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Holy Cr@p!! Is Bone Broth supposed to smell like that?!

I honestly thought something might have died in kitchen when I woke up that morning. The smell was awful and the whole house reeked. I had just started my first bone broth in the crock pot the prior afternoon, but apparently at some point after I’d gone to bed something had sneaked into the kitchen, slithered its way into my crock pot, and died. And was now slowly decaying in the simmering juices that was supposed to have been a nice warm comforting bone broth. At least that is what I imagined must have happened, because surely a bone broth was not supposed to smell like that! Right?

Just to be clear, I am a carnivore. I like meat. Eating meat was not one of the hard adjustments I had to make when switching to a paleo diet. One of my favorite ways to eat meat is in a nice hearty stew. I have very fond memories of my grandmother’s stew. She would make her stews from homemade stock that came from boiling bones for hours on end. And her stews were amazing. So when I read about bone broths on the paleo diet and how healthy they are, I didn’t have any of the reservations that I hear some people have about trying them. There was no “ick factor” for me. On the contrary, I was really looking forward to making my first bone broth and trying that “nice warm cup of broth” for breakfast that is apparently a staple for some. So, when I went to bed that evening, the crock pot simmering away with my grass-fed knuckle bone and fresh garlic, I fully expected to wake up the next morning with the house smelling of savory, beefy yumminess. So, imagine my surprise, when instead I woke to a smell so putrid and overwhelming that I rushed to open every window in the house, despite the brisk 50 degree morning. I immediately went to computer and Googled “bone broth smells bad”. Sure enough, I got a number of hits, mostly forum discussions of people asking if bone broth is supposed to smell bad. The responses ranged from “Its so bad, I can’t make it” to “I really like the smell of it”. Most were a general consensus of “It doesn’t smell quite like you might expect and might be mildly unpleasant, but don’t worry, your soups will taste great when you use it”. I decided maybe I had over-reacted, maybe just the aroma in the air was bad, but the broth itself would be tasty. I opened the crock pot to investigate. And nearly vomited into it. I quickly closed it again, unplugged it and hauled it onto the back deck. This stuff could not stay in the house any longer.

Still, there was a part of me that could not accept the fact that I, being such a big fan of all things meat, couldn’t take the smell, let alone the taste of bone broth. I went back to my reliable resource Google and found one gal who, like me, was shocked by the stench of her bone broth, but insisted that after she had strained all the solids out, left in the fridge overnight and then removed the fat that solidified at the top, that the resulting clarified broth did not smell bad at all and ended up making a great soup. Ok, I had some hope. I just might be able to keep my carnivore membership card. I strained out the bones, chunks of meat, fat, marrow, and other unidentifiables. Luckily I have a dog, I don’t know what people without dogs do with this stuff. I can’t imagine putting it in my trash. Maybe, they plan bone broth day around trash pickup day? In any case, my dog thought he had died and gone to heaven. I put the strained broth into a clean pot and into the fridge overnight. The next day, I optimistically pulled out the pot, carefully removed the solid layer of fat off the top and gingerly sniffed at the gelatinous goo that remained. Then I unceremoniously dumped it down the sink drain. I decided I just shouldn’t be forced to ingest something that makes me physically gag. I didn’t think there was any way I would be able to force myself to even taste anything made from it. The crock pot and the pot I used in the fridge over night sat out on the porch filled with dish soap, baking soda and lemon juice for 3 days. This experiment had not gone as planned.

After recovering from the trauma of it all, I did more research into making bone broths and identified some of the things I did which may or may not have been the reason my broth turned out so nauseatingly awful. I had used the first recipe I’d come across which called for one to simply plunk the bones into the pot with a couple tablespoons of cider vinegar, some crushed garlic and enough water to cover everything and cook on low for 8-24hrs. After reading more about it, I found the majority of sources recommend first roasting the bones in the oven and then simmering with a bunch of carrots, celery and onions. I also read the especially fatty bones (which my knuckle bone most certainly was) tend to smell much less pleasant than others. And, finally, I discovered, quite by accident that fresh garlic when cooked a long time in the crock pot takes on a certain character which I personally find exceptionally unpleasant. In the meantime, I had made another meal in the crock pot with fresh garlic and although my husband raved about it and ate it up, I couldn’t stomach it. So, armed with this new information and a new strategy in mind, it was off to the natural food store to find the freshest grass-fed marrow bones I could find.

Bone broth, round 2. I roasted my 2 pounds of marrow bones in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then I added them to my crock pot along with some chopped carrots and onions. (I didn’t use celery, I really despise celery and don’t see that it has any redeeming qualities. Any culinary professionals, feel free to try and convince me I am wrong). I tossed in a couple tablespoons of vinegar and pinch of rosemary and thyme. No garlic this time. I put the crock pot right under the kitchen window, opened the window wide, programed the cooker for 24hrs on low, and crossed my fingers. The next morning there was a faintly unpleasant smell in the air, but it was not overwhelming. Thank God for windows. I got up the courage to open the crock pot and smelled what I had created. It definitely wasn’t what I would call a pleasant smell, but it wasn’t terrible either. At the very least I didn’t gag. I strained out all the solid gunk and tossed it outside for the dog. The dog wonders why he gets two birthdays in one month. I might need to get a second dog. Paleo eating is definitely generating more meat scraps than my little 35 pound Shiba can keep up with. In any case, after removing all the solid stuff, the smell of the remaining broth although still not pleasant, is at least very faint. This was definitely not something that I was going to warm in a mug for breakfast, but I decided I would attempt to make it into a stew. I used a recipe I’ve used many times before because I know how it comes out and know that I like it a lot. It would be easy to tell how the bone broth affected it one way or the other. And let me just say, the stew turned out amazing! It was so rich and flavorful, far better than any of the times I had made it in the past with store bought broth. And it didn’t have even a trace of the unpleasant character of the original bone broth. And so, for any of you wondering about making a bone broth, or for those of you who like me have tried and thought that the result couldn’t possibly be anything edible, I tell you there is hope. It works, and it can be made into something super tasty. I still don’t think I will be able to drink the stuff straight anytime soon, but I am looking forward to a winter filled with soups and stews on the menu a couple of times a week.

