I rarely use beef stock, although I occasionally stumble across recipes that require it. During winter, I dedicate a large amount of freezer real estate to tubs of chicken stock; something I make often and use frequently. However homemade stock can take up a lot of room, and I just don’t have the space to also store large quantities of the lesser-used beef stock. To overcome this problem, yet still have supplies of homemade beef stock on hand, I make my own beef stock cubes.
Homemade beef stock cubes have all the convenience of a commercial stock cube, without the additives. They also contain a lot more beef. Read the ingredient list on almost any commercial stock cube. Beef is often listed as 2 – 3% of the total ingredients. The remainder of a commercial cube contains salt, sugar(s), modified starches, oils, yeast extracts and flavour enhancers, many present in larger amounts than the beef extract after which the cube is named.
I’m not going to lie. Making your own beef stock cubes does require a significant time investment. However, as I use a slow cooker to make the stock, the actual hands-on time is minimal. Beef bones are thicker and denser than chicken bones, so it takes longer to draw vitamins, minerals and gelatin out of the bones and into the stock. The longer the bones are simmered, the better the stock will be. I simmer beef bones for up to two days in my largest slow cooker, topping up the liquid level with boiling water as required. After a few days of largely ignoring the slow cooker, I am rewarded with a deeply flavourful stock.
After trial and error (mainly error) I have discovered it is better to let the stock cool before reducing it. Cooling the stock allows the fat to solidify on top, and it becomes easy to scoop off. Reserve any fat removed from the stock for other uses. I like to keep it beside the stove for frying. If the fat is not removed before the stock is concentrated, it will become emulsified in the stock itself resulting in a greasy stock cube. Not that I would know anything about that.
Stock cubes will keep in the fridge for at least a month due to the reduced water content. As I don’t use them that often, I prefer to store them in the freezer, where they will last at least twelve months. This process can also be used to make chicken stock cubes. And if you can’t be bothered making stock cubes, and have valuable freezer space to spare, just make the beef stock. At least you will know exactly what is in your food.
Kitchen Basics: How to Make Beef Stock Cubes
I use a large 6L slow cooker to make the stock, and the quantities given below are for this. If you are using a smaller slow cooker, adjust your quantities accordingly.
Each stock cube will make 1 cup of beef stock.
- 2.5 kg beef bones
- 2 onions cut into 8ths
- 6 - 8 medium mushrooms halved
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large carrots roughly chopped
- 3 large stalks celery roughly chopped
- Small bunch parsley
- 2 leaves bay
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 cup red wine
To make the beef stock
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced).
- Spread the beef bones in a single layer over a large baking tray.
- Tuck the onions and mushrooms into the gaps between the bones.
- Roast the bones for 30-40 minutes, or until the bones have browned and the onions softened.
- Whilst the bones are roasting, place the carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns in the bottom of a large slow cooker
- Remove the tray from the oven, and transfer the roasted bones and vegetables to the slow cooker.
- Pour the red wine over the bones, and then fill the slow cooker with water.
- Turn the slow cooker onto low.
- Allow to simmer for as long as possible, and for up to 2 days (48 hours). Keep an eye on the liquid level in the slow cooker, and top up with hot water as required.
To concentrate the stock
- Strain the stock, taking care to remove all of the vegetables and bones.
- Place the strained stock into the fridge, allowing it to cool completely. This will allow the fat that has rendered out of the bones to set into a solid layer on the top of the stock.
- Remove the fat layer from the top of the stock. This fat can be saved and used for cooking.
- Heat the stock in a large saucepan, bringing it to a gentle simmer.
- Continue to simmer the stock for 40 - 60 minutes, during which time it will reduce considerably.
- The stock has concentrated enough when it appears thicker, and has taken on a shiny, syrupy appearance.
To make the stock cubes
- Line a 14cm x 19cm x 5cm container with silicone-lined baking paper.
- Gently pour the reduced stock into the lined container, and place in the fridge for 6 -8 hours to set.
- Once set, remove from the container, and chop the beef stock into 4cm x 5cm cubes.
- These cubes will last in the fridge for a few weeks, however I prefer to freeze them until required.
To use the stock cubes
- Place the stock cube in a jug or container that has volume markings on it.
- Fill the jug to the 1 cup measure with boiling water.
- Allow to sit for 2 minutes.
- Stir to thoroughly dissolve the stock cube.
- Use as required.
Stacey @ TheSmellyOnion
Hi Tania – this is so cool! I usually substitute vegetable broth for beef stock in recipes because I don’t want to use the stuff from the store. Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to try it out soon
Thanks Stacey. I’m like you, and usually substitute chicken stock for beef if I don’t have any of these in the freezer, for exactly the same reason 🙂 Some dishes just really need that beefy hit though, which is why these stock cubes are great.
