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Failing to make good bone broth!

by (3197)
Updated October 23, 2014 at 3:29 AM
Created January 25, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Hey everyone, I've been failing to make a good, gelatinous broth lately; it doesn't even turn to jelly upon refrigeration, has little flavour, is too light in colour and very, very fatty.

I did this in a crock pot. I got an organic chicken carcass, first stuck all the bones in a pan of cold water with a little apple cider vinegar, some onions, crushed garlic, and herbs. I brought it to the boil, then transferred it to the slow cooker and cooked it on low for 24 hours. The bones became very, very soft (I ate quite a few alongside my dinner, actually, tasted awesome!)

Why isn't it working? There was still a fair bit of meat on the carcass; perhaps that was the problem?

Thanks in advance to all broth fiends!

Milla :-)

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2417 · October 20, 2012 at 5:39 AM

The fat doesn't have anything to do with it. It tastes nice, though!

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1001 · February 02, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Try cracking the larger bones...

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3197 · January 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Thanks everyone! Made broth with less water & only leg bones left over from some bone-in chicken drumsticks I had cooked. I could bounce it off the floor, its so gelatinous!

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2954 · January 27, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Same here, I don't always add vegetables, depends on what flavor I want and how I'm going to use it. I don't think roasting is required, just sharing my method which always works for gelatinous stock. Personally stock from non-roasted bones makes me %gag!% Each person has they own method, though. You did ask! :-)

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37187 · January 26, 2012 at 7:03 PM

@Milla, ooh that sounds yummy! I buy cuts of lamb but it's a tad pricey for me. One of these days I'll splurge on a larger bone-in cut and try some broth.

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2933 · January 26, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Yep, the Pressure cooker is the only way to go. Break open your bones and get as much goodness as you can out them. 8-12 hours seems like a waste of energy to me, I am never home for that long anyway.

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3197 · January 26, 2012 at 12:21 PM

I think the secret is the legs! This carcass had rather thin bones. Perhaps the chicken had osteoporosis...!

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3197 · January 26, 2012 at 12:18 PM

roasting would undoubtedly intensify the flavour & colour, and broth should definitely be made starting with cold water because it helps extract the gelatin, but I have never heard that roasting is required to make a gelatinous broth per se...but I will try roasting for sure. I don't usually add vegetables to broth because it makes it sweet, and since I use it for cooking as well as just drinking sometimes you can end up with strange flavours. If I need to I just add mirepoix to the recipe. :-)

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3197 · January 26, 2012 at 12:14 PM

I made lamb broth recently and it was EXTREMELY gelatinous, like, panna cotta or something! You could have played basketball with it.

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3197 · January 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM

That's really interesting! But I don't think the vinegar is the problem; I've made good, gelatinous broth before (lamb and chicken) without any vinegar or acid of any kind at all. I do suspect meat is the culprit, as well as lack of larger leg bones...:-)

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11111 · January 25, 2012 at 11:07 PM

Same experience here - by beef broth is like jello my chicken broth no so much.

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4124 · January 25, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Jan, yours is a small cooker. I hope you can get the larger one soon. Mine is stainless steel, which is nice. I really prefer pressure cooking to the slow cookers, for many things.

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5853 · January 25, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Pressure cooker is magic for stock, the higher temp really helps to get the most collagen out of bones. I wish i had a bigger cooker, mine is only 5 liters, i would consider 8 liter minimum, i have been saving for 12 Liter kuhn rikon cooker. But then i would need a bigger freezer too....

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4124 · January 25, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Heidi, it does sounds like a fun experiment. Thanks!

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5853 · January 25, 2012 at 9:46 PM

I meant chicken feet. Parts that you dont see very often. Wings would be good also. Typos fixed...

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5853 · January 25, 2012 at 9:45 PM

I meat chicken feet. Parts that you dont see very often. Wings would be good also.

