Pressure Cooker Beef Stock
Beef stock has a distinctive flavor. I don’t make it that often; I only use it in recipes where beef is the main ingredient.
*And because I never have beef bones just lying around, like I do leftover chicken carcasses.
I purchase beef bones specifically to make stock. Great stock needs bones, marrow and meat. For me, this means shanks and oxtails, which I can usually buy at my local store under the name of beef soup bones. The bones and marrow are full of connective tissue and gelatin, which gives the stock body; the meat gives the stock its flavor.
It is not as versatile as neutrally flavored chicken stock, but when I need beef stock, I REALLY need it. Beef soup is not the same with chicken stock as the base. Beef stock shouts “I came from beef! I was raised on the open range!” Beef stock isn’t a culinary chameleon; It knows what it is, and is proud of it.
My recipe is based on a few sources; Alton Brown showed me the basics, Michael Ruhlman explained the the ratios that underlay the technique, and Heston Blumenthal researched the perfect beef stock method. I’ve sung the praises of pressure cookers before, but they really are the perfect vessel to make stock. Of course, pressure cooking is faster; an hour under pressure does the work of five hours of simmering. More important is the flavor – pressure cooker stock just tastes better! As Mr. Blumenthal discovered, cooking under pressure extracts more flavor into the liquid, and those flavors are trapped by the sealed environment of the pressure cooker. As the pressure cooker cools down, the volatile flavors that would normally boil off are trapped, and condense back into the broth. The result is the ultimate in beefy goodness.
Experience has taught me a few other things about pressure cooker beef stock:
- The sealed environment of the pressure cooker means no evaporation. When I used my typical 3:2 ratio of water to beef, the stock was a little watery. I prefer an equal amount of beef and water. Since a pint is a pound, that means two cups of water per pound of beef.
- A cup of red wine adds a hint of acid and fruit flavors to the stock
- tomato paste adds umami, which deepens all the other flavors
- Peppercorns, and star anise or bay leaf, add a taste of spice. Star anise gives a subtle Asian slant to the broth; bay leaf is more traditional. I keep flip flopping on which I like better.
- Shanks and oxtails are fatty cuts of meat, so the stock is better after defatting. I store it in the refrigerator overnight, which makes the fat congeal on top of the stock. Once it is solid, it is easy to lift off in large chunks.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Beef Stock
Adapted from: Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck Cookbook
- 6 to 12 quart Pressure Cooker (I use this one: Kuhn Rikon 12-Quart Family Stockpot Pressure Cooker)
- I portion the stock into both 1 quart and 2 cup containers for freezing.
- If you want to make more (or less) stock, here’s the ratio I use:
- 1 pound beef (mix of meaty shanks and oxtails)
- 2 cups water (a pint’s a pound the world around)
- 1/4 pound aromatics (mostly onions, some carrots)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 star anise (or 1/2 bay leaf)
- 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
- As I mentioned in the opening, the big advantage to making stock in the pressure cooker is the sealed cooking vessel. Flavor compounds that would boil off are trapped in the pressure cooker, and condense back into the stock, giving it extra flavor. If the pressure cooker is venting, it loses those flavors to the air – they smell great, but they are not in the stock any more. What does this mean? The best stock is made with a second generation pressure cooker, one that doesn’t vent steam when it is at high pressure. Also, when cooling the stock down, don’t use a quick release method that vents steam – let the heat come down naturally. By not venting steam during the cooking, the trapped flavor compounds condense back into the stock where we want them.
- Red wine – I avoid Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, both of which tend to be made with a lot of oak. I prefer cheap blends in the Cote Du Rhone style; look for wines with a mix of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.
- Don’t have a pressure cooker? Make stock in your oven for a long, slow, even simmer. Use the ingredients from this recipe with the following oven-simmering technique: Turkey Stock Done Right. Simmer in the oven for 5 hours.
- I saved the beef from the shanks, even though I know it has given up most of its flavor to the stock. I pulled the shanks out of the pot before straining, let them cool down, then pulled the meat from the bones and shredded it with my fingers. I added some of it to the batch of vegetable beef and noodle soup I made the next day, and put the rest in the stock I was freezing for later.
- What to do with all that stock? It’s time to make soup! See the Related Posts section for ideas.
Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Secret ingredients in your stock recipe? Leave them in the comments section below.
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