The Benefits of Gelatin (and How to Get More in Your Stock)

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist August 30, 2011
Benefits of gelatin

A bubbling pot of chicken stock

One of the main reasons to make your own stock or broth as a base for homemade soups and sauces is to supply hydrophilic colloids to the diet and obtain the numerous benefits of gelatin to health.

The hydrophilic nature of the gelatin in homemade meat broths has the unusual property of attracting digestive juices to itself in the same manner as raw foods.

There is an extensive amount of research on the benefits of gelatin in the diet.  Gelatin obviously aids digestion by rendering digestive juices more effective by attracting them to itself.  It also has been found successful in treating digestive disorders such as IBS, colitis, and even Crohn’s disease.

Even anemia and other blood disorders respond to gelatin in the diet.  The first known reference to gelatin from 204 AD in Chinese writings describes one of the benefits of gelatin as an agent to arrest bleeding or hemorrhage.

Oneof the Main Benefits of Gelatin is as a Home Remedy

Homemade stock is indispensable when a stomach flu makes its way around a household as it can slow and stop diarrhea when small amounts are consumed every few minutes.

In addition to stopping the runs, gelatin assists in neutralizing whatever intestinal poison is causing the problem in the first place.   So, unlike anti-diarrhea medicine from the pharmacy which only masks symptoms, gelatin actually goes to the root of the problem and facilitates healing.

Households where gelatinous broths, soups, and sauces are frequently consumed very often get passed by when a stomach bug is making the rounds in a community.  Time spent in the kitchen preparing this age old remedy will be repaid many times over with fewer sleepless nights from ill children and no doubt far fewer visits to the doctor.

Get More Benefits of Gelatin via Homemade Stock

A frequent question I get from folks new to Traditional Cooking who are enthusiastically seeking the benefits of gelatin to health, is “how do I get my stock to gel?”   This is because a successful batch of homemade stock will turn semi-solid in the refrigerator as gelatin solidifies as it cools.

The #1 most common reason for stock that does not gel in the refrigerator is too much water was used to make the stock.

The amount of filtered water should just cover the bones.   As the water boils off, feel free to add more water as the stock simmers for the required 4- 24 hours (or up to 72 hours if making beef stock), but only ever add enough additional water to cover the bones.

Stock can always be boiled down on the stove if too much water was inadvertently used.   You can even boil it way down to a very concentrated, syrupy, reduction sauce, known as fumee, and then reconstitute with water when you are ready to use it.

If your stock is already gelling nicely but you want even more gelatin in the final product, be sure to ask your local poultry farmer for the feet and heads from your pastured chickens.  Chicken feet and heads will add loads of nutritious and healing gelatin to stock.

Another tip is to scald the chicken feet in boiling water to remove the skin before placing them in the stockpot.  This will allow even more gelatin to get into your stock.

One more tip is to always start with cold water and let the bones sit in the water with the bit of vinegar for 30 minutes to an hour before turning on the heat.  This allows the fibers of bones and cartilage to open slowly to release the maximum amount of flavorful juices and gelatin.

More Information

The Reason You Need More Gelatin in Your Diet
Gelatin and Collagen Hydrolysate: What’s the Difference?
5 Reasons Your Stock Won’t Gel

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Source:  Gelatin in Nutrition and Medicine, Gotthoffer

 

Comments (87)

  1. I have been using lots of homemade bone broth from grassed animals and homemade kefir in the last few months as it is winter here in Australia and I want to give my kids an immunity boost. However my daughter who has never had any obvious allergies is developing strange symptoms after consuming these things. I wonder if she is becoming intolerant to histamine? Have you ever heard of this happening? I’m not sure what to do about it as I feel these foods are extremely important.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Homemade Chicken Stock | Callywood Farms

  3. The whole science behind pressure cookers is to cook food via pressure, NOT heat. The point is heat saturation, not heat increase. Everything in that pressure cooker is going to remain at stable temperature, and THAT is what makes the difference.

    The reason you can get tender products from a pressure cooker, even when cooking foods that normally need to be cooked slowly, is because of this stability. The key to pressure cooking is turning the cooking heat way way down.

