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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.