Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


My mom traveled to the crazy garment district in New York for her work when I was a copyboy at the New York Times, five blocks north. I remember once she took me to lunch and ordered a Bull Shot. When I asked, she told me beef broth and vodka. Which sounded whack. But tasted nourishing on that winter day.

Julia Moskin’s excellent piece in the Times on stock and broth made me think of that day. At last, stock/broth is being appreciated in its own right. (But it’s not a “trend beverage” as Moskin calls it—I guess she had to justify a story on one of the oldest, most fundamental preparations in the kitchen; “trend beverage,” Jesus. But I’ll take it, and thank you Julia!).

Yes, it is delicious sipped from a mug! You can feel how nourishing it is. Immediately, your body soaks it up.

And it’s made from the stuff we throw away! Bones with meat and cartilage attached.

Many great cooks are quoted, such as Marco Canora of Brodo (have a look at his new book, A Good Food Day), and many fine tips are offered, along with a long-seeming recipe for “Beef Bone Broth.” Just as long-seeming as my veal stock recipe in the Gourmet Cookbook. Both are too long!

Here, are my stock convictions:

Broth and stock are the same, as Moskin, notes; the word broth should be used to denote a stock made with a lot of meat that’s especially nourishing. Stock is often bone heavy.

Bones don’t add a lot of flavor, but they are composed of connective tissue, which gives body to a stock (a stock cooked too long with too many bones actually tastes unpleasantly boney); cartilage gives tons of body (from the gelatin), so the more joints you use, the better. Meat is where most of the flavor comes from, so don’t skimp on that. (And yes, I do save the chicken bones and beef ribs the family has been gnawing on; I’d do that even if someone has something catchy; the cooking will take care of any bugs.)

Along with meat, bones, and cartilage, add sweet vegetables, such as onion and carrot.

I always put tomato paste in for sweetness (and color). Moskin claims that you should add acid (Canora’s recipe includes 2 ounces vinegar), “which loosens and dissolves the tough bits.” I’m dubious. I wish she’d noted her source on this.

Bay, garlic, thyme, parsley, tomato paste, cracked peppercorns are always welcome (I’ve found that whole peppercorns don’t add nearly the flavor cracked ones do).

We were taught in culinary school to skim off the fat. The late great Judy Rodgers told me that was ridiculous, and I think she’s right. Fat is flavor, but it can cloud the stock.

My most important belief: cook below a simmer, meaning the water isn’t bubbling at all (but the pot is too hot to hold your hand to). This results in a clear, clean broth. But it takes more time. If you’re short on time, boil the shit out of it, but it will be opaque (and add the vegetables only for the last half hour or they’ll fragment, soak up the broth and be dumped out of your strainer into the garbage).

That said, you can make great stock in a pressure cooker in a couple hours, especially chicken; use the low setting and let it cool on its own before opening for best clarity.

Chicken stock takes half the time beef and veal do. Veal bones can be reused for a weaker stock that can be added to other stock.

Last, don’t make too much. Americans have this idea that when you make stock it involves giant pots and hours cleaning. Don’t do it (unless you want to make a lot). I usually make stock in a 2-quart pan. (And if I’m in NYC, I buy the delicious stock they sell at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in the Chelsea Market.)

How to Make Awesome Broth at Home, a Non-Recipe Recipe:

Fill a pot with leftover roasted bones and meat (adding extra meat if you want—even ground beef, or a hamburger works for beef stock). Cover it all with 2 inches of water. Put it on a low burner for 6 hours, or in a 200°F oven for 8 hours or overnight. During the last hour, add onion and carrot (can’t overdo it here), and any of the other aromatic ingredients mentioned above, whatever you have on hand. Strain.

That really is all there is to it.

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© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


40 Wonderful responses to “Meat Broths and Stock”

  • Resa

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that grabs the bones off my family’s plate to use in stock!

  • Maggie at Eat Boutique

    I just popped some beef bones into water. Just to be clear, wouldn’t you want to bring it to a boil before lowering the heat for 6 hours or is that unnecessary? Thank you! xo

  • Jules

    I’ve heard that doing this in a pot that’s completely covered will impart a sour taste to the stock/broth, so the pan should be partly covered. T/F?

  • Dan J

    I will disagree with you on the issue of skimming the fat. To me, if you don’t skim that its gonna choke off your stock and make skimming impurities impossible. Also, if you accidentally let it boil, those fats can emulsify into the stock. You can get a stock of sorts by throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot but I think it pays to be meticulous in making stock. If flavor is a concern, there are many other ways to boost flavor by either changing up the ratios or adding in a few pieces of meat. Plus, adding a few thighs to a chicken stock adds albumen that helps keep the stock clear.

  • Joey D'Antoni

    Re: the remoulage of the veal stock (the second cooking) it’s been my observation that the gelatin really comes out during that phase of cooking.

    • ruhlman

      interesting. i haven’t noticed this because I always combine with first veal stock. that said, I’m always astonished how flavorful the remi is.

  • David Sherfey

    I’ve read many articles, posts, on stock always looking for clues on what the ideal yield should be… What I have settled on is one pint per pound of bones+meat. Now I’ll ask if that’s about right.?

