REAL FOOD 101: How to Make Beef Stock

(To buy the REAL FOOD 101 E-book: Traditional Foods, Traditionally Prepared, click here.  Full color photos, step by step tutorials, and more.  Only $14.)

Wintertime always seems full of good cheer and warming foods: hearty soups and stews, bright cranberries and pomegranate seeds, hearty root vegetables.  These foods all provide seasonal nutrients that we need to stay healthy and properly nourished.  In my opinion, probably due to my body’s intense need for it, the heart of cold season nourishing foods is bone broth.

Bone broth is quite simply bones simmered in water with vegetables.  To make a bone broth you can use clean marrow bones with no meat, meaty bones, the leftover carcass of a roasted chicken, duck, goose, etc.  I have even been looking into making pork stock with the bones of a pastured pig after I find a local source here in Arizona.  The possibilities with stock are endless, and can be individualized to what you prefer.  Just know that you are making a traditional food, and one of the most nourishing at that!

January is as good a time as any to begin to incorporate stock into your weekly and daily foods.  Perhaps you already make stock and are used to the process.  Perhaps you are brand new to making stock and seeking a tutorial.  Perhaps you got off track a bit with the holidays and now you need to get back to more stock.  Perhaps the wintertime is hard on your immune system and you have been sick a lot this season.

Why Do I Need Stock?  You know how you crave Taco Bell, or Doritos, or Chinese food?  I don’t know if any of you still eat processed food, but I have not had any for over a year.  And I still think that Taco Bell sounds good, even though I know better.  That is how powerful these food additives are to our brains and body chemistry.  And fortunately I do know better so I can make nourishing choices that truly satisfy a food craving.

I know that the reality is not only that it won’t taste as good as I remember (you tastebuds truly do go through a change when you switch to real food), but I will feel terrible!  Monosodium glutamate (MSG) gives me a racing heart and a fuzzy brain.  After you don’t have MSG in your diet for a while, you can really isolate how it makes you feel when you do have it.

On the Weston A. Price Foundation “Broth is Beautiful” page, it says that:

Research on gelatin came to an end in the 1950s because the food companies discovered how to induce Maillard reactions and produce meat-like flavors in the laboratory. In a General Foods Company report issued in 1947, chemists predicted that almost all natural flavors would soon be chemically synthesized. And following the Second World War, food companies also discovered monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food ingredient the Japanese had invented in 1908 to enhance food flavors, including meat-like flavors. Humans actually have receptors on the tongue for glutamate. It is the protein in food that the human body recognizes as meat.

Any protein can be hydrolyzed to produce a base containing free glutamic acid or MSG. When the industry learned how to make the flavor of meat in the laboratory, using inexpensive proteins from grains and legumes, the door was opened to a flood of new products including bouillon cubes, dehydrated soup mixes, sauce mixes, TV dinners and condiments with a meaty taste. “Homemade” soup in most restaurants begins with a powdered soup base that comes in a package or can and almost all canned soups and stews contain MSG, often found in ingredients called hydrolyzed porteins. The fast food industry could not exist without MSG and artificial meat flavors to make “secret” sauces and spice mixes that beguile the consumer into eating bland and tasteless food.

I like to think of stock as the “real” MSG, but of course I am joking!  It’s more accurate to say that MSG is the Great Homemade Stock Cover-Up.  When you crave MSG, it is your body telling you to eat real food.  You need a real stock for a soup base.  You need real sea salt teeming with minerals.  You need savory stock reduction sauces to ladle over veggies and mashed potatoes.  You don’t need Top Ramen or fast food.  You only think you do.  Don’t be fooled.

I grew up on Top Ramen and other MSG-laden canned soups and snack foods.  I am fortunate that my mom also made a lot of homemade foods for dinner that were much higher quality.  And we really didn’t know any better.  Fortunately there is always more to know!

So you can ditch the packaged foods that say “MSG”, “disodium glutamate”, “autolyzed”, “hydrolyzed”, “citric acid”, or “natural flavors” somewhere in the list of ingredients.  That is where MSG hides, legally.  Put your effort into reading labels at first and omitting these additives from your foods.  Then take the next step and make a stock every week (or every couple of days!)

How Can I Use It?  Beef stock is excellent to make as a base for a hearty stew or for French onion soup.  I have several pounds of beef bones in my chest freezer from ordering an entire cow last fall to split with a few local friends.  Typically there are two kinds of beef bones: marrow bones and meaty bones.  Use a combination of both if you can, but it is not necessary.

And as always, know that stock is incredibly nourishing and healing.  If you are sick, make sure to drink broth.  If you are on the GAPS diet, especially Intro Diet, then you will definitely be making a lot of stock!  A good general rule for stock is to have at least one cup of it per day.  More may be needed for additional healing.

Equipment List:

