our everyday life

Extracting Bone Marrow for Cooking

by Fred Decker

Bone marrow is an enthusiast's food, a substance that few people eat; but those few cherish it greatly. It's high in fat, but -- oddly, for animal fat -- it's mostly unsaturated, and can be enjoyed in moderation without guilt. It's often eaten directly from roasted bones, spread on toast points with a small spoon. However, some classic recipes call for the uncooked marrow to be removed from the bone and prepared separately. The extraction process requires some practice, and a bit of advance preparation.

Ask your butcher for 2- to 3-inch sections from the middle of beef or veal marrow bones. These are the animal's large thigh bones, and the middle sections are the most uniform in shape. That's very helpful when you need to remove the marrow before cooking.

Dissolve 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt in a quart of water and soak the bones in this light brine for a day or two. This step is optional, but soaking draws blood from the marrow and improves its flavor and appearance when it's cooked.

Drain the bones in a colander. Fill a large mixing bowl or food-safe container with lukewarm water, approximately 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It's warm enough to soften the marrow slightly, without melting it. Warm the bones for approximately 5 minutes before proceeding.

Hold the first bone over a clean plate or bowl, and press gently against one end of the marrow with the flat of your thumb until it starts to move. Push the cylindrical plug of marrow with your thumb and then your forefinger until it slides out of the hollow bone onto your plate.

Repeat with the remaining bones. Prepare the marrow immediately, or cover it with plastic film wrap and refrigerate it.

Items you will need
  • Salt
  • Colander
  • Mixing bowl or food-safe container
  • Clean plate or bowl

Tip

  • Sections from either end of the marrow bone are tapered, so it's harder to extract the marrow easily. If you must use these sections, push from the narrow end so the marrow can slide out the wider end. These sections often have small spines of bone inside, to hold the marrow in place, so wear a disposable kitchen glove to protect your finger from cuts.

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images