When I first started making my own bone broth, I used to do it on the stovetop, attentively skimming the bubbling concoction like some Shakespearean beldame for freaking hours. Honestly, I hated it. Which meant I didn’t bother to make my own very often, especially since it was relatively easy to pop out and pick up a paleo friendly package or two from the store. But then a few things changed for me: I started following the AIP, which made it much harder to find compliant pre-made versions. The AIP also meant that my usual egg based paleo breakfasts were out, which made me more adventurous. In turn, that meant I discovered my love for breakfast soup (yes, perhaps I have more in common with the aforementioned sorceress types!), which meant I needed to buy large amounts of broth. Lastly, I finally treated myself to an Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker that also takes the place of a slow cooker, yogurt maker, rice cooker and many other appliances, all in one!
But the best thing about the Instant Pot, though? It speeds up the formerly time consuming and stinky process (seriously, why does bone broth smell fantastic when it’s done, but smell like sulfurous hell when it’s being made?!) of making bone broth could be done and in the fridge to cool in under three hours. Which was the incentive I needed to start regularly making my own, nutrient dense bone broth as the base of all my soups, while saving money on that boxed stuff, too. That’s what I call winning!
To Gel Or Not To Gel?
I see lots of people worrying about whether or not their bone broth gels, as though a gelatinous broth is the gold standard and other broth is subpar. The fact is, there is plenty of good stuff and flavor in un-gelled bone broth, both extracted from the bones themselves, as well as the cartilage and any leftover meat still attached to the bones you use. And just because you can’t visually see gelatin in the form of a hard set, doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of collagen in your broth. It’s all about the concentration of your broth and the types of bones you use.
The less water you use, the more concentrated your broth will be. This is especially true when you’re using an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, since no water is lost through evaporation like it is making bone broth in a slow cooker or on the stove top. Personally, since I use my Instant Pot bone broth to make large batches of breakfast soup, I don’t worry about achieving an uber gelatinous broth as that would mean purposefully buying extra, specifically gelatinous bones to add to my bone broth, instead of simply using what I have. When it comes to gelling, I go with the flow.
I prefer to keep things really simple and usually make my Instant Pot chicken broth from the carcasses of whole chickens that I’ve roasted for meals and then saved. It keeps everything really economical that way, since buying whole chickens is cheaper than buying pieces. If you want a more concentrated Instant Pot chicken broth, just add enough water to cover the bones; if you want your broth to stretch a little further for soup, fill the insert to just beneath the “max fill” line.
If you are looking to increase the gel of your Instant Pot chicken broth, try adding bones like necks and feet. If those aren’t an option for you, chicken wings are inexpensive and easier to find! (Serious Eats actually recommends using chicken wings for broth here). You’ll end up with a lot of extra fat if you use lots of additional chicken wings, so you can either avoid that by removing the skin from the wings or you can embrace the fat! What do I mean? Well, if you’ve got lots of fat, you’ll get a lovely airtight seal when you divide the broth into mason jars and refrigerate them, forming a nice hardened layer of fat on top. That will help prolong the life of your bone broth safely, since it prevents the air from getting to the broth and spoiling it.
Do You Reuse Your Bones?
That sounded really weird when I read it aloud in my head… but I promise it’s not as bizarre as it seems! As I’ve mentioned before, I make a lot of soup. I’m talking at least one 7 quart vat of soup per week, to use as a base for my Meatified Method. Yes, I said “vat”. You can pry my giant enameled cast iron dutch oven outta my cold, dead hands, people. So making quarts of soup per week… means I go through more broth than the average person, I’d bet, since both Mr Meatified and I start off the day with a big ol’ bowl of breakfast soup made from my Instant pot bone broth and a ton of vegetables.
