Beef stock has a distinctive flavor. I don’t make it that often; I only use it in recipes where beef is the main ingredient.
*And because I never have beef bones just lying around, like I do leftover chicken carcasses.
I purchase beef bones specifically to make stock. Great stock needs bones, marrow and meat. For me, this means shanks and oxtails, which I can usually buy at my local store under the name of beef soup bones. The bones and marrow are full of connective tissue and gelatin, which gives the stock body; the meat gives the stock its flavor.
It is not as versatile as neutrally flavored chicken stock, but when I need beef stock, I REALLY need it. Beef soup is not the same with chicken stock as the base. Beef stock shouts “I came from beef! I was raised on the open range!” Beef stock isn’t a culinary chameleon; It knows what it is, and is proud of it.
My recipe is based on a few sources; Alton Brown showed me the basics, Michael Ruhlman explained the the ratios that underlay the technique, and Heston Blumenthal researched the perfect beef stock method. I’ve sung the praises of pressure cookers before, but they really are the perfect vessel to make stock. Of course, pressure cooking is faster; an hour under pressure does the work of five hours of simmering. More important is the flavor – pressure cooker stock just tastes better! As Mr. Blumenthal discovered, cooking under pressure extracts more flavor into the liquid, and those flavors are trapped by the sealed environment of the pressure cooker. As the pressure cooker cools down, the volatile flavors that would normally boil off are trapped, and condense back into the broth. The result is the ultimate in beefy goodness.
Experience has taught me a few other things about pressure cooker beef stock:
- The sealed environment of the pressure cooker means no evaporation. When I used my typical 3:2 ratio of water to beef, the stock was a little watery. I prefer an equal amount of beef and water. Since a pint is a pound, that means two cups of water per pound of beef.
- A cup of red wine adds a hint of acid and fruit flavors to the stock
- tomato paste adds umami, which deepens all the other flavors
- Peppercorns, and star anise or bay leaf, add a taste of spice. Star anise gives a subtle Asian slant to the broth; bay leaf is more traditional. I keep flip flopping on which I like better.
- Shanks and oxtails are fatty cuts of meat, so the stock is better after defatting. I store it in the refrigerator overnight, which makes the fat congeal on top of the stock. Once it is solid, it is easy to lift off in large chunks.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Beef Stock
Adapted from: Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck Cookbook
- 6 to 12 quart Pressure Cooker (I use this one: Kuhn Rikon 12-Quart Family Stockpot Pressure Cooker)
Pressure Cooker Beef Stock. Rich and full of body, done in a couple of hours thanks to the pressure cooker.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 pounds meaty beef shanks and oxtails
- 1 large onion, trimmed, peeled, and sliced thin
- 2 large carrots, trimmed, peeled and sliced thin
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine (optional)
- 1 dried star anise pod (or substitute 2 bay leaves)
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 2 quarts of water, or a little more to cover the ingredients
- Brown the beef in two batches: Heat the vegetable oil in the pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half the beef and sear for 3 minutes per side, or until well browned. Remove the beef to a bowl, add the second batch of beef, and brown for 3 minutes per side. Add to the bowl with the rest of the beef.
- Saute the aromatics: Add the onions and carrots to the pot and saute for 5 minutes, or until just stoftened. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste darkens and the onions start to brown on their edges.
- Deglaze the pot, add the beef: (Optional, but a good idea.) Add the red wine, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot thoroughly to loosen up any browned bits. Add the beef and any juices in the bowl, then add the water, which should just cover the beef.
- Pressure cook the stock: Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and bring the cooker up to high pressure. Lower the heat to maintain the pressure at high and cook for 1 hour. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the pressure to release naturally, usually about 20 minutes.
- Strain the stock: Strain the stock into another large pot through a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth.
- Defat the stock: (Optional, but a good idea) Refrigerate the stock overnight, or up to 2 days, so the fat floats to the surface and forms a hard cap. Remove the fat cap from the top of the stock.
- Scraping the congealed fat from the surface
- Look at how much gelatin that has!
- Use or freeze the stock: Use the stock immediately, or freeze for later use. I portion the stock into 1 quart containers (for soups) and 2 cup containers (for pan sauces) before freezing.
- I portion the stock into both 1 quart and 2 cup containers for freezing.
- If you want to make more (or less) stock, here’s the ratio I use:
- 1 pound beef (mix of meaty shanks and oxtails)
- 2 cups water (a pint’s a pound the world around)
- 1/4 pound aromatics (mostly onions, some carrots)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 star anise (or 1/2 bay leaf)
- 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
- As I mentioned in the opening, the big advantage to making stock in the pressure cooker is the sealed cooking vessel. Flavor compounds that would boil off are trapped in the pressure cooker, and condense back into the stock, giving it extra flavor. If the pressure cooker is venting, it loses those flavors to the air – they smell great, but they are not in the stock any more. What does this mean? The best stock is made with a second generation pressure cooker, one that doesn’t vent steam when it is at high pressure. Also, when cooling the stock down, don’t use a quick release method that vents steam – let the heat come down naturally. By not venting steam during the cooking, the trapped flavor compounds condense back into the stock where we want them.
- Red wine – I avoid Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, both of which tend to be made with a lot of oak. I prefer cheap blends in the Cote Du Rhone style; look for wines with a mix of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.
- Don’t have a pressure cooker? Make stock in your oven for a long, slow, even simmer. Use the ingredients from this recipe with the following oven-simmering technique: Turkey Stock Done Right. Simmer in the oven for 5 hours.
- I saved the beef from the shanks, even though I know it has given up most of its flavor to the stock. I pulled the shanks out of the pot before straining, let them cool down, then pulled the meat from the bones and shredded it with my fingers. I added some of it to the batch of vegetable beef and noodle soup I made the next day, and put the rest in the stock I was freezing for later.
- What to do with all that stock? It’s time to make soup! See the Related Posts section for ideas.
Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Secret ingredients in your stock recipe? Leave them in the comments section below.
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