    Check out this article, and the references. Sarah, I think this could be a great topic to research and blog about, because the pressure cooker makes so many traditional preparations accessible to our time, but obviously, if it isn’t actually helpful, people need to know.

    http://www.foodrenegade.com/pressure-cooking-healthy/

    Reply
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  6. Thank you so much for these tips! I love this site — such a wealth of good information. It’s funny because I just happened to buy a chicken the other day complete with head and feet. First time ever. I simply threw the whole thing into a pot and simmered away. I was amazed at how thick the broth was — I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know. =)

    Reply
  7. Hi – do you know how to use the gelatin from beef broth to make recipes for puddings, and other non beef flavored recipes – like chocolate pudding and pumpkin pudding and “jello” kinds of things? Thanks!

    Reply
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  10. Hi Sarah
    Just found your blog – and now I am very inspired to make my own bone broth!
    I only have experience using powdered Gelatin added to food, and found it very soothing for my digestion.
    Can you pls advise if I can turn the broth off for the night, and resume cooking it in the morning? Will be cooking it on the gas stove and my husband will not let me keep on for the night… I bough $16 worth of bones and really want to make it work!
    Thnx for all the information you provide :-)

    Reply
  11. I have a severe mold allergy and cannot use ACV or anything fermented. Can I substitute lemon juice instead?

    Reply
  12. Jeanette Espinal June 29, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Hi Sarah,

    Will my chicken stock work from using just parts? I get chicken from a farm that is cut up into parts and does not include the carcass. I am baking the chicken for dinner and of course I don’t want to waste it. I also don’t have any feet on hand to create more gelatin. Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Pingback: Bone broth from pastured chicken | Real Food Houston

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  15. Hi Sarah,
    My hubby reacts to anything vinegary or yeast-based, also fermented sauces. What could I subsitute for vinegar?
    Will lemon juice and rinds work?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  16. Hi Sarah,
    I know you’ve already answered the question on pressure cookers, but I’m wondering if I could use one for part of the process to reduce boiling time. I’m currently living overseas where we cannot rely on electricity (no slow cooker) therefore only rely on a gas stove and I’m concerned about leaving the stove on for 24h+ especially if I cannot be home for those 24h. Any suggestions? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Sarah has mentioned that the time is cumulative, not sequential. So, cook your broth for as long as you can, turn it off, leave it on the stove, and go do what you need to do. Come back, turn the stove back on and cook some more. Repeat as often as necessary until you get to your time … 24 hours or whatever.

      Reply
  17. If I only cook my chicken or beef stock 9-11 hours I can get a lot of gelatin. If I let it cook longer than that it tastes really good, more condensed and flavorful, bur there is no visible gelatin. This could not be from too much water as if I cook it less there is gelatin. I’m very confused from information on this subject. I have read that if you cook it too long you will break down the gelatin and it will not be as healthy because of this. I have read that it is better to cook it longer because you will draw more gelatin out of the bones, even though the longer cooking time breaks down the gelatin. I have also been told that if you cook it longer it doesn’t matter if the gelatin breaks down because all the constituent parts of the gelatin will be there so it will be just as good as if it forms visible gelatin. HELP!! I don’t know what to think.

    Gayle

    Reply
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  19. This may seem like a funny question, but I just finished making a crockpot full of chicken stock and was going to make another. Can I reuse the necks and feet from the first pot along with the second pot to which I will add new necks and feet? I know with Kvass you can top off a second time……just wondering?? Difficult to toss it all.
    Nancy

    Reply
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  21. Ok, crazy question here from a beginner – but what is the relation between this gelatin and a gelatin you make homemade jello with? How do you, and can you, make your own healthy gelatin for homemade jello?

    Reply
  22. Can you please address the canning issue? I live in an area where power is iffy so we can’t really rely on freezers. I’ve put an awful lot of time and effort into raising my chickens (and butchering them myself) to provide the best food for my family. I sure hate to think I’m wasting this by canning my stock to have it on hand in the winter.

