If roasting turkey is labor then making Turkey Bone Broth is the glorious afterbirth. Shall we get into it?
- What is Turkey Bone Broth
- Difference Between Bone Broth and Stock
- Health and Dietary Considerations of Turkey Bone Broth
- Ingredients You Need for Turkey Bone Broth
- Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Instructions for How to Make Turkey Bone Broth
- Pro Tips and Techniques for Turkey Bone Broth
- Tools and Equipment
- How to Store and Freeze Turkey Bone Broth
- How to Use Turkey Bone Broth
- Turkey Bone Broth Recipe
- Afterthoughts on Leftover Turkey and Making Stock
What is Turkey Bone Broth
Turkey bone broth is a simple stock made by simmering roasted turkey bones with water over a long period of time—like 8 to 10 even 24 hours long! It also has aromatic vegetables like garlic and onions added at the end to enhance the flavor and nutrient content.
The bone broth is great to use as a base for soups and stews, or in any recipe that calls for some version of "stock." You can sip on a steaming mug of bone broth straight up, as many do to support various aspects of health.
Difference Between Bone Broth and Stock
Wait, so what's the difference between bone broth and stock? So glad you asked because they're kind of the same thing, made in similar ways, but different depending on the application.
In regular cooking terms, a broth generally refers to a liquid made from meat and maybe a few bones and simmered for a shorter period of time, i.e. 1-2 hours. The resulting broth is lighter in both color and flavor, and doesn't gel. Broth is great as base for soups.
Stock, on the other hand, refers to a liquid made primarily from bones with some bits of meat and skin attached and simmered for a long time to extract flavor. The resulting stock is deeper in color, sometimes because the bones are roasted before simmering, and flavor. Stock usually sets into a gel texture when chilled and is great for braises in which you want a thick braising liquid, sauces, and gravies.
Bone broth, confusingly enough, is actually more like a stock, and when it's called "bone broth," these days we consider it a liquid that has simmered for even longer than plain stock to truly extract as much collagen, glucosamine, and amino acids out of the bones.
Health and Dietary Considerations of Turkey Bone Broth
As printed, this Turkey Bone Broth recipe is:
- dairy-free, if your turkey was roasted without butter and other dairy ingredients
- keto- paleo- and Whole30 compliant
This of course, depends on how you initially roasted the turkey. If the original roast turkey was brined with sugar, basted with butter, or marinated in any way with ingredients that contain gluten e.g. soy sauce, your bone broth will have some degree of these ingredients as well.
Ingredients You Need for Turkey Bone Broth
Turkey Bone Broth is essentially two ingredients: 1) turkey bones and 2) water.
If you simmer just bones and water, you will get a nutrient- and collagen-rich broth with that characteristic gelatinous jiggle that's perfect to add body and umami to soups, braises, sauces, and gravy. However, you can greatly enhance basic bone broth's flavor by adding aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices. This will make the bone broth into something drinkable right out of a mug, which is what you want to be doing all winter and maybe even year long.
Here are the ingredients you need:
- Turkey carcass from your Holiday dinner, including the skin and the drippings in the pan if you didn't already use them for gravy.
- Onions or leeks
- Mushrooms are optional
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Thyme and other herbs
Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Turkey Leftover Carcass. The ingredients and directions here are for making Roasted Turkey Stock, assuming you are using the leftover bones from a 12- to 18-pound whole roast turkey.
- Wings, neck, and back. All the little bits of bones that you might normally throw away before roasting a turkey, don't. Save them, then throw them into the pot (it's ok if they're not roasted) with the roasted leftover bones. Wings and backbone actually contribute quite a bit of collagen.
- Water. Normally not listed as an ingredient in recipes, water gets a special highlight here because the kind of water matters for the best bone broth. Obviously use filtered water, and make sure it is COLD water.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. I use this brand of apple cider vinegar.
- All other vegetables, herbs and produce I get from the the regular grocery store.
Instructions for How to Make Turkey Bone Broth
I wasn't kidding when I said if you can boil water, you can make Turkey Bone Broth. Literally put everything in a large pot, bring to boil, then simmer for hours. Once the broth has simmered out, there are just a few additional steps to filter and cool.
Here are the high-level steps to make a glorious golden Roast Turkey bone Broth:
1. Place bones and apple cider vinegar in large pot, fill with water to cover bones by an inch, then simmer 8-12 hours. Add vegetables in last hour, herbs in last 20 minutes.
