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Basic Brown Stock Problems

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

My first time making a Basic Brown Stock. Wanted to go back to basics and not use a boullion cube.  To be stored (freezer and refrigerator) for later use. 


I followed a recipe from Cesarani & Kinton  (for catering students) simmered for 8 hours (no scum).  Used beef shin and knuckle bones (roasted and browned for apprx 40 mins 200 degrees C), poured of the excess fat  (wonderfully pure and can't wait to use for roast potatoes),  browned the mirapoir, used recommended herbs and spices (no  salt);  used cold water; heated slowly.  Cooled quickly and refrigerated for 24 hours. Scraped off the solid fat layer at the top of the pot this morning.


Result -  Not what I was expecting!!


The stock was very,  very lighly coloured like chicken stock;  a fairly insipid tasting stock and not at all gelatinous. 


It  was also a little cloudy but not a big deal as would have used a remedy to clear it.


It was my understanding that brown stock should be distictfvely coloured and have a good flavour and be gelatinous? 


Any comments would be welcome and appreciated..


Thank you very much  to anyone that replies. 





post #2 of 15



here's what i do.


Brown my bones... nice, meaty bones.

Remove, drain, put in pot.

Toss mirepoix in reserved beef fat, put back in oven.

When the edges of the veg start to turn colour, add tomato paste, mix it up well... put back in the oven.

When the veg are nicely caramelized, add to pot.

add your peppercorns, a couple of cloves of garlic, some rosemary or thyme stalks, maybe a splash of red wine.. but not too much.

top with COLD water to cover bones, bring to just under a boil and reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer.


8 hours should do it.




post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks PrairieChef for your reply

I will give your advice a go starting from scratch.

Won't be able to get to the butcher's to order bones until April though

Best regards


post #4 of 15

Did you use bare bones, meaty bones, or meat and bones?  Bones will give you gelatin but not much flavor.  Meat will give you flavor but not much gelatin.  You really need a mixture of both if you want flavor and gelatin.

Also what was you ratio of meat and bones to finished Stock?  Ruhlman recommends a 2:1 ratio, ie. 2kg meat and bones for 1l finished stock.  I have seen different recipes recommend anywhere 1:2 to almost 4:1.  Off the top of my head I think the Professional Chef recommends about 2:1 and Pepin is nearly 4:1.

You can also make a second weak stock from the bones and use that as a base for your next batch.


I am just starting to make my own stock as well so I hope that this helps.

post #5 of 15

When you roasted the bones were they spread out or stacked on top of each other? How dark did the bones get? Did you use any tomato paste when you roasted the bones? Did you deglaze the pan you roasted the bones in? How much water covered the top of the bones when simmered?

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 


Thanks allanm for your reply.


I had a vision in my head of what I wanted to achieve ie something brown coloured and  gelatinous like a savoury jelly. 

It was something that I had seen and tasted in the dim and distant past when I was a child. I think my Mum used to throw in old beef bones  in a pot,  simmer for a long time and the result was just  an awesome delicious flavour that you could cut with a knife and eat with a spoon.   Nothing written down, alas.  During WW2 this was also spread on bread or toast as it was very nutritious and given to children as a snack.

The recipe in Cesaeani & Kinton just said raw bones so that is what I ordered.  I got shin and knuckle which had no meat on it to speak of.  No mention of any added meat either!!   Had to saw the bones at home to fit in the pot  (he he he)  and there was not too much surface area on the bottom of the roasting pan, so not much caramelisation which I guess made a difference to the colour.

Thank you for the info about the ratios meat : bones.  That will be really helpful in the future.  It makes sense that the meat will give flavour, so I will use  a mixture of meat and bones in the future.

I am trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear at the moment trying to rescue the stock so that it will not go to waste.  Bought some shin meat and have added it to the weak stock that I ended up with. 

I don’t have any problems with chicken/pork or lamb stock at all.  I guess that my expectations were different for the beef stock.

I have just thought of something else that might affect the outcome.  I understand that the  meat here in France is not hung at all - does anybody think that this will have anything to do with the finished result that I want to achieve?


Best regards


post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks Cheflayne for your reply.


I roasted the bones in a shallow roasting time with no added fat/oil and they were spread out separately no overlap.  The bones were large chunks.


Bones were a tan/light brown mostly with some dark brown areas where there was a very small amount of meat.


The recipe that I used did not include tomato paste.


Yep, deglazed pan.  After the bones were roasted, poured off the majority of the fat (about 8 fl oz) then used  the roasting pan to brown mirapoix then deglazed and included it in the stew port as part of the liquid required by the recipe


Best regards



post #8 of 15
Sounds like you may have not roasted the bones to a deep enough brown. Also about 1/2 way through the roasting process I usually spread some tomato paste on the bones. As to the lack of a gelatinous quality I suspect that you may have used too much water, but no problem merely simmer and reduce the stock that you have and it should develop a more gelatinous quality. One last question, how long did you simmer the stock and bones?
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your reply again



Next time I will roast the bones longer.  The tomato paste sounds like a good tip so will try that. 

The pan simmered for 8 hours.

Your suggestion about the being too much water could very well by right as I had doubts myself.  The recipe stated   2kg bones : 4 litres of water   but that the bones should be covered at all times during the simmering period because exposure to the air may cause problems. 