    Also, can you please elaborate on the value of eating the heads? I have 15 heads in a bag in the freezer but just can’t bring myself to actually DO it. The feet do add a lot, I’ve found. I skin the “socks” and use a needle nose pliers to clip the nails off. (Sheesh, if I can do that I ought to be able to use the heads, lol!)

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist August 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      Hi Vicki, if you have a cool cellar, that will do fine for storing lactofermented jars of fruits and veggies. I don’t eat the heads, I just put them in the stock to add more gelatin.

      Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I block ads such as this the best I can but it is not a perfect science unfortunately. The answer is not to remove all ads from my site either as many of the ads are helpful and beneficial. I trust that my readers are able to tell the difference and realize that not all ads reflect my own personal views.

      Reply
  23. Can I tell you a funny story? Many great inventions are discovered accidently and I think yesterday I came across and new and renewable building material. I was making kombucha tea and had boiled some water and poured it over 1 cup of organic sugar. I stirred it and got distracted and rushed it into the fridge to cool for a minute or two while I dealt with the immediate issue. My distraction became an hour and I came back to a most surprising senario. The spoon I had used to stir it was permanently cemented in the “liquid”, rock hard, solid state, immovable! It turned out I had poured 1 cup of boiling water over 1 cup of beef gelatin. Concrete move over. You have competition!

    Reply
  24. Just curious, to get even more gelatin in your diet….could you use the some of the natural gelatins on the market or do you not recommend that?

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      The plain powdered gelatin like Great Lakes or Bernard Jensen brands are ok .. yes, they can be used. They are no substitute for stocks and soups though. They are fine in a pinch or to add even more gelatin to your diet if you like. Be aware that these powdered gelatins contain very small amounts of MSG, so if you are super sensitive, it might bother you.

      Reply
  25. I do the crockpot method. 36 hours on low and it works great. We always have organic chicken but the only feet I can get my hands on are at the Asian grocery store. They’re really clean (although I wash them in vinegar water first) and my stock is very gelatinous.

    Reply
    • I was so thankful when I learned of the crockpot method (talk about fix it and forget it)… And it gels up beautifully everytime! I don’t cook mine for 36 hours though, my recipe calls for 12 hours on low. Any thoughts on the benefit of cooking longer?

      Reply
  26. I use a crockpot and my chicken broth has been gelling nicely even without heads or feet. I get the chicken from a local farmer and it makes delicious broth! I am making mexican soup later today with it and my mouth is watering already!

    Interesting about the anti-hemmorhaging (ugh I can’t spell that at all) properties. I noticed in my last birth that I had very minimal blood loss (just got the records from the OB for my midwife)- hopefully consuming lots of broth will help me with the next one in March, also!

    Reply
  27. I’ve been considering investing in a pressure cooker and wondered if pressure cooking stock reduces any of the positive benefits? It would be so much more convenient for me to have canned stock then remember to thaw it ahead of time.

    Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
          Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist August 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm

          Canned foods are not recommended as the canning process destroys most nutrients. Lactofermentation is the preferred method for preservation. Please check out my video classes at the top of the blog (pulldown menu for topics). I have over 20 videos on how to lactoferment various foods and beverages.

          Reply
  28. For those concerned about how much energy it takes on the stove…you could try using a crockpot. I use mine and if I put in enough bones and not too much water it gels. I also freeze my bones, guts, veggies scraps, etc. until I have enough to fill the crockpot. I then, add a little vinegar, and let it cook on low over night or longer. Just a thought :)

    Reply
  29. My stocks rarely gel as well. Regardless of the type of chicken I use. I am probably also guilty of too much water – trying to get as much stock as I can for my money :) Next batch I will try to use just enough water. Thanks for the tips! I’ve been making stock for 3-4 years now.

    Reply
  30. Leola Dianne Stellwagen via Facebook August 30, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I guess I used too much water last time. Thanks for the great article. I reposted it on my wall for my friends along with a few tips about getting ahead of the flu season.

