Beef soup bones are a highly underrated cut of beef. They are extremely nutritious, delicious, low cost, and one of our long time favorites. Let’s dive into exactly what beef soup bones are and how to cook them to maximize their taste and nutrition.
We’ll even share how we like to use beef soup bones in our favorite recipes.
Nose to Tail Cooking
Collagen powders. Premade stocks and broths. Culturally we’ve shifted toward these convenient foods.
But behind every convenience, something is lost. In this case, handing down the skills to cook cuts of beef, like beef soups bones, has been lost in favor of a steady diet of steaks, ground beef, and traditional roasts.
There’s also could be a nutritional loss that we’ll look at more.
We certainly didn’t grow up eating nose to tail with liver, heart, or beef soup bones making a regular appearance on our dinner table like our Grandparents did.
But, as we’ve challenged ourselves to include more organ meats and a nose to tail approach to our cooking and eating, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by both the health benefits and immense appreciation it has given us for the animals that we raise and the meat that we are eating.
What are Beef Soup Bones?
Beef soup bones are a cut of beef that comes from the shank marrow bone or the upper leg of the animal. They are a roughly 4–6-inch oval shaped disc, approximately 1” deep, with a cylindrical marrow bone surrounded by meat all around.
They may be labeled at the butcher as a beef shank. But our butcher labels this cut of beef as beef soup bones. Beef soup bones or beef shanks are best known in the Italian dish osso buco or Vietnamese Pho.
How to Cook Beef Soup Bones
As you can imagine, the upper leg is a highly worked part of the cow. Because of this, beef soup bones are a tough and lean cut of beef.
They are best slow cooked or cooked low and slow through stewing or braising. When cooked this way, the result is a melt-in-your-mouth, fall-off-the-bone, piece of beef. As the name implies, beef soup bones also make a nutrient rich and delicious broth with high amounts of vitamins, minerals, collagen, and gelatin present. More on that next.
Nutritional Benefits of Beef Soup Bones
One of the unique benefits of beef soup bones is that it contains the marrow bone with the marrow inside. The bone morrow is essentially the fatty tissue found in the center of a bone. It tends to be most highly concentrated in the leg.
Bone marrow has long been prized for its abundant nutrition and healing properties. It is known to:
- Be highly beneficial for digestion and healing the digestive tract
- Boost the immune system
- Reduce inflammation
This is why bone broths have gained so much popularity for their health promoting properties in recent years!
Bone marrow is also a great source of vitamins and minerals, often even more so than meat. Vitamin E is significantly higher by as much as 4 times in the bone marrow than in meat while also containing twice as much vitamin A and B1.
As a personal antidote, I’ve always craved bone broth and bone marrow specifically when breastfeeding. Lo and behold, bone marrow contains alkylglycerols, which are immune boosting lipids that are a key ingredient in white blood cell production and are also found in breast milk. It always amazes me how clearly the body can show us what we need if we are paying attention.
Beef soup bones are also abundant in collagen, the structural protein in the body that is responsible for healthy skin, joints, and hair. This cut of beef is rich in connective tissue that turns into collagen when cooked down.
Beef Soup Bones – Frequently Asked Questions
How much do beef soup bones cost?
This is one big benefit to these more uncommon cuts of beef—they generally come at a fraction of the price of more premium cuts. Cost will vary widely based on location and farm. I’ve seen anywhere from $3/lb. and upwards of $8-10/lb.
How do beef soup bones differ from other beef bones?
The beef soup bones we are talking about here are sometimes called meaty soup bones or beef shank. If the package is just labeled “soup bones”, it may refer to just the bones from other parts of the animal and not contain the same marrow bone that beef soup bones contain.
Can you freeze beef soup bones?
Yes! We keep beef soup bones in our freezer until ready to use. Then I pull them out to thaw in the fridge a day or two before using. After cooking, you can also refreeze just the marrow bone to use again for making broth if desired.
Where can I find beef soup bones?
You should be able to find beef soup bones or beef shank at your local grocery store or butcher. Or, you can often purchase them directly from a local farm. Check out localharvest.org to look for a farm near you!
What is the difference between grassfed vs. grain fed soup bones?
The difference is the diet that the cow has consumed. A grassfed diet consists of a diet solely on pasture grass and hay versus a cow fed grain primarily made up of corn. We prefer to feed our cows solely grass and rotationally graze them through our pasture to most closely mimic the diet they would have eaten prior to conventional farming practices.
How to Slow Cook Beef Soup Bones for Broth
In order to achieve the best taste, texture, and nutritional benefits from beef soup bones, our favorite way to cook them is in a slow cooker.
Before placing them in a Dutch oven to slow cook in the oven or a crock pot, we like to sear the soup bone on each side. While this doesn’t do anything for nutritional purposes, it does help bring out a depth of flavor in your beef and broth.
After the beef soup bones are seared, place in a Dutch oven or crock pot and cover with water.
Slow cook on low for 8 hours in a crock pot or place dutch oven in a 200°F oven for several hours.
Alternatively, you can make broth from your beef soup bones by simmering on the stove for 2-3 hours.
From there, strain broth from the remaining meat and bone for a deliciously flavorful and gelatin filled broth.
The strained-out meat is perfect for adding into soups or stews with the delicious broth you just made! It will be extremely tender, melt in your mouth meat at this point. Some say that it loses its flavor after being cooked so long in the broth making process, but we haven’t experienced this!
One Pot Beef Soup Bone Vegetable Stew
Another way to cook beef soup bones is to make a nourishing, one pot beef soup bone vegetable stew. This recipe is an adaptation of the recipe for the beef soup bone broth above but with herbs and vegetables added to it to make a one pot meal.
This is one of those highly adaptable recipes based on your tastes and preferences. But this is our favorite recipe for beef vegetable stew from beef soup bones.
Beef Soup Bone Vegetable Stew Recipe
2-3 lbs beef soup bones
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
6 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil or other cooking fat
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1.5 lbs potatoes, chopped
4 carrots, diced
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 tbsp tapioca or arrowroot starch (or other thickener) dissolved in 2-3 tbsp water
1. Heat pan over medium to high heat and sauté garlic and onion in olive oil or other fat until fragrant.
2. Then, add beef soup bones to pan and sear on both sides.
3. Place soup bones, onion, and garlic in slow cooker and cover with water and 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients to slow cooker besides the tapioca starch or other thickener.
5. Slow cook for 8 hours on low or 200°F.
6. After cooked, remove bay leaves and bones from the stew.
7. Dissolve tapioca starch or other thickener in water and stir into hot stew pot.
Serve and Enjoy!
Other Beef Soup Bones Recipes
Like I mentioned above, popular recipes using this cut of beef are osso buco and pho. These are other great alternative recipes to put those tender beef soup bones to use.
While including more uncommon cuts of beef can be intimidating, we highly recommend giving it a try!
Here are a few more of our ways we include nose to tail cooking and organ meats in our kitchen: