Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Apr

Cooking with Bones

Bones2Marrow is great and all, but what about the bones that aren’t blessed enough to bear the sacred gel in easily extractable amounts? We can’t forget about those. Chicken backs, beef knuckles, ham hocks, chicken feet, lamb necks, hooves and any other animal-derived matrices of calcium phosphate and collagen fibers are all worth saving, cooking, and perhaps even eating. Hell, I bet elk antlers would make a fine, mineral-rich soup. The best part is that bones, feet, hooves, heads, and connective tissues are all pretty inexpensive, sometimes even free, parts of the animal. They also represent an entirely different realm of nutritional content than basic muscle meat, being complex organs playing multiple roles in the body.

You see, bone is living tissue, rather than inert structure. It is rigid, true, but it’s actually an organ, in fact, placing it squarely in the nutritional all-star camp of liver, heart, brain, kidney, and sweetbreads. Bone is also slightly elastic, owing to the collagen, which combines with the calcium phosphate to lend “elastic rigidity.” (If it weren’t for the collagen, bones would simply be hard with no give, and thus brittle.) Bone is full of minerals, mostly calcium and phosphorus (seeing as how the “bone” part of bone is calcium phosphate, this is no surprise), along with sodium, magnesium, and other trace minerals. If the connective tissue – and most animal scraps and bones you use will have tendons, ligaments, and cartilage – is still attached, bones also include stuff like chondroitin and glucosamine, popular joint supplements that are the raw materials for bone and cartilage formation.

Let’s do a quick rundown of all the other good stuff found in bones and, therefore, well-made bone stock:

  • Bone marrow – We went over this last week, but I’ll say it again: bone marrow is one of the first “superfoods” (for lack of a better term – I actually slightly cringe using it) our ancestors enjoyed. It’s fatty, with a bit of protein and loads of minerals. Even if you’re cooking spindly chicken bones, there’s going to be marrow, and that marrow will make it into your stock.
  • Collagen and gelatin – Most commercial gelatin comes from animal collagen already, so why not cut out the middle man and get your gelatin directly from bone and cartilage? The more collagen your bones have, the more gelatinous, rich, and viscous your stock will be – important qualities, especially if you intend to reduce your stock into sauces. Gelatin may even reduce joint pain in athletes, as one (admittedly small) study appeared to show. Another showed benefits for ulcer patients.
  • Glycine – Although our bodies already produce plenty of glycine, rendering it a non-essential amino acid, there’s some evidence that supplementation can help mitigate free-radical oxidative damage in rats with alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity. Bone broth is rich in glycine. It probably doesn’t mean much, but it can’t hurt. And hey – it may even improve sleep quality, as one Japanese study showed in human subjects. Drink a warm cup of broth before bed, perhaps?
  • Proline – Proline is another non-essential amino acid found in bone stock, but supplementation has shown promise in patients suffering from vision loss due to gyrate atrophy. It’s also an important precursor for the formation of collagen, though it’s not clear whether eating proline has any affect on the body’s ability to make collagen.
  • Hyaluronic acid – Hyaluronic acid, also known as hyaluronan, is one of cartilage’s three glycosaminoglycans. It helps broth gel, and it’s been used for years to treat race horses with osteoarthritis, usually as an intra-articular injection or IV fluid. Recent studies on oral administration have been promising, though, meaning oral administration of quality bone stock (as opposed to, um, what other method of administration?) might help us with our joint issues, too. According to Wikipedia, human studies are underway and showing promise, but I wasn’t able to dig up much beyond this small study. Still, it’s compelling, and I’ll continue to drink broth regardless.
  • Chondroitin sulfate – Chondroitin sulfate is another glycosaminoglycan present in bone stock. It’s also a popular supplement for the treatment of osteoarthritis the efficacy of which has come under question. One recent review concludes that chondroitin sulfate “may interfere with progression of osteoarthritis”. I’d say it’s worth a shot.
  • Calcium – I’ve downplayed the importance of large amounts of supplementary calcium in the past, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It’s the raw material for bone production and fortification, and bone stock might be one of the best sources of calcium around, especially for those who avoid dairy and don’t eat enough leafy greens.
  • Phosphorus – There’s also a good amount of phosphorus in bone stock, though I doubt Primal eaters lack adequate dietary phosphorus (there’s plenty in meat). Still, it’s a nice buffer.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is pretty lacking in the modern diet. Fatty fish like mackerel offer good amounts, as do leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, but most people, Primal folks included, could stand to take in more magnesium. Dr. Michael Eades says if he had to recommend just one supplement, it’d be magnesium; Dr. Stephan Guyenet over at Whole Health Source recently posted a couple great pieces, one on magnesium and insulin sensitivity (short version: the former improves the latter) and another on magnesium and vitamin D metabolism (short version: the former affects the latter). Bone stock is just another way to obtain this valuable mineral.
  • Sulfur, potassium, and sodium – Stock has these minerals in mostly trace amounts, but they’re all important for health. Sodium isn’t really an issue for most people, but potassium is undoubtedly important and often lacking. Both are crucial electrolytes (bone broth – possible new sports drink?). Sulfur is the “S” in MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, the popular joint supplement that has shown some promising results in humans.