2. Strain broth into a large bowl fit inside a larger bowl filled with ice water to turbo-cool the broth before putting in refrigerator.
3. Chill the bone broth in the refrigerator overnight to let any fat rise to the top and solidify.
4. Scrape off solidified fat from surface of broth, and transfer the gelled broth to storage containers to future enjoyment!
Pro Tips and Techniques for Turkey Bone Broth
- Prep in advance. You don't have to make a trip to the market for a whole new set of ingredients to make bone broth. As you prep for dinner, save an onion, a few carrots, and a couple of stalks of celery for your future turkey bone broth. If you plan to season the stock with herbs, save a few sprigs of thyme, too.
- Simmer, not boil. Except for the initial boil to get the pot up to temperature, maintain the temperature at a very gentle simmer. You simply cannot turn up the heat and boil it to make it faster. The whole point of a bone broth is using time to extract all the good stuff, i.e. collagen, nutrients, and of course, umami. A rough and rowdy boil will stir up to much junk and make the broth cloudy and emulsified with oil.
- Add vegetables later. Vegetables don't need to cook as long as bones do for flavor. In fact, simmering vegetables for too long changes their flavor, and not in a good way. Add the vegetables for the last hour of simmering.
- Add herbs very last. If you love the flavor of fresh herbs, add them last. Herbs need even less time than all those sturdy vegetables to cook. Toss them into the pot the last 20-30 minutes of the cook time, if at all.
- Skip the herbs. I leave herbs, spices, and seasonings out completely, so that the bone broth is a neutral flavor base to which I can add herbs and spices at the time I plan to consume it. Broths and stocks cross cuisines and the flavor of rosemary in the stock now, which is great for an all-American pot pie, might taste weird in an Indian curry later.
- Use a coffee filter. For crystal clear bone broth, pour the cooled bone broth through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
- DO NOT PUT HOT STOCK IN THE REFRIGERATOR to cool down. The stock will make it too warm in the refrigerator, compromising the safety of the foods in there.
Tools and Equipment
- Stock Pot: I use a very large stock pot by this cookware company. It has a heavy bottom and easy-to-hold handles. Any large pot that fits the ingredients will do. A large Dutch oven is great for this.
- Slow Cooker: I have this 6-quart programmable slow cooker. If you are going to use a slow-cooker, I highly recommend getting/using a slow-cooker that has a timer or auto-shut-off so you can truly "set it, and forget it," which is kind of the point of a slow-cooker, imho.
- Stainless steel tongs
- Large bowls, one that fits within the other. I use both stainless steel and glass mixing bowls.
- Quart sized mason jars
- Plastic sealing lids for jars. Get rid of those annoying two-piece metal lids that come with mason jars (unless you're doing actual canning) and get wide-mouth lids for the larger jars, and wide-mouth smaller jars
- Plastic storage containers: I keep a decent supply of these plastic quart (32 ounces) containers for any- and everything. The containers are technically "disposable," but they can be used a few times with hand-washing between uses. The best thing, though, is freezer-safe glass. Always make sure the stock is cool before pouring into any type of storage container.
- Large format ice cube trays. If you plan to make and freeze bone borth for the rest of your life, these "souper cube" trays specifically dedicated to broths and soups are great to have.
How to Store and Freeze Turkey Bone Broth
Refrigerator. You can keep Turkey Bone Broth in the refrigerator for 5 days. I like to use large mason jars with sealing plastic lids.
Freezer. You can freeze Turkey Bone Broth and keep for about 3 months. Here are a few ways to freeze Turkey Bone Broth:
- The way that works best for how I maintain my freezer is ladling bone broth directly into freezer-safe quart-sized bags, squeezing out all the air, sealing, and laying flat in the freezer until the broth freezes. Then I stand them up and line them up like thin books on a bookshelf. If you're looking to reduce single-use plastic, these are re-usable ziptop bags.
- Use large format ice cube trays to freeze Turkey Bone Broth into ½-cup or 1-cup servings, pop out the frozen cubes, and throw into a freezer-safe bag.
- Yes, you can put glass mason jars in the freezer. Just make sure to leave at least 1½-inch of air space at the top of the jar and freeze with the lid lightly closed. Once, the bone broth is frozen completely, you can close the lid completely. Make sure the keep the jars on freezer shelves that will hold the jars in place.