I was uncertain the pan should be left open.or have a lid fitted.  The open pan would have caused a reduction in liquid over such a long period of time and the bones would have been exposed,  therefore a top up would have been necessary. Decided on the lid but maybe that was not such a good idea as it may have compromised the gelatin?  Perhaps next time I will ask the butcher to use a band saw on the bones to make them smaller  so they will not take up so much room in the pan.

Best regards


post #10 of 15

Have the bones cut down into small pieces, Roast until really dark (just not burnt) Simmer slowly 24 hours. I am old school, 35 years doing this. One must roast the bones and veg darker than you think they should be, Beef bones do not easily give up there properties, So long slow simmering is a must.
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -

'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -

'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
post #11 of 15

I agree with Cheflayne, once your stock is strained and defatted try simmering it until it is reduced by about a half then see how that tastes.  If it is still to weak keep going until you have about quarter left.  With no meat you may not have much flavor but it should jell when chilled. 


Your bones only recipe is probably intended as a base ingredient to be used in a finished dish rather be the finished dish.  A bones only stock will have a very mild flavor and lots of gelatin, so that the flavor doesn't overpower whatever you are making with it.  You can also reduce it more to concentrate the gelatin without getting an overpowering taste.


You generally make stock uncovered and add water as needed to keep everything covered.  According to McGee this encourages the scum to float to the surface where it will clump and dehydrate so you can skim it.  A covered pot lets the scum get emulsified making your stock cloudy.  If you have too much liquid at the end strain, chill and defat it the next day then reduce it to the desired volume.  Always remove the fat before you try to reduce your stock,  If you try to boil stock with the fat still in it the fat will be emulsified and you will have cloudy, greasy stock.


If you are roasting the bones longer turn them regularly and make sure you don't burn them.  Also deglaze the pan and add the tasty brown bits and juice to your stock.


Getting your butcher to cut up the bones is a good idea because it exposes more surface area.  Ask for about 5cm pieces but it isn't critical.  I have also had good results with meaty neck bones.  Joints are supposed to be good for gelatin.  Any inexpensive braising meat that tastes good cooked will work for flavor.

post #12 of 15

Making your stock brown is very easy. Hell my chicken stock comes out very dark and on purpose. You can make a vegetable stock brown too if you want to. Take your meat and bones and coat it with tomato puree, season, drizzle with olive oil. hot oven at 425* or higher and wait for that tomato paste to almost blacken. deglaze your roasting pan, and add that to your stock as well. this is a viable technique for chicken carcasses as well, or vegetables for vegetable stock.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

Just an update on what happened with salvaging the weak brown stock using as much of the advice given in the thread as possible.  Bearing mind that this was the first time that I had made brown stock from scratch, and really was not aware of what I was doing or of what I was getting myself into. I needed as much help as possible as I had very little common sense about this.


The shin of beef that I had bought to try and improve the weak brown stock, was cut into cubes,  put in a shallow roasting pan with a little of the weak brown stock, placed in the oven cooked on a low heat, stirred occasionally until the meat was a very dark brown.


The veggies were been taken out of the stock pot and discarded; the browned shin plus the liquid was, added to the pot of weak brown stock.  The roasting pan was deglazed the pan using the brown stock and added that to the stock pot too.   The pot (with bones and no lid) was simmered gently for another 4 or so hours.  The stock was a bit more colourful than before and with a little more flavour.  Cooled the pot in a cold water bath and refrigerated overnight in the pot. 


The next day, with trepidation (how dramatic), the stock pot was inspected. The residue fat that had set hard on the top, was scraped away and the liquid beneath had semi set  to a very loose but gelatinous jelly  Eureka!    I was a really happy bunny because I was on the way to achieving my ultimate goal.


The bones were separated from the stock and set aside for the neighbour’s dog.  I then continued with mentor’s advice ie to concentrate the stock by reduction.  This was fascinating to watch (no lid) and the taste was actually better than imagined – a wholesome beefy flavour.   I used some of the reduction as a base for Bolognese sauce.   Although the other ingredients of the sauce remained the same as normally used, the flavour had a greater depth that was subtle and very noticeable, which surprised me.  The remainder of the stock reduction was cooled quickly and put in the refrigerator over night and, this too set to a loose gelatinous consistency then was put in 500 mls boxes and put in the freezer for future use.  


The outcome of my first efforts of making brown stock was not at all wasted, and is going to be just a first phase.  I may not have achieved all that I had set out to achieve but I have learned much about how to do things, why things go wrong, and, what to do to remedy the situation if things do not go according to plan; so very important for novices.  Things they do not always tell you in cookery books.   


I am so grateful to all the contributors to this thread for taking the time for sharing their knowledge and experience and really thank them mentoring me.  In April, I am going to do another batch and will be using a mixture of Beef and Veal bones (meaty if I can get them – if not,  may have to buy additional meat).  French butchers are very canny!  So will up update the thread the afterwards.


I am so grateful to all the contributors to this thread for taking the time for sharing their knowledge and experience and really thank them mentoring me.


Best regards




PS  Oh by the way,  when straining the stock, for the first time,  I used my very fine mesh Chinese hat sieve that I have had for years, but have never used.  Incredible piece of equipment - wonderful result.    


post #14 of 15

As an aside and not really related...


please... please, please, please never give a dog cooked bones. Raw bones, absolutely. Cooked, never.  A dog's digestive tract will turn raw bones into a jelly, and are in fact quite nutritious and good for them... cooked bones simply shatter and splinter.




post #15 of 15
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