Storing, Freezing, and Reheating Bone Broth

I make bone broth so often that I rarely store it in the refrigerator, though it is safe in the fridge for up to three days. I get really cranky when I lose broth because I am disorganized or forget about it, so I tend to head straight for the freezer with new batches. Broth is safe in the freezer for two to three months(1). I store broth in three ways: glass jars, BPA-free bags, and BPA-free plastic/glass containers. I follow these guidelines for storing fresh broth.

As of late, ancestral storage techniques for broth have come back into vogue. These methods allow you to store broth in containers with a nice layer of fat across the top for extended periods of time without the fuss of pressure canning. The broth can then be stored in a refrigerator or a cold pantry.

I personally do not like the flavor of broth stored this way, but perhaps you might like it. It tasted, hmm, sort of fermented. I would recommend having a spotless refrigerator before trying this sort of storage technique. In my experiments, somehow the fat managed to pick up other flavors from other food nearby. That made me grumpy, because I think chickens grow their fat just so we can fry onions in it. Thus the idea of storing things the old-fashioned way lost its appeal to me when it made my chicken fat taste funky. As always, your mileage may vary.

How to Store Broth in Glass Mason Jars
This is my favorite way to store broth in the freezer for drinking. For broth that will be used for cooking, I tend to prefer BPA-free plastic bags or containers. That’s strictly my personal preference, however. Use whatever you want or have. There are some great options available should you decide to label your jars.
  1. You can use larger jars than the 16 oz. ones shown in the photo above, or jars without handles. Use care when filling the jars. Ensure that the jars are either the same temperature or just slightly warmer than the broth.
  2. Add your broth to a large pouring pitcher for convenience and to avoid drips as you pour.
  3. Begin filling the jars. For pint jars, plan to leave at least 1.5″ of space between the broth and the top of the jar. If you are using quart-sized jars, allow 2″. This gives the broth room to expand when it freezes. This is one of those rare circumstances where I recommend using a ruler the first time to make absolutely certain that you leave enough room.
  4. Once all of the jars are filled, inspect each one and wipe it down with a clean paper towel. If you had broth drip on a jar while pouring, put a little white vinegar on a paper towel to remove the moisture and any remaining grease. Pay particular attention to the threads around the mouth of the jar. Hidden moisture here can cause breakage later on when the liquid freezes and expands.
  5. Apply lids. The lids I prefer to use are reusable stainless steel. When applying the lids, do not screw them on as tightly as possible. A firm twist closed is plenty since these jars will be stored at freezing temperatures. Leaving at least a small layer of fat in the broth helps create a seal between the lid and the broth. I do not recommend using two piece lids, particularly if you have had jars break in the freezer before. These lids do not allow for any wiggle room when the liquid expands. If you want to use banded lids, consider letting the broth freeze in the jars before adding the lids.
  6. Give your jars one last inspection to remove any unwanted moisture.
  7. Place the jars in the freezer. It is best to place the jars on a rack so that there is no chance of condensation forming underneath or between jars that could potentially freezing the jar to the surface. This is another common cause of breakage.
  8. After 24 hours, you can rearrange the jars in the freezer if needed.

How to Reheat Broth Stored in Glass Mason Jars

It is wonderful to grab a pre-portioned mug of broth from the freezer, and be on the couch with a toasty warm mug of broth in minutes. After removing the lid (this is extremely important unless you want broken glass and broth on your ceiling), you can warm the mugs several ways:
  1. You can create a water bath in a saucepan and set the frozen mug inside. Set heat to medium high. This will warm the broth in about ten minutes, depending on the size of the saucepan and the amount of water used.  Make sure you start the mug in the saucepan with cold water and increase the heat gradually to avoid sudden temperature changes that could break the jar. Fill the saucepan with water to at least the middle of the jar. Ensure the jar will be stable when the water boils. You can always add more water to the saucepan later if desired. Let the broth boil for a minute to ensure it is piping hot and fully thawed. Use great care when removing the jar from the water bath. You might be tempted to say very bad words if you burn your fingers, and I can’t have that on my conscience.
  2. If you choose to use a microwave, this is a convenient way to warm the broth mugs. (Microwave use is a personal choice that you should make after discussing the matter with your healthcare practitioner.) Bring the broth to a boil before removing the jar from the microwave. Take great care when removing the jars from the heat source. Some jar handles will become very hot when heated in the microwave; others do not. Grabbing the jar with an oven mitt or at least a paper towel the first time is a good idea. If you burn yourself, I might have a giggle at your expense. Could you really blame me?
  3. To speed up either heating process, let the jar thaw overnight in the refrigerator with the lid on. You can also pack these jars to go in an insulated bag when you are headed to the office or on the road.
  4. A thermos with a glass or steel interior is ideal for taking heated broth on the go or even keeping broth warm throughout the day at home. Prime the thermos with boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Pour out the water and then immediately pour in your heated broth. A quality thermos should keep the broth toasty warm for at least 12 hours. I have an awesome 20 oz. hot pink Stanley thermos. It’s sturdy, has a lifetime guarantee, and is heavy enough to double as a weapon if needed. I know you’re jealous.