    Reply
  31. Jane Cranor via Facebook August 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Making chicken stock today. That rooster will not be attacking my kids again ;) We had a wonderful roasted rooster last night for dinner…so good!

    Reply
  32. Your statement that the gelatin helps with hemorraging jumped out at me as I’ve kept my eye out for foods that address this issue. All of my 4 births ended with a mini-crisis of hemorrage (none needing transferral to the hospital, but my midwife did inject me with something on 3 of the births.) Unfortunately, none of the pregnancies on a real food diet, and I’m confident in any subsequent pregnancies, excessive bleeding will not be a problem.
    Also, people have told me that they simmer until the bones get mushy- maybe I’m a miser, but how economical is it to leave the stovetop on for days? I only go about 24 hours. I still get gelatinous broth (though this article cleared up why sometimes I didn’t). And I don’t have a crockpot.

    Reply
    • That’s why I use a pressure cooker :) I prefer having my stove on for 3 hours instead of 24 or more. I know some people who just keep a crock pot going or a pot simmering on the stove. It’s too hot in the summer and I can only imagine what cost that might incur.

      Reply
      • Rachel, from what I understand, pressure cookers, for all their convenience, produce too high a heat and can damage nutrients and oxidize the fats, creating damaging free radicals. Best to use gentler cooking methods. As for summertime simmering, I use my Nesco roaster oven on the back porch or in the basement when it’s too hot in the kitchen for making broth.

        Reply
        • Pressure cookers shorten cooking times and preserve cooking liquid. Everything I’m finding says that they are better for nutrient retention and digestibility than slow cookers, and personal experience says the taste is far superior.

          The increase in temperature is not enough to outweigh the problem of cooking something for 8-12 hours.

          Reply
  33. I’m not sure what oxidizing the cholesterol is but coconut oil can help balance your cholesterol out. I cook nearly everything in it and for those who like butter I feel it imparts a buttery flavor…I really notice it because I don’t like my veggies buttery. ;)

    Reply
  34. Add a a “tiny” bit of raw vinegar or reg. vinegar to the stock to help the bones give even more to the broth. I use a pressure cooker and when the bones start turning to powder I remove them and do it again with just the cartilage that is left. It leaves a extremely healthy broth with a unique but highly desirable flavor. You can even drink it as is or add a touch of dark brown sesame oil for the asian flavor.

    Reply
  35. I also crack the chicken bones with a pair of those fancy pliers (ours are Craftsman Robo Grip) to help bring out the nutritious marrow in the simmering process. And, yes, Maureen, I think you’re right to use a very low burble instead of a real boil which can oxidize the cholesterol, as I understand.

    Reply
  36. Liz Hoidas via Facebook August 30, 2011 at 11:49 am

    @Tammy, I had this problem as well until I started breaking the bigger bones in half, adding the vinegar, and adding the necks, butts & feet. Heads if I can get ‘em. If you are ok with the heart, liver, kidneys, those are great too! But breaking the bones opens more surface area and allows the vinegar easier penetration into the exposed marrow, creating more gelatin. Just my experience, chill it for 12-24 and watch it gel! Good luck!

    Reply
  37. Wendy Nader Poch via Facebook August 30, 2011 at 11:48 am

    @Drea…If you roast the beef bones first in a 350 degree oven for an hour or two, you get a much better tasting broth. I also save all my onion peels, pepper tops, carrots peels, basically all veggie scraps, and throw them into the pot as well. (I do that for all kinds of broth.)

    Reply
  38. Sarah, I also notice that if I actually *boil* the stock, it does not gel well. If I bring it just to a simmer and keep it there for a day or more, it turns out great! I am keeping meat stock on the stove now for everyone to dip into as they wish. It has non-starchy veggies and lentils added for more nutrition, and I am adding bones & scraps as they are available.

    Reply
    • Hmm, I pressure cook my bones usually and have no problems with gelling. In fact most of the bones mush when picked up and as long as I don’t use too much water the broth is almost always thick enough to cut with a utensil, like jello.

      Reply
      • You may want to research why you shouldn’t pressure cook. Nourishing Traditions says that pressure cooking raises the temperature of foods too much and kills of what’s nourishing in them.

