One of the factors that separates good cooking from great cooking is stock. Stocks bring far more to the table (no pun intended) than most people think. While they are really just flavored water, when cooked and used properly stock contribute flavor and texture that water just doesn’t do; and leaves your guests asking “Why does your food always taste so great?”.
In this cooking video, I show you how to make a beef stock. I use stocks mostly when I’m making soups and sauces, but also when I just need to add a bit more moisture and flavor to a dish. Beef stock does take some time to make well, so rather than making it “on-demand”, I make very large batches and then freeze the stock in small quantities to pull out when I need it.
Recipe Overview and Keys to Success:
When making your stock, you’ve got very wide latitude to add different ingredients for subtle twists and different flavors. In my cooking video, I show you a standard version, but these few keys are universal and will help you cook a great beef stock:
- I use little to no salt. Because you’re going to concentrate the flavor so much through reduction, it can be hard to get the right salt content, especially early in the cook time. I just leave the salt out, knowing that I can add salt to the soup, sauce or whatever other recipe I’m making with my beef stock
- Brown the meat and bones well. You want to let them roast off for a couple hours, to really darken the color and develop the flavors. All of that flavor is going to seep into your stock so you want it nice and strong
- Reducing is your friend. You can’t really over reduce the stock. As you simmer it, more and more water evaporates, and the flavor concentrates and while you’ll have less volume, it’s flavor is stronger, so you need less of it. However, if you don’t let it reduce enough, you’ve got a “flabby” beef stock that no one gets excited about.
Ingredients for Beef Stock
- Beef bones 2 – 3 lbs– generally femurs, you probably have to ask the butcher at the meat counter
- Beef stew meat or other cheap cut – 1 – 2 lbs - buy the least expensive cuts you can
- Carrot - 2
- Onion - 2
- Celery – 2 ribs
- Garlic – 3 cloves
- Red wine – 2 cups
- Bay leaves – 2
- Herb de province – tablespoon
- Peppercorns – tablespoon
Roasting/Browning the Meat
It’s important to get the bones and beef well roasted, with a good dark color. You can roast them either on the stove top, or in the oven. If you want to keep your cooking to one pot, simply load up your stock pot, put it in 375 degree oven and let it roast for about 2 hours but more importantly until they are nicely browned.
Alternatively you can sear the bones & meat over the range, once you get a good caramelized color on them, put them in the oven for about an hour. That method is a bit faster, but it’s also a bit more work.
Caramelize the vegetables
- Remove the beef and bones from the pan. Remove all but a few tablespoons of oil
- Coarsely chop the carrot, onion, celery and garlic, and toss into the pan you just roasted the meat in
- Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and the edges start to turn brown
- Add the wine, and deglaze the plan. Let the wine reduce by half.
- Add the bay leave and herbs and a few peppercorns
- Add the beef meat and bones back to the pot
- Cover with water so the bones are submerged by an inch or two (for a stronger stock, instead of water use store bought chicken broth)
- Simmer the stock over low heat for 4 – 5 hours; the liquid should reduce by about a quarter
Straining and cooling the stock
- After cooking for several hours remove the bones and large pieces of meat
- Using a fine mesh strainer and stain out the vegetables and other “bits” floating around; you should be left with a rich looking brown stock
- Discard the bones, meat and vegetables, they’ve now given it their all
Removing the fat
- Most likely, the fat in the meat and bones has rendered out and is now part of the stock; it’s best to get that fat out of there
- I like to let the beef stock cool, then put it in the fridge overnight
- The fat will rise to the top and solidify; so that the next day you can take a spoon and easily break that top fat layer off and discard it. You’re left with just beautiful beef stock
- Does your chilled stock look like Jello? If so, that’s totally fine. That’s the collagen in the meat that’s broken down, and when cooled it gelatinizes, just like jello. If you heat it up the stock it will turn back into a liquid. And the nice part, is the viscosity of the stock helps thicken sauces.
- I like to pour mine into ice cube trays, then freeze it. I’ll then pull a few “cubes” out of the freezer as needed.
As I said, making your own beef stock does take some time. But if you do it right, you can make a large batch and a little does go a long way. There’s also no doubt that your food will taste better.