It’s pretty hard to find AIP friendly pre made bone broths. And, honestly, the kind of companies who make and package the specialty broths that are compliant… just aren’t in my price range. I mean, “artisanal” “sipping broths” sound fancy AF and I’m glad that more options are being made available to people: but I’m not made of money. Even the mass produced cartons of broth you can find in stores (assuming you can find an AIP compliant one) aren’t cheap, especially if you need to go through the volume that I do each week. Which got me thinking: how much could I stretch my usual soup bones when it came to making my own Instant Pot chicken broth? (I’m planning on running a similar test for beef bones later on).
So, to start with, I made a batch of my usual plain-jane Instant Pot chicken broth. I don’t personally like to muddy the flavor up with added vegetables, so my recipe is as simple as it gets: chicken bones, water, apple cider vinegar and a smidge of salt. That’s it. I just don’t need anything fancier if I’m using it to make soup. I save the bones from all the meats I cook, whether that’s from whole chickens, pork ribs or lamb chops or bone in roasts, then toss them into the freezer to keep. When I have enough to make a batch of broth, I fire up the Instant Pot.
A side note: I’ll happily mix pork bones in with chicken or lamb with beef, but never across those divides. I find it makes for a strange flavor and beef or lamb can become really overpowering unless you really want that specific flavor. Since this was a chicken broth experiment, I kept it simple and used just chicken bones from the carcasses of birds I had roasted for meals. My basic method is to fill the Instant Pot until it is about 2/3 full with bones, add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar, some salt and then just cover the bones with water, making sure to stay under the “max fill” line. (An important note: these batches of broth are based on the 6 quart Instant Pot model, although I hear rumors that a new, larger 8 quart model is going to become available).
So here are three different jars, each containing a different batch of Instant Pot chicken broth once they’ve been refrigerated overnight. Which one looks the best to you? Which one do you think has the most nutrient dense profile?
These are actually the same three jars I showed you earlier, simply rearranged so that the first batch is at the front. You might think: the golden batch that was at the front earlier looked way better! And yet, the batch up at the front now, despite being more cloudy and nowhere near as pretty is probably the most nutrient dense, since it was made with totally fresh bones. So here’s the rundown on the three different batches:
This was a batch made with totally fresh (no reused) bones and was cooked in the Instant Pot for 2 hours. It’s the most opaque because it has a significant near-solid gel, due to the high gelatin content which makes it appear a little cloudy once it’s chilled and set. This has a rich chicken scent and a thick layer of fat on top which made for a perfect, airtight seal. This was the best tasting batch of the lot.
This batch was made by reusing all of the bones from the first batch, plus the addition of another, whole, fresh chicken carcass. Adding the extra bones makes up for the way in which the whole carcasses cook down in size in the first batch. I cooked this batch for a total of 4 hours at pressure in the Instant Pot. Ostensibly the better looking cousin to the first batch, this one does have a rough set, which means there is still enough gelatin in the batch to be visible and “jiggly”, without being a solid set like the first batch. Plenty of good stuff going on here, still: this broth has a lighter but still noticeable chicken scent and just enough fat to form a seal on top.
This final jar was simply all of the bones from the prior batch. I gave it even more time than the 2nd batch to give the Instant Pot a chance to extract as much as was possible, so this was cooked at pressure for a total of 6 hours. Although it has a definite chicken scent to it, there is no gel at all and it is noticeably paler in color when compared to the other batches. Basically, it’s Hot Ham Water. I still went ahead and used this for making soup, but it certainly wasn’t the most flavorful batch of the lot! There was also almost no fat left behind, which meant this broth would have to be used within 5 days or less to avoid spoilage. All that said, longer cooking times (in total, most of the bones in this batch have been cooked for 12 hours) are supposed to help extract all the nutrients from the bones, so while it’s not the tastiest, it’s probably still got some good nutrition there.
So, the verdict: reusing your bones once, with an additional top off of some fresh bones, gives you the best bang for your buck, producing a broth that’s almost as rich and nutritious as a batch made with 100% fresh bones. Reusing everything again a third time? Not really worth it, unless you’re desperate for extra soup broth that’s a little more nutritious than just using plain water. If I were to make a long cooked broth for maximum nutrition, I’d simply cook one batch for an increased length of time: that way, you’re getting the flavor of the fresh bones and the nutrition of the long cooked broth all in one.
