I get a little giddy when I see gelled bone broth. According to some, gelatin is the tell tale sign of a nutrient-rich broth.
The truth is, even if your broth doesn’t gel, a traditionally slow-cooked broth will still be full of the important minerals and amino acids (like calcium, magnesium, collagen, chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine) necessary to prevent wrinkles, eliminate cellulite, ease digestion, and heal arthritis.
Yet despite knowing this, I’m only satisfied with my homemade bone broth when it gels. If you’re like me and want that perfectly gelled broth every time, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret I learned at Monica Corrado’s cooking school.
There are three, and only three, reasons why broth doesn’t gel.
But first, some clarifications.
To make bone broth, you really only need a couple things: bones and water. Everything else is helpful (like adding something acidic to help leach the minerals out of the bones), or tasty (like adding onions and other aromatics to the concoction). But at it’s heart, bones and water are the foundation of a good broth.
There are two types of bones you can use when making homemade bone broth: jointy bones and meaty bones. And before you say anything else, YES. Those are their scientific names!
Jointy bones are cartilage-rich bones and connective tissues that contain joints — chicken feet, wings, and necks, cow knuckles and ox tails.
Meaty bones have a bit of meat on them (like ribs) or marrow in them (like soup or marrow bones).
And finally, to get the most nutrients out of your broth, you’ll want to source good bones from healthy, pasture-raised or wild animals.
With this basic foundation, let’s unravel the mysteries behind why bone broth doesn’t gel.
Reason 1: Not enough jointy bones in proportion to meaty bones.
As a good rule of thumb, you want at least half the bones to be jointy bones, if not more. If your goal is a broth that gels, you can’t simply throw in one or two joints (or none at all). If using a whole chicken carcass, try cutting up the wings and neck and/or throwing in extra feet or necks to make sure you’ve got enough jointy bones to cause the broth to gel. (HINT: I buy extra feet and necks from my farmer for $1 per pound. They’re cheap because nobody else wants them. GO FIGURE.)
YOU NEED JOINTS. They’re full of the connective tissue that breaks down into gelatin.
Reason 2: Too much water in proportion to bones.
It’s a volume thing. You want to look into your stock pot and see it FULL of bones, barely covered by the filtered water you added. For chicken bone broth, this comes to about 3-4 pounds of bones (about 2 whole carcasses) per gallon of water. For beef bone broth, this comes to about 7 pounds of bones per gallon of water.
Don’t go stingy on the bones, not if you want that broth to gel.
Reason 3: You boiled the bone broth too vigorously.
What you want is a beautiful, rolling simmer that barely moves the surface of the water in the stock pot.
If it boils too forcefully, it will break down the proteins in the gelatin into their constituent amino acids. While that’s not bad, per se, it will certainly prevent your broth from gelling.