This is a beef stock recipe with its roots planted well before bone broth became a modern food trend.
Jump straight to the Beef Stock Recipe
This brown stock recipe takes hours to cook. But don’t let that put you off. It only requires minutes of your time. I make it every few months and freeze it ready to use when I need it. And it’s absolutely worth the effort!
There’s a reason brown stocks are the foundation of classical French sauces. The deep concentrated flavour transforms sauces, gravies, and stews from ordinary to extraordinary. And it’s the backbone of the exquisite French Onion Soup.
But stock making is a lost art in professional kitchens. Most use bought concentrates in their soups and sauces. And the results are over-salted and lacking in both complexity and depth.
And it’s not only here in the UK. Even in Paris, it’s common for bistros and restaurants to use stock pastes and powders. An ordinary skill once known to any commis chef is now only found in sophisticated, high-end restaurant kitchens. And even then there’s no guarantee.
But the home cook can and should make their own brown stock. It’s cheap (butchers often give bones away!). It’s easy. And it makes even the simplest sauce taste spectacular.
Brown Beef Stock or a Dark Bone Broth?
The paleo diet fad has rebranded what old school chefs like me called stocks as bone broths. And the rebranding comes with all sorts of creative health claims.
Most are linked to the power of collagen. Collagen is a connective tissue found throughout the body, but especially in your joints, skin and gut lining.
Tendons and ligaments are made of collagen. Tendons attach muscles to bone and ligaments connect bones together. Naturally, raw bones come with high quantities of collagen attached. Your bone stock sets when cold because it is high in gelatine derived from that collagen.
There is evidence to suggest a specific collagen supplement (undenatured type II collagen) may reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. But it’s a big leap to claim bone broth is an effective health tonic.
Bone broth pundits suggest broth’s dietary collagen directly targets and heals your body’s “collagen deficient” sites. Nonsense. Collagen is a protein. And before you can absorb protein your gut must break it down into its constituent amino acids. Then the amino acids are taken in and used as building blocks for any proteins your body needs.
And it’s often argued that collagen’s unique amino acid profile has health benefits. More nonsense. The profile depends on the collagen source. For example, the amino acid combinations in fish skin and bovine tendon are different. And the profile of undenatured type II collagen, which is made from chicken sternums, is different again.
Instead, ignore the nutrition pseudoscience. Eat a variety of quality animal and plant protein sources you’ll get the full spectrum of amino acids you need. And your body will use them to make proteins, including collagen for your skin, joints and gut lining.
Not a health tonic, but still a worthy addition to your diet
Homemade bone stock or bone broth is still a healthy addition to your diet. Straight up, this recipe is too rich to drink but diluted it makes a delicious sipping bone broth.
And it’s in a different nutritional class to any concentrated stock powder or paste. And more than likely, nutritionally superior to any bought broth liquids. All good reasons to make it.
But above all, make your own brown beef stock because it will make your sauces, stews and soups mouthwatering!
Brown Beef Stock or Dark Bone Broth
- Heavy Based Pan with lid
- Roasting tray
- 4 kg Beef Marrow bones sawn into 5-10cm pieces by your butcher
- 2 leeks use only the coarse green leaves – keep the tender section for making soups etc
- 4 medium carrots
- 2 onions
- 2 sticks celery
- 1 head garlic
- 120 grams tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
Preparing the bones
- Place the bones in a large roasting tray
- Roast the bones for 10-12 hours or overnight at 120°C
- Place the browned bones in a large, heavy-based stewing pot and cover with cold water
- Heat the bones and water over a medium heat
- As the water heats up, skim and discard any foam that forms on the surface
- When the water boils reduce the heat to a gentle simmer
Vegetables – while the water is heating up
- Pour the dripping (fat) from the roasting tray into a jug and allow it to cool
- Roughly chop all the unpeeled vegetables and place them in the roasting tray
- Roast the vegetables in the oven at 180°C for ½ hour
- Stir the vegetables and add the tomato paste
- Roast for a further ½ hour or until browned
- Add the vegetables to the simmering stock
- Add the bayleaf, thyme and peppercorns
- Turn up the heat until the stock reboils
- Cover with the lid just slightly ajar and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer
- Simmer the stock very gently for 10-12 hours
- Don't overcook your stock as it will become steadily more bitter as the flavour deteriotes
Finishing and storing the Brown Stock
- Strain your stock through a fine sieve, then allow it to cool
- Refrigerate overnight and and it will set like jelly
- Use a clean spoon to remove the fat from the surface. Discard the fat.
