This is the ultimate street-smart guide to bone broth including everything you need to know about bone broth, the best homemade bone broth recipes, and what to look for when buying ready-to-drink bone broth products.
Growing up in China, I had very early access to bone broth, which nowadays is considered a superfood. My mom used to make bone broth for me whenever I was sick or had an injury, which apparently happened quite often. I wasn’t an athlete per se, but I was an extremely active kid. The kind who worries the parents all the time.
My mom’s homemade bone broth got me through a lot of physically tough times, including two arthroscopic knee surgeries and 11 stitches on my face from a fall in the mountains. But little did I know that a traditional food I took for granted almost my entire life would become a trendy food in the health and wellness industry.
As someone who knew firsthand the benefits of bone broth, I started digging into the subject more deeply, making my own bone broth at home, something that I eventually stopped. In this article, I will explain exactly why I stopped making bone broth at home. First, though, it’s important to understand what bone broth is because it’s not the normal stock you typically use in your cooking.
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is made with bones that have a small amount of meat attached to them. Along with a few vegetables, herbs, spices, and apple cider vinegar, the bones are covered in water and slowly simmered for 12-48 hours, depending on whether it’s beef bone broth or chicken bone broth. Beef bone broth needs more time to break down the nutrients in the bones, whereas the smaller chicken bones generally require less simmering time. The liquid result of long hours of simmering is bone broth.
Over the past few years, bone broth has gained a superfood status, having a nutrient profile that benefits all kinds of health ailments, from chronic digestive to autoimmune conditions. Not only can you find cookbooks and cleanses dedicated to bone broth, such as Dr. Kelly Ann’s Bone Broth Diet, but many restaurants also use bone broth in their recipes and serve it as a beverage on their drink menus.
Bone Broth as a Drink
My mom fed me bone broth back then in some kind of soup. I had never thought about drinking bone broth straight until a year ago.
Surprisingly, by simply adding some salt and pepper, bone broth can become an easy drink in the morning to pair with your breakfast or a night-time elixir to help you sleep better.
Over time, I’ve learned to get creative with the spices I put in my bone broth each time. Turmeric, paprika, poultry seasoning, and mesquite seasoning are all regulars in my bone broth, which keeps the drinking experience interesting and different each time.
Bone Broth as a Cooking Liquid
Of course, bone broth is a fantastic cooking liquid. Basically, anytime you need water or stock in a recipe, you can substitute bone broth. For example, instead of using normal beef stock in the classic French Onion Soup Recipe or Mongolian Beef, try it with beef bone broth. The flavor gets much richer, as well as the nutrient content, including collagen, calcium, iron, etc.
Now you might wonder, what’s the difference between normal stock, broth, and bone broth?
Normal Stock vs. Broth vs. Bone Broth: What’s the Difference?
I couldn’t find a better resource than this article to explain the difference between a normal stock, a broth, and a bone broth. Here’s a short summary.
A stock is made by boiling bones, ligaments, and connective tissue in boiling water for roughly 3-4 hours. That’s how store-bought beef or chicken stock is made. The thing that concerns me the most is the source of the ingredients. I’ve heard that they usually use crappy bones, and it’s highly possible that the stock contains the pesticides, hormones, and other toxins present in sick animals.
A broth is a more translucent liquid that’s made primarily from meat scraps, such as chicken or beef. A broth has a lighter, thinner consistency compared to stock and is simmered for 45 minutes to two hours. Sound familiar? You may have made chicken or beef broth at home or made a vegetable broth by using the leftover water from boiling or blanching your veggies.
A bone broth is a stock because it’s made from boiling bones, ligaments, and connective tissue for extended periods of time, and it has a thicker texture. Bone broth is different from a normal stock because it’s simmered much longer—between 12 and 48 hours—to release as many nutrients as possible from the bones.
Since the terms “stock” and “broth” are often used interchangeably, somewhere along the way, the bone stock became bone broth, and the name stuck.
Bone Broth Benefits
We all know that bones are the storehouses of essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. They’re also the world’s best source of collagen and gelatin, two nutrients that can make a big difference in your skin, joints, and gut health.
Simmering the bones for at least 20 hours also helps to release the amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine, which further support joint and gut health and reduce systemic inflammation. Best of all, the prolonged simmering allows all of the beneficial nutrients in bone broth to become more bioavailable, which means they’re incredibly easy for our body to digest and absorb.
In a nutshell, the key benefits of bone broth are listed below.
- If you are suffering from arthritis or any joint pain, as I did due to my arthroscopic knee surgeries and the two rivets implanted in each of my knees, drinking bone broth is going to improve your joint health and reduce the discomfort significantly.
- If you have digestive disorders such as leaky gut syndrome, you’ll need the essential nutrients like L-glutamine, amino acids, and minerals for healing. Guess which food is rich in these? Bone broth.
