Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Food for Thought: Health and Nutrition of Traditional Homemade chicken Broth/Stock

March 26th, 2009 · 65 Comments · Science of Nutrition

The more I learn about the many ways a good broth/stock can improve my health, the more excited I am to share this information with you, as well as the proper way to prepare a stock (your next Monday Mission).  Plus, it’s really yummy!

bone broth health benefits

Home vs. Store

Before I even begin sharing the facts, it’s important that you understand we’re not talking Swanson here.  The food industry has all but taken the nutrition out of broth by cutting corners and adding…well, additives.  Fake food.  Here’s an example to prove my point:  if you Google search “health benefits chicken stock”, your results are just that.  You’ll learn what is in chicken stock that will make you healthy.  If you then click on a recommended search “chicken broth nutritional value” you get sites detailing the calories, carbs, fat etcetera in various chicken broths.  You get numbers.  The food industry loves to slap a number on everything instead of explaining exactly what you’re eating.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty confused about what to DO with all those numbers.  I’m ready for someone to tell me how to make something healthy and then put it in my body. Maybe tell me how it will help me.  But don’t make me do math!  (The difference between “stock” and “broth”, by the way, isn’t much.  They are often used interchangeably, but sometimes “broth” means made from meat and vegetables, while “stock” always includes the bones.  From here on out, I’ll use stock, because it’s the bones that make the meal, as you’ll soon learn.)

What do I Get Out of it?

The health benefits are incredible, really.  Here are just some of the advantages to preparing homemade stock:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Aids digestion
  • Increases efficiency of protein use
  • Provides easily digestible minerals, including calcium
  • Can improve symptoms of: joint pain, common cold, peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice, cancer, food allergies, colic, maldigestion, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, pain and inflammation, cramps, muscle spasms, delusions, depression, insomnia, irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, palpitations, hypertension, high cholesterol, allergies….

(This is starting to feel like a list on a “too-good-to-be-true” supplement infomercial.  I’ll stop listing them…but aren’t you amazed?)

What makes it so great?

The components of a healthy stock mostly come from the bones. In a properly prepared stock, the bones are allowed to sit in water with a bit of vinegar for an hour or so before heating.  Have you ever done the experiment where you put an egg in vinegar, and after a while the shell gets completely soft?  The vinegar, an acid, acts like our stomach acid and breaks down the calcium in the egg shell.  In a stock, this calcium and other minerals from the bones are transferred directly to the water (which becomes broth/stock), and therefore into you.  The best part is that it’s a more easily assimilated form of all the minerals than many other sources, including your supplements.

Nutrition found in bone stocks:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Other trace minerals
  • Gelatin
  • Collagen
  • Glycine

Happy Feet:  Benefits of Gelatin

A good broth/stock will congeal as it cools because of the presence of gelatin, found in cartilage and connective tissue in the bones.  The best parts of the animal to include in your stock are heads, feet, knuckles and skin.  (That’s why we’re tackling chicken stock, not beef!)  Gelatin has a long list of health benefits, including:

  • aids digestion, especially of milk, meat, beans and grains
  • protein sparer” – helps our body use the protein from meat most efficiently
  • improves treatment of peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer
  • treats malnutrition and improves bone density

Short cuts on process equal short on nutrition.  Bouillon cubes have no gelatin, and canned broths have no standard that says they have to use the vinegar soak, or even use bones at all.  They may impart great flavor and taste (MSGs, anyone?) to your meal, but they won’t aid in digestion nor deliver calcium and minerals to your system. They won’t build immunity against colds, either!  The old Jewish grandmother’s chicken soup remedy has real research behind it – and the aid is actually in the fat.  Those yellow globules floating in your soup (that I always used to avoid like the plague) carry immunity defense to rival the best over-the-counter pill you can get.  “When it is considered that 80% of the immune system lines the gastrointestinal tract, the role of cartilage gains importance, since it can nourish both the gut and the immune system.”  Source

Unfortunately, many caged chickens (what you buy in the grocery store) have little gelatin because of their lack of exercise.  You can tell if your stock has good gelatin content if it gels after cooling.  Mine seems to never do this, so sad, but I think it’s because I have too much water thinning it out.  If I boil some water off, I can get it to gel a little. UPDATE: Tested this theory! See the results, plus a whole bunch of healthy stock recipes at the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods.