        Reply
    • Maureen, I noticed that too. Sometimes I leave the pot simmering on the stove unattended for too long and I come back and it’s boiling away. The resulting stock doesn’t taste as good and doesn’t gel in the fridge.

      Reply
  39. Question: I’ve been having Chron’s-like symptoms over the past month and have been able to eat only liquid foods like homemade stocks, soups, plain yogurt, etc. I’ve noticed that whenever I eat the broth by itself, it causes my GI tract to almost immediately flare and become very painful. When I eat it in soups, however, it does not do this. Any thoughts on why the plain broth would aggravate my symptoms?

    Reply
  40. Drea DeyArmin via Facebook August 30, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I just participated in a cow share so I got the big huge bones from that! I’ve heard I need to prepare that differently than I do my regular chicken broth. What advice do you have?

    Reply
  41. Interesting note about gelatin and collagen production from my friend, Marilyn Diamond of Fit for Life: collagen production is stimulated by vitamin C ingestion. Gelatin just breaks down into amino acids and is gone. Upwards of 10,000 or more mgs of Vitamin C recommended for therapeutic results!…see http://www.orthomolecular.org

    Reply
  42. My last batch of chicken stock was the first that didn’t have too much water. I have to admit I squealed a little when I pulled it out of the fridge and it jiggled! I love cooking with that stock and knowing how good it is for my family’s health.

    Reply
  43. I’m probably guilty of too much water. I guess I ask my chicken bones to do more than they can! I just want to get as much mileage out of them as possible. I’m still left with a very flavorful, dark, yummy chicken stock so I’m happy with that. I would like to get some chicken feet. I keep asking my rancher but so far he hasn’t kept the feet, not enough demand, I guess. I haven’t pestered him because the thought of the feet is a bit frightening to me still!

    Reply
  44. Maria C. Mitchell via Facebook August 30, 2011 at 11:15 am

    When I cook a whole chicken, I strain the broth that’s left and set it in the fridge, so I can skim off the fat. After it cools, the fat is in a gooey layer on top that I spoon off and the rest of the broth is like a chicken-flavored Jell-O. I put it in a freezer bag and freeze it until I need some. :)

    Reply
    • hi Maria what do you do with the fat you strain from the stock.I use it for cooking or add it in chicken soup or veg, but i want to be sure I’m right,thanks,maggie

      Reply
  45. Heather Lapré via Facebook August 30, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Thanks for the useful tips! We are new to bone broths. I’ve made 4 pots so fa, and I was wondering why they all turn out a bit different.

    Reply
  46. Yes, even if there is too much water, all the gelatin is still there. It may gel a little in the fridge and become thick and goopy, but not solid at all.

    I

    Reply
  47. This may be a silly question, but even if there is too much water the gelatin should still be in there shouldn’t it? Are you just trying for a very concentrated amount of gelatin?

    Reply
  48. Thanks for the tip on how to get the most gelatin out of your stock. I never knew that too much water is the reason. I thought it depended on the chicken so I will definitely try this method next time. I wish all households knew how nourishing homemade broth is. My mom always made chicken and rice soup when we were sick but over the years she switched to store bought broth because she didnt know the real reason it actually helped us.

    Reply
    • Teresa, in addition to the amount of water, I think it DOES also depend on the chicken. Factory-farmed chickens won’t produce the same nutritious gelatinous stock as properly raised pastured chickens.

      Reply
      • Beth, I made stock recently out of a pastured chicken and out of a factory chicken. The pastured chicken gelled up amazingly! Thick, hearty gel. The factory chicken hardly gelled at all. Those roasted chickens you get at the grocery store ready made section don’t make very good broth, either. It looks, what I call anemic…pale and tasteless.

        Reply
          • Free range chickens get a much wider variety of foods in their diets including a much higher protein content from insects. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat.

      • Conventional chickens (and all animal bones for that matter) also have loads of lead stored in their bones, which is extracted nicely when cooked for long periods of time. Stick with bones from organic/grass-fed animals.

        Reply

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