Brown Beef Stock in Six Simple Steps

DID YOU NOTICE that all the beef bourguignon recipes call for beef stock? You just can't get that rich beef flavour without it.

I know, you can now buy both chicken and beef stock in that awful Tetrapak packaging (do you know it's not recyclable?), and it looks real enough. I mean, Rachael Ray uses it, and so do all the celebrity chefs on the food channel, so it must be good, right?

It's okay, but in their own restaurant kitchens, real-life chefs have a helper who makes all the stocks, and there's a reason for it: it's much, much better than anything you can buy. Not to mention a lot cheaper, because it's made with scraps, leftovers and vegetables that are no longer fresh enough to serve, like limp carrots. In my own restaurants, we always made all our own stocks.

AFTER my cross-rib roast shopping spree (the one that propulsed this whole blog), once I had the freezer stocked with 20 lbs of ground meat and 8 nice little pot roasts for four, I had all those lovely trimmings of fat, gristle and meat, so of course I made brown beef stock, (also known as beef broth, bouillon and consommé).

You will see from these pictures how easy it is!

Step 1. You need beef scraps, fat, gristle, (bones if you have any), a couple of unpeeled onions, halved, a couple of stalks of celery, halved, two cloves of garlic, unpeeled.

Had I had some carrots around I would have added some (unpeeled, cut in two lengthwise and in two crosswise).

Are you thinking, "Oh my, so much fat!"? Don't worry. It's only there for the flavour. Once the stock is done, all of it will be removed.

I love using my big non-stick turkey roasting pan for this, because it's big enough to have everything in one layer, which is essential for proper browning.

Step 2. Place the roasting pan in a 450-degree (220°C) oven and roast until brown on top – check frequently.

Stir and return to oven until everything is a deep brown but not burned.

Push the ingredients aside: this is what the bottom should look like. This means that all the juices have caramelized enough.

Take the pan out of the oven and turn the temperature down to 325 degrees (160°C).

Step 3. Now, pour in COLD water gradually, scraping the brown bits until they're completely incorporated. Pour more cold water until everything is covered, and a bit more.

Add a sprinkling of thyme, two bay leaves, three peppercorns and two allspice berries (the latter is a secret I learned in Mexico).

Step 4. Bring to a boil on top of the stove, then place in 325-degree (160°C) for at least two hours. You could use the extra oven shelf for making a stew, roasting a chicken or baking potatoes.

ALTERNATIVELY, you could transfer all the ingredients to a stock pot, scrape the brown bits from the bottom with water, pour those juices into the stock pot, add water to the stock pot to cover, and simmer the stock on top of the stove for at least two hours.

Step 5. The stock is done. Note how much it has reduced: this is normal. Strain it through a fine sieve. Transfer it to a clean container and refrigerate overnight.

Step 6. See how the fat has congealed? Remove it with a slotted spoon. (If this were chicken fat, you could save it for making cookies.)

You now have a completely fat-free, slightly jellified brown beef bouillon. (With bones it would have jellified much more.)

By the way, it's important to remove the fat; otherwise, the stock will not keep well.

If you want a really clear stock, bring it to the boil and strain it again through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth.

At this point you have a beautiful, dark, fairly clear, but quite tasteless product.

Heat up a small quantity, add salt, and taste it. If it tastes like you could use it as is – with a  deep, beefy flavour – then it needs no further input.

If it's tasteless even after adding enough salt, you may have added too much water. Put it back on the stove and reduce it somewhat.

If what you want is a glace de viande, put it back on the stove and reduce it in half. (At that point you could freeze it in ice cube trays, then transfer it to a zippered bag, from where you could extract a cube or two when you want to use the real thing instead of a bouillon cube.)

Whatever you do, do not season it before storing it. If you're used to bouillon cubes, you'll find yourself adding more salt to your dishes than usual, but when you don't want the extra salt, it won't be there.

Don't you think it was worth the fifteen minutes or so of active preparation time? (The rest happened all by itself.)

So, apart from Beef Bourguignon, what would you make with your own home-made stock?


Boeuf Bourguignon, the Other Julia Child Version

AS PROMISED, here's the link to the version of Boeuf Bourguignon that appeared in From Julia Child's Kitchen in 1975.

The differences are subtle, but the instructions are much more precise.

In addition, even though in the earlier recipe she wrote that boiled potatoes are the classic accompaniment, she never mentions them in the new recipe. As she writes in the introduction to the "Plain Brown Stew" master recipe: "Although steamed potatoes are in the French tradition, I prefer rice or noodles with my stew." She then goes on to leave them out of the recipe, entirely.

Be that as it may, you really should try it with the potatoes I suggest in my own recipe.

What do YOU think?


The Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon Recipes

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1
Did you notice the plural? 

YES, there is more than one Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.

THERE'S the one published in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I, in 1961, and there's the one she published in 1975, in her lesser-known book, From Julia Child's Kitchen, which she wrote without the partipation of either of her previous co-authors, Simone Beck and Louise Bertholle.

IN THE latter book, she has a section on beef stews, and Boeuf Bourguignon is just one of six stew recipes.



Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy Style)

I got this sudden urge to make Boeuf Bourguignon.

Nothing to do with Julie and Julia, which I haven't seen yet. It was the boneless cross-rib roast on special at the local SaveEasy: I was buying some to grind into hamburger meat, and then I thought I should buy an extra package and make a stew.

The only beef stew that came to mind was Boeuf Bourguignon, which is really funny since I hadn't made it since 1979, the year I sold my first restaurant and moved to Mexico.

I made it from memory and it was so fabulously good that I thought it should be my first recipe here.

Afterwards, I checked online recipes, and that's when I discovered that everybody who saw Julie and Julia wanted Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.

I didn't need the recipe (I own Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I confess that my bourguignon recipe is hugely inspired by it) – but I did order Julie and Julia from


WHAT ABOUT YOU ? Do you have a favourite beef bourguignon recipe?


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