Stock, Broth and Frequently asked questions

Stock and broth. More an more people are discovering the power of this food, given it feeds us so much of what is missing in a modern diet. This is why people notice such quick health improvements soon after starting to incorporate them into their diets.

A year ago I wrote a sort of mini manual on the why we should be incorporating stocks and the ‘how’ of basic stocks – chicken, fish and beef. It’s here. 

And I’ve been asked a whole bunch of questions in between on facebook. I’ve done a bunch of workshops and even a live facebook Q&A session with my friend Sonia over on Natural New Age Mum. I thought it would be a good thing to collate all of the FAQs into a post to help anyone on the stock making road – new or veteran, as we can always pick up new tips and ideas.

Here we go!

1. What is the difference between a stock and a broth? 

Broth is a liquid flavoured with Mirepoix (carrot / onion / celery) and bouquet garnis (bay leaf / thyme / parsley). Some say the broth is the bone stock fine strained and fat separated, for utmost clarity of liquid, able to be served alone. Stock is ladeled here and there into sauces, stews, soups and not as ‘refined’ looking / texture as a broth. Then, some say that broth is the meat / veg / herb flavoured water simmered, but without the bones. Stock is then a broth made with bones also and not really with meat. It is then argued that ‘vegetable stock’ doesn’t exist as there are no bones… And so the arguments go on. So, I like to keep it simple and just call everything stock that has bones in it and is cooked long enough to extract all the good things out of the bones. I don’t love argument for arguments’ sake, because in the time it takes some people to argue about this stuff, they could have got a batch of stock on the stove – THAT is far more important, don’t you think?  (GAPS note: Check question 26 for specific GAPS definitions / what to do if following that protocol)

2. Do I have to use organic bones? 

I’d say this one is a non negotiable, yes. Bones store a lot of body toxicity – heavy metals, antibiotic residues… You want the animals to not only have had a lovely life while alive which for me is also a non negotiable, and you also want them to have been disease free and free from pesticide from grains, genetically modified grains, excess vaccinations and antibiotics… “Clean eating” means a clean food system and I encourage you to explore ethical, organic meat in general. The great thing about it is if you learn some good slow cooking, then you move into being able to buy secondary cuts. With stock, bones are the most economical way that exists, to benefit from organics, returning about a litre of nourishing, healing goodness for around $4.

3. So how long do I need to cook it for? 

It depends on the stock

Fish 1-2 hours is all it needs to extract the gelatin and mineral goodness. Longer, and it turns bitter also, which isn’t great for flavour.

Chicken – 12 hours is perfect. 3-6 hours is fine too though if that’s the time you have.

Beef / Lamb / Pork – 24 hours + with bones continuing to give for 3 days.

4. So how long does it last in the fridge? 

Provided you have a good, thick layer of fat that has solidified on top of the liquid, then you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

If you don’t have a good fat layer on top, 3-4 days

5. What should I freeze it in? 

Glass jars of a few different sizes is the best solution. Always leave a good inch off the top of the liquid level from the top of the jar. This means when the liquid slightly expands when in the freezer, you won’t risk a cracked jar.

6. How long can it be frozen for? 

3 months fish

6 months meat

7. Can I use bones we’ve eaten from? 

Yes. It’s just about to spend hours in a pot bubbling away. I really don’t think you need to worry about having chomped at the drumstick!

8. Can I use raw bones? 

Yes, you can. I do personally pan fry them (say chicken carcasses) for a couple of minutes if they’re raw, to get a little flavour on them before the simmering starts. In a little coconut oil, butter or ghee is fine.

For beef stock, have a look at my original post, as you use raw marrow / roasted knuckle for the best flavour / nourishment extraction.

9. Can I do anything with the cooked veggies after the stock has been made? 

Absolutely. I use them in a mashed veggie ‘something’ over the next couple of days. They’ve got so much goodness in them and it helps lengthen the uses. Great trick for a limited budget PLUS you create less waste. Win Win.

10. Do I throw out the fat? 

NO keep the fat. The fat is great for both preserving the jars when keeping in the fridge and then for sauteeing onions / garlic / mushrooms / green leafy veggies down the track. It also prevents freezer burn when freezing your stock. Healthy fat from healthy animals is super good for your brain and body. If you feel challenged by that idea, Nourishing Traditions or Primal Body Primal Mind are both excellent, well researched and well backed up books with a wealth of information on traditional diets for healthy, strong bodies.