- If you’d like a glowing skin from the inside out, use bone broth to improve digestive health first, because our natural beauty is closely connected to our guts.
- If you are pregnant or you are ready to get pregnant, besides dairy products, bone broth is a great source of calcium. Remember, if you don’t get enough calcium from your diet, it won’t affect your baby’s development, because your baby will just take the calcium it needs from your bones.
- You’ve heard the word “collagen.” It’s a special profile of amino acids found in our connective tissue. It boasts an impressive resumé, complete with crucial responsibilities like replacing dead skin cells, improving digestive function, and holding the body together—literally. But our bodies naturally slow down on collagen production as we get older. To compensate for the decline of production within our bodies, bone broth does an excellent job.
- Because bone broth is rich in collagen, it helps prevent and get rid of stretch marks naturally. You don’t need those expensive creams, Mama!
- Bone broth promotes detoxification and decreases hangover effects.
- Bone broth helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
How to Make Bone Broth at Home
Now that you understand why you should take bone broth regularly, are you wondering how to make bone broth at home? Here are my favorite recipes for beef bone broth and chicken bone broth. I recommend using a slow cooker to make the cooking process almost completely hands-off.
Beef Bone Broth RecipePrint
Organic beef bone broth made in a slow cooker.
- 3-4 pounds of mixed grass-fed beef bones (marrow bones, oxtail, knuckles, short rib, etc.)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 8-10 cups water (or enough to cover ingredients)
- Heat oven to 400°F.
- Place the mixed bones in a roasting pan in a single layer and place it into the oven. Roast the bones for 30 minutes. Turn bones over and roast another 30 minutes.
- While the bones are roasting, chop the onions, carrots, and celery. You are going to discard these after long hours of cooking, so a rough chop works great!
- Place roasted bones, chopped vegetables, bay leaves, apple cider vinegar and peppercorns in a 6-quart crockpot. Cover completely with water.
- Cover and cook on low for 24 hours. Add water as needed to keep all the ingredients covered in water and periodically skim the foam off the top of the pot.
- After 24 hours, the broth should be a dark brown color. Discard all solids and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Strain once more through cheesecloth to remove any remaining particles if desired.
- Ladle the bone broth into Mason jars and let it chill to room temperature. Bone broth can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks or frozen for future use. Before using, skim off the accumulated fat on the surface.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 133
- Sugar: 1.1g
- Sodium: 155.8mg
- Fat: 7.8g
- Carbohydrates: 2.3g
- Protein: 11.2g
- Cholesterol: 31.8mg
Chicken Bone Broth RecipePrint
Hearty chicken bone broth made in a slow cooker.
- 2 pounds chicken bones (leftover from roasted chicken, preferably organic)
- 1 yellow or white onion, roughly chopped
- 2 ounces fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 8-10 cups of water (or enough to cover ingredients)
- Place chicken bones and all remaining ingredients into a slow cooker and cover with water.
- Cover and cook on low for 12-18 hours.
- Discard all solids and strain the bone broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Strain once more through cheesecloth to remove any remaining particles if desired.
- Ladle into airtight jars and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze for future usage.
Note: chicken bone broth requires less cooking time than beef bone broth because chicken bones are much smaller, and it’s easier to release the nutrients.
Why I Stopped Making Bone Broth at Home
It looks like I’ve cracked the code of how to make a good and rich bone broth every single time, right? I learned what ingredients to buy, what kitchen tools I need, the best way to cook bone broth, and how long to cook it for best results. Eventually, it became my weekly routine. After a few solid months of making bone broth at home every week, however, I decided to stop. The real question is: Why?
It’s hard to source good bones.
To make good bone broth, you need good bones. Let’s be honest. If you are going to make the effort and spend the time to make bone broth at home, you might as well get the most out of it in terms of benefits and taste. Otherwise, why bother?
Good beef bones are grass-fed and ideally grass-finished marrow bones, oxtails, knuckles, neck bones, and feet. When making chicken bone broth, I’d be looking for organic, free-range chicken and chicken feet.
Most of our local grocery stores either don’t have the variety of bones or don’t carry grass-fed bones.
When I was living in Jacksonville, FL, the closest butcher shop was 30 minutes away by car, and it was not guaranteed to have what I needed every time.
When we moved to Austin, TX, we were lucky, and there was a huge Asian market right next to where I lived. The ginormous meat counter had all the bones you could possibly think of. They also offered a 5-pound bag with mostly knuckles and a couple of marrow bones with a price tag of $0.99 per pound. Affordable? Hell yeah! Quality? I was skeptical.
It takes too much time.
Wait! Isn’t most of the work done by a slow cooker? Why does it still take too much time?
