April 25, 2018

I HATE "BONE BROTH!" a.k.a. Collagen/Gelatin for People Who Hate Broth (a.k.a. Awesome Cuts of Meat You're [Probably] Not Eating: Pork Feet and Hocks)!

Get a load of that gelatin! NICE!

Nutritionist confession: I HATE BONE BROTH!

There, I said it.

I hate broth, I hate stock, and I dislike soup. Kick me out of the nutrient-dense real food club, excommunicate me if you must, but I’m a coffee girl through and through. I gag at the thought of starting my day with a “steaming hot mug of broth,” the way other people happily brag about on social media. Yuck. I know others find broth to be a great way to start their day, but frankly, for me, it’s coffee or bust, and if I have to turn in my membership card, so be it.

I’ve made a few batches of chicken and beef stock in the past, but being that I have zero interest in drinking a mug of this stuff straight-up, and I’m not a big soup fan, what typically happens is, I freeze several quarts of it, and about 18 months later (sometimes longer!), I defrost them and dump ‘em down the drain. It’s not that I don’t understand the benefits of bone broth; it’s that I just plain don’t like it. I’ve used collagen protein powders in post-workout shakes in the past, and I eat a fair amount of meat on the bone, with some other connective tissue bits along for the ride. So it’s not like I’m deficient in the particular amino acids bones and joints are especially rich in (if there is such a thing as being deficient in these). I just prefer to get my collagen and gelatin from sources other than long-simmered bones and joints.

That being said, I haven’t used collagen powder in a long time, and I know I should probably be getting more of that good collagen and other connective “stuff.” (There are no specific ailments I’m looking to improve by way of this, but I ain't gettin’ any younger, and it would be nice to keep my bones, joints, skin, nails, and tendons in good working order. Plus, maybe, just maybe, increasing my intake of this will help reduce the crow’s feet and wrinkles that have taken up residence on my face the last couple years. Eek!)

So, with that in mind, I’ve been looking for some other ways to get this into my diet, and I’m thrilled to report my recent discovery of the wonders of pig’s feet! Yes! Pigs feet, pork hocks, trotters…they’re all good! I’m Jewish, but I don’t keep kosher, and thank goodness, because frankly, life without bacon and prosciutto is no life at all. (And if you're thinking turkey bacon is a good substitute, please just close the window you're reading my blog in, back away slowly, and never come back. You are dead to me.*)

Those of you who’ve been eating these cuts and making broth for ages may have been using feet and hocks all along, but all I know is, I’m very glad to have found a way to get lots of collagen/gelatin into my diet in a way that is actually really palatable, enjoyable, and delicious.

How does it work?

Well, I’ve discovered the wonders of using my slow cooker and letting these otherwise tough and nearly inedible cuts get so soft and tender the meat pretty much just falls off the bones. If you look at pig’s feet or hocks, you’ll notice they have everything good going on—everything! They’re meaty, they’ve got a fair bit of fat, and they’ve got bones, skin, and other gnarly connective bits.   

I put a bunch of sliced cabbage and onions in the slow cooker, top with feet and/or hocks, add salt & pepper, a generous splash of apple cider vinegar, and about a cup of water. Let ‘er go for about an hour on high and three more hours on low, or do two hours high and two hours low, and what you’ll find is meat so tender it melts in your mouth. The skin, on the other hand, is kind of hit or miss. Some bits are very soft, and others are like shoe leather. However it turns out, if you can chew on it, it’s basically pure protein and fat, and it’s loaded with glycine, the primary amino acid constituent of collagen.

DUDE! Check out these pork hocks: get a load of all that skin, meat, and bone. It's the trifecta!

Here's a different angle -- you can see the shank
bone with the marrow, surrounded by meat and lots of
connective bits.
Possibly a better look at the skin on the hocks,
plus a turkey wing and a neck bone. 

I’m sorry this isn’t more of an exact recipe, but honestly, that’s the beauty of slow cookers: you put a bunch of vegetables and meat in, let it go for a few hours, and your food is done. Especially when you’re not going for a fancy stew or pot roast, but are just cooking down some collagenous bits in order to get your fill of this stuff without having to choke down a cup of broth. There’s really no need for a recipe. Just put everything in the pot & let ‘er go.