The best way to extract all that boney goodness from the bones is to cook with them, and that means making stock (or broth; from here on out, I’ll just say stock, but the two are pretty similar, with broth technically being derived from meat and bones, and stock from just bones). I mentioned a basic chicken stock recipe last year, but we can do better than that. Besides, different bones require different considerations. A few tips:

  • Add a couple shots of apple cider vinegar to your stock. This aids in the extraction of minerals without really altering the flavor.
  • Roast your bones beforehand. This adds color and flavor. For big bones like beef, 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes usually works. For chicken, just use roasted carcasses.
  • Don’t throw bones away. Even if you just ate a couple bone-in chicken thighs, save those measly little bones! Freeze them and keep adding to your collection until you’ve got a respectable amount.
  • Don’t be afraid to simmer long and slow. Smaller animals require less cooking time to extract nutrients, so chicken can probably go for twenty hours and produce a quality stock, but beef or lamb bones can go for several days, provided you keep the heat low and watch the water level to prevent burning.
  • Add feet, especially chicken feet, for added collagen – and more gelatin.
  • If it’s a delicious joint supplement you’re after, look for actual animal joints to throw in. Knuckles, especially, have tons of cartilaginous material and snappy ligament that will break down in the water.
  • When dealing with the bigger bones from ungulates, sometimes the heat and the water need a little assistance. To really get the good stuff, stick the bones in a sturdy bag and smash them with your sledgehammer (you do have a sledgehammer, right?). Then put the shards in the stockpot. Native Americans used to do this to buffalo bones to get at the little grease pockets lurking within the bone latticework; why shouldn’t we do the same? Another option is to remove the bones after half a day or so and go to work with a smaller hammer, a chef’s knife, or even the food processor. They’ll have softened considerably, and you’ll be able to chop them up into bits for quicker, more thorough extraction. Last week, I took a 10-inch chef’s knife to some cow knuckles and cow necks that’d been simmering for a day and returned the pieces for another few hours of cooking. That stock was the thickest, richest, most gelatinized stock I’ve ever made. Correlation, causation? I lean toward the latter. In fact, going forward, I plan on doing this every single time I make stock. The difference was just that huge.
  • You can eat bone, technically. Now, if you’ve made a proper stock and gotten all you can out of your bones, eating them may not confer many benefits. Still, it’s an interesting thought. Chicken bones in particular become pretty delectable after a day of stewing, and I’ll confess to sifting through the stock solids for snacks. I haven’t eaten an entire carcass or anything (yet), but I may try a few of the smaller, softer bones as an experiment. Anyone else?
  • Once your stock has cooled in the fridge, only skim the fat if you’re prepared to store or use the stock right away. That layer of fat is protecting your broth from adulterants, whether they’re random fridge flavors or bacteria.
  • Speaking of fat, I’d toss poultry fat. It’s a relatively high-PUFA animal fat, and a day of simmering has probably damaged it beyond repair. If you’re stewing bones with more saturated animal fat, though, you should absolutely save the fat layer.
  • Veggies are optional, but tasty. They add flavor, and the classic mirepoix blend of carrots, onions, and celery is always a welcome addition. Herbs work well, too. I’m partial to thyme, bay leaf, and whole peppercorns, with maybe a sprig or two of rosemary added. If you’re doing herbs and veggies, add them toward the end of cooking, especially if you’re doing a marathon two-day stock making session.

Divining the nutritional details of traditional foods like bone stock and bone marrow is difficult, if not impossible altogether. We know stock contains gelatin, calcium, phosphate, magnesium, glucosamine, chondroitin, and other trace minerals, but what are the numbers? We’re a numbers generation; we expect to have accurate info at the tips of our fingers at all times, but that’s unrealistic. Bone composition isn’t set in stone. What the animal ate, how it lived, where it lived, the mineral content of whatever it ate, the nutrient density of whatever it ate – these all factor into the composition and content of the bones, joints, and cartilage. The nutrition facts of commercial bone meal marketed as a calcium supplement gives us a general idea of the mineral content (900 mg calcium, 360 mg phosphorus, 9 mg magnesium per serving) of bone stock. That stuff comes from powdered “cattle raised in the United States,” which undoubtedly means corn-fed, nutritionally-deficient cows. We don’t know exactly how an animal’s diet affects its bone composition, but we know that it matters. Diet plays a huge role in everything, and I’d bet that grass-fed (again, as always) results in better, more nutritious stock. Regardless of the numbers, bone stock is good for you, damn good, and being somewhat in the dark about the precise nutrient count shouldn’t dissuade you from making and using your own bone stock on a regular basis.

