When asked to describe his last supper, famed global food enthusiast Anthony Bourdain said:
“Roast bone marrow with parsley and caper salad, with a few toasted slices of baguette and some good sea salt.”
The deliciousness of roasted bone marrow is not a delight to be missed in this life. Beef bone marrow is an affordable and luxurious treat when made at home. For many years, it has gone largely unnoticed in the United States.
Thanks to the efforts of some restaurateurs, it’s begun to make a resurgence. Out to eat, this treat may cost you a pretty penny.
At home, it’s simple to prepare and enjoy (similar to beef tongue). Here’s how to cook bone marrow on the grill (and elsewhere!)
Prepping Bone Marrow
Bone marrow will contain small amounts of blood, which can make some diners squeamish. If you want to remove the blood and produce a more aesthetically pleasing finished product, you can soak the marrow overnight – or up to a day before – in salted ice water.
Every four to six hours, swap the water. This process will also slightly bleach the bones, resulting in a more uniform appearance.
How Do You Season Bone Marrow for Cooking on a Grill?
Bone marrow is delicious on its own and requires no seasoning to prepare it for grilling. However, if you’d like to enhance the flavor, you can certainly season it. Here are a few ideas:
- Mix minced garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, and Parmesan. Slather over the marrow before grilling.
- Rub the marrow with sliced garlic and top with minced fresh thyme.
- Freshly cracked pepper and salt – top the finished marrow with fresh mint and serve alongside lemon wedges.
- Mince garlic and lightly drizzle maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar over the marrow.
There are many possibilities for preparing tasty marrow. Much like salmon, trout or mushrooms, many different flavors pair with marrow. Experiment and see what you love best.
How Do You Roast Bone Marrow Over a Grill?
Before grilling, make sure the bones are dry if they’ve been soaking.
Bone marrow roasts over high heat. Since it’s fatty, it runs the risk of pooling out of the bone and creating flare-ups. You can prevent that challenge by roasting them in foil or in a cast-iron skillet (just not a disposable grill).
For a wood-fired grill or charcoal grill, create a three-zone fire. This method will place coals on each side, surrounding a fire-free section in the middle.
The middle section is where the bones will go. The radiant heat from either side will help roast them evenly.
For a gas-fired grill, preheat to 400-450 degrees.
Keep an eye on the bones as they roast. Depending on your bones, it can take 10-15 minutes for the marrow to be ready.
You want the marrow to get hot and soft and to develop a jelly-like consistency. It will start to liquefy around the edges and bubble, but you don’t want it to melt away entirely.
An excellent way to test the roasted bone marrow to ensure doneness is to use a thin skewer and poke it into the marrow. If you encounter resistance, it needs a few more minutes. If it slides right through like a bowl of jello, it’s ready to eat.
If everything else is ready to go, serve your marrow immediately. It’s best to time it so that the marrow can go directly from the fire onto the plate.
If you must wait for other items to finish, keep the marrow near the fire to stay warm.
What Do You Serve with Grilled Bone Marrow?
Bone marrow could be considered a condiment or a course all its own. You can slather it over toasted bread (especially a sourdough), spread it over a toasted bun for a particularly dazzling burger, or layer it atop a sizzling steak for an extra meaty punch of flavor.
Serve it with caramelized onions to boost the umami delights, or balance the richness with lively salad full of herbs and citrus (e.g., lemon juice) – Anthony Bourdain’s side of choice.
You can also use roasted marrow bones to enhance soups and stews or make a vibrantly rich broth.
For a memorable finish, you can drink a shot of Irish whiskey straight out of the bone to finish off the remnants of marrow. Use the marrow to fashion an unforgettable cocktail for a less messy version.
How Else Can You Cook Bone Marrow?
You can also roast marrow bones in the oven. To do so, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a roasting pan or baking sheet with a lip, arrange the bones, so the cut side is up.
Roast until the marrow is soft and jelly-like. This method will take somewhere around 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of your bones.
To test for doneness, insert a pick or skewer through the marrow. It should slide right through like jelly; if it doesn’t, roast for a few more minutes. You want to remove the bones before the marrow melts entirely into liquid. Serve immediately.
Why Eat Bone Marrow?
If you’ve never experienced the unctuous delights of bone marrow, it may seem strange to cook and eat bones (though we also like pork neck bones). Bone marrow is fatty tissue in the hollow center of most bones. When cooked over high direct heat, the fat melts and becomes soft enough to spread.
The marrow itself is nutrient-rich. It contains vitamins A, B12, and E and nutrients like iron, riboflavin, protein, and plenty of collagen. In short, it’s a tasty treat that offers plenty of nutritional benefits.
What Does Bone Marrow Taste Like?
Roasted marrow brings an umami flavor with a hint of nuttiness. Umami, which means ‘a pleasant, savory flavor’ in Japanese, is the flavor profile found in ingredients like mushrooms, parmesan, salmon, and miso.
Marrow, therefore, could be described as hearty and savory. The texture is soft and creamy, with a hint of sweetness to balance every rich, buttery mouthful.
You’ll sometimes hear bone marrow described as ‘God’s Butter,’ which should prepare you for how buttery and indulgent this marrow is.
Where Do You Source Good Marrow Bones?
The best place to locate marrow bones for eating is the local butcher. Some local grocery meat counters will also carry marrow bones.
Call ahead to inquire – even if they don’t put them out in the display cases, they may have some available. You can have the bones split lengthwise or crosswise.
Ask the butcher to remove any meat from the bones. The marrow will be slightly pink in color and smell faintly meaty but should not have a strong odor.