Basic Brown Stock

This is a basic recipe for brown stock, using bones and meat from just about any seafood, game, poultry or livestock. Click here for a detailed treatise on stock.

The recipe size is normally limited by either the amount of bones you have, or the size of your biggest pot.  With 7lbs of bones the default recipe just fits in a 12 quart pot. Adjust the amount of bones in the field below, watching the “Minimum pot size” field in the “Liquid and Pot Size” ingredient section, to be sure your pot is big enough.

Here is how your finished stock should look: do the wiggle!

For good body, joints and marrow bones are best. Saw them into 2″ pieces or crack them using a clean hammer on a clean, hard surface (wear eye protection). Ribs are good too — just trim the meat from between them and set aside with the meat trimmings.

Cooked bones or carcasses are fine so long as they weren’t cooked with spices that might clash with how you plan to use the stock.

For fish stock use only white-fleshed non-oily fish. Use bones, heads, skin, and fins — but remove gills. Give the skin a good rinse and wipe, but don’t worry about scales. On large fish split the heads. The shells of shrimp, lobster, crab and crawdads make astonishingly good seafood stock.

Adding collagen-rich items like calves foot or chicken feet gives a richer texture to the stock. Wild turkey feet, pheasant feet or duck/goose feet also work great. Just blanch, chill, peel, and pop off the nails and spurs first. It’s easy, but search for “how to peel chicken feet” in if you’re not confident. Adjust the blanching time up for feet larger than chicken feet (e.g. turkey) or down for smaller.

Achilles tendon from deer (or beef) is also excellent — but only use if clean. They can get grungy if used to drag or hang the carcass. If you are short on connective tissue or are using already cooked bones consider adding powdered unflavored gelatin to improve body.
This recipe sticks to the following ratios:
  • 3/2 water to bones by weight. (Water: 1 quart = 2 lbs)
  • 6/1 water to mirepoix by volume, e.g 6 quarts water, 1 quart (4 cups) mirepoix.
  • Mirepoix: 2/1/1 Onion/Carrot/Celery (by volume after chopping)
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Basic Brown Stock Yum
CAUTION: Bones spoil very quickly and rather spectacularly. Unless you're using them right away they should be processed and frozen with as much care as fresh meat. Consider preparing an extra 50% of the mirepoix, diced and set aside (not roasted along with the main batch). Add them to the stock about half an hour before the end of the cook. These add a nice fresh note. If making chicken stock, check the detailed notes at the end.
Course Prep
Cuisine Adaptable, All
lbs Bones
To be roasted
Liquid and Pot Size
  • 6 quarts cold water — Approximate. At least enough to cover the solids but not much more than that.
  • 2 cups wine — dry red (e.g. Cabernet) for bones from red meats, dry white (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc) for poultry or fish. Skip the good stuff, 2 Buck Chuck is fine.
  • 12 quarts Minimum pot size
Course Prep
Cuisine Adaptable, All
lbs Bones
To be roasted
Liquid and Pot Size
  • 6 quarts cold water — Approximate. At least enough to cover the solids but not much more than that.
  • 2 cups wine — dry red (e.g. Cabernet) for bones from red meats, dry white (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc) for poultry or fish. Skip the good stuff, 2 Buck Chuck is fine.
  • 12 quarts Minimum pot size
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Trim meat/fat/whatever from bones to expose bone surface (add trimmings to meat pile). If the marrow bones are not cut into sections, find a safe and clean way to crack them with a hammer (wear eye protection!).
  3. Spread bones on a rack or grate in one or two roasting pans or rimmed baking sheets, with enough space so they all brown. Brush with olive oil. Roast uncovered 1 hour, turning once or twice.

