If you’re not already consuming bone broth, now is the perfect time to start!
Although not new (it was a staple in preindustrial societies and likely the “secret” ingredient in grandma’s chicken soup), bone broth is an inexpensive, nutrient-dense food with myriad health benefits. Whether you’re looking to achieve improved skin tone, strong nails and hair, healthy joints, or optimized metabolism, or to help heal autoimmunity, leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability), arthritis, gastrointestinal disturbances, or colds, bone broth can help.
Gut Loving Nutrients
Collagen and Gelatin Duo
Collagen, important for bone and skin health, is found in bones and other connective tissues. During the cooking process, collagen is extracted from the bones and transformed into gelatin. Gelatin is what allows bone broth to congeal when cooled, becoming gelatinous and jiggly. The more connective tissue between the bones (accomplished by including chicken feet, knuckle bones, and tendons . . . more about this below) you use, the more your broth will gelatinize. As for the health benefits of gelatin, it facilitates healing the intestinal tract lining by supporting gut mucosa (slickety slick is the trick!), decreases inflammation, and strengthens hair, nails, and skin.
Just look at any joint supplement and you’ll likely encounter glycosaminoglycans—glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid. When making bone broth, glycosaminoglycans are released from bones and joints. These joint-supportive nutrients also have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, and come packaged with the other health-promoting components in bone broth discussed here.
Although the exact amounts of nutrients in each batch of bone broth will vary and nutritional analyses are unsubstantial to date, bones are mineral-rich, releasing trace minerals, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, silica, to name a few, during cooking. These minerals support bone health and provide electrolytes important for cell functioning and hydration.
Bone broth is a rich source of easy to assimilate amino acids—building blocks of protein—that are used to support various systems of the body. Glutamine is an amino acid that fuels intestinal cells and improves immune function, thereby playing an integral role in healing leaky gut and maintaining the intestinal lining so that your body can absorb nutrients from food, minimize autoimmunity, and guard against harmful pathogens. Proline and arginine are other anti-inflammatory amino acids, which contribute to decreasing inflammation throughout the body, healing leaky gut, and building connective tissue. Wonder why grandma’s chicken soup alleviates congestion during a cold? Cysteine is an amino acid that breaks down mucus secretions. Moreover, it is used to make glutathione—a powerful anti-oxidant for neutralizing oxidative stress and detoxifying the liver. Another amino acid that helps produce glutathione is glycine. And glycine helps improve digestion by promoting bile and stomach acid synthesis, and stimulates collagen production, anti-inflammatory effects, and immune regulation.
Now that we know about the health benefits of bone broth, it’s important to start with quality ingredients to minimize the risk of toxins. Bone broth is one of the cheapest health-supportive ways to nourish your body. Most quality bones cost $2 or less per pound.
If you don’t have a local farmer, you can order quality bones online. Here is one of my favorite providers. You can buy a bunch of bones and freeze them. If you make whole chickens, freeze the carcasses until you have enough to make a batch of bone broth.
Be sure to use filtered water and, if using vegetables or herbs, go for local or organic versions.
A Little Terminology
Broth includes simmering meat and bones (e.g. whole chicken) for a short amount of time (up to two hours). The product is a thin liquid with a delicate flavor. Vegetables are often added during the last 20 minutes of cooking for extra flavor. Broth is a great base for soups and sauces, and may be used to replace water in cooking (e.g. poaching).
Stock is similar to bone broth in that bones are used but may contain minor bits of meat attached to the bones (e.g. what remains after pulling off meat from the bones of a cooked whole chicken). The bones are simmered for about 3-4 hours, providing a source of gelatin in the finished stock. Vegetables are often added during the last 20 minutes of cooking for extra flavor, especially since stock is a flavorful base for soups.
The starting bones are similar to those used in stock. However, the cooking time is much longer, usually 24-48 hours depending on the bones used (excluding bones from fish). The resulting bone broth is rich in minerals and gelatin. Most often vegetables are not added during the last 20 minutes of cooking, but this is a personal preference and varies with how the bone broth will be used (e.g. sipping, soups, sauces).
Let’s Get Cooking!
Bone broth is incredibly simple to make. Although the traditional cooking method takes a long time, it is nearly all inactive cooking time.
Any type of bones may be used—chicken, turkey, duck, beef, bison, lamb, veal, etc. Just make sure you use a variety of bones such as marrow, oxtail, knuckles, and feet so that you maximize the nutritional and congealing properties. Feel free to use bones from different animals, but do be mindful of flavor profiles (for example, I recommend keeping fish bones separate). And if you’re new to bone broth, I suggest starting with chicken bones for a mild flavor.