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5853 · January 25, 2012 at 9:44 PM

It matters what kind of bones you are using. Best for chicken would be the legs. Hard to find maybe. Perhaps some thai store may have them frozen. For beef i use whole joints like from the knee. It has most collagen, i have no problem of cooking very thick stock from them. I use kuhn rikon pressure cooker and never had to cook longer than 3 hours. Actually the flavor suffers if i cook it longer. I dont add any acids and my stock is very thick at room temperature already. Trotters are also great for stock, and veal bones are the best.

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3197 · January 25, 2012 at 5:55 PM

It was a KILO of bones!!! I could barely squash everything in the crock pot, lol. though a lot of the bones were rather thin. I actually got good results with fewer, but larger and meatier bones. Perhaps its quality not quantity at play here...

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8933 · January 25, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Tried it 2 times and had the same results :P I'm gonna try to use oxtail now.

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3924 · January 25, 2012 at 7:37 PM

It could be too much meat. I've had that problem before. The water/vinegar needs exposed bone and cartilage to work on.

Did you try the egg test on your vinegar? I can't remember where I read this post, but a blogger who was having trouble with her broth realized it was her vinegar that was to blame. It seems like vinegar should be vinegar and it all should work the same, but some things that are sold as vinegar don't actually "act like" vinegar, which begs the question what makes it legal to call it vinegar and market it as such? Anyway, to do an egg test, put an egg in a glass of vinegar (enough to cover the egg) and let it sit for 2-3 days. The shell should be gone or almost gone with only a membrane left holding the egg together in an egg shape. If this doesn't happen, then you need to find another vinegar (which the blogger did with much better bone broths to follow).

I tried this test with the three vinegars on my shelf and two performed admirably with no egg shell left after about 2.5 days (a white vinegar and a red wine vinegar). The other one was only partially dissolved after 3 days (a flavored balsamic vinegar).

Kinda fun if you like science experiments!

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4124 · January 25, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Heidi, it does sounds like a fun experiment. Thanks!

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3197 · January 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM

That's really interesting! But I don't think the vinegar is the problem; I've made good, gelatinous broth before (lamb and chicken) without any vinegar or acid of any kind at all. I do suspect meat is the culprit, as well as lack of larger leg bones...:-)

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1001 · February 02, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Try cracking the larger bones...

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21405 · January 25, 2012 at 5:55 PM

You'll get the gelatin only in lesser amounts from the marrow.

When preparing your stock, make sure that you also expose as much cartilage from the carcass as possible. This means getting all the knuckle joints from the thighs, the tip of cartilage on the keelbone (the bone between the breast) and chop up the wing tips.

Also, skin will cook down to a significant amount of gelatin with the side-effect of having a lot of fat floating on your broth. If you are chilling the broth, you can peel the solidified fat off and save it for other items (or discard if you are watching PUFA/Omega 6)... so if you can include skin, wingtips, cocks combs, chicken feet, etc... you'll get a bit more collagen into your broth, which will result in a much more gelatinous broth.

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37187 · January 25, 2012 at 6:35 PM

My chicken bone broth always includes the joint tissues as well as skin and bones.

Even so, it is not as firm as my beef bone broth. I've always assumed the difference is the difference in mass of marrow and connective tissues--even if you use a lot of poultry bones, the mass of marrow and joint tissues is much less than you'll find in a typical set of beef marrow/joint bones.

Just think of the small circumference of the poultry bones and joints compared to the huge circles in the beef.

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11111 · January 25, 2012 at 11:07 PM

Same experience here - by beef broth is like jello my chicken broth no so much.

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3197 · January 26, 2012 at 12:14 PM

I made lamb broth recently and it was EXTREMELY gelatinous, like, panna cotta or something! You could have played basketball with it.

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37187 · January 26, 2012 at 7:03 PM

@Milla, ooh that sounds yummy! I buy cuts of lamb but it's a tad pricey for me. One of these days I'll splurge on a larger bone-in cut and try some broth.

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4124 · January 25, 2012 at 9:58 PM

I use a pressure cooker, and make mine similarly to this method.

I use the frozen beef bones from the regular grocery stores, the round kind full of marrow.

Here is another site with instructions. Some folks roast the bones first. I don't.