How to Store Broth in BPA-free Plastic Bags 

I store my broth in sizes ranging from 1, 2, 4, and 8 cups. (Speaking of the holy war regarding the use of plastic bags: I’m not going there, either.) I chose these amounts because they correlate with the amounts of broth I need most frequently and therefore help me minimize wasted broth. Use the best quality freezer bags that you can obtain. Many bags that are labeled ‘storage’ are insufficient and will crack or leak. I always choose bags that are designated for the freezer. Freezer bags usually have a matte white writing space on the side of the bag that is handy for labeling.
I write the type and amount of broth in each bag, any particular flavors I included or excluded when making the broth, and especially when the broth expires. (The FDA recommends keeping broth in the freezer for no more than three months. Sometimes I ignore this, but that is a personal choice.) Label your bags in advance with a Sharpie so that you know how much each bag should contain. Writing on bags already filled with broth is like trying to walk across a water bed. Take special care when preparing plastic bags for the freezer. There is much you can do to prevent bag leaks, which are frustrating and disheartening.
  1. Take a heavy plastic tray, metal cookie sheet, or roasting pan, and line it with a double layer of paper towels. This will help catch any escaped moisture or condensation and wick it away from the bags.
  2. Next, line the tray with a double layer of parchment or wax paper. This will help ensure that if any moisture escapes from the bag, the bag will not freeze stuck to the paper, the paper towels, and especially the tray or cookie sheet. This is where many bag leaks are born.
  3. Add your broth to a large glass or plastic measuring cup with a pouring spout. This will help you fill the bags with precise amounts and minimal spillage.
  4. Ensure you have left several generous inches of space at the top of each bag to allow for expansion. I try to leave 2-3″ of space between the broth and the top of the bag.
  5. Once you have filled all of your bags, carefully wipe down each bag with a clean paper towel. Do the bags feel greasy? Wipe down the greasy areas with a little white vinegar; it should help dissolve the grease.
  6. Lay down each bag carefully on the prepared tray. Do not overlap bags; leave a centimeter or two in between each bag.
  7. When you have covered the tray, add another layer of paper towels and parchment or wax paper. You can now add another layer of bags.
  8. Once you have completed filling your bags, place the tray in the freezer for 24 hours. Make sure none of the bags are touching the sides of the tray or cookie sheet.
  9. After 24 hours, your broth should be fully frozen. You can now safely remove the bags from the tray, discard the paper towels and parchment or wax paper, and stack the bags however you wish.

How to Reheat Broth Stored in BPA-Free Plastic Bags

It is extremely simple to warm broth stored in plastic bags. You have several options:
  1. Cut open the freezer bag and remove the frozen broth. Place broth in a saucepan (or Dutch oven if it is a large-sized bag) with a tablespoon of water. Set heat to medium high. The broth should be thawed and warm in minutes.
  2. You could also choose to microwave the broth in a microwave-safe dish.
  3. To expedite thawing, allow the broth to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. You may wish to set the bag inside a plastic bowl in the unlikely event that a leak has developed in the bag.

How to Store Broth in BPA-free Plastic or Glass Containers with Lids

Containers with flexible lids and/or plastic sides are least likely to break or develop leaks. Follow the instructions for How to Store Broth in BPA-free Plastic Bags, except:
  1. I write the type and amount of broth on each lid, any particular flavors I included or excluded when making the broth, and especially when the broth expires. (The FDA recommends keeping broth in the freezer for no more than three months.) Label your containers in advance with a Sharpie so that you know how much each container will hold.
  2. You will not need to stack the containers on a tray lined with paper towels and parchment or wax paper.
  3. You should be able to stack the filled containers as you wish in the freezer as soon as they are filled and wiped clean of any spills. See? Easy peasy, as long as you can keep up with both the lids and the containers… which I cannot. I have an excellent collection of mid 1990s Rubbermaid containers without the matching lids. Need any?

How to Reheat Broth Stored in BPA-Free Plastic or Glass Containers with Lids

This also is an easier process.
  1. Run hot water over the top, bottom, and sides of the container for one minute. This should loosen the frozen block of broth inside.
  2. Open the lid, and shake container until the block of broth releases. Place block in a saucepan or Dutch oven, depending on the size of the container. Follow directions for How to Reheat Broth Stored in BPA-Free Plastic Bags.
  3. You could also remove the container lid and use the microwave to reheat your broth.
See? It only seems complicated. You’ve got this.
(1) USDA Food Safety Fact Sheets. Chicken from Farm to Table. July 25, 2014

2 thoughts on “Storing, Freezing, and Reheating Bone Broth

  1. Thanks for all the bone broth info.. I have a question or two … please … I have 3 whole chicken bones with some meat still on them … they have been frozen for 1 month.. I plan to make bone broth I my new instapot pressure cooker… will this be safe? Can I eat the chicken?

    Like

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