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Making Beef Stock/Broth

I'm looking for some tips on making beef stock/broth. Today I made some and was very disappointed. I used around 2lbs of bones, and 1lb of meat, browned the bones, and simmered for around 5 hours with herbs, vegetables and a spoon of tomato paste. What I ended up with was only 1.5 liters of a really weak flavored broth. Am I expecting too much yield and I need to reduce it? Why is it that I can get something more flavorful and more yield with a used chicken carcass?

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  1. Did you check if for flavor without adding any salt?

    Your chicken stock got salt from the cooked chicken. Unless you have a lot of experience in making stock, it is hard to distinguish the flavor that comes from the meat, and the saltiness that we expect from a well seasoned soup.

    How was the body of the beef broth? After cooling it in the fridge overnight, did it gel as much as the chicken stock, or even more?

    1. Welcome to the cold harsh reality of beef stockmaking. Beef bones/meat doesn't have anywhere near the collagen that's in chicken. Pound for pound it's always a fraction of the yield- and if the chicken you're using has some skin, it's a night and day difference (skin has the most collagen of all). For the same amount of bones/meat, I find that I get about 1/4 the yield when making beef stock.

      Reduce your stock by 3/4- that should give you the rich meaty flavor that you're looking for.

      Other than that, there's a few things you can do to maximize output, but the gains are all fairly minimal.

      What type of meat did you use? You want to use meat with as much connective tissue as possible. Shank used to be ideal, but, unfortunately, the price went up and it's no longer really viable. Trimmings, if you can get them, are excellent.

      You could also go a little longer than 5 hours- maybe 6 or 7. If you're going to add aromatics, add them later- maybe 2 or 3 hours in.

      I haven't had the chance to test this, but I have a theory that beef fat is a valuable addition to stock. When you brown fat, you get flavorful drippings. The only questions I have to answer is the cost effectiveness of fat and the differences in flavor between body fat and marrow fat. I am a bit biased, since a prefer the taste of body fat to marrow (I'll take a well marbled ribeye over roasted marrow any day), but, when all is said and done, for me, cost per output is very important and if browned body fat isn't bring all that much to the table, I have to forgo it. My gut feeling, though, is that body fat is bringing a LOT to the table.

      I'm sure there will be those that have issue with this, but a large portion of the rich umami flavor in beef stock comes from glutamates. Adding a small amount of additional glutamates goes a long way in extending the flavor of stock. Bear in mind, I said 'small.' I'm not condoning a commercial approach where beef stock is almost pure glutamates. Much like that tiny pinch of sugar in tomato sauce when the tomatoes are especially tart- that's how I approach glutamates in stock. You can't make crappy stock great with glutamates. It's about taking good stock and making it a tiny bit better.

      Lastly, I find it helps to have a different mindset when approaching beef stock. Whereas chicken stock is usually a single event- simmer a carcass, or wings or sale leg quarters and have enough stock to last me a while, beef stock is more an accumulation of events. Drippings from this, drippings from that, strained liquid from something else, all frozen and eventually combined. When accumulated in this manner, you end up with an amount you can actually work with- instead of the rather depressing activity of spending hours making stock only to end up with what seems like a few spoonfuls.

      I'm not saying don't make stock- just try to foster a mentality of saving beef drippings as much as possible.

      13 Replies
      1. re: scott123

        If your goal is a highly gelatinous stock, as opposed to one with a lot 'beefy' flavor, the easiest shortcut is to cook a cows foot for several hours.

        1. re: paulj

          when you say " cow's foot", doest it have to be calf's foot? or could i use just grown adult cow's foot?

          1. re: hae young

            I doubt if it makes much difference. I don't think I've ever seen 'calfs foot' in a grocery. Cow's foot, on the other hand, is common in markets that serve Hispanic and Asian clients. It gives body to the stock in meudo (Mexican tripe stew). Pigs foot (and other parts with lots of skin) will serve the same purpose.

        2. re: scott123

          "Beef bones/meat doesn't have anywhere near the collagen that's in chicken."

          I haven't found that to be the case. Example: Korean beef broth/soup, sullung tang. Knuckle bones yield quite the body.

          1. re: link_930

            Okay, fine. Beef bones traditionally used for soup don't have anywhere near the collagen.

            That's good to know on the knuckles, though. Thanks. Feet too, thanks.

            1. re: scott123

              Not trying to be difficult or contentious, but knuckle bones are traditionally used for soup... so I'm not sure what cut/which bones you are referring to.

              1. re: link_930

                I recall seeing quite a lot of marrow bones in recipes, but not always knuckle. Personally, I use any and all beef bones for stock.

                1. re: scott123

                  Marrow bones are slices of the largest bone, the femur. They are great for the marrow in the center, but the bone itself is quite dense and hard. Even after using them for soup or stock, my (little) dog does not make headway chewing them.