Roasting your bones is completely optional—your bone broth will still turn out delicious and health-supportive if you choose not to roast the bones. However, doing so will enhance the flavor, and add a bit of depth and extra yumminess, especially if using beef bones. If you choose to roast your bones, place them in a roasting pan and roast at 350°F for one hour. Or, if you’re short on time, roast them at 400°F for half an hour.
Using bones from a bone-in piece of meat that was already roasted? If so, skip this step.
Whether you decide to add salt during the cooking process or leave it out is up to you and will be guided by how you intend to use your bone broth. I prefer to add salt during cooking when preparing bone broth for sipping. However, if you plan on using the bone broth in recipes (e.g. sauces) that already call for added salt, you may wish to refrain from adding salt when making bone broth. This will enable you to adjust the seasoning to your preference and recipe.
Generally speaking, it is best to cook fish bones up to one hour to prevent the broth from becoming bitter, chicken bones 24-36 hours, and beef, pork, and lamb bones 24-48 hours. These timeframes will minimize bitterness and optimize gelatin and mineral contents, as larger bones take longer to cook.
If you wish to add herbs to your bone broth for extra flavor, add a bouquet garni during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Adding the fresh herbs at the end of cooking will prevent them from becoming bitter. Simply tie together a bunch of flat-leaf parsley and 6 sprigs of thyme with kitchen twine. Place the bouquet garni into the broth and then remove at the end of cooking.
I prefer to use dried bay leaves rather than fresh ones when making bone broth, which is why I do not include bay leaves in my bouquet garni.
- 6-quart slow cooker, large stockpot, or Instant Pot
- Large mesh strainer
- Large bowl or pot for straining
- Glass storage containers, Mason jars, or silicone molds
- Ladle or funnel
The Ultimate Bone Broth Recipe
If your broth doesn’t gel, it’s still good and contains nutrients.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to bone broth not gelatinizing. In such cases, it is likely that one or more of the following happened:
- You didn’t use enough bones for the amount of water used
- You didn’t use enough cartilage-rich bones such as chicken feet (remember a variety of bones from different parts of the animal will yield the best results)
- You didn’t simmer it long enough (bones should crumble upon gentle pressure)
- You simmered it at too high of a temperature
How to Store Bone Broth
Bone broth will keep for 3-4 days when sealed in a storage container in the refrigerator. To extend the freshness, simply bring the broth to a boil on the stovetop to kill off any potential bacteria. Enjoy right away or cool before storing in the refrigerator.
For longer storage, freezing works well. Simply pour (a funnel helps) cooled bone broth into glass storage containers or Mason Jars. Be sure not to fill the jars completely so that there is room for expansion. Once frozen, cover the jars tightly. Alternatively, you can freeze bone broth in a silicone mold such as this one (holds ½ cup when filled) and then transfer the frozen blocks to a glass storage container or Ziploc bag. Make sure you know the volume of liquid each mold holds so that you can easily use the blocks of bone broth in recipes.
I recommend making a large batch of bone broth and freezing it to always have on hand.
Want the Health Benefits without Cooking?
If you like the idea of consuming bone broth, but don’t want to make it, you can purchase quality ready-made bone broth online. This is one of my favorite purveyors. Others are listed in my Bye Bye Belly Bloat Shopping Guide.
If you wish to forego the broth all together but still want to benefit from some of the nutrients it contains, supplemental collagen peptides and beef gelatin are great options. Collagen peptides—100% bovine or marine collagen varieties—will dissolve in both cold and hot liquids without thickening them, so it’s a great way to add nutrients to your smoothies, tea, soups, etc. On the other hand, beef gelatin will thicken in cold liquids and is useful for making healthy jello, gelatin gummies, and custards, or adding to hot beverages or soup.
What’s the Takeaway about “Dem Bones?”
While there is limited research specific to bone broth, the extensive research on the nutrients contained in bone broth and anecdotal and theoretical accounts from bone broth users are compelling.
Bone broth is not intended to substitute a healing protocol, but rather is a useful adjunct. Give it a try for a while and see how your body responds. Either way, there’s no denying that grandma’s chicken soup made with bone broth can nurse a cold.
Time to Win!
One lucky winner will receive a 10 ounce container of Vital Proteins Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides.
*Contest closes at 12 am August 31st.
This contest is now closed. Thanks to all who participated!
Have you tried bone broth? Share in the comments below!
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The giveaway was generously sponsored by Vital Proteins. All opinions and thoughts in this post were not influenced by Vital Proteins. This website does not accept paid reviews. This product promotion is based on our own personal opinions and recommendations without bias.
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