Even if you don’t (or are unable to) seek out bones specifically for cooking, you’ll end up with plenty as leftovers. In fact, I’d suggest opting for whole animals or bone-in segments; the meat tastes better, it stays fresher longer, and you get some cooking bones when it’s all done. When you roast a chicken, you’ve got an entire skeleton to work with. When you cook a bone-in leg of lamb on the barbecue, you’ve got a big femur left over. What does a skinless breast offer after it’s been eaten, or an endless parade of steaks? I love a good steak as much as the next man, but a Primal eater shouldn’t live on muscle meat alone. I highly recommend giving homemade stock a try. If you eat animals, you should have access to their bones, and you should never throw those bones away.

Have I missed anything? Anyone have any good stock-making tips?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have a boner

    smurf wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • Im an Executive Chef of a Fine Dining Restaurant and actually run a almost primal side menu for my healthy clientele. I make demi glace 20 times a year probably here is my recipe.
      50# veal bones roasted and de glazed with 1 gallon red wine or marsala wine
      20# onions
      7 # celery no leaves they make it bitter
      12# carrots
      1/2 cs tomatoes or 4 v8 juice
      3# garlic
      1 cup cracked black pepper
      12 bay leaves
      12 bunches lemon thyme
      any other herbs floating around
      simmer for two days strain reduce until thick like sauce consistency. While its reducing skim the grease off the top

      sometimes the end needs a little adjusting but normally comes our right on with flavor.

      use a 25 gallon stock pot end result about 2 gallons give or take depending upon how rich the bones are

      all veg is rough chopped

      Tai Menz wrote on May 6th, 2010
      • This looks FANTASTIC! Can you be more specific about the tomatoes or V8? Is that 1/2 case? of what size cans? OR 4 of what size V8?

        I have lemon thyme in my garden and use it for most anything. I first got it years ago in a bag of salad greens and was instantly addicted. Try this appetizer: radish slices sprinkle with lemon thyme leaves. Oh Wow! Add it to cold cucumber soup, a bowl of fresh fruit, go wild. I never even thought to add it to demi-glace MY BAD!!!

        Mary Anne Mead wrote on May 6th, 2010
        • If our tomatoes are in season I use tomatoes. It really depends on how acidic you want it. The V8 I use large cans even Sacramento tomato juice is good.

          Tai Menz wrote on May 7th, 2010
      • Where is your restaurant? NYC I’m hoping…

        Trey wrote on February 29th, 2012
    • I make beef bone broth regularly. I love it and the nutrients provided. I make it in big batches and freeze it in one quart BPA free plastic vacuum sealed packages. I then thaw the bag out in a hot water bath and reheat on the stove top to enjoy as often as I like. Can you please tell me in doing this freeze thaw production, am I losing some of the nutrient value, the collagen, chondroitin, glucosamine, and mineral composition that is so valued? In other words, is the nutritional value the same as what it was when it was fresh off the stove after freeze / thaw in this manner as long as it is used up within 4-6 months after frozen? Thanks for your reply!

      freezing bone broth wrote on January 13th, 2014
    • If you put bone shards into your bone stock doesn’t it make it dangerous that you may get one stuck in your throat?

      Karen wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • You can strain your broth through a strainer when done.
        It’s recommended, most of us probably do this and I wonder why it wasn’t mentioned.

        Issabeau wrote on February 17th, 2014
  2. Who would have thought bones would be so good for your health! I like the idea of using all the leftover bones after Thanksgiving or a rotisserie chicken dinner. It couldn’t get much easier than making stock.

    Nick wrote on April 15th, 2010
  3. Forgive me for being new to this… but about how many bones would you need to use, or what volume of bones, per litre or cup of water? And how about mixing different animals? You never really see mixed broths in the store, just chicken or beef, but how would mixed stock taste?

    Angela wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • I wonder about this too! Can we mix bones from different animals?

      gilliebean wrote on April 15th, 2010
      • Sure! I’ve done this before, and it results in a richer broth. I really like using well-roasted bones – they add such great flavor to the stock!

        Mary wrote on April 15th, 2010
      • Mix away! I actually prefer to use chicken stock for beef stew. It seems to add a more complex flavor. Technically it may be less “beefy” but it actually tastes better.

