Help! My Bone Broth Doesn’t Gel

If you’re reading this article, I assume it means that you’ve discovered the amazing powers of bone broth. And you’ve even tried making a batch or two. But for one reason or another, maybe your broth doesn't gel. Well, first of all, don’t panic! Yes, bone broth should be “jiggly” when chilled. And that jiggle is a good indication that it’s rich in gut healing, skin firming gelatin.

But, let me assure you, all is not wasted if your broth doesn’t gel. It’s still delicious. It’s still packed with minerals. And it probably still has some gelatin. So don’t toss it! However, for your next batch, here are some tips to get more gelatin out of the bones and into your broth.

Be mindful of the bone to water ratio.

Adding too much water (or not enough bones) will almost certainly affect your broth’s gelling capabilities. When you place the bones in your pot, you should fill it with just enough water to cover the bones. No less and no more. And this still holds true even if your recipe calls for vegetables. In fact, it may help to simmer the bones first, and then add your veggies in the final three to six hours or so.

Choose the right bones.

Gelatin is essentially cooked and dissolved collagen–a protein found largely in cartilage and skin. Thus, in order to end up with a gelatin bone broth, you must include cartilage-rich joint bones as well as feet. For beef, this includes knuckles, ribs, and oxtails. For chicken, this includes legs, wings, and feet. And don’t forget about the skin! It’s made mostly of collagen. Also, adding a pig’s foot to any broth will give it an extra shot of gelatin. And don’t doesn’t change the flavor

Consider the health of the animal.

Factory farmed animals fed a poor diet with very little room to roam will most likely not have a healthy supply of collagen. For this reason, I always recommend using bones from grass-fed (beef and lamb) and pasture-raised (beef, lamb, and poultry) animals. Because the healthier an animal is, the more nutrient-rich the broth will be.

Consider the age of the animal.

As an animal ages, his or her collagen begins to degrade. This is true for humans as well and one of the key reasons why I recommend sipping on bone broth. Thus, using some veal joint bones could up your gelatin bone broth game.

  • Use apple cider vinegar. The main role of apple cider vinegar is to pull minerals out of the bones. However, in doing so, it softens the bones. And this can help to release more gelatin into the water.
  • Be patient. It takes time for collagen to break down and dissolve into water. This means you should simmer your chicken bones (and skin) for at least 8 hours up to 24 hours. And beef bone broth can take up to 48 hours.

However, if you’re short on time, give fish broth a try. Fish carcasses are smaller and much more delicate.  Or, if you have an Instant Pot, pressure cooking can also speed up the process.

Simmer, don’t boil.

The temperature of the liquid must reach at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit for collagen to begin breaking down into gelatin. However, at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit is necessary to maintain safety. And what I’ve found is that 210 degrees Fahrenheit (just below boiling) is the ideal temperature for making the best tasting and nutrient dense broth.

At this temperature, you may notice a bubble here and there. But it should be noticeably different than a boil, which can destroy the gelling properties of the gelatin. Thus, it’s important to monitor the temperature. And if you’re using a crockpot, check to see what temperature “low” really is.

In some cases, it may be too low. However, it could even be too high. So...there you have it. If you follow my tips above for better gelatin bone broth, your next batch of broth should be beautiful—and when you chill it, I’m betting that it’ll jiggle like a hula dancer!