In a pinch, you can throw some bones in a pot of water and simmer for a while until you get meat broth. You can use a crock pot or even throw some mixed vegetables in there. However, you’re never going to get the full flavorful broth that you’d get from a traditional stock preparation unless you follow these simple principles.
7 Principles of Stock Making
- Use Cold Water – Fill up the stock pot with bones with cold water and slowly bring the water to a simmer. By using cold water, you give proteins in the stock time to coagulate together and rise up. If you started with hot water, proteins would coagulate as soon as the water hit the bones. Instead of forming large protein rafts that float to the surface, they would blend into the stock itself, leading to a cloudy mixture with a muddy and fatty flavor.
- Never Boil – Slowly simmering the stock allows the proteins on the bones to slowly coagulate into large rafts. Boiling water is a lot more turbulent, which breaks up the protein rafts into smaller pieces and mixes them back into the stock.
- Never Stir – For the same reasons in #2, don’t stir the stock. Nothing’s going to burn on the bottom of the stock pot, don’t worry.
- Skim Often – There will be a lot of scum on the surface of the stock especially in the first hour. By skimming frequently, you make sure that the scum doesn’t mix back into the stock.
- Strain and Drain – When the stock is finished simmering, use a small strainer or large slotted spoon to remove the bones and vegetables. Strain the remaining stock through a cheesecloth lined strainer into another stock pot to catch any remaining solids.
- Proper Storage – Warm stock is basically a petri dish waiting for the right bacteria to float by and set up camp. With the amounts in this recipe, you should be able to cool the stock down to ~40 F within an hour or two using an ice bath in your kitchen sink. However, even with a larger recipe, the stock should always be cooled down to 40 F within 4 hours.
- Remove Fat Cap – Even though you skimmed the stock during the cooking process, there is still a good amount of fat remaining. After the stock has fully cooled (usually overnight in the fridge), a solid layer of fat, “fat cap”, will form on the surface. Remove the fat cap before you use the stock.
Brown Beef Stock
- 5 lb Beef bones (oxtails, knuckles, etc)
- 1 lb Mirepoix (8 oz Carrots, 4 oz Onion, 4 oz Celery) chopped into large (~1″) pieces
- 8 oz Tomato Paste
- ~1/2 c Red wine
- 1 Bouquet Garni
- 5 qts Water
Yield: 1 gal, Total Time: 9-11 hours
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Spread the bones out on a sheet pan or roasting pan. If they’re touching each other, the bones will steam instead of caramelizing and getting golden brown. (If you have enough bones to fill two pans, separate them by size because they’ll be done at different times.)
3. Roast the bones, turning about every ~20 min until they dark golden brown. This will take about an 1 hr and 15 min.
4. During this time, cut the carrots, onion, and celery into large pieces that are approximately the same size.
4. Transfer the bones to the stockpot, leaving the juices behind. Set aside to cool off.
5. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add the mirepoix, stir, then return to the oven.
6. Return the pan to the oven, stirring and scraping the pan about every 15 min until golden brown, about 45 min total.
7. Add the tomato paste to the roasting pan and stir to combine. Spread the mixture out then return the roasting pan to the oven.
8. Roast until the tomato paste is browned and smells sweet instead of sharp and acidic. This should take about 15 minutes.
9. Add the red wine to the roasting pan and scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Set the pan on the stove top and reduce the red wine volume by half. This should take less than a minute.
10. Add 5 qts of cold water to the bones in the stockpot. Slowly bring the water up to a very gentle simmer on a medium/low setting. Once you add the water, you’ll want to resist the urge to stir or disturb the bones at all. Stirring the stock will blend fats and protein solids into the stock instead of allowing it to congeal together and rise to the surface.
11. Once the stock is barely simmering, reduce the heat slightly and start a timer for 8-10 hours. You’re looking for steam, some slight movement in the water, and an occasional bubble. I had the dial set on ~3.
12. Now that the water is simmering, some scum will start to float to the surface. Use a slotted spoon or ladle to remove the scum every 10 minutes for the first 40 minutes. At this point, the stock looks really red but don’t worry, it’ll darken as it simmers more.
13. Gently add the mirepoix mixture to the stock pot. Continue to skim the surface every 30 minutes for the remainder of the time.
14. Use a small strainer or large slotted spoon to remove the bones and vegetables. Strain the remaining stock through a cheesecloth lined strainer into another pot. This will catch any remaining solids.
15. Fill your sink with cold water and set the stock pot in it. Refill the sink with cold water whenever the water bath warms up. Switch to an ice bath once the stock is down to room temperature. Don’t just stick a hot pot of stock in the fridge because it will take too long to cool and meanwhile you’ll risk bacterial growth in the stock and in the food that has warmed up around it.
16. Unless you need to use the stock immediately, it’s best to let the stock cool overnight. During this time, all of the remaining fat in the stock will rise to the surface and form a solid layer, a “fat cap”, or, if you skimmed a lot during the cooking process, you will only have a few droplets. Use a spoon to remove the fat before reheating the stock.