        CJ wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • Depends how rich you want it but my favorite is from the Tender Grassfed Meat cookbook (awesome) where it says 4-6 lbs misc bones and scraps + veggies garlic italian parsley salt acv and enough water to cover it by 2-3 inches. Makes about 8 quarts. As far as mixing I haven’t tried it yet but it’s in the cookbook as well called nomad’s broth so it might be worth a try.

      Wakka wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • 1 pound of bones = 1 pint of rich stock

      jizza wrote on March 26th, 2013
  4. I make a stock for my family once a week in the crock pot from all of the meat, bone and vegetable scraps that we’ve accumulated throughout the week, which we keep in the freezer up until it’s time to rock. I usually make a random Paleo stew out of it and everyone loves it. It’s sort of like our weekly natural multivitamin.

    fireandstone wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • RECIPE? please?

      JOY wrote on March 16th, 2012
  5. My dog is currently chewing on a beef marrow bone. It looks like I need to join the party.

    Danielle wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • I try to make sure my dog eats at least one bone a week. I wish I could feed her all natural, primal like we are trying to eat, but unfortunately, the cost and time is just too much for me. I feed her regular old purina, and supplement with bones. have you noticed after you feed them marrow-rich bones, their poop is white and chalky? I thought there was something wrong with my dog when I saw that!

      stacey wrote on May 18th, 2010
      • Try Orijen foods by Champion Pet foods. They believe in Biologically Appropriate foods for animals which is very similar to a paleo diet for humans; no corn, no wheat and a much higher protein and fat content than in conventional dog foods. All carbs are sourced through naturally occurring grasses and even flowers. Hope that works for you!

        Katrina wrote on June 6th, 2011
        • I use this food for my cats. Not only do they love it but they are thriving and I fully expect to save money on vets bills in the future to ofset the cost of the stuff.

          cyndy wrote on September 20th, 2011
        • I am a vet and have become very interested in biologically appropriate foods for our pets, especially after seeing the great benefits it had for me. There is emerging evidence that many prevalent diseases on the rise in cats and dogs can be linked to inappropriate diets. Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, food allergies, etc… very similar to the problems we see in humans!

          A raw diet is most certainly best, but it is not as simple as grinding up raw meat. Nutrients can be lost in processing and storage, and diets made up of muscle meat only is not complete. Doing a raw diet means you must pay extra special attention to ingredients and nutrition, and many times you must provide supplements too. This is especially true in cats, because their digestive systems are so highly specialized.

          That said, we don’t all have time to do raw diets for our pets, myself included. There are many good commercial foods out there that are meat-based and better suited to our pets’ digestive systems… and they aren’t the ones most vets are selling in their offices, which are mostly corn and rice based.

          However, I don’t like Orijen for cats. Although it is marketed as biologically appropriate, a large proportion of it is made of fish. Fish is biologically INappropriate for cats – they are a desert species and fish does not factor into the diet they evolved to eat. Cats that eat a lot of fish-based commercial feeds have a much higher risk of developing hyperthyroidism, and the number 3 top allergen among cats is fish. I would recommend searching for another food if your goal is to feed your cat a biologically appropriate diet.

          Charley wrote on December 4th, 2013
      • If you have a grass fed rancher in your area, check with them to see if they are making dog food. If you know a rancher that is not making dog food, ask them to start making it with the scrap amassed during processing the beeves. We have two ranchers in our area that do this. They get $2/pd. It’s organs, meat scrap and about 10% fat.

        val wrote on March 16th, 2012
      • Hi
        Since dogs are carnivores they should not eat manufactured dog food—they should eat raw grass fed meat—if this is too expensive or inconvenient you can get a frozen “log” of raw meat dog food, organic and grass fed in an organic supermarket such as Whole Foods–just defrost in the frig and slice off a piece. Feeding carnivores–whether our pets at home or animals in a zoo— a diet that is not natural to them causes them to have human diseases of modern civilization–not good. the raw meat diet for dogs is known as the BARF diet–it is used by many breeders and stnads for Basic Animal Raw Food diet.