- Warm the stock enough to liquify
- Divide into suitably sized containers and store them in the fridge or freezer
- The stock will keep for three days in the fridge and for 3 months or more in your freezer (depending on the appliance rating)
- For instructions on how to keep your stock safe and bacteria free, go to the orginal post
- Strain the warm dripping through a fine sieve a container with a resealable lid
- Let it cool to room temperature then store in the fridge
- If you reseal between use, the dripping will keep refrigerated for up to 3 months
- For more information about your dripping and what to do with it go to the original post
As you roast the bones they will release a lot of fat known as dripping. Most of this comes from the marrow which is 90% fat. This fat shouldn’t be wasted.
But as dripping is close to 50% saturated fat, it should be used sparingly and for the right purpose.
Dripping’s high flash point and flavour make it ideal for grilling steaks, chops and other prime cuts. Likewise, it’s great for browning red meats for stews and casseroles. And drippings rich flavour is fantastic for making brown veloute sauces.
What’s more, if you’re celebrating Burn’s night with a plate of stovies, dripping is an essential ingredient for traditional “sappy” stovies.
But don’t send the kids to school with a dripping piece (sandwich). Leave that idea in the pre-war days where it belongs!
To lid or not to lid?
Some chefs don’t like to use a lid on their stock. My guess is they like to keep an eye on their baby as it cooks. But there are four good reasons for using a lid.
- it reduces heat loss and saves energy
- less water evaporates and your stock is less likely to boil dry
- it reduces the risks of food poisoning – see below – Keeping your stock safe
- the stock can safely simmer more gently and a gently simmered stock is less cloudy
But always have the lid slightly ajar as this reduces the chances of your stock inadvertently boiling over.
Keeping your stock safe
If you mistreat your stock it may retaliate by making you very ill.
- Raw bones are heavily contaminated with bacteria
- A meat or bone-based stock is the perfect growing medium for bacteria and other microorganisms.
- The long boiling time kills all the active bacteria. But given the opportunity, some species like clostridium perfringens form heat resistant spores. In spore form, they can survive prolonged cooking. As the stock cools the spores germinate and repopulate the liquid unopposed.
- Bacteria can multiply very fast in warm stock.
How to avoid food poisoning
- Always use the freshest bones you can. (Frozen bones are fine as long as they were fresh when they were first frozen)
- Simmer your stock with a lid to prevent convection currents creating stagnant areas on the surface. These zones form at the pot edges. Their cooler temperature allows spore-forming bacteria to thrive.
- Cool your stock as quickly as you can to prevent any surviving bacteria spores from germinating and multiplying
- Store your stock in the fridge or freezer
- Keep stock in your fridge for no more than 3 days
- If your freezing it, freeze your stock on the day you make it
- Protect your stock from contamination with new bacteria. Store it in a clean container with a lid and always use a clean ladle to lift out what you need for cooking
- Defrost your stock in the fridge overnight or cook directly from frozen
- Always thoroughly reboil your stock before eating
Sometimes things go wrong
- If your stock has even the mildest hint of sourness, discard it
- Never use a stock that spontaneously bubbles
Hi, I’m Ralph
I’m an Associate Registered Nutritionist with over 25 years’ experience as a professional chef.
My passion is helping individuals gain control of their diet to achieve food freedom and health in today’s broken nutrition environment.
I’m based in Edinburgh and provide 1-2-1 online nutrition coaching and support across the U.K.