If you’re interested in more information, please go on to read the excerpts below from two great sources.  If you’re interest is piqued and you can’t wait to see an example of how to make a good stock, please come back Monday for your mission (plus a cute picture of “Daughter-in-Pot”)!

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Looking for other Food for Thought?

Quoted information on Stock

“Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily-not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.”  Broth is Beautiful

Everything below is from here:

“Gelatin (broth) can be considered for use in the following conditions: food allergies, dairy maldigestion, colic, bean maldigestion, meat maldigestion, grain maldigestion, hypochlorhydria, hyperacidity (gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, ulcer, hiatal hernia) inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, malnutrition, weight loss, muscle wasting, cancer, osteoporosis, calcium deficiency and anemia.”

“Collagen (broth) can be considered for use in the following conditions: poor wound healing, soft tissue injury (including surgery), cartilage and bone injury (including dental degeneration).”

“Glycine (broth) can be considered for use in the following conditions: anemia, fatigue, detoxification, blood sugar dysregulation, muscle wasting, wound healing, pregnancy, infant and childhood growth, asthma, hypochlorhydria, jaundice and liver support.”

“Deficiencies of minerals can be acquired, similar to vitamin deficiencies. Generally there are two ways this can happen, lack of intake in the diet, or lack of absorption in the intestines. Broth can be an excellent remedy for both of these causes of mineral deficiency because it provides easily absorbed extracted minerals, plus promotes healing of the intestinal tract.”

“Calcium (broth) can be considered for use in the following deficiency signs, symptoms and conditions: pain and inflammation, cramps, muscle spasms, delusions, depression, insomnia, irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, palpitations, hypertension, high cholesterol, allergies, brittle nails, periodontal and dental disease, pica, rickets, osteomalacia, osteoporosis and any situation that creates bone loss such as aging, immobilization, postmenopause, and caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol use.”

“Phosphorus (broth) can be considered for use in the following phosphorus deficiency signs, symptoms and conditions: decreased attention span, fatigue, weakness, muscle weakness, celiac or sprue disease, rickets, osteomalacia, primary hyperparathyroidism and seizures.”

“Magnesium (broth) can be considered for use in the following magnesium deficiency signs, symptoms and conditions: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, confusion, hyperactivity, insomnia, muscular irritability and weakness, allergies, immunodepression, kidney stones and heart attack.”

“Broth can be thought of as a protein supplement, and a calcium supplement. The chemical ingredients extracted from broth are glycine and proline (collagen/gelatin), calcium and phosphorus (minerals), hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate (GAGs), and other minerals, amino acids and GAGs in smaller amounts.”

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65 Comments so far ↓

  • Mary Ellen

    Eagerly awaiting Monday’s post! I’ve made bone broth a couple of times but I’m not getting mine to gel either. I don’t know if it’s too much water, not cooking long enough or not adding in the right parts (no chicken feet and very little skin because the bones are practically bare when we’re done with a roast chicken!).

    I’ve also wondered if I should be adding in the neck and organs when making the stock. I don’t roast those when I prepare the chicken. Is it okay to use uncooked parts and roasted bones together for the stock?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Denise Reply:

    I try to not eat all the skin because it is so fatty… it’s easier if I know I’m not going to ‘waste’ it since it will go into my broth. I put the carcass of the roast chicken in the pot and any bones/skin that I have. Sometimes I’ll add other parts from another pack.. wings, thighs whatever. Then I cook it for a really long time…(4 hours)or so) until it does seem to start to gel. You get a feel for when when it’s a real broth and not just water with chicken in it with practice. I figure since I’m boiling it for so long, it doesn’t matter if I mixed raw and cooked…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tessa Reply:

    I get free range and/or organic carcasses from good butchers. A cheap way to get some good quality nutrition! I leave them raw, soak in the vinegar at least and hour and then bring to a boil. Then I add onion, celery and carrot and let simmer. I always cook mine at least 24 hours. Mine always gels!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mary Lee Reply:

    Roasting the chicken first and then boiling it does not work. All of the juices and yum yums already in the gravy during the roasting period.

    Best advice is to use just fresh chicken and debone it for broth . You also need to use a lot of bones not just one chicken.

    For soup, you can put the whole chicken in the soup and boil until chicken is just starting to cook and then all the blood will come up then take out chicken and wash the chicken and pot and then start to boil for an hour, then cool then take out the fat. then do this like 2 more times and then it will start to gel.