Can’t wait to try this out. Just wondering what i can use instead of the wine.
You need to use something acidic Paula that will help dissolve the minerals out of the bones. The alcohol in the wine is driven off during the cooking process, and there is none left in the finished stock. However if you wish to avoid wine altogether then you could use a little apple cider vinegar. You will only need a Tablespoon or two, not a cup as you do for wine. The wine adds flavour as well as the acidic action, whereas you do not want to be able to taste the vinegar. The actual amount of vinegar you will need will depend on how much stock you are making, so I cannot give you an absolute amount. I would err on the side of caution and add only a little though, and just make sure you cook the bones for a long time. The long cooking will help leach the bones, and you will still get a lovely stock even without the wine.
Thank you so much 🙂
Liz Posmyk (Good Things)
Fantastic! How long do they keep and what’s the best way to keep them?
I always freeze them Liz, so have had them last for at least 8 months (which was how long it took me to use them all 🙂 ). I shallow freeze them first, then vacuum pack them into small packets (three to a pack). That way I only have one packet open at a time. They don’t seem to get freezer burn though, even in the open packet. If you don’t have access to a vacuum packer I would pack them into small zip lock bags and try to get as much air out as possible. I can’t give you a definitive answer as to how long they would keep in the in the fridge as I prefer to freeze them.
Hi there. Just wondering how you store the leftover fat, and also, how do you make this in a saucepan if you don’t have a slow cooker? (ie. How long for, what temperature etc). Thanks!
Hi Rebecca. I store my leftover fat in a jar in the fridge. If you are going to use it quickly, this will be fine for a week or so. If you wish to keep it longer you can either freeze it or clarify it to remove the water. To clarify the fat, reheat the fat until it melts, which will allow any liquid trapped in the fat to drop out. Allow it to cool & re-solidify, then pry the fat layer off the liquid layer. I use it for frying vegetables etc so don’t normally bother with this step as I use it quite quickly.
As to making the stock in a saucepan: Use the biggest possible pot you have. Make the stock as detailed up to the point of putting it in a slow cooker, and add to the pot instead. Bring the pot up to a simmer, then allow to simmer on a very low heat for as long as possible. If making stock on the stove, I allow it to simmer all day when I am home, turn the burner off at night and cover with a lid. If the weather is cool I leave the pot on the stove. If it is hot I transfer the pot to the fridge. I would probably do this for three days rather than two, but I work from home so this is easy for me to say 🙂 Simmer it as long as you can. Anything you make will be better than store bought. Once you have simmered it as long as possible, proceed as detailed above in the recipe.
This sounds like a great idea! I hadn’t thought the gelatin would be enough to congeal solidly, but it makes sense it would, especially after concentrating! I’m definitely tired of taking up so much freezer space for stock, and might just have to try this out. 🙂
If you make a good stock it should have enough gelatin, which is why it is important to simmer the bones fr a long time. The very best chicken stock I have ever made wobbled when cold, even without any reduction 🙂 If you have limited freezer space it is a great way to still have homemade stock on hand.
Hi Tania, I am like everyone else. I think it is a fab idea. I tend to use chicken stock all the time as I never have beef stock. I will definitely try this.
Thanks Glenda. I do the same as you, but sometimes you just need a little beef stock.
I can’t use onion, and so homemade stocks often end up insipid. What can I use to replace this?
To be honest Anita, I’m not too sure. That is a pain for you being unable to eat onion as it is in so many dishes:(
I recently read that celery, when cooked for a long time, boosts the umami flavour of a dish, so I would probably add more celery. I would also at least double the amount of mushrooms, and maybe drop in a cut up tomato. Both of these should add a bit of depth. Also add just one star anise to the simmering stock, as this will help emphasise the beefy flavour. You could also try reducing all of your stocks a little to concentrate the flavours more. And if reconstituting these stock cubes, use less water (or more cubes) to make the stock stronger. I hope that helps somewhat.
I’m having trouble converting the size of pan you use from cm to inches.
Can you help?
Hi Stephanie. And I have problems converting to inches 🙂 I have an app on my phone now to try and convert American recipes, and sometimes it still makes no sense to me. Maybe you can find an online converter you like.
Don’t get too caught up in the size of the pan though. It isn’t all that important. You just need to ensure your pan is big enough to hold all of the reduced stock. The stock cubes will turn out different sizes each time, as their size will depend on how much you reduce the stock by initially. When reconstituting the stock, I just add one to hot water, and if the stock is not strong enough for the dish I just add another.
Thanks Tania. I have beef bones in oven to roast right now and will proceed with your instructions. I can’t wait for the finished product with No Salt !
Pleasure Stephanie. That is the great thing about making your own. You have control of your ingredients. I just made a batch of chicken stock cubes using the same technique, which worked out really well.