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Apr 11, 2008 05:03 PM

Is there a peak saturation point when making stock?

I feel like simmering bones for hours makes the flavors muddy and "soggy" but I feel if I don't do so, not enough of the collagen and flavors will be extracted. However, I've been wondering if there's a point where the water stops absorbing all the flavors and collagen from the bones?

I could put more water just in case, but I'm also afraid of waterlogging the stock

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  1. Good concern. My guess is that we'rer taling about a beef/large bone based stock? You want to simmer on very low heat for a long time; and then clarify by straining, filtering, and/or rafting with whipped egg whites. You can clarify when stock is reduced by about a third to half from the original and then just reduce thereafter.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      But is there a point where the water stops absorbing the collagen and flavors? When I take out the bones, I always have this compulsive need to simmer the bones in another batch, reduce the weaker stock, and add it to the original stock

      1. re: takadi

        The bones do, after time, collapse into little pieces when you stir so that's when you've probably maxed out on collagen. If you do what you're planning, reusing bones (which I think would lead to a stock that is too weak), you could refrigerate before adding the stock. If it's gelatinous, then combine. But, I'd go with the taste test. Oh, this is with chicken bones. I've never simmered ham bones long enough for them to break up.

        1. re: takadi

          For me, three hours are enough for extracting just about all the collagen and flavors.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Three hours is just about what I do with chicken, as well. But what about large beef bones? I've done the roasting, I've done the 12 hour simmer (whew). Sufficient? Or can we get more out of the stock. And, is this a question of which bones have more collagen. Any thoughts? (Especially since 12 hours is about my lin-in-the-sand time.)


            1. re: cayjohan

              I get edgy using so much energy. I make more fish stock than others--several cachama (a fish of the Amazon Basin) make a stock so collagen rich that a 30 minute simmer gives me a thicker than jello stock. The flavor is so mild I use the fish stock in heavier spiced Asian dishes. I limit my chicken and beef stocks to three hours max, reasoning that three hours is enough to get 80% of the goodies while 8 hours more will give me the last 20%. I'd rather save the energy and forego the 20%.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I do it in the crockpot (not sure if you have the option) and simmer all day. I've read that the crockpot uses very little energy compared to a stove. I can't plan to be home for hours so I like that I can leave it.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Thank you for the energy-conscious answer. I think I will save myself the longer simmer times in future. It just seems so wasteful.

                  Seems I need to experiment with fish stocks, on the energy-efficient plane, as well.

                  Thanks much,

          2. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Sam -- I've never used this egg white rafting technique. How does it work? And would you use it with other stocks like chicken stock or just beef?

            1. re: karykat

              Whip up some moderately stiff whites, distribute evenly (use your hands if need be) over the gently heating stock (a "raft"). Lot of the bad bits cling to the whites. Carefully lift off and dispose. Works for any stock.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I find that unless you are making highly concentrated consomme or making an aspic, this clarifying process is just overkill. Parboiling and skimming works almost just as well.

          3. I heard some good advice from the Zuni cookbook. Just keep tasting! If it tastes right, it's done.

            1. I have been using this method for the past few months, and love the results.


              5 Replies
              1. re: smtucker

                Ahhh, the notorious oven method. I'd say this comes second to my most wanted stock preparation next to using a pressure cooker. I've been meaning to try this for a while, but none of my stock pots are oven safe....seriously. It seems like this method would save a ton of energy and be more consistent in terms of temperature control as well

                1. re: takadi

                  I use a 5.5 quart dutch oven, using the back and any scraps from cutting up the chicken into pieces as well as a carcass. For each batch, I use two chicken 'remains.' With this method, I find that making stock more frequently, in smaller batches, is easy since I don't have to watch the pot and can set timers that remind me to check the pot. After straining, I freeze in 1/2 cup and 4 cup quantities if I am not going to use the stock immediately.

                2. re: smtucker

                  Did I do something wrong? I tried this method and my stock was very pale (still looked almost like plain water after several hours in the oven) and very bland. Didn't like it at all.

                  1. re: Jen76

                    Several hours doesn't seem long enough. I generally do at least four hours before adding the vegetables and any fresh herbs, and then cook for an additional hour.

                    1. re: smtucker

                      I'm confused. I meant "several" as in "more than a few." It was in at least 4 hours before I added anything else to it. I just don't think it was hot enough.

                3. I think it's less an issue of the water not absorbing the bone flavors, and more an issue of distorting the taste of the stock when you overcook the bone and bone marrow.

                  At least from my experience, when stock is left to simmer too long, it can take on a bitter, almost "tinny" taste.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    So would making a second "weak" stock and reducing it be a waste of time? The thing is I feel like throwing out meat and bones that haven't been milked of all its goodness is a waste

                  2. It is quite classic to use stock in place of water to make an *even more* flavorful stock the second time around. Reusing bones for stock (with fresh mirepoix and bouquet garni) is called a remoulage - and that too is common, or at least was common enough to have its own name. A remoulage does not produce as flavorful of a stock as using fresh bones, but there is still flavor left to be extracted. Where the line is drawn when stock can no longer get more flavorful or extract more collagen though is beyond me. Simmering for too long will lead to bitter flavors and cloudy stock, so continually adding fresh ingredients and/or reducing the stock is the best way to test the saturation point, if there is one.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: afoodyear

                      I guess a good hypotheical situation to illustrate this is:

                      If I made two batches of stock, all simmered for the same amount of hours, same amount of ingredients, except the only variable is that one of the batches had half the water as the other one, at the end of the duration of the cooking, if I added back water to the batch with half the amount of water to dilute it to the point where it was the same volume as the other batch, would the batch that started out with less water taste more bland or less bland