It’s an age-old cooking technique, but lately bone broth has received renewed interest among the health-conscious.
Broths and stocks are commonly used in cooking as a base for soups, reductions, sauces, for braising vegetables and meats, or simply enjoyed as a restorative drink. Traditional cultures have always placed special emphasis on the utilization of the whole animal, and the use of bones to make stock still influence today’s food culture. In eighteenth century France, travelers staying at inns would be treated to bowls of warm broth called restoratifs. This tradition has become what we now know as a restaurant – a place to restore one’s health and wellness.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is made by boiling poultry, beef, or fish bones; often with some aromatics like onion, celery, and carrots for anywhere from 24-48 hours until the bones break down. As the bones become soft, they begin to release nutrients like collagen and calcium phosphate into the liquid.
Many people use the terms broth, stock, and bone broth interchangeably, and in cooking they can often be substituted for one another. However, broth, stock, and bone broth are all prepared differently and have different nutritional profiles.
- Broth: Broth is water simmered with vegetables, aromatics, and meat, and may include some bones. It is typically cooked for a short period of time (1-2 hours) and results in a light, flavorful liquid.
- Stock: Stock is water simmered with animal bones (sometimes roasted), vegetables, and aromatics. It is typically cooked for 4-6 hours, which allows collagen to be released from the bones, resulting in a thick, gelatinous texture. Stock is ideally used as a thick, rich base for sauce or gravy and can be combined with water to be used in a broth-like manner.
- Bone Broth: Bone broth is water simmered with animal bones (often roasted), vegetables, and aromatics for a very long period of time, often more than 24 hours. This process releases not only collagen from the bones, but nutritious minerals as well. It is then strained and seasoned so it can be used like a broth.
The broths you’ll find at the grocery store are made from meat rather than bone and are often enhanced with chicken or meat flavoring. They contain little to no collagen, and thus, zero protein content. If you read the ingredients, you’ll find that they often contain sugar, artificial flavoring, coloring, and copious amounts of salt to preserve freshness.
Depending on the type of bones used and cooking length, bone broth typically contains six or more grams of protein per cup. This is mainly from the collagen released from the bones. This type of gelatin protein contains high levels of the amino acids glycine and proline, which are not very commonly found in other proteins, and they are especially lacking in plant proteins.
Due to its high water content, bone broth is very hydrating and is also a source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
How to Use Bone Broth
Broth isn’t just for soups – in fact, a good quality bone broth is so satisfying that many people are enjoying it plain, as evidenced by Brodo’s take-out window in the East Village, where New Yorkers can pick up a cup of steaming broth for their daily commute. Here are a few other ways to include nourishing bone broth in your diet:
- Cook grains like rice or quinoa in broth instead of water
- Use it to braise vegetables or meats
- Add it to mashed potatoes for additional flavor
- Make your own ramen by adding noodles and spices to a pot of boiling broth
- Use it as a base for sauces and soups
- Sip it plain as a comforting beverage
Bone broth will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to six months. Consider freezing bone broth in ice cube trays or one-cup containers to quickly add to your dishes without having to defrost a large portion.