I tried to prepare the bone and skin from a ham shank for use as a kind of brown sauce or stock. The purpose was to fold the reduction into a beef/pork chili. I was very pleased with the flavor that resulted, but want to push it further. However, I had to use them whole and my guess is that the fast process and uncut nature of the bones made them less effective.

First I roasted the (hickory smoked) ham shank (meat and skin on) at 350'F for about 2 hours. Then I removed it and pulled off the meat and skin from the bone. I took an old boning knife and was able to separate the two bones from each other; covered with water (added some onions and salt etc) and boiled vigorously for about 3 1/2 hours (covered in a high-walled frying pan), replacing water as necessary. Shortly after beginning that, I kind of pan steamed the skin from the meat and added the meat to the chili and the skin to the stock pan. What resulted was a good broth.

Basically, I would like to know how I can take it from good broth to a demi-glace or essential oil; one pungent enough to be rendered with a roux or other thickener and incorporated into a chili. (Forgive me, there are better words for what I am asking; I just don't think I know them.) After the process I had about 8 ounces of the oily liquid, and per the scale of 4 quarts of chili the ham stock was just not as pronounced as I would have liked.

  • Any initial suggestions or red flags that my process may have brought to mind are appreciated.
  • The process I wanted to follow but couldn't (no cleaver, are they necessary?) involved cutting the bones into 1-2 inch segments and pan-frying those (instead of the two whole bones) then vigorously boiling. What knife is actually suited for this purpose where there is some required accuracy in the portioning?
  • There was a time constraint on me originally, but does really getting to demi-glace require a minimum of 6-8 hours simmering and reducing?

1 Answer 1


Yes, making a demiglace will take a long time. There isn't much of a way around that, as liquid will only evaporate so fast. For a proper demi, you will need to include lots of connective tissue in order to convert collagen to gelatine.

To make a stock, don't boil, it's not necessary. A simmer should be fine. And whatever size pot you're using, you'll want to have approximately 1:1::bones:aromatics, the solids should fill the pot completely, add just enough water to cover.

There isn't that much accuracy required in chopping up the bones, as long as they're relatively around the same size. I wouldn't pan-fry them, I would roast. And yes, you will need a cleaver (or a saw) to cut through the bones; you will destroy your other knives.

  • Thanks for confirming the part about the cleaver. My boning knife was an old one and I didn't care to try my (working) chef's knife. Nonetheless, plenty of q/a sites out there saying any knife will work. So as a final (insanely vagueish) question, about how much of the demi-glace will I need to add to 4 qt. of chili for it to have an impact? (For reference, think of Texas red chili in particular, if that rings a bell)
    – mfg
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 20:24
  • An addition. While demiglace does require very long time, the rate of evaporation (once boil is reached) can be managed through the surface area. So if you are really really pressed for time, you could consider putting the stock into 2-3 pots (or pans, they are wider) and reducing these in parallel. The energy cost (and the fact that the other hobs may be needed for something else) would be prohibitive for me, but you may feel otherwise.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 20:27
  • @rum that was part of the reason I went with a pan ; it seemed that the more water that could evaporate the better. I gather from you and dan that this is contrary.
    – mfg
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 21:39
  • 1
    No, you are correct; more surface area means faster evaporation. I'm sure there is a formula which describes this somewhere. Boning knives are for stripping meat from bones, not for cutting bones; they are far too flimsy. 4L of chili... well it depends on how much you want the demi flavour to impact your final product really. A classic demi will be around 25-40% of the original stock volume, so you can gauge the flavour impact from there.
    – daniel
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 22:05
  • @daniel thanks so much. I'd love to say some volume X would make sense then, but more likely will just have to play with it. I think I'll try 3 shanks next time and cut them up better and do it right. Now I just need to get my hands on a cleaver :)
    – mfg
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 13:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.