Is it safe use half-eaten bones from a family dinner meal to make stock? Or is this unsanitary, and it's better to just obtain bones through filleting and deboning while raw or after slow or pressure cooking?

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    Do you mean the bohes have actually been gnawed on (like ribs or chicken drumsticks), or just the meat carved off them? The latter is common, even ideal (better than raw for many purposes).
    – Chris H
    Dec 19, 2017 at 18:01
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    If you have a pressure cooker, use it for making the stock. It'll destroy more things (bacteria & toxins) than heat alone.
    – Joe
    Dec 21, 2017 at 20:34
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    Asking for clarification or providing related information is fine, but if you want to speculate as to the answer, please write an answer. We've already deleted multiple unsupported half-answers in comments here.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 21, 2017 at 20:58
  • If the bones were in someone's mouth the human saliva has over 600 beacteria that create the enzymes needed to start breaking down food. You don't want that. Dec 22, 2017 at 0:48

2 Answers 2


It's not sanitary, in the sense of following the health rules. Especially since it's unlikely that you're following the two-hour guidelines: the gnawed bones have been in the danger zone enough to potentially pick up an enterobacter that produced heat-stable toxins. Boiling will not fix that. And having been in somebody's mouth increases the chance that such bacteria is one that infects humans.

Consider it this way: even if you're not squicked out by the basic concept, how would you feel if the bones had been left out on the plate for a day? A week?

As for whether it's safe, the short answer is "no".

The odds it being actually dangerous are pretty low. The food safety rules are designed to keep the most at-risk people safe: small children, people with compromised immune systems, etc. Given how many other opportunities there are for food-borne infections to be picked up, I'd consider something that I picked up and simmered for many hours to be about as free from pathogens as anything I got out of the dirt, i.e. vegetables, which we often eat raw.

So I'll admit to having done it, but I wouldn't feed it to anybody except myself.

  • 1
    I've done it myself, too (for personal consumption) ... but more often, I'll cook a chicken w/ bones in, but take it off the bones when serving it up, and reserving those for stock (so I'm not using utensils that have been in my mouth, or gnawing on the bones).
    – Joe
    Dec 21, 2017 at 20:33
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    Your write, "well the odds of that are pretty low"...do you mean the odds of it being safe or the odds of it being unsafe...your later comments make it appears as if you mean the odds of it being unsafe are pretty low. I would still like to know, more specifically, what kinds of pathogens might be transmitted to gnawed on bones, which would not be rendered safe in the re-cooking process. Let's say we were within the limits of the danger zone.
    – moscafj
    Dec 21, 2017 at 21:00
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    Thank you; I've clarified my answer. Yes, I consider it wildly unlikely that a set of well-boiled bones could possibly transmit anything. I just can't rule it out. Dec 21, 2017 at 22:18
  • The problems with the gnawed-on-ness are the same as if they'd handled ingredients with unwashed hands. There are heat-stable toxins (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat-stable_enterotoxin) produced by E. coli. The time limits are set for the bugs that naturally inhabit the food and the air; your hands can potentially transfer more, faster. Dec 21, 2017 at 22:20
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    My main suggestion is just to avoid saying "safe" when you're actually saying "low risk but high enough that it violates food safety guidelines" - I would call that "unsafe". It's almost always impossible to trace, but we still know some good practices to achieve tolerable risk by somewhat arbitrary standards (from a food safety agency, generally), and I'm pretty sure this idea is not okay by those standards.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 21, 2017 at 22:49

@Joshua Engel covers the safety and sanitary aspect very well.

But if you are keen to give it a go, perhaps you can roast the bone remains first...

Boiling won't kill all the germs, neither will roasting - but it will kill more than boiling.

If you have good heat in the oven (180 - 200C) for a good 30 minutes or so (longer if you turn the heat down so they don't burn), they will probably develop a better taste when boiled for stock afterwards.

Throw in some veges for the last 20 minutes, and also add them to your stock

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