Homemade beef stock

I’m trying this for the first time. Usually we just make homemade chicken stock, because we have roast chicken for dinner often enough that we can just take the bones and leftovers from that, and turn it into stock. But I’m making a relatively elaborate beef stew recipe tomorrow, and I decided it would be really nice to have homemade beef stock for once.

I’m basically doing the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything cookbook, but I ran into some confusion at the grocery store. They had some beef bones marked simply “Soup Bones” for like $.89/lb. These bones were huge and did have some meat on them, but not a whole lot. I got a couple pounds of that. They also had short ribs for $5/lb. I got a pound of those, because short ribs were one of the meats Bittman specifically mentioned as being good for stock. But it did seem a little pricey, for something you’re turning into stock.

He also called for throwing in some whole cloves and peppercorns. I skipped that step, on the grounds that I want my stock to just be meat-flavored. I’ll season whatever recipe I use it in; I don’t need the stock to be seasoned. Thoughts on this issue? And, what kind of beef do the rest of you use in your homemade stock?

Any other homemade stockmaking tips would be greatly appreciated.

I use both the soup bones like you describe, and usually some short ribs or other kind of bones with more meat on them. They both seem to add flavor to the stock.

I brown the bones before making the stock. This gives the stock more flavor and a nice color as well.

I throw some onions and peppercorns in towards the last hour or so of the stock being boiled, but like you, I prefer to make the stock plain and add seasonings depending on what I’m doing with the stock. I also like using some of the stock to make glace - a super-reduced version of the stock - and it can’t stand up to much seasoning.

I do highly recommend making glace if you have some extra stock. Basically take some of the stock and reduce it to about 1/4 of what it was originally. It will become gelatanous - like a very firm jello once you let it cool down. It can be frozen and used as necessary. I cut it into roughly tablespoon size pieces and freeze it that way. Pull one out when you’re making steaks, throw it in a saucepan with some red wine, cream, or whatever, let it melt, throw in some spices, and you have a kick-ass sauce.

Make sure you don’t salt your stock if you’re making glace - it’ll turn out too salty.

Like Athena, I like to brown the bones before starting the stock, but I smear a little tomato paste on them, and throw a quartered onion or two in the roasting pan. I’ll throw the bones and onion into the pot, with a carrot (peeled and whole) and a rib or two of celery, a few sprigs of thyme and a few peppercorns, and cover with water. This adds and enhances the flavor of the stock–you won’t taste any of the elements, and it definitely makes the stock richer. When I do beef stock, after I bring the pot up to a boil, I reduce the heat until the stock is barely simmering, and let it go for at least 4 hours. There’s a lot of flavor in those bones.

Oh, yeah, and don’t salt your stock. Even if you decide to not make a glace, it’s just easier to season things when you’re making the finished product.

Depends on whether you’re making white stock or brown stock. Brown stock is made by roasting the bones and veggies first (doesn’t matter if it’s poultry or beef or pork), white stock is made from simmered bones and veggies. A good stock will take you about eight hours or more to prepare. A glace or demiglace will take longer.

I just made a batch from oxtails, which is pretty darn good. Roast the bones and some cut-up onions, carrots and celery in about a 2:1:1 ratio and some peppercorns. Roast until the veggies brown up a bit. Near the end, spread a can of tomato paste over the whole thing and brown a bit more.

Remove the bones and veggies to your stock pot. Deglaze the roasting pan with water add it all to the stock pot. Add some herbs, such as rosemary, etc. Don’t worry about this adding strong flavor to the stock. It just adds depth and complexity for future soup.

Now here is the critically important part. Add a few quarts of water to your browned ingredients. Bring it to a boil and reduce it to a slow simmer. You only want a few bubbles to break the surface occasionally. Do NOT stir the pot while cooking. If you cook on too high a heat, or overstir the pot, the fat will emulsify into the liquid. This will result in a greasy mouth feel and a cloudy stock.

As the liquid cooks down, the fat will float to the top. Periodically and carefully skim this off and discard. As the stock continues to cook down and you continue to skim, less and less fat will appear. Don’t worry about removing herbs and veggies as you skim. Continue this process for 8-10 hours, until little or no fat is evident and the stock is a beautiful nearly clear color. At this point, strain the liquid through a fine sieve and discard the debris. If using oxtails or other meat, you may salvage the meat and store.

