have and how much broth you want to make.

Next you want to choose good-quality ingredients. Quality ingredients are everything, and your bone broth recipe should be no different. As far as the type of broth goes, you have your pick. Most common are beef broth and chicken broth, but you can also make pork broth, and even fish broth (although fish broth might not get you to the same gelatinous end product).

As you might guess, beef bone broth requires beef bones, and chicken bone broth requires chicken bones. The trick is to choose the right bones. And we absolutely recommend prioritizing humanely raised, grass-fed beef and organic chicken. (We’re careful not to use the blanket term “grass fed animals” because chickens and pigs are natural omnivores.) The animals that source your broth bones are ideally pasture-raised, but if you can’t find those easily, go organic at the very least.

Which Bones?

Not every bone in your body is created equal, and the same is true for the animals that will source your bone broth. The best bones for bone broth are those that are rich in connective tissue, as that’s where most of the collagen is located.

For chickens, you want to search for chicken feet first. They’re full of joints and loaded with connective tissue. If you can’t find chicken feet, search for chicken wings or chicken backs. Ideally, you’ll be saving your chicken carcasses after a meal at home and freezing your bones in anticipation of your broth-making day, but we can’t always prepare ahead, so ask your butcher about those feet and wings.

If you’re planning to make a beef bone broth, your best bet is a combination of marrow bones and beef knuckle. The marrow bones alone probably won’t get you to the gelatinous finish, but they do offer excellent nutrients and a delicious flavor.

If you’re choosing beef, you might consider one extra step to enhance the flavor of the final product. Roasted bones tend to create a richer, deeper flavor, so before you throw everything into the pot, place bones on a cookie sheet and roast at 375 F for 15–20 minutes first.

Flavorful Herbs and Veggies

If you’ve ever made chicken soup, you’re already pulling out the celery, carrots, onions, and garlic for your broth. These simple ingredients go a long way to enhance the flavor of your broth.

If you’re planning to make bone broth regularly, you’ll want to save your veggie scraps as you go, since everything will get strained out in the end. Scraps to save include onion and garlic skins and ends, carrot tops, celery butts, and even scraps from other veggies to boost the nutrients that end up in the finished product. Throw in your broccoli stems, tomato tops, and anything else you think would add flavor to your broth.

Herbs we almost always include are bay leaves, fresh oregano, and parsley. You’ll want to throw your fresh herbs in toward the end of the cooking process, otherwise, their flavor and nutrient value will get cooked away.

The Ingredient (and Step) Most People Forget

One of the key differences between bone broth and regular beef or chicken stock is the long cook time. But there’s an extra ingredient and key step that takes bone broth to the next level, leaching every bit of goodness out of your bones and making your broth much more nutrient-dense.

That extra ingredient is raw apple cider vinegar (ACV). And the extra step is waiting to turn the fire on.

Even though a big batch of broth only requires a small amount of this sweet and sour ingredient (between 1 tablespoon and 1/4 cup, depending on the size of your pot), ACV plays a vital role in jump-starting the breakdown of the bones in your broth. The acid content, along with the live enzymes found inside start the process of leaching nutrients from the bones into the broth before you even start cooking.

After you’ve placed your bones in your pot, pour the ACV in, then fill your pot with cold water. Then you’ll leave your pot off of the heat for at least 30 minutes. Leaving the your stock pot away from heat for that 30 minutes (or even longer) prevents the heat from killing off the live cultures and enzymes in the ACV before they can do their good work. From there, add your veggies and a bit of sea salt, turn on the heat, and let it cook.

Nutritious and Delicious

Once you’ve decided on your cooking method, chosen your vessel, and selected your ingredients, you’re all set to get your broth party started. Coarsely chop all your veggies while you’re waiting for the ACV to sink into the bones.

When that 30 minutes is up, toss everything in and turn your heat up to high if you’ve chosen the stovetop method. Once it reaches a rolling boil, turn your stove down to low heat and partially cover for at least 6 hours, and up to 24.

If you’ve chosen the slow-cooker method, simply turn your cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours and head out the door!

If you’ve chosen the Instant Pot method, lock your pot and come back in two hours.

Once your broth is ready for sipping or using as a base for soup, you’ll need to strain it. We recommend using a fine mesh strainer and storing your broth in 3-cup mason jars. Allow your broth to cool to room temperature before you put it in the fridge or freezer. Your broth will be good in the refrigerator for a week or so, and will last in the freezer for months (although we bet you won’t need that long to drink it up).

Don’t Forget that Critical Step When Making Bone Broth

Making bone broth at home is easy and can be fun, but it’s vital to remember the most important step. After you’ve chosen your method and picked your flavor, remember your raw apple cider vinegar and to allow your bones to sit for at least 30 minutes before turning up the heat. This will mean the difference between average, watery stock and gelatinous, nutritious bone broth.

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The #1 Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Making Bone Broth

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