        Also, Slanker’s (grass fed farm that delivers to your doorstep from Texas) sells dog food meat for $3 per pound. It comes in frozen 1 pound pa cks and consists of beef, bison, pork, liver, heart and kidney as well as muscle meat. It is extremely healthy for your dog-and not expensive or inconvenient to you.
        Regards, Marilyn

        marilyn wrote on July 26th, 2012
        • When I was living out of a hotel room, and couldn’t do a BARF diet for my dog, I fed him Barking At The Moon (kibble without any grain) and gave him marrow bones to chew regularly.

          paleokins wrote on August 6th, 2013
        • BARF = Biologically Appropriate Raw Food

          Issabeau wrote on February 17th, 2014
  6. Ever since I was a little kid I bite off the ends of the chicken bones and suck out the marrow as much as possible. I do get weird looks when I do it in public though. Someone in my family must have done this or I would not have learned how. Perhaps my Grandmother. hmmmm

    Classic wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • I wish I’d learned that too when I was young. Today, I want to be able to do it, but the thought of it gives me the heebie-jeebies!

      gilliebean wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • Picked up a similar habit while visiting a friend in the Jamaican bush. He picked up the habit while living in Ghana, where he said he learned that “you can eat just about anything.” I had to believe him after watching him eat 95% of a grilled fish. Someone mentioned oxtail bones down below–another great way to get some marrow.

      That said, given the differences in meat quality depending on how an animal is raised, I’d imagine the same is true for the bones. Unless you know the source of the bone, I’d be wary.

      Casey wrote on April 20th, 2010
    • I have always been a chicken bone disposal!! Just like my granma. Somehow I always knew, deep in my soul, that the grisly bone ends and the delicous marrow were the choicest parts! Also, as a child my chore was to clear the table or wash the dishes, I would eat the grisly fatty stuff that everyone else would cut off left on their plates!

      val wrote on March 16th, 2012
  7. This is another blow to the myth that you can’t gets lots of needed vitamins and minerals from animal products alone. My simple-headed thinking on this: if an animal (like you) needs certain vitamins and minerals to live, maybe you can get them from going out and eating another animal which also requires the same trace minerals to remain healthy (and so probably already has lots of them in its body).

    I remember reading that the navies of the world only started having problems with scurvy and other vitamin deficiency diseases when they switched from rations of meat (preserved in various ways for the long voyages: sausage, jerky, etc.) to rations based on simple carbohydrates (biscuits, hardtack).

    Of course they solved the problem by adding fruit and vegetables (making the British Navy famous as “Limeys”) instead of just switching back to meat.

    I have also seen research that simple carbohydrates actually leech vitamins and minerals from your body. If you compare your dietary needs to those of a wheat stalk, I think it is intuitively obvious that this plant wouldn’t have many of the trace elements we need.

    John Solter wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • you’re right, your thinking is simple-headed.

      rosco wrote on April 15th, 2010
  8. Mark – Could you explain the following:

    “Speaking of fat, I’d toss poultry fat. It’s a relatively high-PUFA animal fat, and a day of simmering has probably damaged it beyond repair. If you’re stewing bones with more saturated animal fat, though, you should absolutely save the fat layer.”

    Thanks!

    -Daniel

    Danielht wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • I would love an explanation as well. When I read that I thought for a second that maybe I shouldn’t be eaten so much chicken!! Even organic, free-range and sometimes true pastured from a local farm.

      Todd wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • PUFA – are not heat stable. Our broth/stock has been at high heat for over 24 hours, so anything not heat stable is probably rancid. Saturated fat is more stable when heated so it is probably okay.

      This is only in regaurd to long cooked broths/stocks. When just heated for a short time, different rules – probably the ones you were thinking of – apply.

      Henry Miller wrote on April 15th, 2010
  9. Thanks for this post Mark! Love the content!!

    gilliebean wrote on April 15th, 2010
  10. I make a lot of stock, in the pressure cooker. Alton Brown talked about low and slow in his stock episode, how the goodies need it to come out of the pores of the bones but the pressure cooker works fine for me and seems a lot more practical than cooking for 20 hours.

    If I tried to cook something for 20 hours I think my wife would strangle me.

    Sean wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • Interesting. How long do you cook it for?

      julietx wrote on April 15th, 2010
      • Chicken stock perhaps an hour and a half. Once it builds up pressure, I turn the heat way down so it is barely hissing.

        Sean wrote on April 15th, 2010
        • Thanks!

          julietx wrote on April 16th, 2010
    • High heat from a pressure cooker destroys the nutrients. You won’t get the same benefits Mark talked about In this post. It needs to be low and slow- the traditional way of cooking.

      Jen M wrote on December 17th, 2011
      • Not too sure about that one. From some of the reading I have done, it’s not the temperature that matters, but the cooking time that destroys nutrients. I’m no expert, happy to be proved wrong. I would love to see any evidence that it does, as I just cannot find it.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7792260
        and
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00258.x/abstract

        Dee wrote on April 30th, 2013
      • A pressure cooker does not have high heat. In fact it is usually below boiling after the pressure comes up. And because you cook much more quickly than normal, the food is not exposed to heat as long. It may actually be more healthful than “low and slow.” The pressure DOES concentrate flavors.

