Easiest Ever Slow Cooker Bone Broth

I’ve been buying bone broth and sipping it like tea out of a mug for years. Ok maybe only since Bobbie Brown said that she sipped bone broth throughout the day to help her collagen, which I remember reading somewhere but can’t for the life of me find on the “inter web” at the current moment so I might be making it up. Whether it helps boost your collagen or fills you up enough to keep you from eating other things are debatable, but there is no doubt that bone broth is a healing, nutrient-dense food. You might think that bone broth is too time consuming to make at home, but with this easiest ever slow cooker bone broth you’ll be making bone broth at home and stocking your fridge in no time!

Bone broth was dubbed the “new green juice” a few years ago, for it’s nutritious profile. Bone broth has been all the rage, with places like Brodo in NYC selling the stuff in coffee cups with customizable add-ins like turmeric or ginger, and bottles of bone broth popping up on the shelves of local health food stores. Even one mainstream organic brand, Pacific, started selling shelf-stable bone broth advertised as “slow-simmered” and high in protein (though the packaging does not tell you how long the broth is “slow-simmered”).

Bone broth has been around without all the raging for like 200,000+ years. Back when meat was scarce and every last bit of an animal was used, bones were simmered in water for hours to make flavorful and nourishing soups.

Bone broth is like chicken soup on steroids. Seriously. It’s even more concentrated with fortifying goodness (yes, that’s a technical term), because bone broth is made by cooking bones in water for 20-24 hours to extract all the nutrients out of those bones, including calcium, iron and lots of amino acids.

This all sounds great, but who has 20-24 hours to sit by the hearth stirring a cauldron of bones? You have better things to do, like binge watch the new season of  Gilmore Girls, look at pretty things on Pinterest, and stalk follow your favorite celeb on Insta.

With this recipe for the easiest even bone broth, you will see that you can so easily make your own bone broth while you’re at work and sleeping. It’s stupid easy and here’s how: Dump bones in your slow cooker; add some veggies, a splash of vinegar, a few peppercorns and a bay leaf for good measure; cover with water; press the button to cook for 10 hours on low and walk away until 10 hours later, when you stir, check to make sure there is enough water, and then press the button again to cook for 10 more hours and walk away. Strain the veggies and bones out of the bone broth using a colander over a large bowl, pour the bone broth into some mason jar, cool on the counter for an hour, and then put it in your fridge or freezer. A layer of fat will form once the bone broth has fully cooled in the fridge. You can use a spoon to easily scoop the hardened fat layer off and toss it in the garbage to make your bone broth low-fat.

Easiest Ever Crock Pot Bone Broth

 

Reheat the bone broth to sip out of a mug like Bobbie Brown (it’s at least confirmed that she does like the bone broth trend). You can add a sprinkle of sea salt, some fresh grated ginger or turmeric if you want even more flavor in your bone broth. I personally like it most with a tiny bit of sea salt and nothing else. I bring a medium mason jar of broth to the office several times a week and sip it throughout the day in the winter, or when I’m feeling under the weather.

bone broth closeup
This is a batch of chicken and beef bone broth as it cools, before the fattier solids have cooled enough to collect at the top.

It’s that easy and if you’re like me and not into butchering or touching a whole lot of raw bones and meat, you can literally dump the bones from the packaging into the slow cooker without getting any potential raw meat germs on anything in your kitchen. I was concerned the first time I made bone broth that the bones and chicken parts had bloody spots on them (ick!), but my friend and acupuncturist, Danelle Ebbel, who specializes in gut health, assured me that any blood on the bones will add more iron to your bone broth and will not effect the color or taste of the finished broth. I found that to be true.

Sometimes my bone broth turns out super thick and gelatinous. I like to sip my bone broth rather than chew it, so I often add a little water to the mixture while reheating to thin in out. Bone broth is great for sipping, but it’s also super great as a rich stock for soups and stews. Anywhere you would usually use chicken broth you can use your bone broth to add even more low-fat flavor. I often make a quick chicken soup with sauteed onions, celery and carrots, dill, sea salt, leftover roasted chicken, and a pint of my bone broth. I add several cups of water to thin the broth and the resulting soup is rich and delicious.

Bone broth that is done cooking after 20 hours (two 10 hour cycles on low in my slow cooker). I used pink peppercorns in this batch.
Bone broth that is done cooking after 20 hours (two 10 hour cycles on low in my slow cooker). I used pink peppercorns in this batch, and also added some fresh thyme springs during the last few hours of cooking.