How to Use Turkey Bone Broth
Use Turkey Bone Broth the same way you would use any other bone broth. I always have grand plans to make something fancy with my Turkey Bone Broth, but end up with the same basic-is-best way, sipping it by the mugful with a few pinches of salt, ginger, and turmeric all winter long. Here are some more place Turkey Bone Broth shines:
- Turkey (Chicken) Meatballs and Bok Choy in Ginger Miso Broth
- Enrich a Ginger Miso Soba Noodle Soup
- Turkey Vegetable Soup
- Deer Valley Turkey Chili
- Pot Pie with a Puff Pastry Crust
A: Yes! You can make turkey bone broth anytime later, up to about a month, if you properly store the leftover carcass. Throw the bones into an airtight/zipper bag. If you plan to make the stock in the next day or two, you can keep the bones in the refrigerator. If you want to wait for more than a few days, break down the carcass a little at natural joints so they'll fit into the pot later, and throw the bag of bones into the freezer. It will keep in the freezer for a month. You don't even have to thaw the bones out before simmering, though they maybe more difficult to fit into the pot.
A: The cloudiness the the result of little droplets of fat and other blobules that get emulsified into the liquid when the stock is boiled a little too hard. Think of it as the same thing that happens when you vigorously whisk oil into vinegar for a well blended salad dressing.
A. Cloudy bone broth is definitely safe to eat and generally tastes the same though the texture may be slightly oilier. If you've ever had certain soups and noodles soups, cloudy broth is actually what you want!
A: To prevent cloudy stock, keep the heat low and only allow the broth to simmer. This also means you may have to add water to the pot at some point during the simmering process if too much water evaporates. You can fix some of the cloudiness by filtering the bone broth through a coffee filter or a very fine sieve, or by "clarifying" it by cracked egg whites only into the simmer broth. The fat and other blobs will stick to the eggs white as it cooks, and you can just lift the egg white out when it's done.
A: There are a few reasons your bone broth didn't gel, but the base reason is that there's not enough collagen in the broth. Collagen is the substance that causes gelling and can be found in the gristly, cartilaginous bits and joints of bones. To maximize extraction, you need to add an acid to help break down the bones, simmer for longer, and make sure there are more of collagen-rich bits like necks, wing tips, skin with the fat rendered out and, you guessed it, feet.
Turkey Bone Broth Recipe
- turkey carcass including skin
- any juices collected from the serving platter
- 2-3 quarts filtered water
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 carrots washed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2-3 celery stalks washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large onion and or leek peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 head garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- optional: 5-6 shiitake mushrooms
Bone Broth, Regular Stove-top Method
- Place turkey carcass along with fat and skin in a large stock pot; save the accumulated juices to add later. If the carcass doesn't fit, break the carcass down into smaller parts. Cover with water until the carcass is submerged and covered by 1" of water.
- Bring pot to a boil over medium heat. Turn down heat to low and simmer for 7 hours. After 7 hours, add the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Simmer for an additional 1 hour.
- Skip ahead to Cool Stock, Chill, and Remove Fat (for Both Stove-top and Slow-Cooker methods) below.
Bone Broth, Slow-Cooker Method
- Place turkey carcass along with fat and skin in the slow cooker; save the accumulated juices to add later. If the carcass doesn't fit, break the carcass down into smaller parts. Cover with water until the carcass is submerged and covered by 1" of water.
- Turn on slow cooker, and set for 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low. When there are two hours left on the slow cooker, add the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.
Filter, Chill, and Remove Fat (for Both Stove-top and Slow-Cooker Methods)
- With a pair of tongs, remove large parts of bones and vegetables from the pot. You can throw the bones away, but I always let it cool off on a plate then pick off every single shred of meat and edible cartilage from the bones. I am not kidding. I may never do anything with those microscopic fibers of flesh, I may never eat it, but dammit if I don't get my $3.99/pound's worth from that turkey. The vegetables will be to the point just before becoming baby food, so you can toss them, but why?! I let them cool off, sprinkle some salt, and eat them as my reward for being so economical. However, at this point, the vegetables have very little, if any, nutritional value left in them.
- Carefully pour the stock through a strainer into another large pot or bowl. Place the bowl of hot stock in another bowl that is filled with ice water to quick-cool the stock. When the ice has melted, drain some of the water, and add more ice. Do this a few times until the stock is cool enough to touch.
- Ladle the cooled stock to storage containers, and refrigerate overnight to allow fat to rise to the top and solidify. After fat has solidified, remove, discard.
- If you actually own a liquid fat separating device of some sort, go ahead and use it to remove the liquid turkey fat from the stock before you refrigerate.
