Heres how to make rich, deep beef stock by roasting marrow bones and simmering them with aromatic vegetables and herbs.
Years ago, when I was in college, I was told by my Chinese doctor to make soup from scratch for my health (the reasons too long to go into now). In his words, “get beef bones and boil them”.
The good news is that I had one of those food epiphanies—soup stock comes from bones? I hadnt connected the dots before. (So why was mom simmering that turkey carcass? Never bothered to ask.)
The bad news is that I hadnt the faintest idea what I was doing; I dutifully went to my local butcher, begged some beef bones, and boiled them for hours with a rolling boil until the bones were practically disintegrating. Then I removed the bones, added lentils and salt, and ate it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the process of making stock, this is not the way to do it. (Granted, if you are calcium deficient and dont care about the taste of your soup, or the grittiness, it is edible.)
Why make beef stock at home?
Because it is so vastly superior to any store-bought stock. While I think that (most) store bought chicken stock is actually pretty good these days and vegetable stock is passable, beef stock has never been that great.
Homemade beef stock has:
- Far better flavour – Store bought stock does not compare to real, freshly made stock. A simple taste is all it takes to confirm this;
- Richer mouthfeel – Gelatin from the bones and connective tissue in beef bones is what gives a stock its full-bodied richness and mouthfeel when used in soups and stews etc, as well as natural thickness when highly reduced for use as a jus or in sauces. Store-bought stock lacks this quality;
- More versatile because it’s unsalted – Store-bought stock is almost always salted. This is fine when used at normal concentrations, but if stock is reduced a lot when making ragus, sauces and so on, the salt can become excessive – yet there is little you can do about it. Homemade stock on the other hand is unsalted, so you will never have this problem and can control seasoning in the finished dish; and
- Cheaper than high quality store-bought stocks. Yes, regular supermarket packet beef stock (eg. Campbell’s) is cheaper than homemade stock. But it also tastes quite artificial, because producers are yet to successfully mass-produce cheap beef stock to a decent level of quality. High-end packaged stocks are better, but are very expensive by comparison.
Homemade stock is one of the big things that differentiate home and restaurant cooking. Good restaurants always make their own stocks, and is the secret to why their dishes often have that richer, deeper, “restaurant-quality” taste to them.
Straining, storage and using
Once the stock has reduced, it’s a matter of straining, discarding excess fat then storing for use!
- Strain – Fish out bones, then strain stock through a fine mesh colander / strainer into a large bowl or clean pot;
- Yield: ~ 1.3 – 1.6 litres/quarts – Let the vegetable matter sit there in the strainer for a few minutes to extract as much liquid as possible. You should have around 1.5 litres / quarts of liquid. After discarding the excess fat (later step), there should be around 1.25 litres / quarts of stock;
- Cool rapidly by sitting the uncovered pot in a sink full of cold tap water. Change the water every 20 minutes or so as it heats up, and it should take around 1 hour 15 minutes to cool to room temperature (around 21°C/70°F).It’s important to cool rapidly to prevent bacteria from growing (they love cosy warm environments!) so we can get it in the fridge ASAP. Never put a large hot pot of stock in the fridge otherwise you will significantly raise the internal temperature of the fridge – that’s bad!
- Refrigerate – Transfer to a suitable storage container – I use a jug – then refrigerate;
- Remove surface fat – Once it has fully chilled in the fridge, the fat floating on the surface will solidify into a white mass. Use a large, flat spoon to carefully scrap it off and discard.This is what beef stock looks like when chilled and the fat has been removed. It solidifies into a jelly because of the gelatin. Gelatin is what gives the stock that fine-dining restaurant, rich mouthfeel. Store bought stock is always liquid because it has little gelatin.
- Done! Your stock is now done and ready for use! It will keep in the fridge for 7 days (I’ve been told by a reliable source 10 days is ok, but I say up to 7 to err on the side of caution). Else, it can freeze for up to 3 months.
I like to store stock in 1- or 2-cup portions, labelled, in the freezer.
How to use homemade beef stock
To use homemade beef stock, you can either reheat in the microwave or on the stove to return it to a liquid so it can be measured out. It melts very quickly – literally in a minute or two.
It can be added straight into dishes in cold jelly form too. For me, it’s just a question of whether I need to measure it or not – it’s harder to accurately measure out jelly!
Rating 5.0 (18) · 8 hr 10 minFeb 3, 2021 · The key ingredient to make a really good beef stock is meaty bones. No meat, no flavour! You need 2 1/2 kg / 5 lb of beef bones to make 1 1/4 –
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