Here are a few of my tips for making and storing bone broth:

  1. Find the highest quality bones. The thing about bone broth is that you’re extracting all the nutrients (minerals, vitamins) from the bones, so you want to make sure that the bones you are using are the best quality you can find. I use organic pasture-raised chicken bones or organic, grass-fed, grass-finished beef bones. Living in NYC you’d think it would be easy to find good bones, but I actually found it to be a challenge. I usually buy my meat from my CSA crop-share because it’s convenient (pickup is only a few blocks away at a church), but it’s done for the season. I have been ordering good pasture-raised chicken bones and grass-fed beef bones from Our Harvest, an online farmer’s market in the NYC area the delivers. The bones I’ve ordered from Our Harvest have been the best for bone broth and have had the most flavor. They tend to have a limited supply of the bones so you might have to plan ahead and order them for delivery a week or two out. Or keep a stash in your freezer.
  2. Use chicken, beef, lamb or a combination. I prefer the taste of chicken bone broth over beef or lamb, but I make all types depending on what bones are available. Sometimes I mix beef and chicken bones for the bone broth. When I can’t find any bones, I order a whole organic chicken cut up and use that to make the broth. Once it’s fully cooked, I pick out the breast meat to use in soup, and toss the rest because we aren’t fans of dark meat in my house.
  3. Add a splash of vinegar to the cooking liquid. This is important to add at least a little vinegar to the bone broth liquid because the acid in vinegar helps to extract the nutrients from the bones. You can use whatever vinegar you have on hand. I usually use apple cider but I have also used sherry vinegar and plain white vinegar in a pinch.
  4. Use a colander or mesh sieve to strain the solids out of your finished bone broth.  I use a silicone collapsable colander (space saver!) to strain my bone broth, rather than a fine mesh sieve because my mesh strainer isn’t big enough to handle the whole batch in one pour. My ceramic slow cooker bowl is heavy to pour out so I like to do it in one swoop in a large colander. Note that some particles will remain in your bone broth if you use a colander rather than a mesh sieve. For me, the last jar of bone broth that I pour out from the batch usually has some floaters (small bits of meat and veggies), that I get in my last few sips, but I don’t really mind and finish it off anyway. If you aren’t into floaters use a mesh sieve or toss the last bits of the bone broth before pouring it into yours jars.
  5. Use a ceramic bowl to catch the strained broth. This may go without saying, but MAKE SURE that you have a bowl under your colander or sieve before you pour your broth out. I forgot once when I was making corn broth (which thankfully was only about an hour of cooking time rather than the longer bone broth simmer), and poured all my broth down the drain. True story. I was extremely sleep deprived, and then extremely pissed. I recommend a ceramic bowl if you have one large enough, because a metal bowl will get quite hot and hard to handle when you go to pour the bone broth out into your jars or storage containers.
  6. Store your bone broth in glass containers (not plastic). It is especially important to pour your bone broth into glass rather than plastic containers if you are not waiting for the broth to cool down in your bowl (and are therefore pouring it hot into the containers), or are planning to freeze some of your bone broth. Plastic can leach chemicals into your food under extreme (hot or cold) temperature conditions. I like to use mason jars, because they are made to withstand extreme heat and cold.
  7. If you are freezing bone broth, be sure to leave some space at the top of the jar. Liquid expands when it is frozen, so if you do not leave some head room at the top of your jar, you could end up with a shattered jar in your freezer. (I have sadly also had this happen.)

Many recipes for bone broth recommend roasting the bones before you make your bone broth. I have never pre-roasted the bones. If you have time to pre-roast your bones more power to you. I do not feel the need since my slow cooker bone broths have been rich and delicious without that time-consuming and messier step, so I skip it.

How much bone broth your batch yields will vary wildly depending on how big your slow cooker is, what type of bones you use, how many bones you use, how much water you use, etc. This recipe is really just a rough guide. If you have a small slow cooker and use a large amount of bones and just enough water to cover, you will end up with a thicker broth. That is great, just water it down a bit if it’s too thick when you go to eat/cook the bone broth. The opposite is true too.  If you have a much larger slow cooker and use more water, your bone broth will likely be thinner. Don’t worry, it still has all the nutrients in there even if it isn’t super thick.

I find this picture fascinating but I hope it doesn’t gross anyone out too much. This is a pic of one of the bones after I cooked it for 20+ hours. Notice that it almost looks woody. You can literally see that all of the nutrients have been removed and are now in the broth. Nutrient-dense indeed!

Bone Broth Bones After Cooking 20 Hours
You will know your bones are done cooking when, after about 20 hours, the bones look woody (as in all of the nutrients have been cooked out into your broth)

A final note about the veggies I use in my bone broth. If you didn’t already think I’m coo-coo pants you’re about. I save a bag of veggie scraps in my freezer (think carrot peels, the ends of onions and scallions, the bottom of the celery hearts). I buy really good, high quality veggies and like to use every last bit of them. I also find it easier to dump the “scraps” bag into the slow cooker when I am making bone broth, rather than having to cut veggies just to cook and strain out of my broth. Using veggie scraps to makes soups and stews is common practice for restaurants and chefs. I don’t go through nearly the same volume as a restaurant, so I freeze the scraps until I collect enough to use in a stock. It might be cray, but it truly makes this a “dump” slow cooker recipe for me to make.

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