    No matter how wholesome, venison bones sometimes smell slightly unpleasant right near the beginning of the roast. It does not indicate a problem, and it goes away quickly.
  4. While the bones are roasting, add a little olive oil to the mirepoix, meat scraps and optional mushrooms. Mix/toss.
  5. After an hour, if making stock OTHER than chicken or seafood, brush bones with tomato paste. Use it all up.
  6. Put the oiled meat scraps, mushrooms and mirepox to the oven — using another pan if need be.
  7. Roast 30 more minutes, watching the bones carefully — you want then browned, but NOT charred/burned. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes. You can optionally speed up this step by finishing under a broiler, but you must watch it non-stop to prevent burning.
Main Process
  1. Add the wine, parsley stems and all remaining ingredients except the parsley tops and the optional extra mirepoix to the pot.
  2. Move everything from the roasting pans into the pot. Deglaze the roasting pans with the wine and mix it into the pot. Don't skip this step, there's great flavor there!
  3. Add cold water to cover everything, cover with a lid, then bring to a slow simmer, around 190°F. You can use medium to heat to get it there, but watch carefully and do not let it come to a full rolling boil. And no stirring — ever!
  4. Cook 6-24 hours for poultry, 1-2 hours for seafood. For venison or beef bones 12-48 hours (I favor 36 hours). If leaving unattended overnight, especially over a gas range, for safety you should opt for the oven-finish (details below).
  5. Early in the simmering process, unappetizing-looking stuff sometimes floats to the top. Most recipes encourage you to skim it off, but some say don't bother. I never bother and it doesn't seem to hurt anything. Anecdotal evidence suggests fish stock might be an exception.
  6. Optional oven finish:I'd only do this with an electric oven. Carefully (it's heavy!) move the covered stockpot to a 190°F oven after it first starts to simmer. This saves the hassle of adjusting a burner for a consistent slow simmer and frees up the stove. Check the stock temp hourly and adjust your oven if needed until you are confident the stock is settled in somewhere around 190°F. Many ovens have an automatic 12-hour shutoff, so you should turn it off then back on before you go to bed if letting it go overnight. And then again when you get up, and again mid-day if you're going for a long cook.
  7. OPTIONAL: 30 minutes before finish add the optional batch of extra mirepoix. Get it submerged by poking it down or gently mixing near the surface, but don't aggressively mix. If your pot is already full to the brim, dip out enough of the stock to make room - saving it of course.
  8. 10 minutes before finish, toss in the parsley tops. Poke it down to submerge.
Process and store
  1. Remove from heat. The next steps should be taken without delay. The stock will need to be cooled quickly.
  2. Remove large items to a colander over a bowl to catch drippings. Don't give the bones to your dogs - they have become very brittle. Bone-free meat scraps are fine. Filter out the remaining solids using cheesecloth, muslin, old clean t-shirts, a chinois, etc., whatever you have handy. Ladle through the filter into another pot. How well you filter it is a matter of taste but you sure don't want to keep any bone bits.
  3. Optional: (this step can be taken later if it is not convenient to do so now) Reduce the stock to make demi glace or glace de viande (meat glaze).
  4. Optional: If you prefer, salt to taste. Be aware, most recipes expect stock to be unsalted.  One advantage of salt is that it buys a little more shelf life in the fridge.
  5. Use an ice bath in the sink to chill the pot quickly to at least room temp. Then move to the refrigerator. And now you can relax!
  6. The next day remove any fat solidified on top. Evaluate your stock for body — watch the video at the top to see how it should look.
  7. Optional: If not as gelatinous as you want, warm up the stock and add 1 packet of unflavored gelatin per quart, first softened in 1/4 cup cold water. Then repeat the ice bath/chill step.
  8. Optional: Clarify. Google “egg raft”.  Leaves a crystal clear liquid — neccesary for consommé, aspic or any soup which should be very clear. Another benefit is you have to find something to do with the yolks.  Om nom nom nom.
  9. Good up to 4 days in the fridge. Freezes forever. See for details on storage.
Recipe Notes

Alternative method: Instead of a stovetop or oven, try an old-style portable roaster oven. They come as large as 22qts, which allows for a pretty big batch! They can even be used for the roasting step. AND you can use them outside (under cover, or weather permitting) or in the garage — a great idea in AC weather. You don't need all that heat fighting your air conditioner.

It can be a little fussy controlling the temperature of a manual roaster oven, but a plug-and-play PID controller like this can make it easy, and can also be used for precise temperature control of most any other analog controlled cooking tool — including some electric smokers and most slow cookers. PID's don't work with digitally controlled cookers.

Here's a great use for a quart of venison or beef stock.

If making a poultry stock, here is my process for preparing the carcass:

When it comes to stock made from commercial meat, here is some advice that may sound like hippie stuff, but I promise it's real world better-on-the-plate advice. Heirloom breeds are better than commercial breeds, especially for 4-legged critters. And grass-fed beef is definitely better than grain-finished. And pastured swine or poultry are better than confined.  It truly makes a difference in the stock. One more time, age matters (older is better), food inputs matter (diverse is better) and motility matters (open-pastured better than confined). Find an heirloom breed allowed to mature before slaughter, with a diverse diet, that needs to spend energy finding it's preferred food, and you found something that makes incredible stock. Almost as good as wild. Reminder, we're talking about stock, not meat. The American palate (including mine) has been trained to prefer young, tender, fatty meat. So meat quality is much more a matter of taste. But literally nobody would prefer stock made from a 16 month old Angus steer finished in a feed-lot, over stock made from a 36 month old heirloom breed cow finished on pasture.

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