Using this method, I can get 3 – 4 quarts in the first batch, add a few additional bones, then repeat the process for another 3 – 4 quarts. I like to store my Instant Pot chicken broth in wide mouthed quart sized mason jars, which make it easy to pour into my big soup batches.
- PREP: Add your bones to the stainless steel insert of the Instant Pot. On the 6 quart model, they should come up to about ⅔ of the height of the insert. Add the apple cider vinegar and salt, then add enough cold water to just cover the bones. You can add more water if you wish (see notes), but never exceed the "max fill" line on the insert.
- PRESSURE: Place the insert into the body of the Instant Pot and plug it in. Check the rubber ring on the inside of the lid, that the metal cover for the vent and seal is in place and unblocked, then make sure that the weight can move freely in the lid before placing it on top and turning it clockwise to close. Turn the knob on top of the lid to the "sealing" position. Press the "Manual" button on the control panel once and the display will show "30" for a 30 minute cooking time. Press the "-" button to count down to "0". When the display hits "0", press it once more so that it shows "120", which is the max cooking time. In a few seconds, the machine will beep so that you know it has begun to build pressure, which will take about 30 minutes. Once the full 2 hour cooking time has finished, the Instant Pot will alert you with another beep and your broth is done!
- RELEASE: You can just leave the Instant Pot to slowly release pressure on its own, which will take an hour or so. If you don't have time for that, you can use the quick release method. I wear a silicone glove on my hand to carefully slide the knob from the sealing position towards the "venting" position, but not all the way. This allows you to release the pressure slowly and makes it less likely that scalding hot liquid will spray out through the vent! Be careful. Gradually open the vent until it is fully open and allow the steam to release, dropping the pressure until it releases and you can open the lid.
- STRAIN: Carefully (use those mitts again!) transfer the stainless steel insert to a cooling rack or trivet. Use a slotted spoon to remove large pieces of bones to a large bowl or tray, discarding any large pieces of meat you might have. Once all the large pieces have been removed and saved, carefully pour the broth through a fine mesh sieve into a very large bowl with a spout or a heat friendly gallon sized pitcher to make it easy to pour into quart size mason jars (see notes).
- REUSE: Once you've poured your broth into jars, you can start over! I transfer all of the old bones -- less any discarded meat - back to the insert of the Instant Pot. I then top off the pot with enough additional bones so that it is ⅔ full again, then repeat the apple cider vinegar and cold water additions. Now you're ready to start another batch! If you like, you can increase the cooking time so that it totals 4 hours instead of 2, to really get the most out of these bones. Repeat the steps for releasing, straining and jarring your broth, then finally discard all the bones.
Concentration: You'll get the richest broth if you just cover the bones you use with cold water. You can add more water if you wish (never above the max fill line), but be aware that you won't get the best gel, if that's important for you.
Frozen bones: I save bones from meals and collect them in my freezer until I have enough for a batch of broth. You can use entirely frozen bones in the Instant Pot, but be aware that it may error out, failing to reach pressure, because of the lowered overall temperature of the Instant Pot contents. If that happens, simply reset your Instant Pot: it should seal on the second attempt. This will add a little extra time to your broth making (about half an hour), but otherwise won't affect the outcome.
Sediment: I find that I still have a very fine layer of sediment at the bottom of my broth after using a mesh sieve. I don't personally mind this, since I use my broth primarily for blending into large batches of vegetable soups. If it bothers you, you can either run your broth through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth again, or simply not use the very bottom of your broth.
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. See my affiliate link policy here. AMAZON DISCLOSURE: The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including, but not limited to, amazon.com, endless.com, myhabit.com, smallparts.com, or amazonwireless.com.