Years ago, when I was in college, I was told by my Chinese doctor to make soup from scratch for my health (the reasons too long to go into now). In his words, "get beef bones and boil them".
The good news is that I had one of those food epiphanies - soup stock comes from bones? I hadn't connected the dots before. (So why was mom simmering that turkey carcass? Never bothered to ask.)
The bad news is that I hadn't the faintest idea what I was doing; I dutifully went to my local butcher, begged some beef bones, and boiled them for hours with a rolling boil until the bones were practically disintegrating. Then I removed the bones, added lentils and salt, and ate it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the process of making stock, this is not the way to do it. (Granted, if you are calcium deficient and don't care about the taste of your soup, or the grittiness, it is edible.)
How to Make Beef Stock
The trick with stock is to roast the bones first to get some caramelized flavor going, then to slowly heat them in water until a bare simmer, and then let them cook that way, gently, for a good long time. With beef stock, it helps to include some beef scraps or stew meat, as well as aromatic vegetables and herbs. Also, a few veal bones will help provide gelatin to the stock.
Why make your own beef stock?
If you make a big batch and freeze it, you may save some money. But the main reason is that you'll get a richness of flavor and texture in your homemade stock that you just can't buy at the store.
Beef Stock vs Beef Broth: What's the Difference?
Labels on products in the soup aisle use the terms stock and broth interchangeably, but in culinary terms, they two are not the same.
Stock is made from bones and cooked long and slow to extract flavor and nutrients from the bones and any meat and fat left on them. Sometimes vegetables and chunks of meat are added, too, but not always.
Stock also has no or minimal salt. If you taste stock after it's made, you may think it has little flavor or the flavor is "off", but don't fret. Its flavor will perk up when you add salt to the recipe you use the stock in.
Meanwhile, broth is traditionally made using meat, vegetables, and seasoning. Because it already has seasoning, it's more palatable when consumed straight. If you use broth as an ingredient in a recipe, remember the broth is already seasoned when you add salt.
Are Beef Bone Broth and Beef Stock the Same Thing?
Yes, and no. First of all, "bone broth" is a culinary misnomer. Since traditional broth is made from meat, not bones, the "bone broths" that are popular to drink on their own these days are technically stock. Bone broths are simmered for longer than regular stocks are to extract more nutrients; sometimes vinegar is added to help break down the bones more as they cook. It's then seasoned to make it more palatable.
Even though beef stock and bone broth are very similar, keep in mind when using products labeled "beef bone broth" as an ingredient that they are already salted, so you should reduce the salt the recipe calls for.
Why Is There No Salt in This Recipe?
Traditionally stock is left unsalted because it's meant to be used as an ingredient in recipes, not as a food consumed on its own. Leaving stock unsalted give you more control over the seasoning and sodium content when you use that stock as an ingredient in other recipes.
How Do I Store or Freeze Beef Stock?
Refrigerate beef stock for up to one week. Leaving the layer of fat that forms on it on top of the broth once chilled will add a protective layer against bacteria while the stock is in the refrigerator.
Freeze stock for 3 to 5 months in freezer safe, zip top bags or freezer safe canning jars (leave an inch of room at the top for expansion as the broth freezes). Freeze in recipe-ready amounts. If you have a little remaining, freeze the stock in ice cube trays. Once frozen, put the frozen beef stock cubes in a zip top bag for use when a soup or stew needs just a little more liquid or flavor.
Try These Recipes That Use Beef Broth!
- French Onion Soup
- Easy Wok-Kissed Beef Pho
- Instant Pot Guinness Beef Stew
- Sous Vide French Dip Sandwiches
- Salisbury Steak With Mushroom Gravy
How to Make Beef Stock
4 to 5 pounds meaty beef stock bones (with lots of marrow), including some knuckle bones if possible, cut to expose the center marrow, and include at least a couple veal bones if you can, for their gelatin
1 pound stew meat (chuck or flank steak) and/or beef scraps, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 to 2 medium onions, quartered
1 to 2 large carrots, cut into 1-2 inch segments
1 large celery rib, cut into 1-inch segments or handful celery tops
2 to 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Handful fresh parsley, including stems and leaves
1 to 2 bay leaves
Roast the meat, bones, and vegetables:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Rub a little olive oil over the stew meat pieces, carrots, and onions. Place stock bones, stew meat or beef scraps, carrots and onions in a large, shallow roasting pan.
Roast in oven for about 45 minutes, turning the bones and meat pieces half-way through the cooking, until nicely browned. If bones begin to char at all during this cooking process, lower the heat. They should brown, not burn.
When the bones and meat are nicely browned, remove them and the vegetables and place them in a large (12 to 16 quart) stock pot.
Add hot water and scrape up the browned bits:
Place the roasting pan on the stove-top on low heat (will cover 2 burners). Pour 1/2 cup to 1 cup of hot water over the pan, and use a metal spatula to scrape up all of the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Pour the browned bits and water into the stockpot.
Add vegetables, water, bring to a low simmer:
Add celery tops, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns to the stock pot.
Fill the stock pot with cold water, to 1 to 2 inches over the top of the bones. Put the heat on high and bring the pot to a low simmer. Reduce the heat to low.
If you have a candy or meat thermometer, the temperature of the water should be between 180° and 200°F (boiling is 212°F). The stock should be at a bare simmer, just a bubble or two coming up here and there. (You may need to put the pot on your smallest burner on the lowest temp, or if you are using an oven-safe pot, place it in the oven at 190°F.)
Cover the pot loosely and let simmer low and slow for 3-6 hours.
Do not stir the stock while cooking. Stirring will mix the fats in with the stock, clouding up the stock.
Skim scum and fat:
As the stock cooks, fat will be released from the bone marrow and stew meat and rise to the top. From time to time check in on the stock and use a large metal spoon to scoop away the fat and any scum that rises to the surface.
(Do not put this fat down your kitchen drain. It will solidify and block your pipes. Put it in a bowl or jar to save for cooking or to discard.)
Remove solids and strain:
At the end of cooking time (3 hours minimum, 6 to 8 hours if you can do it) use a slotted spoon or spider ladle to gently remove the bones, chunks of meat, and vegetables from the pot and discard. (If you see a chunk of marrow, taste it, it's delicious.)
Line another large pot (8-quart) with a fine mesh sieve, covered with a couple layers of cheesecloth if you have it.
Pour the stock through the sieve to strain it of remaining solids.
Let cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator.
Once the stock has chilled, any fat remaining will have risen to the top and solidified. The fat forms a protective layer against bacteria while the stock is in the refrigerator. If you plan to freeze the stock, however, remove and discard the fat, pour the stock into a jar or plastic container. (You can also remove the fat, and boil the stock down, concentrating it so that it doesn't take as much storage space.) Leave an inch head room from the top of the stock to the top of the jar, so that as the stock freezes and expands, it will not break the container.