How to: Make Chicken Bone Broth {Two Methods}

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Since starting the GAPS diet back in July of 2013, bone broth has been a staple in our diet. We either drink a cup of broth or have a bowl of broth-based soup at every meal. But because it has been so commonplace for so long now, I often forget that other people have never made it! So today I thought I would finally show you the two simple ways I make my bone broth, plus tell you about all the great benefits of including bone broth in your diet.

What is Bone Broth?

Stock, broth, bone broth: Are they different names for the same thing?

The answer is yes, and no.

While there are differences in what defines "stock" and "broth" the differences are so slight (and often vary depending on who you ask) that these terms are usually used interchangeably. Professional chefs will often refer to their creation as stock, whereas home-cooks generally refer to it as broth.

But as you'll notice on a lot of real food, paleo, GAPS, or other healing diet blogs, their creators will most often call for "bone broth" in recipes. To me, this is the most important distinction as it signals that the broth used is a traditionally-prepared, nourishing broth made by simmering both meat and bones to create a nutritionally superior broth. This doesn't mean that stock or broth can't be made in the same way, but by calling it "bone" broth, it makes the distinction that homemade broth should be used instead of the nutritionally inferior store-bought broth.

Simply put, bone broth is made by simmering bones, meat, and optional vegetables in water for a few hours up to a couple days. This process essentially leaches out all of the important nutrition from the bones and meat. The finished product is a rich, golden, gelatinous liquid filled with minerals and amino acids which have immeasurable benefits for our health.

Benefits of Bone Broth

Bone broth is an excellent source of minerals, especially calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. These minerals are beneficial to the health of our bones and teeth. Plus, the minerals we get from bone broths are bio-available, which means our bodies can readily use the minerals. Drinking bone broth will give you much more nutrition than processed supplements.

Bone broth is also a good source of the amino acids proline and glycine, which are crucial to the health and healing of our bodies. The Paleo Mom explains it well:

“Glycine and proline are two key components of connective tissue, the biological “glue” that holds our bodies together. There are many types of connective tissue and these two amino acids feature prominently in most of them, from the cartilage that forms our joints to the extracellular matrix that acts as a scaffold for the cells in our individual organs, muscles, arteries etc. Without these two amino acids, we would literally fall apart.”

— Sarah Ballantyne, PhD aka The Paleo Mom

In addition to minerals and amino acids, bone broth is also rich in gelatin.

“The public is generally unaware of the large amount of research on the beneficial effects of gelatin taken with food. Gelatin acts first and foremost as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis, and Crohn’s disease... Gelatin also seems to be of use in the treatment of many chronic disorders, including anemia and other diseases of the blood, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and even cancer.”

— Sally Fallon in "Nourishing Traditions"

Consuming bone broth has been shown to boost your immune system, plus give your hair, nails, and skin a healthy boost too! What's not to love?

Another benefit that is important to me is the concept of "nose-to-tail" eating. Essentially, this means eating the whole animal--nothing goes to waste. I wish I could say that I'm all the way there, but I'm not. I still have not been able to bring myself to eat offal (all the other animal parts we normally discard) but I want to get there one day. Organs are the most nutritious parts of an animal.

I see three benefits to eating the whole animal:

  1. Limiting our food waste
  2. Maximizing our budget
  3. Maximizing our nourishment

I purchase all of our chicken for the month ahead of time, and of that meat, roughly two-thirds of it is whole chickens. Whenever I cook a chicken I save the carcass to make bone broth and soups. This saves me a lot of money and ensures that I am getting every bit of nutrition from every dollar I spend.

The best part is that bone broth is very simple to make, as you will see!

How to make Bone Broth

Method One: Stovetop

You'll need:

  • A large stockpot
  • 1 whole chicken or chicken carcass* (preferably pastured/organic)
  • Filtered water
  • Salt & seasonings (optional)
  • Vegetable scraps (optional)

*You can also use an assortment of meat and bones instead of a whole chicken. The best broths are made by including chicken feet!

Making stovetop chicken broth is easy--throw the chicken in the pot and add enough water to cover. You can also add vegetables like carrots, celery and onion, plus some sea salt, peppercorns, and herbs.

As soon as it comes to a simmer, turn it down to low. You want it to be simmering very gently and should see only one bubble come to the surface every few seconds. This maintains the integrity of the gelatin and will allow your broth to "gel" when it is cooled. However, if you over-boil your broth, all is not lost! It will still taste delicious and be very nutritious.

If any foam floats to the surface, scoop it out with a spoon. This will happen within the first couple of hours of simmering.

You can simmer your broth for a few hours (if you're using a whole, raw chicken, make sure the chicken is fully cooked) but up to 24 hours is best. The longer it simmers, the more nutrients will be released from the bones. It will also have a much richer taste, so cook it to your desired preferences.

When your bone broth is finished, allow it to cool slightly. To strain your broth, place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour or ladle your broth into the strainer. When your broth has been strained, you can ladle it into jars for storage or pour it back into your pot if you are using it immediately to make soup.

If you are storing your broth, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or kept in the freezer for several months. If you use glass jars for freezing, be sure to leave a couple inches of headspace to allow for expansion or you may end up with broken jars. Of the dozens of times I have frozen my broth, I have only broken 2 jars.

Method Two: Slow cooker (aka Perpetual Broth)

You'll need:

  • A slow cooker large enough to fit a chicken
  • 1 whole chicken or chicken carcass* (preferably pastured/organic)
  • Filtered water
  • Salt & seasonings (optional)
  • Vegetable scraps (optional)

*You can also use an assortment of meat and bones instead of a whole chicken. The best broths are made by including chicken feet!

Method One seemed pretty simple, right? Well, Method Two is even easier if you want to always have fresh broth on hand!

For this method, simply throw the chicken in the slow cooker and add enough water to fill the slow cooker. You can also add vegetables like carrots, celery and onion, plus some sea salt, peppercorns, and herbs.

Turn the slow cooker on high for about an hour, then turn it down to low. Every slow cooker is different, so I would recommend using a thermometer the first couple times you make it so that you know how to keep your broth at a safe temperature. In my slow cooker, once it has come to a boil, I can place the setting to "warm" and it will keep it at the perfect temperature.

If you used an uncooked chicken, you must wait a few hours until the chicken is fully cooked before using the broth. Once the chicken is cooked, you can remove the chicken from the slow cooker, take the meat off the carcass and then place all the bones back in the slow cooker. Now you have chicken to use for soup, stir fry, casseroles, etc. as well as broth to drink or use for cooking--all in one easy step!

If you used a carcass from a previously cooked chicken, you can start using your broth whenever it has come to a boil. The longer you leave it, the stronger it will be in flavour.

As you use the broth, add water back to the slow cooker in the same amount as what you took out. You may continue to do this all week. If you happen to have more chicken bones and/or more vegetable scraps, you can take some of the old bones/veggies out and replace them with new ones. This is not necessary, but does keep your broth rich in flavour throughout the whole week.

After a week or so, cool the broth and strain it; store it as explained in method one. Then, place another chicken into your slow cooker and start again.

Not only is this "perpetual" broth but it is also super frugal! You can use just one chicken (or carcass) and have a whole week's worth of broth!

In our house, you will always see a slow cooker of perpetual broth going--that's what we use to drink throughout the day. However, when I see that I have an abundance of chicken carcasses in the freezer from roasting the birds, I will throw a few carcasses into a gigantic stockpot and do a large batch of broth to freeze as my base for soups.

So you can pick one method or use both--but either way, I highly recommend that you make homemade bone broth a staple in your home!

How to Make Chicken Bone Broth {Two Methods} 2

Original photo by William Jones