- I own a fat separator. HOWEVER, I find great joy in waiting patiently for the fat in turkey (or any animal for that matter) stock to rise to the top, cool overnight in the refrigerator, and congeal into a thick layer that seals off the top of the container, then lifting the disc of solid fat off the surface of the stock in a single smooth motion with a large spoon.
- Store stock in refrigerator, or freeze and keep for up to 3 months. It might safely last longer, but it won't actually. Turkey stock that has been simmered with additional garlic, ginger, a few herbs, and salt, is a little bit of a lot of awesome on a winter night.
Afterthoughts on Leftover Turkey and Making Stock
As much as I love all the planning weeks in advance, prepping the night before, cooking on the day, strategically positioning ourselves around our parents' enormous, ancient dining room table that they’ve had so long that it’s petrified wood now, and finally enjoying the fruits and vegetables of our labor, I find myself in a strange mental space as we eat our Thanksgiving dinner. I’m nodding and smiling and laughing through the dinner conversation, truly thankful for being there with my family, but deep down inside, all I can do is think about the clean-up.
I know. The clean-up.
Most people dread the cleanup of a huge holiday dinner that required 4 days in the kitchen, 56 pots, pans, and casseroles to cook, another 78 platters, plates, bowls, forks, and glasses to serve, and 9 little sippy cups thrown in for the three nieces an nephews who can't seem to keep their cups straight so they have to be washed every time to prevent cross-cousin contamination.
I, however, totally look forward to the aftermath.
I Don't Do Dishes
It’s not the physical activity of cleaning to which I look forward. I don’t like rifling through my parents’ cupboards trying to match plastic containers to lids. I don’t like scooping what was an hour ago a gorgeous hot cloud of mashed potatoes but is now a room temperature, mealy, messy, solid mass, or portioning out whatever is leftover of the green bean casserole, which is usually not very much because my family loves green bean casserole.
Most of all, I hate doing post Holiday party dishes. When I am at home in my own house, I find doing dishes extremely, yes strangely, relaxing, but in the Thanksgiving situation, I don’t like it because I’d rather do something else other than scraping the NASA-strength re-entry residue from the side of the glass casserole dish where canned cream of mushroom soup has molecularly welded itself to Pyrex.
Taking the Carcass for the Team
Every year, I always manage to negotiate my way out of doing the dishes because I claim that I will be the one to take on the one truly dreaded final task - dealing with the turkey carcass. As long as we call it a "carcass," no one else wants to do it. “Oh no no no, I couldn’t let you deal with it,” I say to my sisters with their beautifully manicured nails. I, the dutiful oldest daughter, will “deal with the turkey,” I sigh, as if it were a big deal and that I will take on the big fat burden, taking one for the Delicious Family Team, making a tremendous sacrifice.
Little do they know that the domestic sigh on the outside is really an evil laugh on the inside.
Before sitting down at the head of the now-abandoned table cleared of all silverware, dishes, and plates, save for one enormous serving platter that is my target, I stretch my arms and upperback, roll my head forward and backward like a caged animal ready to break free. With hands washed, sanitized, sleeves rolled up if I haven’t changed into a workout tank top, hair pulled back into a nappy knot, I ease into the chair then lean back and crack my knuckles in slow, calculated preparation.
Then with the fury of a tigress, I attack the carcass with my bare hands, cracking open the rib cage, snapping joints out of their sockets, tearing through every knot of cartilage, pulling every last shred, every tiny tendril of muscle from the bones. My body is hunched over the edge of the table, my head down, my fast and nimble fingers clawing through the carcass, and I can't be sure, but every once in a while, I think I hear myself cackle like some wild, unhinged hyena.
Carefully, accurately, evenly I ration the leftover meat into zip-top bags for each of the three Delicious daughters’ households into exactly equal portions, which makes perfect sense because even though two of them should be heavier because those households includes husbands and babies, Sarah’s bag is intended for a household of one.
Which means it needs just as much as the others.
Because she eats at home alone a lot.
Because she's a blogger.
I hate my life sometimes.
They actually never say that. I am just greedy and since I do the rationing, I make the bags equal.
By the time I push back from the table, done, all that remains on the polished-just-for-Holidays silver platter is a horrifying pile of bones, a gruesome mess of shredded skin, and random bits and gristly body parts that are not suitable for describing out blog. From my elbows to my wrists, my forearms are glistening in what appears to be a pair of fine, transparent turkey grease opera gloves. There are tiny fibers of meat caught under my nails and basting residue shoved into my cuticles like a manicurist’s softening cream. My lips are glossy from stolen bites of choice morsels, and there are small spots of shine on my forehead where, ostensibly, I have used the back of my hand to push back bangs that fell into my eyes.