        Terri wrote on May 6th, 2013
    • I use a crockpot when I make soups. Mine I will admit can take as long as three days before I will serve it. I cook mine on the low setting.

      Sangelia wrote on October 8th, 2013
  11. It will be an exciting day when I add all these extra primal things into my life… I can not wait to get my vibram 5 fingers for running barefoot.

    And, eating bones, marrows, etc. sounds wonderful.

    Through 5 days of my primal experiment the nutrient I am most lacking according to fitday is calcium. I just might have to eat some bone marrow now!

    Todd wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • Calcium?? Interesting. Are you eating many green leafy veggies??

      Ben wrote on April 15th, 2010
      • Yes… plenty. I add them to my smoothies and I make a big ass salad everyday.

        Yesterday I had 2 green smoothies – 1 had 66 grams of spinach and the other had 50 grams of kale.

        I also had 2 big ass salads – 1 had 80 grams of mixed salad greens and the other had about 40 grams of romaine lettuce.

        I think this is actually too much… almost. But, I still fall short.

        I eat absolutely no dairy however… I may consider buying grass fed raw dairy. That or I may take a calcium supplement.

        Todd wrote on April 17th, 2010
        • Will for a start eating spinach has a bad affect on calcium absorption as it contains Oxalic acid which binds with calcium!

          J wrote on May 10th, 2010
  12. Oxtail is good to make bone broth with. After slow cooking, the meat falls off the bone and is edible.

    Janet wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • Oxtail is fantastic! There’s a russian (east european) meat in aspic dish that usually involves the stock from cooking oxtail + some meat for hours (usually 6-8), then separating all the meat from the bones, covering it with the stock, and placing it into the fridge overnight.
      Enjoy the next day with a russian mustard or some horseradish

      romesaz wrote on April 15th, 2010
      • I love oxtail! Not exactly primal, but I cook oxtail with black beans and then pick all the meat off the bones. Mix in a can of rotel and you’ve got a delicious meal :)

        stacey wrote on May 18th, 2010
    • Neckbones for me. I’ve been known to crush the bones while the soup is being made.

      Sangelia wrote on October 8th, 2013
  13. My butcher gives me bones for free whenever I ask him. I believe he likes to know that someone is getting some good out of what would otherwise be refuse.
    @Classic: I also have been chewing the ends of chicken bones, and cracking them to extract the marrow, since childhood. Maybe you have to be discreet about it in restaurants, though…
    @Angela: I routinely mix bones from different animals. The only distinction I make is between mammals and birds: as Mark says, poultry bones are much softer and take less cooking. His point about PUFA is another reason to segregate birds.

    Valda Redfern wrote on April 15th, 2010
  14. The one place in my grocery store where I can find interesting animal parts is in the dog food freezer.

    Samantha Moore wrote on April 15th, 2010
  15. I have cooked stock with a mixture of animal bones and it seemed to taste fine.

    One of our favorite soups was made with stock made from ham hocks, then cooked bacon, onions, some bbq sauce and whatever veg you have, added.

    I have a Sous Vide Supreme appliance and I wonder if it would work for stock?

    I think the next batch of bones and veg scraps I save in the freezer will be in a cooking bag and I will give it a try. Has anyone else done this and if so, did it work?

    Sharon wrote on April 15th, 2010
  16. I’ve been making bone stock for about a year now. It is like going from a black-and-white culinary world to one of color. My 19 month old has been having some bone stock with an pastured egg yolk every morning for the past year and she is incredibly hardy and robust. And she’s only had two significant colds in her life, so far (which is amazing given her older sister goes to a daycare where some of the kids are sick every week!). I’m sure these foods (and the full-fat grass-fed dairy yogurt and kefir) have played a major contributing role to her health.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • How do you prepare the stock and egg yolk for your daughter?

      Laura wrote on April 16th, 2010
      • I warm up some stock in a small saucepan then add it to a bowl with an egg yolk from a hard-boiled already placed in it. I mush it up and spoon feed it to her.

        Our daughter’s nanny used to also make steamed eggs by placing the yolk of an uncooked egg in a small bowl, mix in some chicken stock, then steam them over boiling water for a few minutes.

        Aaron Blaisdell wrote on April 16th, 2010
  17. What a great article! Thanks! I didn’t realize the bones should be cooked for so long. Your tip about adding the apple cider to help pull the nutrients out of the bones, that is the advice Mom gave me years ago, and I always do it. Not something you hear about, terrific for you to bring it up.

