When the New York Times “discovered” bone broth, you might have been a bit confused. Is making broth by simmering bones really new? It’s not, of course—professional and amateur cooks alike have been saving the bones to make broths for as long as we’ve had fire.
But thanks to trends towards both protein-rich and nose-to-tail cuisine, bone broth is having a moment. Customers line up at Hearth in New York to buy cups of bone broth from the Brodo takeout window, and head chef Marco Canora credits the slow-cooked elixir with rescuing his flagging health.
And paleo food blogs have pushed bone broth—the name is a bit redundant; all broth is made with bones—for a few years now. Fans talk up the health benefits of broths made by boiling animal bones, thanks to the minerals, vitamins, amino acids, collagen, and gelatin found in the final product. The trend has even made its way to four-legged household members, with the launch of Fancy Feast broth for cats.
Those benefits are the reason why people around the world have used bone broth as a healthy booster for centuries. In Chinese medicine, for example, bone broths are considered to build both blood and Qi (roughly translated as life force).
Whether you want to boost your health or you just want to make some great-tasting soups, here are five essential broths and classic, broth-based soups you’ll want to have in your culinary wheelhouse.
Seafood-based broths not as commonly used as those made from poultry or meat, but they definitely have a place in your kitchen. They’re a great base for dishes like laksa and bouillabaisse. When you make a fish broth, include the head as well—it’ll maximize the flavor and nutrients—and consider using the shells from crab or shrimp. Go for a non-oily white fish to avoid having too much oil in your broth.
Consommé is a flavorful, clear broth with a strong body made by adding egg whites, egg shells, protein (often ground beef), mirepoix (diced carrots, onions, and celery), and aromatics to a stock of your choice. A “raft” forms and rises to the top, filtering impurities from the stock as they get trapped as the liquid bubbles up through its strands, leaving behind an intense liquid that’s traditionally served with minimal garnishes.
A rich broth, flavored with a variety of spices and aromatics, is key to a successful bowl of Vietnamese pho. Similarities to the French simmered beef dish pot-au-feu are not accidental—Vietnamese cuisine does have French influences. Beef bones are the base for the broth, but spices like cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom are also important.
Don’t just toss the carcass when you roast a turkey—it makes the perfect base for a great broth. You can cook it in a large pot on the stove, or make it in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, because unlike a consommé it doesn’t require any special attention or monitoring. A classic mixture of carrots, onions, celery, rosemary, and thyme is all you need to get a quality broth, and the formula works just as well with the carcass of a roasted chicken.
Okay, it doesn’t sound appetizing. But a broth made with chicken feet is actually really delicious, and a great way to use a part of the animal that is often ignored. If you aren’t sure where to find chicken feet, check with a poultry seller at your local market, ask a butcher, or go to an Asian market. As a bonus, the feet are cheap—much less expensive than buying chicken specifically to make broth. Simmering them with ginger and star anise makes for a mineral-rich broth that’s perfect for ramen.
In her book Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture, Rosemary Gong shares the recipe for black vinegar pigs’ feet. This dark, rich broth is brightened with ginger, bars of Chinese brown sugar, and a hefty dose of balsamic-like Chinese black vinegar. It’s served during a new mother’s early weeks of nursing, as it’s believed to have restorative powers and boost her breast milk supply. Filled with fall-apart tender chunks of pork, it’s satisfying for everyone, not just nursing mothers.
Terri Coles is a freelance writer living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She’s a recovering picky eater.