                  The knuckle (or other joints) has the tendons and cartilage that joins the bones. The bones are also quite spongy under the outer shell. I have to watch my dog with those, since he can practically chew the whole end. Shoulder blades (as in 7 bone chuck roast) are also quite spongy. Same for ribs.

                  The foot has many small bones, and with that a lot of connective tissue. In addition it has skin, which is very rich source of collagen.

            2. re: link_930

              i used to eat sullungtang in the past but didnt feel any viscosity of the soup.

            3. re: scott123

              Alright, thanks for the advice. I guess I just didn't expect to get such a low yield. I'll try simmering longer next time, and definitely make it in larger quantities so it's worth the time.

              1. re: scott123

                I'm with scott123. Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate. One can be generous with the water with chicken, but not with beef stock.

                I also applaud the suggestion that glutamates be insinuated into the stock. The fabulous "pop-in-your-mouth" beef reductions one has at restaurants are all aided and abetted by either MSG or a naturally-occurring glutamate (hoisen sauce etc.). I'm aware that many have concerns about the use of concentrated, isolated glutamates but, like most things, in moderation it's harmless and actually quite good-tasting.

                1. re: scott123

                  I am making demiglace for the first time, using a recipe that has pigs trotter and some pork rinds, veal and beef bones in it, and I have de-fatted the espagnole to remove maybe a cup of fat or more. I'm wondering if there is something to do with this fat, other than discard it. When I cook bacon I always try to save the rendered lard because it is great to cook with, but I don't really know much about beef fat.

                  1. re: adamold

                    Given the ingredients that you list, it might be more pork fat than beef. Pure beef fat is hard at fridge temperatures; pork is spreadable (but not as soft as chicken). Either could be used in frying. Bacon fat may be saltier.

                2. Another item that is really difficult to get is a veal knuckle! If you are so fortunate as to be able to get one, have the butcher crack it for you. Makes for a nice gelatinous, flavorful beef broth. Also, I always look for marrow bones.

                  1. You mentioned that you "browned" the bones. Stovetop or oven? They should be deeply-browned in the oven (oiled first), so that they look almost scorched, before going into the pot. Beef stock requires a lot of meat and bone compared to chicken. You can also add packets of gelatin for a collagen boost.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: greygarious

                      hey! before roasting the beef leg bones for stock, should i thaw them naturally by room temp or should i just put them in well pre-heated oven? and in case of thawing them first by room temp, could there be any boold dripping,from melted bones out of freezer?

                    2. Get yourself some neck bones. Most beef bones are pretty dry on the flavor and collagen department (even after browning).

                      If you've got big bones, try cracking them a bit with a nutcracker or a rolling pin. I like the flavor that the marrow provides.

                      1. I think as others have said, managing expectations may also be in order.

                        We simmer our beef stock overnight, so for about 2 or 3 hours longer. The resulting product is very good but not remarkable as a stand alone flavor. It's not seasoned with salt and it's defatted, 2 dimensions of flavor you're going to add when you cook with it. To me, the beef stock is a platform. It's rarely used as a stand alone, like a brodo. In my case the beef stock is almost always reduced with fats and seasoning introduced into a thicker broth or demi-glace. If it's too flavorful before reduction it's going to be overwhelming when reduced. Just some thoughts...

                        1. Coincidently, I tried making a big pot of beef stock last week for the first time (I think? if not it was a long time ago) and had similar results. I used shin bones, ribs and shanks, over a lb of each. Really thin and not like Mom's at all. Although now that I think of it, she was a forgetful kind of cook and I'm sure the stuff simmered all day if not longer.

                          Anyway last night I found an article in the local paper by a chef who's well known out here, John Ross, he's written many books and is very knowledgable, and it was how to make the classic sauces, starting with beef broth. So here's his advice:

                          Start with 5 lbs veal knuckle bones, or if you can't find use 2 inch beef marrow bones. Whatever bones you use, must be from feet or joints as that is where the gelatin is.

                          Roast bones at 400 for 30 minutes. Then add 2 cups chopped onion and 1 cup each of celery and carrots. Continue to roast until vegetables begin to brown. Add 1/4 cup tomato puree and stir in.

                          Transfer to stock pot and cover with 3 qts cold water. Bring to simmer and skim. Add bouquet garni of 1 leek, 3 sprigs thyme, 6 parsley stems and a bay leaf. Add a dozen peppercorns and simmer for 5 hours (he says "allow to simmer" I like that phrase!)

                          Anyway I typed it out here so next time I can find it, some good tips for me and hopefully you too.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: coll

                            Thanks for detailing the instructions. If memory serves, that is pretty much the same as in one of the Frugal Gourmet's cookbooks, which I own but have misplaced. I remember seeing him roasting the bones on one of his shows.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I'm pretty sure it's from or based on Escoffier, this chef is known for classic French cuisine. Anyway, I'm going to keep my radar open for veal knuckle and when they materialize, I will try again. I did roast the bones but only half hour or so, and the vegs only sauteed, so obviously I need to go to a higher level.