11. Do I have to use apple cider vinegar? Why is it added to some recipes and not others?

You don’t have to. It does help draw out minerals from particularly thick bones, so for pork, lamb, beef (especially marrow) I’d say yes. Refer to my original post for quantities. If you don’t have any however, it’s way better to make a stock than not make one because of not having ACV. It aids the process, but it’s not essential to the process itself, if that makes sense.

12. Which are the best bones to use?

There are certain bones that have more gelatin in them, so while all bones will provide amino acids and gelatin, these will provide the most benefit of them all.

Chicken – wings, necks, feet

Beef – Knuckles, marrow

Pork – Knuckles, trotters

Lamb – shanks, knuckles, neck

Fish – White non oily fish, try not to get ones from too big a fish though to avoid mercury / radiation build up. I love using 3-4 leftover baby snappers after oven roasting them.

13. Can I use cooked bones? 

Sure can. They add depth of flavour.

14. Why is it so important to have a gelatinous broth?

The sign of the ‘jelly’ is what let’s you know you’ve soaked the bones long enough, you’ve not used too much water, and you’ve used bones that have high gelatin in them. Gelatinous bone broth is the visual sign (when it’s wobbly once cooled in fridge) that you’ve got a great amount of gelatin in there. If you have any issues around bone / joint health, preparing for childbirth, recovering from surgery – especially joint / bone surgery, leaky gut, ibs, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s, issues with hair / teeth / nails / skin… that’s important to ensure. That’s why knuckle bones and trotters / feet are used in stock in so many traditional cultures

15. Isn’t leaving a pot on the stove for 12 hours / overnight dangerous? 

I don’t want you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Play it by what feels right to you! Personally, I put the pot on the smallest gas element, and the lowest heat and that makes for a super slow simmer. I’ve never had an issue and have done this for years. A low oven on 100 could be a solution if you feel more comfortable with that. The alternative is to get a slow cooker (ensure it is teflon / “non stick” free) and use that. I personally don’t love pressure cookers for stock. I’ve tried a couple of times without a great result.

16. Does vegetable stock have the same benefits? 

Unfortunately not. While you can get a beautiful flavour from veggie stock which is lovely to use in vegetarian dishes, you won’t be getting gelatin, the range of amino acids, the high levels of minerals (although there will be some!), the glocosamine or the colloids that set a bone stock apart.

17. Where can I source organic, pasture raised bones from? 

This can be tricky out of the big cities but where there’s a will there’s a way. Try our organic directory in your country (for Australia it’s Australian Organics Directory) or google things like cow share, organic butcher, grass fed beef, organic co-op and your suburb / town name, ethical meat, pasture raised chickens… another place you could ask is at the local health shop, as people who work at health shops tend to ensure they have a supply of ethical, pasture raised meats if their meat eaters.

18. Is there an optimal time to consume stock? 

Best time is empty stomach or pre meal or during meal… actually, it’s always a good time, hehe. Stocks have something called hydrophyllic colloid which attracts gastric juices and heals and seals intestinal lining. The reason it’s so great to add stock to cooked meals, is that cooked food doesn’t have those colloids and stock is the only cooked food that does (to my knowledge thus far in research). It really means you get a much better absorption and utilisation of your foods if a little stock is ladled through here and there. I often give my son a little 1/3 cup a couple at breakky or before dinner, with sea salt.

19. If I have joint pain, how much do I drink?

This is not an exact science and most evidence is anecdotal, ie, loads of people across the interwebs with miracle stock / broth stories. I know someone who had an MRI showing zero cartilage left on his knees. He discovered traditional eating, got stuck into stock making and drinking, and has since been re scanned, with full recovery of cartilage – no supplements other than all the minerals, gelatin and glucosamine in stock, and a high quality fermented cod liver oil. I’m serious. He was as shocked as the next person to see the results! To think of all the pharmacy supplements and anti inflammatories for joint pain out there… Nature more often than not, has the answer!

20. Is fish stock as rich in all the good stuff as meat stocks?

Oh yes!  Fish stock is amazing. Only need to cook an hour or two at the most though, or it goes bitter. Rumour has it it’s wonderful for labour and logically, I’d say that’s because it’s the most gelatinous of all the bone stocks thus preparing your ‘frame’ the best. Many traditional island cultures give it to the women in the lead up and to repair postpartum. Other cultures feed the women chicken’s feet and pork knuckle soups through Asia.