    Willow

    Wilow wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • Y0ur cat would benefit from eating raw meat instead of commercial cat food, (if that is what she eats) Breeders of $5000 oscicats, a domesticated pet that is 50% domestic housecat and 50% wild jungle cat– (mix of housecat and oscelot wild cats) feed them raw chicken

      marilyn wrote on July 27th, 2012
  18. This is a Bone-a-Fide Great post…I have been cooking with bones for years. My Ukrainian Borscht starts with a bunch of beef and pork bones in a roasting pan and ends with YUM!

    Mike Cheliak wrote on April 15th, 2010
  19. To really get the good stuff, stick the bones in a sturdy bag and smash them with your sledgehammer (you do have a sledgehammer, right?)

    You can also throw them in a Vita-Mix. It is a lot easier. :-)

    Michael wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • …or a Blendtec. If those wonderful things can turn iPads into powder, they’ll work on beef bones.

      fireandstone wrote on April 15th, 2010
  20. “You can eat bone, technically. Now, if you’ve made a proper stock and gotten all you can out of your bones, eating them may not confer many benefits. Still, it’s an interesting thought. Chicken bones in particular become pretty delectable after a day of stewing, and I’ll confess to sifting through the stock solids for snacks.” -Mark Sisson

    I just wanted to add that unless the bones are the consistency of rubber, there is still very significant mineral content there. If you put the bones in a container of pure vinegar and let it sit for a few days to give the minerals a chance to dissolve into the vinegar, you’ll see what I mean.

    fireandstone wrote on April 15th, 2010
  21. I’d just like to second the recommendation (as a lifetime stock cooker) that the pressure cooker is hand’s down the best way to go. Load it up, cook at 15lbs for 45 minutes and you have excellent stock.

    You get bright fresh tasting stocks with much better extraction compared to duller stocks from cooking all day on the stove. It’s more energy efficient as well.

    After every dinner with bones we toss them in a big ziplock back in the freezer, when we have enough bags we make stock.

    I noticed one person said to put salt in the stock before cooking it, I highly discourage that. Make the stock without salt, reserve salt for the very final step in whatever you make with it.

    JohnC wrote on April 15th, 2010
  22. I have taken a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement for osteoarthritis of the neck for the last 15 years. It made a huge improvement for me immediately, and I have had no progression.
    For those of us who don’t have much time for cooking, are there any commercial broths that are any good?

    Joan wrote on April 15th, 2010
    • if your bones are already cooked then tossing everything in the slow cooker only takes a couple of minutes. if the bones are raw then about an hour in the oven on your day off and then tossed in the slow cooker is rather quick & easy.

      ~Cherish~ wrote on September 9th, 2012
  23. Thanks Mark. This was a very timely article for me. I just got my 20kg of pasture fed bones today. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of marrow in them but now I know what to do with them :)

    Angelina wrote on April 15th, 2010
  24. I will definitely start doing this, although it will be just for me, since my fiance is scared of bones. Lol, where is his primal instinct?

    Nikki wrote on April 16th, 2010
  25. I’m still a bit confused about marrow. If I cook a stock (usually chicken) for 12-24 hours, am I getting the goodness of the marrow? Or do I ‘need’ to crack the bones in the stockpot. Or do I ‘need’ to actually eat the marrow.

    I’d like to add that I always make my stocks in the slow cooker. Easy, trouble free, safe and frugal with energy use.

    Alan wrote on April 16th, 2010
    • Some slow cookers that are made in China are made with Lead.

      Primal Palate wrote on June 2nd, 2011
  26. Fascinating article Mark. Thank you! As someone which joint problems this certainly is something I will look to explore in the future!

    Howard Gray wrote on April 16th, 2010
  27. Great post! We started making our own broth a couple years ago, right around when our daughter was born. Homemade soup is now her most requested food.

    JD Moyer wrote on April 16th, 2010
  28. Im not much of a fan of making stock but I do like curries and bone-in meat always tastes better in a curry than meat alone.

    BigD wrote on April 16th, 2010
  29. I am a fan of making my own stock, too. I bought some fryer chickens once to try, and I felt wasteful just chucking out a perfectly good carcass, so I made stock. I’ve been doing that ever since.

    This marrow business is news to me… I think I’ll have to try it!

    Deanna wrote on April 16th, 2010
  30. I make stock monthly. I’ve also eaten poultry bones. I also make mixed stock of lamb, turkey, and pork bones. Don’t forget shells. Lobsters and other crustaceans are also great in stocks.

    Daniel Merk wrote on April 16th, 2010
  31. Once the stock is made, how do you store it? Would freezing it in portion sizes be okay, or does that detract from nutrients? I know with breastmilk it can so I’m not sure if it’s the same with stock.

    Beth wrote on April 16th, 2010
    • I always freeze my stock, never had a problem.