I would love to hear any tips, advice or comments on different/better ways to do a bone broth from any professional cooks or other foodies out there. Maybe I am still missing something that would make the cup of broth palatable?


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14 thoughts on “Holy Cr@p!! Is Bone Broth supposed to smell like that?!

  1. My mom used to make bone broth as the base for pho all the time and the house never stank but she parboiled the bones first to clean out the blood and impurities. The bones got a good rinse and then back in the pot to simmer for 16-24 hours. She didn’t roast them either but that doesn’t work really well for the pho broth. However for all other applications, roasting seems to make the end product taste better.

    I’m going to try her method (minus the pho spices) and report back my findings.

  2. Leandri on said:

    I’ve tried my second round of broth making today, and it smelled a lot worse than the first batch did… The first time I used a big bone that the butchery sells as “rump bones” and some washed cows feet (also sold at the butchery as is). The second time round I bought a bag of bones from a different butcher, and really, this stuff stank. This batch was also a LOT fattier than the first batch – almost 1/3 of the end result in the bottles are fat (vs less than an inch on the first batch). I was scared the first batch would not have enough marrow to congeal properly, but it was seriously congealed. I could probably have bounced it off the walls if I tried. Will see how the second batch comes out. I’ve made pork broth before, and that didn’t smell very bad. I’ve tried hard to drink it in the mornings, and the best way I’ve found is with half a cup of broth, half a cup of water, 2 or 3 shakes of ground ginger, one or two anise seeds and enough salt. It sounds like a weird combination , but it really neutralizes that overwhelming taste and sharp smell.

    • Thanks for the feedback! The first knucklebone I tried was also very fatty, maybe that makes a difference in the smell? Good advice on how to try drinking it, I will try that out. I also just ordered a batch of broth from US wellness meats, I wanted to compare theirs to mine and get an idea of what I am shooting for. Also ordered some of their chicken backs, thinking maybe that will make a more drinkable broth.

  3. I just threw in frozen bones from Whole Foods into the crock pot last night. I walked the dog this morning and when I returned the house smelled like a dead body. I’m at work now with the bones still on low in pot. I don’t care if it doesn’t tasted so great, I just want to make certain I won’t get sick..

  4. Anonymous on said:

    I boiled my broth for like two days now I don’t wanna get food poisoning chicken feet pork bones and bone marrow and two chicken thighs guess I should throw it

  5. Lol! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks this stuff is stinky and unconsumable! I am trying very hard to make some chicken bone stock and my second batch is simmering away right now. I am planning on drinking it straight for two weeks to see if it helps my adult acne. So the first batch I made was literally gagalicious and I don’t gag at food. My momma taught me better lol. But I could not fathom drinking that every morning. I’m going to go get some more fresh herbs to put in it today and hopefully this batch will be more palatable. I may try the ginger trick also (because who doesn’t love ginger??) Cheers and bottoms up!! 😉

  6. Phaedra on said:

    Thank you for this. I haven’t laughed so hard in a very long time. My bones are boiling right now and the smell is killing me. This made me feel better.

  7. duckmom on said:

    I used a recipe from Paleo mom – and it worked great for the roasted beef bones/broth but I am working with a chicken broth batch tonight that smells awful. Here’s hoping the soup tastes better than the both smells!!

  8. Laurie Gonzalez on said:

    I have found that adding Dr. Bronner’s soy sauce and some dried rosemary and garlic after it has been refrigerated make it taste fantastic !

  9. Ivette Redfield on said:

    Thank you for this. I as well stuck the meat in the crock pot and ended up throwing it out. You have inspired me to try again since I am hard core Paleo and bone broth is supposedly the only way to go. Thanks again.

  10. Anonymous on said:

    I’m gonna be pedantic and say if you don’t eat a diet of mostly or exclusively animal tissue you’re not a carnivore

  11. Loved reading your blog! And have gone through similar experience when my kitchen started stinking, had to run to target buy a small heating stove and cooked the broth in the garage. After doing all the steps you mentioned second time, it still had the lingering smell that turned me off. So I took a saucepan heated s teaspoon of ghee, added a pinch of nutmeg, 2pinches of Garam masala, sea salt and let the flavors combine then heated my broth in it. I squeezed quarter of a fresh lime in my mug and poured the broth in it. The ghee and the spices miraculously turned the smelly broth into the most satisfying cup of soup I had had ever had. My Indian heritage came to the rescue! Just wanted to share my bone broth journey with you ,

  12. Frances on said:

    There’s something about opening a box of beef stock and trusting what comes out of it. I’m done with stinky bones! Chickens and turkey bones are much easier . Others are just smelly!

  13. Thanks for the blog post. I’ll try my broth again. Also, just wanted to mention that it’s not really a great idea to give your pets cooked bones. They splinter more easily and can cause problems in the mouth and intestinal tract. Don’t take my word for it though…go to PetMD or pretty much any vet site and it’ll tell you the same. Want to keep those furries healthy!

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