    You can do this with beef bones and pork bones.

    It is so delicious, it is my favorite. I usually, just drink a cup in the morning to detox and it is perfect.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Jaelin Reply:

    To get a lot of gelatin – that really heals and repairs the gut – just boil for about 3 hours (broth). Cooking for 2-3 days in a crock pot, will give you less gelatin, but more minerals (stock). I alternate with making both so I get the benefits of both.

    I take the clear joints and some marrow, put in a blender with a small amount of broth or stock, blend it up and add it back in to the broth or stock for mega nutrition!

    Also, adding 2 tablespoonful apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the water and meat/bones and letting it sit for about 30 minutes before you begin cooking will help leach out the minerals from the bones into the liquid.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kevin Reply:

    I make chicken stock often. I use chicken backs, necks, wings, or left over bones from roasting chicken. I always wash them and scrub the kidneys out of the pockets in the lower spine. This keeps the broth clean. Sometimes I let the parts soak in water with some hydrogen peroxide in it. This cleans the parts well and makes my broth very clean and clear. I always remove anything that floats and I never boil. Broth that is cloudy contains emulsified fat and I prefer my broth fat free. Half an onion, half a celery head, parsley, and 5-6 chicken backs. I put it in a covered pot in the oven at 215 degrees for about 6 hours. This allows it to just barely simmer yielding a spectacular clear rich broth. If I use a crock pot it gets to hot boiling the broth and risking inclusion of the fat in the final product. I hope this is useful

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Carolyn

    Very interesting! I really do not cook enough bone-in chicken to have very much stock on hand, though. That’s one of my dilemmas …

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katie

    Carolyn and Mary Ellen,

    I’ll definitely tackle both comments in Monday’s post. I’m excited to share!!
    Thanks for the comments — Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mareth

    I like to use your chicken stock recipe and make a bunch at once. Last Wednesday I think I made up about 10 quarts! Problem is I don’t have enough containers to freeze it all in! I put bits of chicken into ice cube trays and add a bit of stock to cover the chicken and when it’s all frozen I have nice cubes of chunky chicken and healthy broth for baby K. She loves to pick up the chunks and eat them! But my dilemma is after I separate the chicken from the stock I find there are so many tiny bones mixed into the good meat. Any suggestions for this stage I dislike?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mary Lee Reply:

    You know, if you goto 99cents store, they sell the chinese plastic containers 3 for a $1 or $2.
    Or you can even buy it at the chinese fast food and they will sell it to you.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah W

    I commented on one of your other chicken stock posts.. but I’ll add it here too, in case anyone cares to do more research! I think I was reading (on MDC?) that the longer you cook stock, the less gelatin but more minerals b/c the gelatin breaks down under the heat, and if you cook it a shorter time there is more gelatin and less minerals. Sorry I don’t have a source, b/c I am just writing it as best I remember. That statement definitely needs some more studying to back it up!! My stock gels to varying degrees… but I don’t always cook it the same amount of time, and maybe that’s why? I believe NT says to cook chicken stock anywhere fro 6-24 hours, so that’s a pretty big range!

    How long do you usually cook yours for Katie?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Usually 24 hours…now I’m very curious to try less time!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Musings of a Housewife

    I am surprised that yall can’t get them to gel. Mine always do, and I thought they did when I used the grocery store variety. Is it b/c I don’t cook it as long?

    Also. How do you know how much water to add?

    And one more thing. :-) When I make a chicken in the crock pot, which I tend to do for a particular meal I like to make, it makes a lot of juice that doesn’t go into that recipe. After I take off the chicken that I need for the recipe, I put the bones and parts over into the stock pot for making stock. Do I also dump in all that juice? And add water and boil it all together? Or do I save out that juice, use it as stock, nad then make more by adding water to the bones and parts of the chicken that was in the crock pot? Or is it pretty much sapped of nutrients after the crock pot?

    LOL, sorry, hope that made sense.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    The recipe in Nourishing Traditions calls for 4 qts water for a chicken or so. I always at least make sure they’re covered with water, which takes a lot in my big old pot. The amount of water may be another culprit in it not gelling so well.