That’s what I thought too. After making countless batches of bone broth, I discovered that cooking was not the problem, because I was completely hands-off during those long hours. However, aside from the time spent on sourcing the good ingredients and preparing them, straining and storing the bone broth wasn’t easy-peasy.
First, you need to remove the bones and vegetables. Then you strain it through a fine mesh strainer. Don’t forget that you are either going to lift a 7-quart stoneware crock nearly full of broth (oh, it’s heavy!), or you are going to ladle the broth through the strainer repeatedly. If you want your bone broth to be extra smooth and silky, you’ll want to strain it again through a cheesecloth before ladling it into Mason jars.
At this point, you’ve probably made a mess on your kitchen counter, leaving some large pots and bowls to wash.
The next step is to properly store the bone broth, which brings me to my next point.
Mason jars take up too much space in my fridge.
The goal of making bone broth is to make a big batch. Jars of bone broth can take up a lot of space in the fridge and/or freezer. I don’t know about you, but my fridge is usually full, and making room for a few 32-ounce jars is a real stretch.
There are other ways of storing your bone broth without Mason jars, such as the Ziploc bag method and the silicone muffin tin method. You’ll then need to free up some space in your freezer for the frozen bone broth.
The nutrients in homemade broth varied every time depending on the quality of my ingredients.
In order to maximize the results of the efforts I put into making a batch of homemade bone broth, I tended to choose high-quality ingredients, such as grass-fed and grass-finished beef bones, organic vegetables, herbs, and spices. However, it was not guaranteed that I’d be able to source good bones every time, not to mention that it easily got to be very expensive.
Therefore, every batch of bone broth I made most likely had different amounts of nutrients. One batch could have more collagen and protein, another batch might have less. One batch could have more calcium, another batch less. There’s no way to find out the exact values unless I did a lab test for each batch, which was not going to happen. But I was certain that the benefits of my homemade bone broth were inconsistent.
It’s actually not that much cheaper compared to buying pre-made, ready-to-drink bone broth.
Let’s look at how much I spent on buying ingredients for a batch of homemade beef bone broth first.
One pound of split, 100% grass-fed, organic beef marrow bone in Whole Foods Market costs $7.99. Regular marrow bones cost around $5-$6 per pound. Oxtail is about $7 per pound and knuckle bones are around $3-$4 per pound.
If I want to make 10-12 cups of beef bone broth, I will need at least three pounds of mixed bones. Again, to make my efforts worth it, I’d want to go for the best quality ingredients. For my bones only, that’s almost $18. Adding the cost of vegetables, spices, herbs, and apple cider vinegar, one batch of beef bone broth cost me about $20.
To make things easy, say it yields 10 cups of beef bone broth. That’s $2 per cup.
That’s not too bad. Still way cheaper than buying ready-to-drink bone broth, you say.
How much is our time worth? That’s where making bone broth at home becomes costly. From buying ingredients to making the bone broth, to storing one batch of bone broth, let’s conservatively say that it takes an hour. (It’s probably longer than that). Add your hourly rate to the total cost. If it’s $40 per hour, that liquid gold (no pun intended) you make now costs $6 per cup.
Of course, if you have the time or enjoy the process of making bone broth, it’s all worth it. Otherwise, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at what pre-made bone broth is available on the market and see if it meets the requirements of us home cooks.
How to Choose Ready-to-Drink Bone Broth in a Store
Not all bone broths are created equal. When choosing pre-made bone broths at your local grocery store, here are a few things that you should look at before you open up your wallet.
Is “Bone Broth” on the Label?
Grocery stores usually place bone broths, regular stocks, and canned soups in the same aisle. So if the phrase “bone broth” is not clearly stated on the packaging or label, that item is not what you are looking for.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, bone broth is made with bones and slow-simmered for a very long time in order to draw out all the nutrients from the bones. That’s how you can consume essential nutrients like collagen and amino acids naturally. Regular stocks aren’t made with bones. They are not simmered for long times. Hence, no benefits.
So look for “bone broth” on the label.
Are There Bones? What Type?
Some of the so-called bone broth products on the market don’t even have bones in their ingredient lists. Please skip those immediately. You are not going to get any bone broth benefits without the bones. It’s that simple.
OK, say you find the bones on the ingredient list. Great! What type of bones?
When buying beef bone broth, see if the product uses grass-fed and ideally grass-finished bones. Grass-finished cattle ate a grass diet throughout their entire lifespan. The cattle never ate any soy or corn. Those animals’ bones contain much more anti-inflammatory Omega 3 essential fatty acids than the cattle that were fed a mixture of soy and corn. When purchasing chicken bone broth, you want to look for organic chicken bones.
In other words, the higher quality the bones, the more benefits in the bone broth.
And bones should be higher up in the ingredient list, followed by water because those are the two most essential ingredients for making bone broth.