Surprisingly, you’ll notice that the broth may not have a lot of flavor. But when you use it to prepare a soup, you’ll be glad you took the time.

Definitely brown the bones. I smear them in a bit of olive oil and some slightly diluted tomato paste. Once in the pot, I throw in the typical soup vegetables (celery or celery root, carrots, onion, parsnip, etc) plus a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf or two. Bring to boil. Simmer for many hours (3-6).

Important points are to use a thick-bottomed pot for even distribution of heat, and to make sure the stock simmers and doesn’t boil for the duration of the cooking time after the initial boil. If you have difficulty keeping the heat low enough, I’d suggest a flame tamer. I’ve even heard of people using bricks or something similar to distribute the heat evenly. I don’t go that crazy – just make sure it simmers away.

As for what bones I use, I use any combination of beef & veal shank, generic “soup bones,” or short ribs.

I’ll second Chefguy’s oxtail recommendation. I’ll also add a brown vote. And I’ll verify Cheguy’s assertion that boiling is bad; softly simmering is good. Ditto for fish stock and poultry stock. Start cold, simmer gently. Don’t simmer overlong though; it can get chalky.

Meant to say that you should brown the meat and bones first, then add the veggies to brown. Otherwise, you’ll end up with burned veggies.

Here’s how I make beef stock-

First, I do a roast and eat part of it. Then I take the rest of it, plus some roasted bones, and use that for the base of my stock. I don’t use bones alone because there’s not enough meat on them. I want a lot of flavor in beef stock.

Big stock pot or lobster pot with a heavy bottom, in goes the roast and bones, with two bunches of celery stalks, about 12 carrots, 3 or 4 onions and a bunch of parsley. Water to about 1 inch from the top.

Simmer 8-12 hours, stirring occasionally. When you remove it from the heat, let it cool down, then strain it through a flour sack towel (or several layers of cheesecloth) into another pot or very large bowl and discard the meat, bones and veggies (or munch on them, but they’re pretty soggy by now!). Cover pot/bowl and store in fridge overnight. In the morning, the fat will have come to the top and congealed. Spoon it off, then use a liquid measuring cup to put about 2 cups of stock each into a freezer zippy bag and stack the bags in your freezer.

Viola! Homemade soup whenever you want it.

I do chicken the exact same way, including roasting the bird before using the carcass. I will also poach a bunch of chicken at once, then dice it and put it in freezer bags. When you want chicken soup, dump two baggies of frozen stock into the pot, bring it to a boil, dump in one or two baggies of diced chicken and some fresh veggies and you’re done!

Short ribs are way too expensive to make stalk from! I use beef shanks, or, if I can’t get them, a combination of soup bones and stew meat, or shin, or some other tough, cheap cut. The cheap cuts of beef have excellent flavour; the reason they’re so cheap is because they are tough and not very juicy, but that doesn’t matter for stockmaking.

Also, I roast the bones, meat, and vegetables in small batches in a hot oven util they’re well browned. Does wonders for the flavour.

I always use peppercorns, but have never tried cloves [shrug]. Peppercorns, parsley, thyme, and a few bay leaves.

Chefguy knows what he’s talking about. I’d like to stress that the 2:1:1 ratio of onions, carrots, and celery (the mirepoix) is of great importance to the final outcome of your stock and to anything you may make with it, be it sauce, soup or stew. I recommend that none of those three be added whole; cutting them up exposes more surface area and gives that much more depth to the flavour.

If you have a few chicken bones kicking around, you can add them to your beef stock. As long as there are not too many of them, the rich beef flavor will dominate the neutral chicken flavor yet the chicken will further enrich your stock. And I like to make a big batch, because it freezes well. I reduce it down a good bit so it will take up less room in the freezer.

Wow, that’s a first! :smiley: My new sig line, methinks.

EJsGirl That techniqe can work, but be careful when you decant the liquid. That’s when the fat can become emulsified in the liquid. Less chance if it’s cooled first, of course. You might want to adjust your veggie ratio, but it’s all in what you like, not in what some fool on a message board tells you.