Beef Stock

1 1/2 pounds beef marrow bones, preferably grass-fed (buy grass-fed beef and bones here)
1 1/2 pounds beef meaty bones (knuckle or neck), preferably grass-fed (buy grass-fed beef and bones here)
4-5 whole carrots, unpeeled and whole
4-5 stalks celery, whole
1 onion, unpeeled, cut in half or whole
2 bay leaves (buy organic herbs here)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns (buy organic spices here)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (buy apple cider vinegar here)
sea salt to taste (buy unrefined sea salt here)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large baking dish, brown the meaty bones for 15-20 minutes or so.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Transfer the meaty bones to the a large stock pot, French oven, or slow cooker.
  2. In the large pot with the browned meaty bones, add raw marrow bones to the bottom.  Then add carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, and peppercorns on top of the bones.  Cover with water, leaving at least an inch below the top of the pot.  Add the apple cider vinegar and leave at room temperature, covered, for 1 hour.
  3. If using a stock pot or French oven, move to the stove and bring to a full boil.  Then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer on low for at least 12 hours and up to 72 hours.  If using a slow cooker, simply turn on high, cover, and let cook for 12-72 hours as well.  (I put my slow cooker in the backyard in summertime.)
  4. If the water level gets too low, simply add more to make sure the bones nad vegetables are submerged.  You can see below that after about 24 hours my slow cooker water level was too low and I had to add some more to get the stock through to the next day for a full 48 hours of simmering.
  5. When the stock is done simmering, turn off the heat and uncover.  Strain the stock through a large strainer and put into a large jar or bowl.  There will be a layer of melted fat on top.  The amount of fat rendered depends on how much fat was in your bones and remaining meaty portions.  In this batch I got several inches of tallow!
  6. If there is a lot of tallow, simply pour it off (I did in the this one, but couldn’t get it all).  Do this carefully so you do not lose any stock.  Then place in the refrigerator to make sure the remaining tallow will harden.  Then strain out the hardened tallow (and save for sauteeing, deep frying, or even making candles!)

*Edited to add: You can reuse the bones in the stock pot at least three times.  Just strain out the stock, discard the vegetables, and start fresh with the beef bones again.  Add new vegetables, cover with water, add vinegar, and simmer another couple of days.  Very economical!

This post is a part of Weekend Gourmet, Sunday Night Soup NightSunday SchoolMonday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Traditional TuesdaySlightly Indulgent Tuesday, Healthy2day Wednesday, The Mommy ClubReal Food Wednesday, Pennywise Platter, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fight Back Friday, and Fresh Bites Friday.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.


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  1. Thanks, Kendahl! I’ve been needing to make another batch of beef stock. The first one I ever made did not come out tasting well and I’ve stuck with chicken stock ever since. But I do want to get back to making some beef stew and soups, so I need more beef stock! I have the bones, but haven’t done it yet. Maybe that will be a project this week. 🙂

    Questions about the “meaty bones” and roasting:

    1 – Is 15-20 minutes all you really need to roast them for? I thought they needed up to an hour?

    2 – Are the bones leftover from steaks, roast, etc also included in the “meaty bones” and should be roasted? Or am I best left to sticking with neck and knuckle bones?

    Thanks! 🙂

    • 1. I guess I’m just impatient, because I generally only do 20 minutes or so, 30 if I forget they’re in there. But an hour would be fine too, and might give it a more “roasty” flavor.

      2. Yes, leftover bones from steaks and roasts would be meaty bones. Anything with enough meat to benefit from roasting would work as a meaty bone.

  2. Thank-you Kendahl for this information. My question is how do I go about finding information about the lead content in the ceramic liner of my slow-cooker? I have only recently heard that there could be lead in the liners.

    Thank-you again.

    • I have called Hamilton Beach myself and made sure that their glaze is completely lead-free from their manufacturer. You can call them too, just to make sure (I had to too!) and put your mind at ease. Hamilton Beach is generally very open and helpful with the plastic, metal, and material compositions of their products. I think the first time I heard that was reading about plastics in baby products on Z Recommends. Yep, I found what it was I read, here.

  3. mmm your broth looks so warm and comforting and actually it is the perfect comfort food! My taste buds changed after eating real food too and once I incorporated cultured vegetables in my diet I truly stopped cravings for high sugar junk foods. Great info too! 🙂

  4. I love this post on stock! I have a bunch of beef bones in my freezer and just today bought some meaty bones as well. Beef stock here I come! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with Sunday Night Soup Night! I’ll be hosting weekly through fall and winter, so I’d love to see you again with your next soup/stock/chowder recipe.

  5. I found your post via Real Food Wednesday. I was looking on there at a recipe for borscht, and I was thinking “But how can I make my own beef stock?” and then saw your post. Perfect! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great post! I have heard a few conflicting things regarding “bone broth” vs. meat broth….I was giving my little ones bone broth, they are on their 4th month of gaps intro, and then someone on the forum said I should actually be giving them meat broth and to build up to the bone broth…do you know anything about this? since I read that, I have been making meat broth, and cooking for 2 1/2-3 hours so that the meat doesn’t get tough….it’s been coming out really well. should i still be adding ACV to this?
    thanks for all of your help!

    • I have heard that same distinction made between meat broth and bone broth, but I have always made my stock the way it is in the recipe above and I haven’t had any problems. I suppose I just need a little simplicity with making stock or I would distinguish more! But if you think the kiddos do better on meat broth, stick with it. Then introduce the bone broth and see how they do. Both are really great for you, so if the kiddos end up not being a factor and they handle them both really well, then just make whatever strikes your fancy 🙂

  7. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    Share your great fermented food recipes at my Probiotic Food Linky – open through Februray 6, 2012.

  8. I have been making chicken broth for a long time now, but I’ve yet to buy beef broth. It’s good to know that I can reuse the bones!

    I’m currently trying to build up my stock and soup freezer stash for when our little one arrives in May. I’m hosting a Make-ahead meal link up over at my blog, Raising Isabella.

    I’d love to have you come share your post here:

    Hope to see you there!

  9. Hello Kendahl,
    I am so excited that you brought this post to share with us. This is a great tutorial for Beef Stock! Thank you so much for sharing with our 1st Anniversary Party at Full Plate Thursday. Have a great week end and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  10. I’m new to all of this and have a silly question. How do you strain the hardened beef tallow? And then do you just use it interchangeably with butter/ghee? Thanks.

  11. Thanks for informing us on this. So is the tallow good or bad animal fat? I am always so confused about animal fats
    I use organic meat bones if that helps


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