Want Richer, Beefier Broth? Add Meat Butter.

The umami-rich paste in marrow bones can give broth a beefy boost.

Published Apr. 25, 2022.

How long has it been since you made a proper beef stock for soup or stew? I’m talking about the kind where you pack a pot full of collagen-rich, bone-in cuts and leave it to gurgle softly for hours, until the beef gives up every bit of itself and smacks of primal, umami depth and silky richness. 

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Can’t remember? Me neither.

But there’s an easy way to get you pretty close: Add a few marrow bones to your soup or stew as it’s simmering. Marrow, the soft, flexible tissue found inside the bones, is responsible for red blood cell production in animals. It’s rich in amino acids, especially in glutamic acid, the primary compound responsible for the meaty taste called umami. It also contains a slew of volatile flavor compounds including diacetyl, a component of natural butter flavor. 

You may be familiar with bone marrow on restaurant menus, where the bones are cut lengthwise, roasted, and served with toasted or griddled bread on which you spread the rich paste. 

For broth-cooking purposes, you’ll want marrow bones that are cut crosswise. They’re often called soup bones, and are readily available in most supermarkets. Simply adding them to soup or stew as it simmers will lend the cooking liquid a subtle buttery taste.

How to Make Marrow Paste

At the end of cooking, you can scrape the soft paste from the bones and stir it into the broth to give it a beefy, rich boost. Think of it like meat butter. Here’s how to do it:

  1. After they’ve simmered, transfer bones to cutting board and use end of spoon to extract marrow.
  2. Mince marrow into paste and add a tablespoon or two to the broth. (Reserve any remaining marrow for other applications.)

Simple Pot Au Feu With Marrow Bones

Here’s a great recipe to get you going with marrow bones. It’s a simple pot au feu where the marrow does double duty: First, the bones simmer along with the chuck eye roast and basic aromatics, lending the broth body and depth. Then, when the beef is done, the bones are removed, and the marrow is scooped out, minced to a paste, and stirred into a mustardy herb sauce, where it adds some meaty unctuousness that balances the brightness. The sauce gets dabbed on individual portions of the sliced meat, and also passed at the table to flavor the broth.

Marrow bones give this streamlined pot au feu beefy, buttery richness.

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