    For your crockpot chicken, definitely use the “juice” whatever you do! It will probably gel up b/c of the bones, but if you don’t have any veggies in your crockpot, it might not have all the flavor of broth. You could do either choice though – add it to your pot or use it straight as stock, maybe with rice or something that doesn’t need full flavor like soup. I don’ t think the crockpot could take the nutrients out of the broth – more like out of the chicken and into the broth, but the chicken should still have enough in it to make stock on the stove. Does that help?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Musings of a Housewife

    Okay, I just read Sarah W’s comment. Must be the answer to the gel issue. I cook mind about 3 hours.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • christina

    Thanks for posting all your research, Katie. I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m writing a post and including a link to yours.

    I always make homemade chicken broth. I didn’t know about the vinegar soak. I’ll have to try that sometime. My broth always gells up and I use supermarket variety chickens. I roast them first, cut off most of the meat and then dump all the bones, skin, and juices that are on the bottom of the pan into a stock pot and simmer for a few hours. It is super flaverful because of the roasting. Thanks again for sharing!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jean

    Thanks for organizing all this info here! I was about to down a big bowl of soupy chicken stew and thought to myself, “Is it safe to eat so much gelatin in one go?”

    Generally, I make meat (pork or chicken) soup/stews that produce lots of gelatin. I’m thinking maybe it is because I always cut (or have the butcher) cut all my meat bones into smaller pieces? Perhaps with the bones cut open, the marrow mixed with a little water and collagen from the skin and tendons generates a great deal of gelatin? My dishes always appear soupy after I cook them. Even after I spoon out all the fat floating at the top, refrigeration turns all the liquid into gelatin!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Jean,
    Yay for gelatin! The fat doesn’t have anything to do with the thickness – I wonder if the bone trick works as you say? Sounds logical to me! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

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  • Ashley

    I am finding home made broth lacks flavor! Shouldn’t it be better? I have to add a lot of salt to soups when I use home made broth…this can’t be healthy….I boil a whole chicken with water, herbs, and veges for several hours, take the meat off, put the bones back in the pot and boil for a few more hours.Any tips to add flavor? Or should I just expect to add more salt?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Ashley,
    You will need a good bit of salt, but if you buy good salt (like Real Salt brand) it’s really not as “unhealthy” as adding salt sounds. Leave the herbs until the last 10 minutes, that will help the flavor. I would bet you’re still ending up with less total sodium than a store bought broth. Some people say that stock with only bones and no meat tastes better, so I like to roast the chicken first, then use just the roasted bones. That does add flavor, as would adding butter. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Colleen

    Last year I purchased a pressure cooker, from frozen to gelled broth 1:20 soft bone, soft cartilage you can almost taste the nutrition as you drink the broth. I didn’t know there where so many benefits of broth, I just know we feel good after a fresh bowl of homemade chicken soup. Thanks

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Becky

    I make my broth using chicken necks and backs (the local grocery store sells them in 1-3 lb packages), carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. It simmers for at least 6 hours then I strain it and cook it down to about 1/2 to 1/3. When it cools its solid like jello and I just skim off the fat. Tastes amazing!

    [Reply to this comment]

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  • shannon

    Hi Katie. I’ve just started reading Breaking the Vicious Cycle and Elaine Gottschall recommends making jello from gelatin and juice. I’ve never done this before but think it might be tasty with unpasteurized apple cider. Is the powdered gelatin considered pretty healthy?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kathy Schultz

    Found your site while doing research for my own blog on making your own homemade soups. I’ve been making my own for decades. Hope you don’t mind I’m quoting you in my article with a link to your site. I’m new to all this so I don’t have a huge following yet. But I love your website info. Thanks for the info.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    kathy,
    You’re welcome! Normal blog etiquette just says small quotes are fine as long as you include a link back to the original. Glad to help! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Judy,
    I guess it’s just a result of being part of blog culture, commenting like this, reading problogger and other blogging blogs…you pick things up just like you do in real life. ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

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  • Lauren

    I make chicken stock either of two ways: carcass from a roasted (generally high-quality chicken + splash of wine or vinegar + enough water to JUST cover + slow cooker for 12-24 hours), or bits and bobs of factory chicken direct in the pot (raw), get the heat up fast, skim any foam, then drop heat as low as possible and simmer 12-24 hours. I do pre-roast veal and beef bones, but chicken seems to come out well no matter what, so I skip it.
    Because toxins are fat soluble, I do skim the stock I make from grocery store chicken parts, but the organic free-range stuff is gold.
    If the bone ends are getting soft partway through cooking I take the opportunity to smash them and put them back in. The cooking time doesn’t seem to effect the gel as much as the amount of water and the temperature – both are usually too high.
    Note that the gel will break down after a few days to a week in the fridge, so it’s best to freeze what you won’t consume in that time.
    I have been known to puree the softened bones, cartilege and soft tissues, freeze the goop in ice cube trays and use it in gravies. But then, being off milk means I’m crazy about getting my minerals :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Lauren,
    GREAT tips! Want to polish this up as a guest post for the week of Thanksgiving? I’d love to feature you… :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katy

