Beef Stock (brown)

Here I have an addition to our first stocks blog, where we made a white stock. In this blog I will only highlight the differences, as they are very similar, except for a few alterations to the process. In a brown stock we are using roasted bones, and caramelized vegetables, to make a darker, more concentrated stock. 

Dark stocks are broken down into these 4 categories; bones/shells, vegetables, aromatics, alcohol.


Bones; Beef, veal, chicken, turkey, duck, pork, lamb, fish, game birds, none (vegetable stock)

Shells; Lobster, prawns, crab.

Vegetables; Onion, carrot, celery, garlic, mushroom, shallots, celeriac, leeks, tomato, tomato paste.

Aromatics; Parsley, thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorn.

Alcohol; Red wine, white wine, brandy, vermouth.

 Highlighted above are the ingredients used in this post to make a white chicken stock.


Step 1 - Choose your bones/shells

raw beef knuckle bones

 First thing is determine what type of stock you are making, in this case it is beef stock. You can use frozen bones as well, always keep your left over carcasses and shells, and freeze them for this very occasion.


Step 2 - Choose your vegetables

vegetables used for beef stock on a wooden cutting board

 In a white stock we will use a simple mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) at a ratio of (2-1-1). You may also use a combination of leeks and onions which is common for a brown stock. It is always a good idea to keep any unused parts of these vegetables in the fridge in a Tupperware, instead of throwing them in the garbage, as carrot and celery tops, and onion ends, always come in handy when making a stock.


Step 3 - Choose your aromatics

bouqet garni for beef stock recipe

Your aromatics for stock 99% of the time are exactly the same; Parsely, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorn. The only time this would change as if you knew you were going to be making an ethnic stock, and in that case; you may be changing out the parsley with cilantro, the thyme for fresh ginger, the bay leaves with kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass, and the peppercorn with Szechaun peppercorn or red chili flake. I almost always like to start with my base stock, and than add the extra ingredients required for the direction of ethnicity later, this is called making a short stock, and I will be posting a blog later on about this very thing. You can place everything into a cheese cloth and tie it up with butchers time, but I don't see why that is necessary, other than it will be a little easier to skim the stock.


Step 4 - Roast your bones

vegetable oil beef knuckle bonesfully roasted beef knuckle bones

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. You are going to want to put a little vegetable oil on the bones, as this will help them brown. Turn the bones once and a while to promote even browning. Again like the vegetables, you are going to want them to be nicely browned, as this is where the rich flavour and colour is going to come from.


Step 5 - Cut your vegetables into uniform pieces 

onions celery carrots mushrooms and garlic

It is important that your vegetables are uniform in size, usually around 1" squared is good. This is important in a brown stock so you get even caramelization.


Step 6 - Brown your vegetables

caramelized mirepoix for beef stock

Heat your stockpot on the stove, and with a little vegetable oil, brown your vegetables. It is very important that you get some good colour on your vegetables, as you want a nice caramelization, even blackened onions (brulee onions) are good, as they add a nice concentrated stock with dark colour. The vegetables will most certainly look darker than you think they should.


Step 7 - Add in your tomato paste

adding tomato paste to mirepoixcaramelized mirepoix in pot

After your vegetables are well caramelized, add in the tomato paste. Mix it in well with the vegetables, and cook down. Again you are caramelizing the sugars, and concentrating everything in the pot.


Step 8 - Deglaze with red wine

deglazing the pot with red wine

After cooking the tomato paste for 5 minutes or so, deglaze the pot with red wine. This will help get all of that beautiful bits off the bottom of the pan.


Step 9 - Add your roasted bones and aromatics to the pot

ingredients for beef stock large pot

Now place the roasted bones into the stockpot, being very careful not to get any of the fat from the bottom of the pan into the stock. If there is still a lot of pieces of meat on the bottom of the pan, you can drawn off the fat, and deglaze the baking pan with cold water, using tongs to scrap the little bits off, and place that into the stock pot.