21. Does concentrating the liquid, ie reducing it down, make it better for you? 

It does make it more concentrated and therefore more nutrient density per millilitre. If you’re short on space, reducing it is a great space saver, and you can thin it later with water to taste for your cooking.

22. What about the water you add? 

The water must be filtered. At the very least chlorine / pesticide, which your standard filter will do. Best case scenario however, is a reverse osmosis filter that removes excess metals and fluoride. metals and fluoride accumulate in being heated, and you don’t want heavy metals present in water to intensify. I have an Ace Pot, but you can get an under the sink filter that performs reverse osmosis. Another counter top solution that’s a little bigger, is this one.

23. How long before I see benefits? 

It depends on you, your physical state, what other dietary factors might be hindering healing… Best to see a practitioner if you’re concerned about your health in any way. Hair, nails, skin you will notice the difference within the week from a cup of day. That I can guarantee. When it comes to cartilage repair, that’s a longer term journey of a year +, and the gut if severely damaged, while you will feel soothed very quickly and less discomfort, the healing can take up to 2 years if you had a severe issue. Again, Doctor Natasha Campbell McBride’s GAPS book is a wealth of information for gut problems.

24. What can I do with the leftover bones?

Compost for chicken bones and for the larger, more dense bones, see if they’re soft enough to grind up into a bone meal – amazing garden fertiliser. If they’re still too dense, then you could try dehydrating them and turning into a powder in blender after fully dried out OR you could give them to a lucky pet!

25. Do I leave the lid on or off while cooking? 

On. Towards the end if you’re wanting to reduce your liquid for more intensity of flavour or for space saving in the fridge / freezer, then yes, take the lid off for a couple of hours at the end.

26. What if I am doing GAPS. Do I have to prepare my stock a special way? 

If you’re doing GAPS then meat stock is where you cook the meat attached to bone for a few hours to make soup and bone broth is where you simmer meat free bones usually overnight. For those with histamine issues or extremely sensitive digestion it’s good to start with bones that are only cooked for a couple of hours. Chicken is a good choice to introduce first as it has a much milder flavour, especially for kids. (Thank you to my friend Kitsa Yanniotis, GAPS educator exceptionelle for sharing this specific GAPS information)

27. What if I’m on a FODMAP diet? Can I still make stock? 

Absolutely. Depending on your sensitivity, leave out the onion altogether, OR chop into it a few green spring onion tips for the flavour if you can manage those.

28. Can I feed my baby stock? 

As with all things, best start a little teaspoon or two mid morning and check for any reactions but stock is a seriously awesome thing to include in a baby’s diet, given the building blocks it provided the whole body! Cooking meat in it for a couple of hours and mixing with pumpkin will make a wonderful meat / veggie puree, for example. Have a little try from 7 months. Much better to include a little stock into veggie purees too to make them a million times more nourishing and satisfying. Contented babies? YES PLEASE ;-)

29. Do you have a question we’ve not yet covered??? 

Then leave it in the comments. If it’s about how it’s made, times, amounts etc, don’t forget to check back to my original post here. 

Enjoy making stock a regular part of your cooking prep. Once you’ve got it, it will take very little time to make and it will add flavour and nourishment to everything – sauces, stews, soups, warm dressings, roast tray deglaze, gravies…

Fancy sharing it on your blog? I’d be thrilled to share it as a guest post. Just pop me an email to me@alexxstuart.com

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Real Food. Happy Bodies.

Alexx x

 

 

Stock

Comments

  1. Ari says

    You can give the bones to your dog too, (if you have one!) since after cooking that long they’re soft and have no sharp bits.

  2. PP says

    I’ve been making stock for a couple of years now, but even so I found this post very useful. Thank you!

    One thing I don’t think you mentioned was to what extent boiling can damage the nutrients in stock. I take care not to let mine go past the stage where a bubble or two is rising to the surface every few seconds, but my dilemna comes when a pot of stock has been in the fridge maybe a day or two longer than I’d like and the rest is frozen. It’s probably absolutely fine, or maybe just on the turn, but my stomach is still recovering so at those times I’m tempted to boil the stock to get rid of any potential pathogens before I drink it. Do you have thoughts on that (other than to chuck the stock, which I know I should probably do)?

    • alexxstuart says

      Thanks PP. Yay to a fellow veteran stock maker! Yes, very slow bubble is essential. It’s mentioned in the original post in the recipe making but thanks for mentioning here also :-)

  3. Brooke says

    Thank you for posting this, have you made a FODMAP friendly bone broth? Is the flavour still ok without onion?

