Homemade beef stock adds wonderful flavor to soups and stews!
No, I still don’t have any water so I won’t be making any beef stock today! For most of you who do have water, it’s Saturday, and making stock is a great Saturday activity. It makes the house smell great and there’s time to coax every ounce of flavor from the ingredients by cooking the stock all day. If you’ve never made your own stock before, I’d like to tell you in one word why it’s worth the time: Flavor.
There’s no comparison between soup or stew made with canned broth and one made with homemade beef or chicken stock. Homemade stock has a richness of flavor that takes the finished dish to a whole different level. Besides the incredible flavor, a side benefit is that you make the stock mostly with ingredients that would have been thrown away, so it’s almost free. I already posted about how to make chicken stock, and the process for beef stock is similar, but there’s one very important difference. Do you know what it is? Read on.
I keep two large containers in the freezer, and whenever I get chicken or beef scraps I save them until I have enough to make stock.
Here’s where the procedure for beef stock varies from chicken stock. It’s important to put the beef scraps on a cookie sheet and roast the meat for about an hour at high heat. This produces browning (the Maillard reaction) which produces flavor. For beef stock, roasting also releases fat. Emeril may rave on about pork fat, but while a little beef fat is good, too much ruins the taste of things. See all the fat on the cookie sheet? You don’t want that in your stock.
I roasted about four pounds of beef scraps to make this batch of stock, and here’s how much fat was roasted out of the meat. The dark layer on the bottom of the fat separator can be poured out and added to the stock, but if there’s only this much I probably wouldn’t bother.
Besides roasted meat scraps (and bones if you have any) and water, the other three essential ingredients in beef stock are celery, carrots, and onions. Use the celery ends and outside pieces you would otherwise throw away.
This is a perfect use for carrots that are a little past their prime. If you buy whole carrots, save the ends and peels for stock.
I also use onions that are starting to get shoots. Throw away any green parts when you add the onions to the stock. (Celery, carrots, and onion scraps can also be frozen and saved to use stock.)
Much as I might like to be a stock purist, I nearly always end up adding a little bit of beef base, preferably one that has meat as the first ingredient. I use about 1/4 cup of this in a huge pot of stock. If you don’t want to use it, just cook your stock a little longer so it cooks down more.
This is how my stock looked when it had cooked about six hours and I was just about to remove the meat and vegetables and strain the stock.
This tool, called a skimmer, is great for removing meat and vegetables while letting the flavorful stock run back into the pan. It also catches sediments and coagulated proteins. I have another one also with larger holes too.
I strain my stock through a colander, then strain it through this yogurt strainer into a fat separator. As you can see, there’s not a lot of fat because most of it was removed by the roasting.
After I strain the stock, I put it back in a clean pan and cook it down until it’s a deep brown color and has a lot of flavor. I just keep tasting it until it’s as strong as I want. This is how much beef stock I got from a bit pot of water in which I simmered 4 pounds of meat scraps and probably an equal amount of vegetables. These large containers hold three cups and the smaller ones hold two cups. I also have some smaller containers that hold exactly a cup. If you measure the capacity of your containers and then always use that size, you don’t have to thaw the stock and measure it to use when you make soup.
How to make Beef Stock
Save scraps of beef in the freezer until you have 3-4 pounds of scraps.
Put beef scraps on cooking sheet and roast at 400 until meat is well browned and fat is cooked out. You can turn a few times, but it’s not essential. This may take close to an hour, depending on how big the pieces are.
Fill large stock pot (12 quarts or bigger) half full of water. Add browned beef scraps, celery, carrots, and onions. Simmer on low for 3-4 hours, adding more water as needed so pan is always full. After a few hours taste and add some beef soup base if desired.
After 6-8 hours, remove pieces of meat and vegetables and skim off sediment. Strain stock through colander. Then strain through cheesecloth, fine mesh strainer, or yogurt strainer. If you can, strain it into a fat separator to remove fat, or you can remove the fat by cooling the stock before you freeze it.
Put strained stock back into saucepan and simmer over medium high heat until reduced. I usually reduce it by about half, but taste to see when the flavor seems right to you.
Pour reduced stock into freezer containers. Cool on counter top for about an hour. If you didn’t use a fat separator, cool in refrigerator overnight and remove fat in the morning before freezing. If you used a fat separator freeze stock as soon as it is slightly cool.