      Trish wrote on April 17th, 2010
  32. About the PUFAs going rancid: I never thought of that before. Does this still apply if it’s cooked on low in a crock pot the whole 12-24 hours? I’ve been just stirring the fat back in to the broth since I’ve been trying to eat more fat in general, but didn’t realize poultry fat was PUFAs.

    Alyssa wrote on April 16th, 2010
  33. Trader Joe’s has organic chicken & beef broths for a good price. I am not sure how they are created, perhaps someone else knows. I use them as a base for crockpot stews.

    jay wrote on April 17th, 2010
  34. This morning I bought a chicken from our local, organic free range chicken farm. I asked if they ever had any bones? And was given 2.5 kilos of chicken leg / wing bones FREE!

    Roasted them for about 30 minutes and now half of them are in the pressure cooker. I added a little apple cider vinegar too as recommended – don’t like the smell of it, but I can imagine how it will add to the calcium content.

    Many thanks – great article!

    Andrew

    andrew wrote on April 17th, 2010
  35. As Jacques Pepin says (about cooking in general) “Never throw anything away” and “Use this [referring to miscellaneous meat scraps] in your stock.”

    He may not be paleo, but the man does know a thing or twelve about cooking. I have noticed, though, that a lot of French cooking is very amenable to paleo adaptations. I think the French keep their carbs more separate from their meats than a lot of other cooking traditions. They tend to put all their carbs in one basket, as it were – the bread and pastries, so it’s easy to just leave those out.

    Stock on!

    Kansas Grokette wrote on April 17th, 2010
    • The thought you just described is exactly what I’ve been thinking about French cuisine. It’s such a perfect starting point, and happened to be my favorite cuisine prior to discovering the primal/paleo community. I always request French restaurants when going out with friends. The so-called French Paradox is not such a paradox to some.

      Sophie wrote on May 21st, 2010
  36. I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer in which I collect chicken bones as well as all parts of onions that I’m not going to eat, especially the brown dried outer skin. In my experience, onion skins make the difference between good stock and truly great stock.

    Alex wrote on April 17th, 2010
  37. Update and question! I’ve now got a good quantity of lovely smelling, solidly jellied chicken stock. I will use some to make soup, some to cook chicken in (casserole) – but does anyone drink it just heated up and seasoned? Like a sort of chicken consommé?

    Andrew

    andrew wrote on April 18th, 2010
    • Great article! I cook up beef marrow bones with oregano and dried chilli flakes, (as well as about 4tbs apple cider vinegar and generous amount of good quality salt) and cook for about 9 hours. It is incredible! I drink the liquid and cook with the fat. I have also started using the stock to make a sort of Pho – adding kale or bok choy, carrots and beef or chicken breast. I eat it for breakfast and it is the best start to the day!

      Amber wrote on August 12th, 2013
  38. @ Andrew
    I drink heated up bone soup by itself – as you say, it’s like a consomme – and sometimes I just take a spoon to the gelled contents of the jar in the fridge.

    Valda Redfern wrote on April 18th, 2010
  39. Great post Mark – especially as it is soon to be bbq time here in England!

    When I was in Brazil, I tried a national dish, ‘Feijoada’. It was a bone delight!
    I understand it is made with black turtle beans, pork and beef products, (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, (loin and tongue). All to be cooked slowly in a clay oven…
    I was reluctant to eat the bones in the dish but not only did they add flavour to the stock, they were quite soft and tasty themselves!! and made me feel like a true Grok :)

    Luke M-Davies wrote on April 18th, 2010
  40. I have been simmering about 5lbs of buffalo bones together with an onion, couple celery stalks, 2 carrots, some garlic and ginger. I’ve had it going for about a day and a half now. Coming home from work today I was surprised how much water had evaporated, a few hours more and it would have started burning, should have told my wife to add some hot water as needed. The smell is driving my dog crazy, he’s ready to attack the stove. Tomorrow night I am going to strain it and freeze it and save some of the meat parts which have fallen off for my dog.

    Jeff Cowan wrote on April 19th, 2010
    • the first time I roasted 8 pounds of marrow bones for 50 minutes in my oven to prepare to make bone broth the delicious smell permiated to the house next door and smeelled so good my neighbor came over to ask what I was cooking. I told her to come over with her husband in 3 days and they would have it for dinner. They liked it so much they started cooking bone broths. After 2 months it relieved my neighbor’s arthritis, which just seemed to disappear, much to the consternation of his doctor. I gues teh 3 types of collagens, glucosamine and all the minerals really are a super food. Isn’t that too bad for Big Pharma.

      marilyn wrote on July 27th, 2012

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