When simmering a basic chicken or beef broth (bones/meat/onion/carrot/spices) the result generally improves with time until, often, after a long time (on the order of 12-24 hours) the broth and solids change color significantly in the 'dark' direction and it smells a bit, well, burnt. Not 'gross throw it out', but definitely a 'darker' aroma and appearance.

I'm confused about how this happens. There's still significant liquid in the pot so why is anything burning? The temperature should still be hanging out close to 100C/212F. If color wasn't developing before, why does it eventually develop now? Does it have to do with any solid pieces poking up above the waterline? I wouldn't expect those to have such a different temperature.

Any tips to prevent this? Or is this normal/expected/desired for long 'bone broth' type soups? (Or does this only happen to me?)

  • it's likely not above the water line, but at the bottom of the pot. How often are you stirring it, and are things sticking to the bottom of the pot?
    – Joe
    Nov 20, 2019 at 2:46
  • Not stirring often but don't see sticking happening, and certainly no charring on the bottom of specific solid pieces. This is a loose broth not a thick pureed vegetable soup. (But maybe I'm just not understanding the physics right.)
    – Double AA
    Nov 20, 2019 at 2:47
  • thinner soups actually settle faster than thicker ones, if they're not completely homogenous. You can end up with a thin sort of 'sludge layer' down at the bottom of the pot when it's had time to rest between stirring. I suspect that's what's browning.
    – Joe
    Nov 20, 2019 at 2:53

1 Answer 1


Brown meat broth is a traditional recipe in Brazil, where bones and vegetables are roasted in the oven with some olive oil, before they are used in making the broth. This "caramelizing" effect turns the broth brown.

In your case, and as observed in the comments above, when the brothgets "thicker", some pieces of vegetable and bones have reacted at the bottom of the pot with the strong direct heat, getting a bit roasted/burned, which gives you the same "caramelizing" effect as in the Brazilian brown broth recipe described above.

hence you describe in your question:

and it smells a bit, well, burnt.

stirring regularly, to make sure no heavier parts of the broth stay in direct contact with the bottom of the pot for too long, avoid the broth "burning".

enter image description here

photo credit: https://www.temperando.com

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