How Long Is It Simmered?
Organic grass-fed and grass-finished bones, check.
Now, look at the description on the back of the packaging. Does it say it’s simmered for more than 10 hours? If not, the product might not be what you are looking for.
I can’t stress the long simmer time strongly enough.
A couple hours of cooking simply is not enough time to draw out all the powerful nutrients in bones. Chicken bone broth needs 10-12 hours of simmer time. For beef bone broth, 20-24 hours are minimal, because it takes that long to break down the bones. Period.
Any Added Additives and Preservatives?
When you make bone broth at home, you don’t add any additives or preservatives. If you buy pre-made bone broth that contains additives and preservatives, it defeats the whole point. You might as well make bone broth at home.
So try to avoid bone broths that contain items like yeast extract or lactic acid.
On that note, I’d recommend you stay away from powdered bone broth, as you are more likely to ingest heavy metals and/or chemical additives, even though they don’t usually list those on the food label.
Just like homemade bone broth, most of the bone broth companies add vegetables, herbs, and apple cider vinegar when making bone broth. Are all of the ingredients organic? If so, that’s a huge plus.
Last but not least, packaging! Is it recyclable?
Yes?! Good for the environment. Bonus points again!
StreetSmart Kitchen’s Choice – Kettle & Fire Bone Broth
I followed the exact steps mentioned above to look for pre-made ready-to-drink bone broth in Whole Foods Market. I have also tasted every single bone broth brand out there. The product that literally checks off all the boxes and tastes the best is Kettle & Fire Bone Broth, America’s first and only USDA grass-fed bone broth.
If you hold a carton of Kettle & Fire Bone Broth in your hand, you will notice that the company put a ton of effort into ensuring the quality of their products, and it shows with all the details they cover.
- First and foremost, they use grass-fed beef bones, including marrow bones and knuckles, etc.
- They use a slow, low-heat cooking process that lasts for more than 24 hours, which gives the precious marrow, collagen, and amino acids time to release into the beef bone broth.
- Their chicken bone broth starts with free-range, organic chicken bones, which they are proud to source from small USA family farms that never use hormones or antibiotics.
- The only other ingredients that they add to the mix are organic vegetables, sea salt, and herbs. This means no artificial ingredients, no preservatives, and no additives.
- They use state-of-the-art packing technology so that you can stock up their bone broth and keep it in your pantry for up to two years unopened.
Sounds too good to be true? A trip to the factory allowed me to watch how exactly the Kettle & Fire Bone Broth is made, which doubly confirmed my thought—this might be the best bone broth product on the market.
How to Include Bone Broth in Your Daily Cooking
Ever since I learned about the amazing health benefits that bone broth provides, I have been gradually using bone broth more and more to consistently get the powerful nutrients daily.
If you are not a fan of drinking bone broth directly, incorporate it into your daily cooking instead. You’ll still get all the bone broth benefits without even having to think about it.
Anytime you see a recipe that calls for regular stock, broth, or water, replace it with bone broth.
I promise that result of your cooking will be the same—or even better because the bone broth will give your dishes a more savory and meaty flavor. Here are a few ideas for inspiration.Print
Legit Chinese-style egg drop soup that takes 5 minutes to make and it’s nutritiously delicious!
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 carton of Kettle & Fire Bone Broth
- 1 stem green onion, chopped
- Salt to taste
- Sesame oil to taste
- In a small saucepan, bring beef bone broth to a boil.
- In the meanwhile, beat the eggs in a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in cold water in another small bowl, and chop the green onion. Set aside.
- Once the broth is boiling, stir in dissolved cornstarch, followed by the beaten eggs. Then immediately start stirring so that the eggs are evenly distributed in the broth; stir constantly for 30 seconds, or until the soup is thickened.
- Turn off the heat; taste and add a pinch a salt if desired. Dish, drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with green onion. Serve immediately.
Where to Buy Kettle & Fire Bone Broth
Before I moved to Hong Kong, I always had a few cartons of Kettle & Fire bone broth in my pantry at all times. At the time this post is being written, Kettle & Fire ships only within the United States. I hope and believe that one day Kettle & Fire Bone Broth will be more accessible to the international market and more and more people around the world will benefit from their amazing bone broth products.
If you are interested in giving Kettle & Fire Bone Broth a try (I highly recommend it), here’s where to buy.
For US customers:
Or go to major grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, HEB, etc. Use the Kettle & Fire Store Locator to find a store that’s close to you.
For non-US customers:
Disclaimer: I was a full-time employee at Kettle & Fire. I did not write this article solely to promote my former employer’s product, nor did I receive any compensation for writing this article. All opinions regarding bone broth are mine and are based on my own experience, which I hope you find useful. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any products through those links, I’ll receive a very small percentage of commission at no extra cost to you. For that, I thank you!