    • alexxstuart says

      Brooke – yay. Thanks for that question. I have added it into the main post to help other Fodmappers with the answer. No 27 :-)

  4. Renee says

    Love this! It’s inspired me to start making broth! But my one question is, I have a 7 month old & and am planning to introduce protein into his diet soon. Can I purée stews & soup made with bone broth & give that to him or would it be too much for his digestive system? I am presuming this would be great nourishment for my two year old.
    Thanks

    • alexxstuart says

      Thanks Renee – I’ve popped an additional question in – no 28 – re babies and answered it. Thanks for the question! :-)

      • Renee says

        Thanks for answering my question. Appreciate it. I’ve got my first lot of bone broth simmering away. Looking forward to incorporating it in to my whole family’s diet. I use so much stock in my cooking that this is going to be such an easy change. Now to convince my husband I need a chest freezer so I can stock up on bones & freeze my broth.

  5. Brooke says

    Hello! I was wondering if the stock is still beneficial for gut healing if instead of drinking it you use it for cooking. Soup, stew, risotto etc

    • alexxstuart says

      Absolutely Brooke – just as beneficial, PLUS the added benefit of making your cooked foods more digestible, given the stock has the colloids that attract gastric juices and promote healthy digestion :-)

  6. Emma Ernst says

    I will be forever grateful for Collette from COTC and you Alexx ❤️ I suffer from Ulcerative Colitis and have done for nearly 20 years. I am literally GOBSMACKED how I have been feeling since starting on beef bone broth. I have only made 4 batches so far and I am IN LOVE!! This article has really helped though as I think this batch I added too much water as it didn’t go as jelly like. I thought by adding more water I would simply get more stock, so happy days but clearly that was not the right thing to do. I look forward to a happier less painful future following you amazing women and your wealth of knowledge ❤️ Thank you thank you thank you xxxx

    • alexxstuart says

      Emma – You have made my day. This is what it’s all about. Real food for real change. So glad you are feeling the benefits already. Just fantastic xx

      • Emma says

        I also emailed this BRILLIANT article of yours to my Mum for her joint pain. After reading this the penny dropped that this could benefit her also :) I believe it can benefit us all xxx

        • alexxstuart says

          It will be brilliant for her joint pain yes! Commit to a couple of cups a day, or 1 cup and then a good little ladle here and there into soups, stews, sauces etc and report back. Should make a huge difference :-)

  7. says

    I’m very excited to learn you can get great results with fish since I don’t eat other meats and wanted to try broths as I’m expecting my first child. What is the best fish to use?

    • alexxstuart says

      I can’t say for sure Donna. You need to make fish stock with white, non oily fish. Why not taste a little teaspoon or rub some on lip and seee? An alternative is making a stock with crustaceans which is amazing flavour wise – prawn heads and crab carcasses :-)

  8. says

    Thanks so much for another great ‘broth’ post. As you know, you got me onto broth a while back and I now have it daily. I love it and I think I am obsessed with it just quietly ;-)
    I will be sharing this info for sure. Keep up your amazing work x

    • alexxstuart says

      Thanks so much Collette – I too am obsessed and glad to have you in ‘the circle of broth’. Heheh!xx

  9. Katherine says

    Hi Alex,

    I LOVE your stock info – thankyou so much! I was a stock convert before seeing this, but your website really helps refine the process so we are getting the most out of each batch. I have a question around freezing the stock – how would you best freeze a whole batch of stock (with a small fridge) so that you can easily get two cups a day defrosted? With my seven month old I have been freezing it in ice block containers which is great for defrosting for him, but a bit tedious for my husband and I who would be wanting a cup each. Any suggestions appreciated,
    Best,

    Katherine

    • alexxstuart says

      You’re so welcome Katherine. I do into jars for that very reason. Easy serve size defrosting. You could do rectangular pyrex platters also to take up less room OR you could reduce your stock down with the lid off to a more concentrated solution and then simply add half water to the stock when heating to drink :-)

  10. Stacy says

    Hi how much should you have a day? My partner has no cartilage in his hip so I’m giving it to him daily for that purpose, how much should he have? And how much should I have just for general health purposes?
    Thank you

    • alexxstuart says

      There is no recommended dose perse Stacy, however a couple of cups a day for recovery is wonderful. I’ll usually have half a cup at breakky, and then add a splash to dinner most nights somehow through a dressing, sauce, stew, soup etc for easier digestion. Your partner is going to love the healing benefits!