    I was just given the idea to make and can venison stock.. we just throw away the bones.. I guess I should roast them then cook them just like chicken or beef.. have you ever heard of this or tried it?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Katy,
    Yes! I’m pretty sure Nourishing Traditions talk about venison stock. Definitely worth making! I’ve never had the chance though…
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

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  • Trina

    I don’t know that I have had much gelling (is that a word :-D) of my broth, but it is has a rich, deep color and is oh, so good. I roast two hens in my big electric roaster, then take all the meat off, throw any extra necks or bones back into the roaster with water, celery hearts, onions and whole heads of garlic sliced crosswise and whole peppercorns. I let it go 12-24 hours on 250, then strain everything out, and parcel out for the freezer. Nothing better! And nothing like the old chicken soup I used to make from boneless breasts!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tessa Reply:

    Whenever possible I take a hammer(or similar) and break the leg bones of the chicken before starting the stock on my stovetop. The marrow needs to get into the water . My understanding is that the gelatine is in the marrow.

    [Reply to this comment]

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  • Mike ROberts

    I have been searching for accurate information on the estimated Salt content of chicken broth. I am diabetic and have higher blood pressure, so salt is among my enemies. Commercial broths do have high sodium, but since I don’t add sodium…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Jaelin Reply:

    Make your own, Robert, it’s easy! Use free range organic chickens from a farmers’ market or local farmer (best) or buy that quality from a store.

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  • Andy Morris

    I just made my first ever Bone Broth, I started with a Pastured Chicken ($12) and simmered it for a little over one hour, let it cool, removed the meat from the bone along with the skin and cartilage. I then simmered the bones,cartilage, and skin for 14 hours.

    The broth tastes great! I used it to make rice so far, but what I poured into jars and put in the frig, has not congealed, although there are milky solids hanging at the bottom, and a small amount of fat on the top.

    I also put some in ice trays, when frozen I put the cubes in a freezer bag, figure I can use a few at a time.

    Also I was expecting it to be a yellowish color but it is almost clear. Any thoughts?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Lauren Reply:

    I disagree with the person who said you can’t use a roasted chicken – that’s a big part of the colour and flavour! When I buy beef bones for stock I roast them first, for that reason alone. As long as the joints are in (don’t forget the neck) I get a good gel. Usually if your stock doesn’t gel but the taste and colour are right, you used too much water or too much heat. Take heart: the nutrition is still in there, it’s just not going to get you a Michelin star ;)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Perfect answer, Lauren, thanks for jumping in! Also Andy, don’t forget to add the veggies (for taste) and try the 30-60 min. soak with a bit of vinegar in the water (will help draw out the minerals, might help the “gelling”). You may have used too much water perhaps? But it’s awesome that it tasted good! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lisa Quenon

    This is about my 20th blog to read/scan. I am looking for quantitative data on chicken bone broth. Specifically, I need to know how many grams of protein there are in one cup of chicken bone broth. I’ve gotten even piece of information EXCEPT the one piece of information I require.

    Do you know?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Lisa,
    I don’t know for sure, but maybe this site would help? http://caloriecount.about.com/ Honestly I can’t imagine there’d be much protein since it’s so calorie light, just mineral rich…? :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lisa Quenon

    Oh thank you, Katie! I appreciate your information!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Elizabeth Cholet

    Here in our home in Paris we roast a chicken once a week. I always ask the butcher for the head and the feet. These, plus the bones and skin, go into a large Dutch oven (? cocotte) with celery *tops*, a chopped carrot, onion and/or shallot and/or leek, parsley if I have it, and some rosemary and thyme from the balcony. I bring just to a boil then put it in the oven at 90C and go to bed. The electric oven turns itself off some time in the night. In the morning I strain it and voila we have broth for the week. Delicious.

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    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Beautiful, yum!! :) Katie

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Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle - ends 9/15!
Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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