 Step 10 - Top up with cold water

top up beef bones with cold waterbeef stock simmering on stove

Now you are going to want to top up the stock pot with cold water, fill the water to make sure everything is completely covered, usually by a couple of inches, this way you will not have to add more water to your pot later on in the simmering process. If you do find that the water level is dipping below the bones, add in enough water to cover, as flavour and gelatin cannot be extracted without the presence of water. It is extremely important that you start your stock with cold water, as it allows the impurities in the bones to be drawn out, slowly, and rise to the top of the pot, where they can then be skimmed out of the stock. If you fail to use cold water, the impurities will coagulate quicker, and not be able to be drawn to the surface, also will make your stock cloudy.


Step 11 - Place onto the stovetop and bring to a simmer

simmering beef stock with impurites

 Bring your stock up to temperature (just before a boil), and keep at a simmer. This will allow the flavours to develop, and will keep the stock nice a clear. Do not ever boil a stock, as this will cloud your stock.


Step 12 - Skim the top of the stock

skimming top of beef stock

 As the stock is simmering on the stove, have a ladle and boil close by. Skim the impurities that come to the top of the stock (greyish brownish bubbles). As well as removing impurities, this will also help to insure a clear stock.


Step 13 - Let simmer on the stove top for time recommended below

Chicken; 4 hours

Beef; 8 hours

Fish; 45 minutes

Vegetable; 45 minutes


Step 14 - Take off the heat and let sit for 30 minutes or so

finished beef stock

This step is important more so in beef stock, where you want the fat to settle at the top of the pot.

 skimming fat off top of beef stockbeef fat from stock ladle

Then you can ladle it out before straining. You will see the first picture is all fat in the ladle, and the second it is 95% stock, with just a few beads floating on top. Some people leave this fat on, as it can usually be taken off in the form of a fat cap after it has been in the fridge for 24 hours. Also if you don't plan on getting to the stock in the fridge right away, the fat cap also acts to preserve the stock. I however prefer to get rid of as much as possible before straining and refrigerating.


Step 15 - Strain your stock

straining beef stock through china cap

 Take your stock off the heat, and strain through a conical strainer, or any fine strainer you may have. It is a good idea to pass it through something not quite as fine the first time around, as the bones my puncture a fine strainer, and also make it hard to get all of the liquid through around everything else in the pot that is wanting to come out with the liquid. 


Step 16 - Transfer to an ice bath then the fridge 

beef stock ice bath

After you have strained your stock into a container, you are going to want to cool down that container as quickly as possible. Usually filling up your sink with some ice and cold water does a good job, just make sure the liquid is heavy enough in the container that it doesn't topple over. Once the stock has been cooled down, you may now put it into the fridge, and not have to worry about it raising the internal temperature of your fridge. 


Step 17 - Take out of fridge and skim off the fat 

fat cap beef stock cambrofat cap from beef stock

 After the stock has sat overnight, it will usually have what is called a "fat cap" unto of it, where all of the fat in the stock has come to the top in the form of a cap. This makes it easy to remove, and leaves you with a pure, clean and clear stock.


Step 18 - Portion and freeze

pouring beef stock into ice cube tray

You may now place your stock back into the fridge to use as you wish, or what is most convenient is portioning out and freezing. The best way I find for the home cook, is to pour your stock into ice cube trays and freeze, then transfer into a large ziplock bag. This allows you to always have homemade stock on hand, and you only need to pull out as many cubes as a recipe calls for. 




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  • Perry Quinn

    This is wonderful primer for those interested in establishing the foundations of a great meal. I was so fortunate to learn these tips from my clients while in the fine food industry in Toronto in the 80’s. They fall easily to hand for me yet I’m sure they do not for many. Thanks Justin for sharing what you have learned so far in your career. Danielle and I wish you every success in your endeavour…

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