    • ruhlman

      sounds right to be. it’s all ball park anyway, how much water you start with, how strong the stock is.

  • Leslie Selig

    I have been making Michael Ruhlman’s chicken stock for a few years, since I bought his cookbook “Twenty.” It is so easy it’s inexcusable not to make it, and so delicious. I save up chicken bones in my freezer to make a bigger pot of stock, then freeze what I don’t use right away. Nothing fancy or difficult, but it makes a huge difference to use homemade stock.

    • Kyle

      One of the more common Japanese ramen broths (tonkotsu) is pork based and extremely delicious.

  • Mark

    I use whatever bones I have, pork, whatever… If I have time I roast them first, getting them to a dark brown, then into the pot and add liquid, veggies at the end.

  • Gayle

    I’m curious about your thoughts on roasting bones before chucking them into the stock pot….

  • Beth

    I have asked the fish monger to save bones for me to make stock. We enjoyed a fabulous Boullabaise at Christmas by doing this. Eliminating the pricey seafood can give you a reasonable soup with depth of flavor good for an everyday meal.

  • Bunny

    I was under the impression that stock can be frozen, which would justify making huge batches at a time. That way, you have it on hand. Is this true? Or does freezing damage it?

  • Cathy

    I prefer to make a lot of stock at once, so I store bones in the freezer until I can make at least 8 quarts, often more. Once the stock is strained, it takes only 20 minutes in the pressure canner to seal shelf stable jars (pints and quarts). A great start to soups, sauces, risotto & a world of dinners is right there on the shelf whenever I need it.

  • sillygirl

    I had also heard somewhere to add some vinegar to stock – what I heard is it releases more nutrition. Please follow up on this for us all!

      • Edie

        Not sure of the source but it is well known that vinegar helps soften the bones and draws the minerals out of them. When we were kids we used to soak the wishbone from the Thanksgiving turkey in vinegar to make it rubbery 🙂 It is recommended by some to add the vinegar to the pot 20 minutes before cooking.

  • Joella

    I do chicken all the time, so will need to expand into beef and pork as well.

    I’m curious about the source of the vinegar. My Chinese cooking instructor in the 70’s insisted on using it, so I have always done that as well. Not much is needed. My broth is always rich with gelatin.

    Great post, thanks for all your work on the blog 🙂

  • JTHoagland

    Most timely !
    We’ve been working on options for turning tons (yes, tons) of carcasses into stock/broth and base.

    We may be about a year away, but as we seek to move to “zero waste” we hope to have Non GMO, Free Range line of products.

    Initially for professionals who don’t have time to supervise a stock pot.

    Again : thank you

  • Rob

    My turkey stock improved greatly following your advice to keep it overnight in the oven at 200.
    I always add feet to my stock, chicken or calves feet. Outside ethnic markets, well stocked kosher butchers tend to have them.

  • Mitch

    Running out of freezer space with all the chicken and porky stock. Its my go-to liquid for winter-time braising and for soups.

  • Jennifer

    It’s trendy because of the book Nurishing Traditions, which is big with the crunchy granola nutrition crowd. They have gone from eating vegan to eating grass finished bone broth to cure what ails you. And it just might. A friend, who was put on a very strict diet to deal with some health issues by her nutritionist, swears by it. After 7 months, she’s much improved. And on a visit to Berkley recently, she discovered you can buy it ready made there. She usually makes hers from road kill deer and elk (yup, she’s hard core – and kind of awesome).

    • Edie

      Don’t know that book but bone broth has been recommended for years as a healing agent for gut health and to add minerals to your body. It is recommended in GAPS diets and now picked up by Paleo followers.

  • Jeannie

    Gosh, I always associated a “bull shot” with horrible, watery broth and vodka. But now that you have me thinking about it, if it were made with Rob Levitt’s stock from the Butcher and Larder in Chicago, it would give me a whole new appreciation of a bull shot. It doesn’t sound so horrible anymore and would probably be pretty good.

    Actually, if I do buy(yes i am lazy) good stock like Butcher and Larder’s, I use it along with water since it is so much more concentrated than store bought versions.

    Yes, I need to get bones in the oven roasting and get going on some myself, it is a new year. Thanks for another great post and points!!

  • Meredith Ross

    According to http://www.traditional-foods .com vinegar is added to draw out the mineral goodness of the bones. 2 Tbs of apple cider vinegar works great . You can just boil the bones for a longer time. But I get great results with this.

    • sillygirl

      Thanks Meredith – glad to know I wasn’t just dreaming the information to add vinegar – I do it all the time.

  • Rebecca @ Bring Back Delicious

    Michael – glad to see you promoting making your own stock. Store bought broth brings nothing to the party…

    It looks like you’re straining through a towel or maybe a thick cheesecloth. The cheesecloth I’ve found at restaurant supply stores etc is miserably porous. I see a bunch on Amazon though. Do you have any recommendations?

  • J.T.

    Ruhlman, I noticed that no stocks recipes ever call for any amount of salt. Is it supposed to taste flavorless? I always add a good pinch or two at the beginning, but not so much that I can’t reduce it a lot and have it not taste too salty. What’s the word on salt in stock?


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