When attempting to cook bone broths, what is the correct technique of breaking up long bones which do not fit inside the crock pot?

I can think of hammering or sawing off hand, but both seem to be rather messy techniques. Is there any good method to break off large bones (relatively) safely?

  • 5
    For future reference, get it cut at where you bought it
    – Huangism
    Dec 29, 2014 at 0:30
  • 3
    @Huangism the context is of a whole ham (Jamon Iberico), so I obviously can't get it cut by the butcher.
    – March Ho
    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:52
  • 1
    Oh ok, in that case, mention it in the question
    – Huangism
    Dec 29, 2014 at 16:07
  • A knife called a "bone cleaver" does exist. Dec 12, 2016 at 7:49

7 Answers 7


A normal hammer (one that is used for nails) will not suffice for breaking relatively strong bones, such as the leg bones. Personal experience: I bought a pork knuckle, and attempted to break the bone with a hammer (600g head), and it resisted 5 minutes of straight hammering, despite the fact that the surface was significantly dented, and many bone fragments were scattered about the room.

A few online searches suggested that a sledgehammer would be required to break bones for broth.

In short, get the butcher to do it for you. You probably don't have the necessary equipment needed to smash bones.

  • The type of head on the hammer might be part of the issue. Was it a smooth-faced hammer, or a framing hammer? I would suspect that a smooth-faced hammer is going to slip off, and most of the blow would be deflected. Also, instead of a sledgehammer, you might want to consider an engineer's mallet, as you have much better control. And to get both the heavy weight and less issue w/ slipping ... I suspect the back of an engineer's mallet would work well.
    – Joe
    Jan 20, 2015 at 2:21
  • @Joe The hammer head was flat with a textured surface to prevent it from slipping off surfaces, so I doubt slippage was the issue.
    – March Ho
    Jan 20, 2015 at 7:30
  • I wonder if a bench vise, and maybe a pipe on the handle for more leverage would do the trick. I'm not up for potentially ruining a heavy duty vise to find out. You'd have to put a layer of plastic on the inside to protect from contamination and to collect what gets smashed, I'd imagine. Feb 3, 2023 at 16:29

A hacksaw (used for cutting metal) is a relatively inexpensive hand tool. Keep a blade set aside for food use only, or buy a new one if you don't use it frequently for that purpose. That's good for more even, straight bones. I'm not sure how that would work on a knuckle bone like others are talking about.

A farmer at the outdoor market had a beef femur that he sold me for $3 (whether he should bring it and try to sell it was obviously the cause of some family disagreement/discussion, as his pre-teen son freaked out when he heard that his dad actually sold the darn thing). I used the hacksaw to get it into the stockpot. When I was done making stock from it, I hung the two halves from the tree in our front yard as part of Halloween decorations.

  • THIS IS ACTUALLY THE BEST ONE!!! I spent ten seconds trying to smash a femur with my hammer. Hacksaw is 100% functional and relatively quiet
    – Mixed Rice
    Feb 3, 2023 at 5:41

A chefs hammer or small tacking hammer will do the job fine

Uncooked bones break quite cleanly, and should not splinter when given a decent hammer blow (as if hammering in a nail)

Use a old wooden chopping board, so as to absorb the impacts, and take the odd miss-hit

  • What hammer type is good for this purpose, and why?
    – March Ho
    Dec 28, 2014 at 10:33
  • See first sentence?
    – TFD
    Dec 28, 2014 at 20:37
  • 1
    Sorry for the poor phrasing, meant to just ask why.
    – March Ho
    Dec 28, 2014 at 20:38
  • 1
    Because using the back of your knife is a bad practice? And using a builders hammer is overkill, and makes a big mess. YMMV try for yourself!
    – TFD
    Dec 28, 2014 at 22:43

just adding another method for options ...

For really big bones like cow, deer, elk, etc. leg bones, femur, scapula, etc.

  1. Set a bone on or wrapped in an old, clean towel on a concrete sidewalk or driveway
  2. Holding a 6# sledge hammer by the handle with the head hanging straight down about 2 feet above the bone, hit the bone


  • starting out with very little added force and increasing until the bone breaks gives me a rough idea of how much force will be needed for the next bone
  • it doesn't require much accuracy, but gives a lot more control over the amount of force applied to avoid big bone splinters flying about
  • no part of my body is in danger of getting hit
  • yes, it could unseat the hammer head from the handle, but that's very fixable

with all that said, I'd prefer to use a hacksaw, but I don't need it often enough to justify buying and storing one exclusively for safe food use


We wanted to break lamb shank bones in half to make stock. We have a garage full of equipment, but some was contaminated with metal/oil etc. and not food safe, and others were hard to clean and so we didn't want to contaminate them with food particles. We settled on a ratchet limb cutter. We cleaned the two small blades with alcohol (before and after use) and were able to cut the shank bones. Just barely though, so this wouldn't work on larger bones.


Well that was easy! I placed the leftover bone from a smoked turkey drumstick in a plastic bag and laid it outside on concrete. Then I used a flathead screwdriver like a chisel—with the point against the bone, I hit down hard on the handle with a regular hammer. In just a few taps it broke through the bone. A few more on either side of the first break and the bone was broken. Took less than two minutes and wasn't messy at all.

  • Birds have rather porous bone structure (to make them lighter for flying), so I don't think breaking bones is even required for extracting what's inside from poultry bones. I think the issue is more with mammals - pigs, cows, etc. Feb 3, 2023 at 16:32

Breaks bones for 'bone broth' method.

  1. tools - heavy ROOFING hammer or sledgehammer used for wedge for firewood.
  2. tools - metal plate, wood sheet, rubber mat, concrete patio floor. You may crack the patio floor.

Hammer Selection: Heavy, steel forged, NO wood handle, roofing hammer. Use two hands. Try freeze in ice, then boil in water. 3 or 5 cycles and then broth becomes weak in taste. Sledgehammer is preferred. It is better to buy expensive roofing hammer than buy more than $60 chef knife.

  1. procedure: wear safety goggles and use cardboard box to contain flying fragments.
  2. Freeze the bones solid in ICE.
  3. some bones are not brittle, but after repeated cycles will BECOME brittle or able to be broken.
  4. 2 hours cook bone broth.
  5. remove bones. Soak in vinegar acid.
  6. smash the bones while they are warm. optional.
  7. cover in ice and freeze in freezer.
  8. use plastic bag, tyvek bag, cloth to contain flying bone fragments. Only do this outside.
  9. repeat 3 or 4 times. the slow heat and vinegar cycles will soften bone structure.

summary results of $1. / pound turkey on sale.

  1. buy the cheapest. do NOT get butterball of fake fat injected
  2. sharpen knife.
  3. cook with two pots
  4. separate meat, dark, white, debone and cool.
  5. separate portions for freezing in freezer.
  6. drink the broth or soup.
  7. remove collagen and tendons from bones. Eat.
  8. bone collections (lamb, pork feet, turkey)
  9. use first procedure.
  10. strain broth and remove the heavy fragments on bottom. Eat the fragments, if possible.

THIS SYSTEM works in Tampa, FL, USA. YMMV. Used roofing hammers are available at thrift store.

  • 3
    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. A question: are you serious? Dec 12, 2016 at 12:25
  • 2
    I think the intended broth was one of pork, not of mature dinosaur..... Dec 12, 2016 at 14:22
  • There’s a problem at step 6. The OP’s pot is too small.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 24, 2020 at 0:04
  • unironically love this savage AF 55555
    – Mixed Rice
    Feb 3, 2023 at 5:40

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