All the best to you.:)

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2933 · January 26, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Yep, the Pressure cooker is the only way to go. Break open your bones and get as much goodness as you can out them. 8-12 hours seems like a waste of energy to me, I am never home for that long anyway.

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5853 · January 25, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Pressure cooker is magic for stock, the higher temp really helps to get the most collagen out of bones. I wish i had a bigger cooker, mine is only 5 liters, i would consider 8 liter minimum, i have been saving for 12 Liter kuhn rikon cooker. But then i would need a bigger freezer too....

D31a2a2d43191b15ca4a1c7ec7d03038
4124 · January 25, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Jan, yours is a small cooker. I hope you can get the larger one soon. Mine is stainless steel, which is nice. I really prefer pressure cooking to the slow cookers, for many things.

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2954 · January 25, 2012 at 9:29 PM

The only way I can make gelatinous stock; works every single time, and it doesn't matter if the bones are grass or grain fed, organic or not, is...
- Roast the bones until very well browned.
- Remove from oven and immediately place in a stock-pot with very cold water.

The bones must be hot from the oven; the water must be cold.
This makes sense when you think that when making Jello, you mix hot and cold. Right?

I don't add vinegar or tomato at all. BTW, if you use vegetables (I like carrots and shallots; bay leaf), roast them with the bones. Yum!

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3197 · January 26, 2012 at 12:18 PM

roasting would undoubtedly intensify the flavour & colour, and broth should definitely be made starting with cold water because it helps extract the gelatin, but I have never heard that roasting is required to make a gelatinous broth per se...but I will try roasting for sure. I don't usually add vegetables to broth because it makes it sweet, and since I use it for cooking as well as just drinking sometimes you can end up with strange flavours. If I need to I just add mirepoix to the recipe. :-)

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2954 · January 27, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Same here, I don't always add vegetables, depends on what flavor I want and how I'm going to use it. I don't think roasting is required, just sharing my method which always works for gelatinous stock. Personally stock from non-roasted bones makes me %gag!% Each person has they own method, though. You did ask! :-)

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65 · January 25, 2012 at 9:19 PM

I have no idea what you did wrong, but I'll tell you what I do and it makes a gelatinous broth every time.

Ingredients: onion, garlic, carrots, celery, bones. For bones I just used the leftovers from what I ate...So for example, 1 large turkey leg bone, and 3 chicken thigh bones.

  1. Put them in crock pot.
  2. Add water up to top.
  3. Add some seasonings (bay leaves, thyme, whatever)
  4. Cook 8 hours on low.
  5. You are done!

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12540 · January 25, 2012 at 5:36 PM

I've run into the same problem with the occasional chicken stock, and I'm thinking that it's probably because of the ratio of bones to water in your stock. You might try using more bones, or less water, the next time you do up the broth. That did the trick for me.

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3197 · January 25, 2012 at 5:55 PM

It was a KILO of bones!!! I could barely squash everything in the crock pot, lol. though a lot of the bones were rather thin. I actually got good results with fewer, but larger and meatier bones. Perhaps its quality not quantity at play here...

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8 · October 20, 2012 at 3:22 AM

I made chicken stock last night & put it in the fridge, this morning it is all jelly. I thought I had done something wrong I seriously came online to find out what it means when your stock is like jelly.

Free range chickens probably have a lot lower fat content, so you would definitely need more than just bones, and any meat left on should be the darkest stuff off the legs and back, all the tendons, etc., and pull off all the white meat. Tendons and cartilage break down into the greatest silky smooth oily gravy, so that's probably helpful in the jelly. You MUST use the skin, and the neck and innards if you have them. Here in Sweden the leg is cut below the drumstick joint, so there's a part of that gross yellow foot on there (you know the chicken WEIGHS more that way) but I put that in the stock too.

Just finished reading the comments and it seems to me, it's the FAT and probably marrow that helps make the jelly. I noticed a lot of people said 'roasted' bones were better and I DID use roasted chicken last night. Marrow oil would extrude from the bones more easily.