                            1. re: Lisbet

                              The picture of the roasted bones is very helpful.

                              1. re: coll

                                I agree...visuals help me so much for everything I do! If someone even recommends a wine I've never heard of, it helps me even more to see the label--then I can remember what I'm looking for much more than the name.

                            2. From TV Program: # 212 The Secret of Stock
                              Hubert Keller's Savory Beef Broth:
                              Knowing how to make a deep, rich beef broth is important to chefs because it is the foundation of so many recipes. If you can, use a variety of beef bones as each one will contribute its own unique flavor and texture to the broth. Don’t skip the roasting step which greatly intensifies the flavors and deep brown color of the broth.
                              4-5 pounds meaty beef bones (shank, neck, shoulder, or knuckle)
                              2 tablespoons olive oil
                              1 onion, coarsely chopped
                              2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
                              2 stalks celery, chopped
                              1 onion, peeled
                              3 tomatoes, chopped
                              1 large leek, white part and part of the green, coarsely chopped
                              1 teaspoon black peppercorns
                              2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
                              2 garlic cloves
                              1 sprig fresh rosemary
                              1 sprig fresh cilantro
                              1 sprig fresh parsley
                              1 sprig fresh basil
                              1 sprig fresh tarragon
                              1 bay leaf

                              1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
                              2. Place beef bones in a large roasting pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roast in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes, turning and basting several times.
                              3. Mix in the chopped onion, carrots, and celery and continue roasting for 20, turning and basting occasionally to brown evenly.
                              4. Transfer the bones, meat and vegetables into a large stock pot.
                              5. Deglaze the pan by adding half cup water, and using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, scrape and dissolve all the food particles in the pan. Add the deglazing liquid to the stockpot along with enough water to completely cover the meat bones.
                              6. Cut the unpeeled onion in half and place cut side down in a 10-inch non-stick skillet. Cook on high heat just until the bottom of the onion is black. Add the onion into the stock pot with the other vegetables.
                              7. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, skimming any impurities from the surface of the broth.
                              8. Add the tomatoes, leeks, peppercorns, salt, garlic and fresh herbs into the stockpot and stir to make sure they are submerged into the liquid.
                              9. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and let cook for 3 ½ to 4 hours, skimming the surface of fat and impurities as necessary.
                              10. Check the seasonings and adjust as necessary. Strain the liquid through a fine-meshed strainer to remove the meat and vegetables. Allow the broth to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator. Once chilled, note that the excess fat will rise and harden on the surface and can be easily removed. Broth can be frozen or refrigerated.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lisbet

                                It made the Hubert Keller's Savory Beef Broth recipe the other day and it came out really well! Thank you for posting it!

                              2. I gave up long ago on trying to make my own beef stock, and now I sleep better and don't have worry lines.

                                1. Cooks Illustrated has a lengthy discussion on beef broth making. The bottom line is this - beef broth simply doesn't come out all that intense or good.

                                  They also compared beef and chicken and basically there's something different about chicken that makes chicken better for stockmaking.

                                  Cooks online has the following recipe for stock:

                                  Red wine, used to deglaze the pan after browning the beef, adds an extra layer of flavor. To extract maximum flavor and body from the meat and bones, beef stock must be simmered much longer than chicken stock. The stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for 4 to 6 months.

                                  2 tablespoons vegetable oil
                                  1 large onion , chopped medium
                                  6 pounds beef shanks , meat cut from bone in large chunks, or 4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 3-inch chunks, and 2 pounds small marrowbones
                                  1/2 cup dry red wine
                                  2 quarts water (boiling)
                                  1/2 teaspoon table salt
                                  2 bay leaves
                                  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

                                  2. Brown meat and bones on all sides in 3 or 4 batches, about 5 minutes per batch, adding remaining oil to pot as necessary; do not overcrowd pot. Transfer browned meat and bones to bowl with onion. Add wine to empty pot; cook, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon, until wine is reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 2 minutes. Return browned beef and onion to pot, reduce heat to low, cover, and sweat until meat releases juices, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to high, add boiling water, salt, and bay leaves; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly until meat is tender and stock is flavorful, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, skimming foam off surface. Strain and discard bones and onion; reserve meat for another use, if desired.

                                  3. Before using, defat stock. After stock has been refrigerated, the fat hardens on the surface and is very easy to remove with a spoon. To defat hot stock, we recommend using a ladle or fat separator.

                                  1. hi, this is my first post and i registerd just so i could reply to this question because no one pointed out the very obvious about you cooking time i've recently been making a stock and have been doing some reasearch into it and i know chefs who have to make stocks.
                                    with beef bones it is recommended you simmer them overnight for at least 17 hours to 72 hours, also craking the bones will help the marrow escape out of the bones, in a resturant it's allegal to leave something on the hob overnight so what chefs do is simmer it through the day over a few days.
                                    theres so much nutrition in bones and health benifits.
                                    please read this article all will become clear.
                                    link: http://www.westonaprice.org/Broth-is-...