For a nice twist on this, use smoked pork hocks, and add smoked turkey wings, drumsticks, or smoked pork neckbones. All of these are available at my local supermarkets. Take a look next time you’re shopping at your store; you might be surprised at what you find. I sure was. (The smoked meats lend things a salty, “porkier” flavor, which is why this requires pretty much no seasoning beyond a bit more salt and pepper.) If you’re on the hunt for collagenous connective bits, any pieces with skin and bones will do. There’s the ones I just mentioned, plus beef or lamb neckbones, and chicken wings or drumsticks. 

This could not be easier. It’s a total of about 4 hours of cooking time, and it would be even faster in one of those newfangled pressure cookers or clay pots. Either way, this is a delicious and nourishing meal that takes about 6 minutes to prepare, and the entire rest of the time is hands off, when you can be getting other things done, including not even being home at all.

How do I know this is loaded with collagen?
This is the liquid from the slow cooker, which I
separated from the meat & vegetables and
put into a quart container. This is looking down
into the container -- notice how the the entire
thing has jelled. (You can see it pulling away
from the sides of the container. You can skim the
fat from the top if you so choose.)

Well, when it’s hot, the liquid will be … well, liquid. Eat the portion you desire and refrigerate the rest. Once it’s been in the fridge for a bit, you will notice that the entire thing will jell. Repeat: the entire thing will jell! That’s your proof that there was plenty of that good stuff in the cuts you used, and you didn’t have to simmer them for a kazillion hours to make the magic happen. Might you get slightly more minerals from a 48-hour broth made primarily from bones? Yes, possibly, but: 1) This post is about collagen/gelatin, not minerals; and 2) I don’t normally say this, but if you’re relying on bone broth as your primary source of minerals on a low carb diet (or any other diet, for that matter), you are “doing it wrong.”

As I mentioned earlier, you don’t even have to go out of your way to seek out feet, hocks, or scary-sounding neckbones. Regular ol’ run-of-the-mill chicken wings & drumsticks will provide you with plenty of gelatin. I’ve put a few of each in a large pot with water, onions, celery, salt, and, on occasion, a few large chunks of fresh ginger root, let it boil for a bit and then slow simmer for about an hour and voila! Same thing—the whole lot will solidify from all the gelatin. (And considering drumsticks often go on sale for 99 cents a pound—99 cents a pound!—there is no claiming that low carb is expensive. Sure, if you’re paying 99 cents a pound for chicken, it’s not free-range, pastured, organic, and blah-blah-blah, but please check your food sanctity at the door when you come to my blog. If you can afford to get all your food from a local farm, by all means, please, do it. (I do what I can in this area, and it’s often not as expensive as you might think.) But if you’re on a budget and really can’t spring for that, do not feel the least bit guilty, nor let anyone “shame” you on social media for the provenance of your food. Whether you’re following a low carb or ketogenic diet for overall health or as medical therapy for a specific condition, I promise you, eating regular ol’ conventional meat and vegetables is approximately four zillion times better than eating food saint-approved organic, non-GMO sugar and grain-based junk.

Maybe this is a strange post for me to have written, but honestly, you can’t move two inches in the real food world without someone singing the praises of collagen and gelatin, specifically in the form of bone broth. (If you want to learn more, check out the book Nourishing Broth.) So, being that I am such a broth and soup hater, I’m happy to have found a way to get this stuff into my diet that I actually enjoy and even look forward to eating.

What’s up with my not liking soup? I dunno. I’ve just never been a fan. Especially not of thin, watery, brothy soups. I grew up eating my mother’s chicken soup and matzoh ball soup, and it only occurred to me once I was older that I never especially liked those things; I ate them because they were put in front of me. Because they were there. I can, on occasion, enjoy the heck out of a hearty, thick and creamy soup as an entrée—something like clam chowder, lobster bisque, cream of broccoli, or a cheddar beer soup, but let’s be honest: those lose a little something if you’re not going to dip bread or crackers in them. So maybe it’s not that I hate soup (the way I do hate plain broth); it’s more that there are about eight hundred thousand other things I’d rather fill my stomach with. Soup isn’t off the list entirely; it’s just near the bottom.

So yeah. This was my (very long) way of offering a suggestion to my broth-hating brethren for a way to get some collagen in, if you want to, and you'd prefer not to use powders.

Check out these other, much more fun and educational posts in my series, “Awesome Cuts of Meat You’re (Probably) Not Eating”: 

*Totally kidding about you being dead to me if you happen to enjoy turkey bacon. But still, turkey bacon is b*llsh*t. 

Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to amazon.com, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.