I have never looked at myself in a mirror during or after "the operation,' but I don’t think I want to.
It's a dirty, disgusting, messy, filthy, absolutely deliciously satisfying job.
But somebody has to do it.
Investing in Stock
The most glorious moment, though, comes when I double fist the platter now heavy with untouchable bits into the kitchen, tilt it up and gently slide all the contents into the largest pot I can get from my mother when I scream “A pot! A pot! I need a #$%^&*@! pot for the turkey carcass! Someone get a damn pot -- this thing weighs 30 pounds!” which makes no sense since the turkey was 20 pounds when it went into the oven.
I never have to do dishes because I make roast turkey stock with the aftermath.
We do this every year.
But this year, it was different. Something changed. There was a blip in the matrix.
I can't remember the exact phrasing, but it didn't matter because the actual words that came shooting out of my mother's mouth were colored by the tone. She had impaled the carrion through the body cavity with a pair of closed tongs and was holding it, dripping dropping leaking unidentifiable bits of flesh and fat into the kitchen trash can with a look of utter disgust, disdain, and something like the same kind of fear that might befall a toxic waste clean up crewman that lost the draw for the last hazmat suit.
"Are you sure you want this? Why? What on earth could you possibly make that is edible out of this revolting specimen of foul fowl carrion?!"
I was dumbfounded. I would have let my jaw drop to the floor except that I just spent a fortune on dental work.
All these years we've done the same little after dinner dance and they didn't even know why? My, my heart started to beat faster and I could feel my inner crouching tiger's tail lashing back and forth with ... a little bit of anger? Bitterness? I was on the defensive.
At any moment, a tendon, a glistening ligament could snap and the fragile frame of bones would slip off my mother's tongs and go crashing down into the deep, dark unknown of a Glad trash bag. The single moment for which I waited all year, planned for three weeks, prepped for three days, roasted for three hours would be...I didn't take my eyes off my Mom, but somehow a robot took over the scene. An extra large plastic zipper-top bag made its way from the slippery pile on the counter, around the precious remains of the bird, and I absconded with what would be my project for the next few days back at my house.
Would Stock, Love Fest
Everything about Roast Turkey Stock – from the multi-day process of making it to the actual stock itself – brings me an indescribable joy that I'm going to describe anyway. I love the improvisational nature of making stock because every carcass is a different size, has differing amounts of "stuff" left on the bones. But it always feels good to know that no matter what I put into the pot, even when I feel like "getting creative" (like I did with ginger one year), the stock will come out, for the most part, pretty good (see previous: "ginger").
I love the smell of the house as the stock simmers, leaching flavor out of the bones and blobules of fat, color from the skin, and how warm it gets, physically, from the heat of the stovetop flame. The almost literally therapeutic feeling of the steam on my face as I peer through it to fish out parts of the turkey skeleton that haven't surrendered to the gentle seduction of heat and water.
I love the careful, clocked returns to the kitchen over the course of hours to check water levels, skim for "untouchables," and occasionally rescuing a vegetable, maybe a bright carrot, maybe a sweet onion, just before it disintegrates and dissolves into the the browning deep of stock in progress. These I let cool for just a moment while still in the ladle, sprinkle with salt, then suck them straight out of the spoon, risking some degree of burn down my esophagus.
I love pouring the hot stock into storage containers, then, after the stock has cooled, gelled, and presented a gorgeous, thick layer of hardened fat on its surface, cracking through said layer with a large serving fork and in the true meaning of "forklift," taking the single solid disc out.
I love the end product; turkey stock is warm, comforting, and simmered with the browned, sometimes slightly charred bits of skin, promises a dark, deeply fragrant base for future soups, stews, and chilis. During the cold season, as soon as I feel a tingle in my sinuses or a tickle in my throat, I heat up a cup of stock, salt it, and sip it like tea.
However, let's not kid ourselves about the real reason why I like "making stock." It's not so much "making stock" as it is "not throwing away and wasting a perfectly good turkey carcass." It's about money. Value. I love truly getting my money's worth. Making stock from the bones means I am not only sucking every last drop of flavor, every last nutritive molecule of marrowy mineral, every last cent out of the I-don't-want-to-admit-how-much-we-spent, from the turkey, but I won't have to spend any additional money on store bought chicken broth.
Now that brings me joy.