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I was looking at the ingredients list of a pack of beef-flavored soup packet I was eating, and saw it used the following to make the broth:

beef bone extract, beef extract, beef fat.

It was all powdered form, so what exactly is that? Can someone clarify the following?

  • "Mushroom Powder" and "Mushroom Extract Powder" are two different things. Is there the same distinction between "Beef Bone Powder" and "Beef Bone Extract" in powdered form?

  • Is 'Bone Broth Protein Powder' or 'Bone Broth Powder' the same as 'Beef Bone Extract'? Doing a google search yields these example products here and here. It seems almost all google searches for bone broth powder like these are geared more towards increasing protein count for body building and not for general soup consumption? Is the soup beef bone powder the same as these protein-heavy ones for exercise/performance?

  • What is 'Beef Extract' powder and why are all my google searches pertaining to scientific research instead of for food/soups? For example, I get this when I search for beef extract powder soup

    typically are not suitable for human consumption or therapeutic use.

  • What is 'Beef Fat' powder? I do not find much use in food literature on this form of beef fat. Most of my google searches turn out to be for pet food like this and this. Do companies not make this for human consumption?

I wanted to make my own healthier version of beef-flavored soup without heart-attack levels of sodium, and without having to spend time cooking the bones and all, where can I buy those three powdered ingredients that's safe for human consumption? I'm terrified of ending up buying scientific powders and eating it.

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  • "without having to spend time cooking the bones and all" -- but that effort (and there's honestly not that much) is oh so worth it! It's not like you have to watch it while it's slowly bubbling along for hours....
    – Dan Mašek
    Commented Jun 29 at 21:04

1 Answer 1

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Rest assured that most scientific providers (that I know of) won't sell or ship to you, so you are unlikely to be able to actually purchase it in the first place. Foods for animal consumption are not prepared to the same safety standards as human consumption, so should not be used either.

Commercial beef extracts and similar are prepared using commercial techniques with equipment you are unlikely to have in your home, such as centrifugal separators and drum evaporators. This is usually done on powdered/granulated meat, which is then cooked and the water and fat removed. The research organization CSIRO in Australia has a good PDF on the process, with pages 2-4 covering the actual processing steps.

A [ingredient] powder will be the actual ingredient made into a powder. An extract is where something has been removed from [ingredient] and the removed bit is what you are eating. Thus, a bone powder will be a very finely ground bone, possibly (I'm not sure on this) chemically treated to make it soluble. And a bone extract is material that has been extracted from the bone, this might have been done by water extraction (boiling maybe) or by a chemical means and then had the chemical removed.

The good news is that you don't absolutely need the fancy equipment to make your own tasty bone soup powder, but it does take quite a bit of time and probably some experimentation to get it right.

The simplest way for you to prepare your own beef-flavoured soup is to buy some beef bones or meat (use a cheap, lean cut with lots of connective tissue) and boil them in water for an extended period of time. This way you can add as much or as little salt as you want - there will be some salt that comes out of the bone, but this is fairly low and won't be tasty in a large volume of water. This will give you what is known as a stock or broth depending on if you can consider it an ingredient (stock) or a meal by itself (broth). You can add flavourings such as vegetables, herbs, spices, different meats etc. to the pot while making the stock or broth. You can use these as bases to make any number of soups, stews, casseroles and other different meals.

There are numerous ways to make a tasty stock, but usually (IMO) the tastiest are by roasting the bones, then simmer on very low heat overnight in a covered pot, but even raw bones and/or meat boiled for an hour or two will make an adequate stock, especially if you add some vegetables - usebits you might not eat otherwise (celery leaves, leek leaves, carrot peelings) and things like onion skins, garlic, and herbs or spices (if you want). You can play with the ratio of bones to water to suit your needs. However, if you want to make a powder as opposed to a gel, you should minimize the cooking time to reduce extraction of the collagen proteins that make gels in stocks.

However, stocks in this form aren't very portable (lots of liquid) and don't store well without freezing, which is why the commercial instant soups are dry powders, which store very well. Of course you can carry a frozen container of broth/soup around with you and reheat in a microwave or on a stove top no problem, but it isn't as convenient as "just add boiling water"

So, to make these dry powders you basically need to take your stock/broth, remove or blend any chunks (taking out the bones first usually) and then evaporate the water until you have a paste or concentrate and finally dehydrate the paste/concentrate to remove all water, either in an oven at low temp (<100 C/212 F) or in a food dehydrator. You should do this at temperatures that will minimize bacterial growth, which is above 75 C (167 F). Not all food dehydrators will work at this temperature. You should be able to do it by gentle cooking on a stove top too, but this runs the risk of burning the mixture.

This process won't work well if you have anything over a tiny fraction of fat/oil in the stock as the fats will go rancid and won't store at all well. Note that as the water is removed, the salt concentration increases, so the final powder will be very salty to taste, but if resuspended/dissolved in the same initial volume of water as used to make the stock, should go back to its original saltiness.

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  • Thanks for the answer! Gotcha, that's a very nice explanation of the powder / extract difference. What is beef fat powder though? If fat goes rancid fast, why would the soup packet contain beef fat? Does it impart a certain taste that's not found in powdered beef bone extract or beef extract?
    – doejoe
    Commented Jun 27 at 1:43
  • @doejoe Sorry, no idea on the fat powder. It might be fat or oil mixed with an antioxidant to prevent it going rancid, but really I have no idea.
    – bob1
    Commented Jun 27 at 1:53
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    I was with you right up to the suggestion for dehydrating the broth at home. Homemade broth is very rich in gelatine. Just concentrating it down to about 1/3 or 1/4 gives you a jelly that's quite thicker than typical jelly desserts. Dehydrating would likely produce something closer to fruit leather than to powder, and rehydration would be very difficult or impossible. But worse, the conditions in a home dehydrator are optimal for bacterial growth, and a gelatinous meat broth is an optimal food medium for bacteria. So freezing the reduced broth is the farthest you can go realistically.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 27 at 7:32
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    @rumtscho - Indeed, portable soup was a staple for sailors and travellers in the 18th/19th centuries. I don't suppose it tasted very good, but when made in the right conditions it was evidently safe enough for people to go on making and using it. Commented Jun 27 at 9:30
  • Fat can be powdered for long-life storage, such as dehydrated suet. Beef fat powder is often sold as a pet food supplement, and appears to be largely dehydrated beef fat with added glucose and ash, though I can't find much in the way of detail on how it's made. I definitely agree that if you want to make your own beef soup you should either boil bones, or buy (low sodium) beef stock and prepare as on the packet. These days low-sodium stock and bouillon are widely available for those trying to cut down on salt.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 27 at 16:20

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