  1. Your writing is like a breath of fresh air! Many of us are on fixed, retirement incomes and the food saints of the world are really annoying and, often insulting! I invested in an Instant Pot last year and after some trial & error, I've made many meals as you describe here that I used to make in a crock pot. Several years ago beef shanks were a favorite for this in my crock pot. As an 'odd meat' out type of meat, they were really cheap. Now as lowcarb has shown many the benefits of these off item meats, they've gotten too expensive for me. They cost almost as much at some steaks! I do also love the big fat meaty country rib with the big bones...not the skinny spare ribs. So far, they are almost always around $2 lb. Anyway, thanks for great common sense articles for those of us who can't afford to be pure! LOL!

    1. Thanks! I’m glad it resonated. Food purists can find another blog to read. ;-) I won’t tolerate that here. I’ve worked on small farms and at farmers’ markets, so I very much understand the implications and importance of that kind of farming. But the reality is, not everyone who wants to get healthy can afford that kind of food. And the truth is, you absolutely can get to excellent health and a healthy weight by eating regular ol’ supermarket food. Nobody should be made to feel ashamed if all they can afford is what’s on sale at their local store.

  2. What you describe sounds like a modified "Head Cheese", or "Brawn"-- yum

  3. My brother and I used to fight over the beef or chicken “jello” and just eat it with a spoon!

  4. This post puts me in mind of a guy I started calling The Mineral Man years ago, Joel Wallach. First heard him on a cassette tape. (Google that if you don't know what it is.) He is one of quite a few people I found in my earlier searches for info on prevention thru nutrition. His deal is, clearly, minerals, claiming the soil was depleted years ago and many conditions can be traced to deficiencies. One thing he advocated at the time (early to mid 90's) was packets of just plain gelatin- which he said was made from chicken cartilage- stirred into water. Sounds like the same idea as bone broth, just a lot easier, though perhaps as nauseating. He's still out there, with his own website and product line, of course. I found his angle interesting. His hallmark tape, Dead Doctors Don't Lie, is on Youtube, I was pleased to see. I recall he said that you COULD jump into a dumpster in back of a Kentucky Fried Chicken and suck on the ends of the bones, but gelatin is just easier! He may have beaten the broth proponents to the punch years ago.

    Thanks for the whole "food sanctity" and "food saints" concept. That's a gem!

  5. Trotting of to buy some hocks... Lol great idea 👍

  6. Ha ha. love, love this post. I am crazy about pork trotters since childhood but hubby hates them (and the smell of them boiling it's vile indeed) and others find it so wierd that it's one of my fav foods.hate broth too. i boil the pif feet in the slow cooker then fry them in a pan + lots of vinegar. Great post. love your blog and writing style

    1. I'm also not much of a "soup person"; glad to know I'm not alone! It tends to make me feel too full, but hungry at the same time, if that makes any sense. But having said that, I do make the occasional bone broth when I have bones around- (usually with some kind of poultry). But when I do that, I make it as more of a stew; I'll make only a small amount of broth, then load it up with lots of meat and vegetables, so it's nice and hearty, and not too "soupy". Sometimes I'll even add creme fraiche, or grated cheese over the top- (yes, I like my fat). But I couldn't imagine drinking broth first thing in the morning....that just doesn't sound good. It's coffee or tea for me.

  7. God, I love your blog. And I love your book. Please keep writing - Sheryl

  8. P.s. You are a Godsend , I repeat, a GODSEND for us seniors on a budget. -Sheryl

    1. Thanks, Sheryl! So glad you're enjoying the blog. :D

  9. Hi,from Melbourne, Australia.I loved reading this post Amy and have saved it to my recipes folder. I've been scouring the net trying to find best sources of collagen in foods as my skin is starting to tell me I need more! I'm taking magnesium, coconut oil (which is brilliant. It's improving my neuropathy!) and just starting on cod liver oil. That's about all the potions and powders I can afford lol! I want to spend the rest of my grocery money on groceries!!!

    Yeah love how you tell it like it is without an agenda. So many out there do have. My personal thoughts are like 80% of the time eat real food...cook the stuff! and do a little intermittent fasting and limit the dining out or pizza delivery to maybe one night a week,fortnight or even month,depending on any health issues you might have. I'm trying to get on top of type 2 diabetes without going down the bullshit medications and low fat high processed carbs voodoo.

  10. I love this! I have been eating pigs feet (mostly pickled) since I had teeth. My favorite however, is beef tendon. Oxtail and tendon cooked in the InstantPot with some Bo Kho seasoning is addicting! I love it! I have to go to the asian market to find it. Cooked down to soft, gelatinous, warm and gooey bits of tendon... yummmmm!