The chicken I used was precooked roasted little 1 lb chickens (2). I peeled off the skin and put that in the stock, I used the entire wingtip and that stupid part of the wing where the meat is stuck between two bones into the stock unskinned & meat still on. Other than that the only meat I left on was weird tendon looking and dark cartilage looking junk. I pulled off all meat I thought was right away edible. Tried not to leave any breast meat on the carcass. All bones apart at the joints.

Dutch oven, water in the pot until the bones were covered 2 - 3 inches over, set the stovetop on 4, cooked until it boiled then lowered to 1. 2 hours later I put 2 carrots, 3 celery sticks, an onion, and 2 bay leaves in it, then 2 more hours - that was it. No 24 hour cooking or any of that. All bones were completely separated and some dark meat had fallen off into the stock. I strained it, put the stock in the fridge, and this morning - TOTAL jelly. I usually always use my stock straight away, so I didn't know it jellied like that.

OH, yeah, I DID NOT ADD ANY EXTRA WATER while it was cooking. Don't know if that makes a difference, but it seems like you might definitely want to end up with LESS water than you started with, just like making a thick sauce.

Also, I never turned the heat up to the highest to get it boiling, I started at a 4, waited until it boiled - which took a bit - then turned it down to 1, leaving the lid on. So maybe I don't lose as much water as full roiling boil where you have to add water, but the water level never went down very much anyway.
hanks, and all the rest of you

All that crap about ice cubes or ice water, all of those steps are completely unnecessary, I know that much. Sure it's perfect jelly, but it probably would have been without the ice cube step anyway.

People make too much out of something very simple. You need fat and marrow to make jellied stock.

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2417 · October 20, 2012 at 5:39 AM

The fat doesn't have anything to do with it. It tastes nice, though!

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25 · May 24, 2012 at 1:44 AM

I make it both ways...sometime with bones saved over from a roasted chicken, and sometime with just raw necks and backs, with all the skin/fat/meat left on. The chicken I use is always free-range pastured organic (never "caged" organic). I don't have a crock pot or slow cooker, and simply make mine on the stove. Sometimes I just use bones and water and sometimes I'll add herbs and veggies with the variety depending on what I have on hand or what I'm planning on using that particular batch of broth for. I cover the bones with purified water, bring it to a good boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for a few hours (anywhere between three and six hours) giving it a good stir every 30 minutes or so. Periodically I add more water, but since I don't measure anything I'd say probably not more than 2 additional cups. Afterward I strain the broth (I just use a stainless colander) into a stainless bowl and quick chill the broth by setting the bowl containing the broth into a larger bowl that contains ice water. As soon as it's cooled, I cover it and put it in the refrigerator to set overnight. It never fails to turn into a nice, thick gelatin by morning.

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4991 · January 26, 2012 at 8:37 AM

I always roast the bones, or use the carcas from a roast chicken. Juice of a lemon, no vinegar.And no veg. Just enough water to cover - if there is too much water, then the gelatine is too dilute to "set". Cook either in a pressure cooker for about an hour, or in a slow cooker for about 8 / 10 hours. If you cook too long, the gelatine can start to degrade which again means no gelling.

If you can get a few chickens feet, or a calf foot split to go in with the chicken bones, so much the better.

But in my book, it is a) not too much water b) cook long enough to dissolve the gelatinous bits but not longer.

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1600 · January 26, 2012 at 8:12 AM

Ive found that I need to roast the chicken or beef roast before using the bones. I have no idea why it works but it seems to release all the goodness!! When I make a whole chicken I don't put anything on it. It sacrifices "fancy" flavors in the meat maybe..but when I take the whole carcass (after meat has been removed) and dump all the juices from the roast..yeah..awesome!

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2026 · January 26, 2012 at 7:36 AM

Was the chicken cooked before the carcass was made into soup? Roasting the bones can bring out a lot more flavor.

Also, although I don't like celery in just about any other form, I find that chicken stock without onions, celery, carrots, and bay leaf tastes like it's lacking something.

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