Roasting meat bones in your wood-fired oven is the secret to building better bone broth. More on the how to roast bones later in the blog, but first, what is bone broth?
Stock, broth, and bone broth
Jennifer McGruther of Nourished Kitchen differentiates bone broth from stock and broth:
- Broth is typically made with meat and can contain a small amount of bones (think of the bones in a fresh whole chicken). Broth is typically simmered for a short period of time (45 minutes to 2 hours). It is very light in flavor, thin in texture and rich in protein.
- Stock is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat (think of the meat that adheres to a beef neck bone). Often the bones are roasted before simmering them as this simple technique greatly improves the flavor. Beef stocks, for example, can present a faint acrid flavor if the bones aren’t first roasted. Stock is typically simmered for a moderate amount of time (3 to 4 hours). Stock is a good source of gelatin.
- Bone Broth is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat adhering to the bones. As with stock, bones are typically roasted first to improve the flavor of the bone broth. Bone broths are typically simmered for a very long period of time (often in excess of 24 hours), with the purpose being not only to produce gelatin from collagen-rich joints but also to release minerals from bones. At the end of cooking, the bones should crumble when pressed lightly between your thumb and forefinger. See this article.
What are the benefits of bone broth
Bone broth has been a culinary staple for hundreds of years. It forms “the basis of those exquisite, clear, thick, smooth, satisfying and beautifully flavored sauces that seem to be produced by magic” (Sally Fallon, “Nourishing Traditions, ” p. 117). Bone broth creates a wonderful flavor base that improves the taste of soups, stews, and vegetables. Because bone broth is an inexpensive source of proteins and minerals, it is a nutritional powerhouse. These protein/mineral nutrients help digestion; promote hair, skin, nail and joint health; aid in muscle repair; and provide a source of amino acids that are hard to obtain in other foods.
How to make bone broth
It’s easy to make bone broth in your stock pot or slow cooker with a quantity of bones, some roughly chopped aromatic vegetables, salt, peppercorns, a little apple cider vinegar, and water. Place the bones and the apple cider vinegar into a stockpot or slow. Cooker with 2-3″ of water (in a stockpot) or just barely cover with water (if using a wider crock pot). Add chopped vegetables (a few carrots, a few stalks of celery, an onion), 1 teaspoon peppercorns, and bring to a boil. Once the broth boils, lower the heat and simmer at least two hours (for stock), or overnight for bone broth. Keep an eye on the level of broth to keep the bones covered, and skim off any impurities that come to the surface during the simmer.
How to make it even better
Chefs and nutritionists agree that bone broth is better if the bones are roasted before simmering. That’s where owners of wood-fired ovens can layer a unique flavor into bone broth. Roasting bone-in meats, poultry, and fish over a wood-burning fire develops a unique flavor not possible in a gas oven. After the meat, poultry, or fish has been eaten, roast the leftover bones with any fat and meat still attached to them.
We recently roasted a pan of venison bones for before using them to make stock. We took advantage of the fire already in my oven from earlier cooking to roast the venison bones. We finished off the broth by simmering it in a stock pot on the stove top. However, I can also finish off a pot of broth overnight in my wood-fired oven by shutting the door and maintaining sufficient heat. (This works when your oven can retain sufficient heat to keep the stock at a safe temperature. Don’t use the overnight method in a quick-cooling metal oven).
The key to making even better bone broth is roasting the bones before simmering them. Meat, poultry and fish bones can be roasted in a conventional oven in preparation for making broth. However, roasting bones in a wood-fired oven allows you to take advantage of the enhanced flavor of cooking with wood, the space, and the residual heat from cooking.