Do Beef Marrow Bones Smell? Getting to the Bottom of Their Aroma

Beef marrow bones have grown in popularity over recent years as a nutritious addition to soups stews and bone broths. Valued for their rich marrow, many people enjoy their faintly meaty flavor. But some folks notice an odd smell when working with raw marrow bones. So do beef marrow bones have a smell?

The short answer is yes, fresh raw beef marrow bones can have a slight odor The smell is typically described as marrowy, meaty, iron-like, or slightly bloody It’s not an overly offensive or pungent scent. Once cooked, the smell dissipates.

Below we’ll explain what causes the smell of raw marrow bones, whether it’s normal, and steps you can take to minimize the aroma. We’ll also answer common questions about how to select quality bones and store them properly.

What Causes the Smell of Raw Marrow Bones?

There are a few factors that contribute to the distinctive smell of fresh uncooked beef marrow bones:

  • Marrow – The fat-rich marrow inside the bones emits a mildly meaty and fatty smell. Similar to raw red meat.

  • Blood – Residual blood trapped inside bones or bone marrow can smell iron-rich and bloody.

  • Oxidation – Exposure to air causes oxidation which releases smelly compounds from the bone marrow.

  • Bacteria – Decomposing tissue and bacterial growth on old or poor quality bones produces foul odors.

So in most cases, the smell of fresh beef marrow bones relates to the bone marrow and small amounts of blood. It’s not necessarily indicative of spoiled bones.

Is the Smell of Raw Marrow Bones Normal?

The smell of raw beef marrow bones is normal and expected. While it may catch some people off guard, it’s simply the natural smell of beef fat and bone marrow.

The scent is stronger when you split open the bones, as it allows the aromatics to be released from inside. The smell of packaged bones may be more subtle.

As long as your marrow bones are fresh, the smell is nothing to worry about. It’s a good sign you have quality bones with lots of marrow.

Tips to Reduce Bone Smell

If you find the smell of raw marrow bones unpleasant, here are some tips to help minimize it:

  • Keep bones well wrapped until ready to use them. Opening the package increases oxidation.

  • Rinse bones under cool water which can help wash away residual blood and odor. Pat dry thoroughly.

  • Soak bones in cold water and vinegar for 30 mins which can freshen and deodorize them. Rinse afterwards.

  • Split bones just before cooking to limit air exposure. Scoop out marrow soon after.

  • Cook bones immediately after prepping when odors are strongest. Simmering eliminates smell.

  • Store bones towards the back of the fridge where temperatures are most consistent.

While an annoyance for some, the smell of fresh raw marrow bones dissipates once cooked. It’s no cause for concern when bones are high quality.

How to Select Good Quality Marrow Bones

Since poor quality bones are more likely to have an unpleasant stench, choose your beef marrow bones wisely:

  • Look for bones that are labeled as ‘marrow bones’ specifically. They’ll have the most interior marrow.

  • Choose bones with thick, dense exterior bones and minimal meat or tissue attached.

  • Seek bones that feel very heavy for their size. Weight indicates more fatty marrow.

  • Pick bones with smooth ends that aren’t cracked or broken. Jagged ends expose interior marrow.

  • Opt for bones that are uniformly white to pale yellow. Dark yellow bones may be older.

  • Check that bones are free of any dark discoloration or dried blood. Signs of mishandling.

  • Make sure bones smell mildly meaty or fatty. Avoid any rancid, sulfury or ammonia odors.

Getting high quality, fresh marrow bones from a trusted butcher helps ensure you get great bones with minimal odor.

How to Store Bone Marrow Properly

Storing bone marrow correctly preserves freshness and limits microbial growth that causes unpleasant smells:

  • Refrigerate bones promptly after purchasing, within 1-2 hours maximum. Keep chilled at 40°F or below.

  • Wrap bones tightly in plastic wrap, aluminum foil or butcher paper to prevent odors escaping.

  • Limit air exposure by keeping sealed bones away from open fridge containers.

  • Use bones within 3-5 days for peak freshness and minimal odor.

  • Once bone marrow is removed, store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days max.

Following proper storage methods reduces chances of beef marrow bones smelling unpleasant or spoiled.

Common Questions about the Smell of Marrow Bones

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the potential smell of raw beef marrow bones:

Why do my marrow bones smell weird?

It’s likely the natural smell of bone marrow fat being exposed to air. Aging, poor handling or bacterial growth can also cause funky odors.

Is it normal for marrow bones to smell when cooking?

A slight meaty aroma is expected when simmering bones. Strong foul odors mean the marrow has spoiled. Discard any rancid bones.

Why does my bone broth smell bad after cooking bones?

Improperly stored bones that grew bacteria will make bad smelling broth. Only make broth with marrow bones that smell mildly meaty when raw.

Can you get sick from the smell of bone marrow?

No, the odor itself cannot make you ill. However, foul marrow bone smells indicate spoilage and bacteria that can cause illness if consumed.

Should marrow bones smell bloody?

A faint iron-like smell is normal for fresh bones but shouldn’t be overly bloody. Strong metallic smells signify old marrow bones. Seek fresher ones.

In the end, the aroma of raw beef marrow bones should not deter you from their many culinary benefits. Now that you know what causes the smell, you can better assess bone freshness and minimize unwanted odors. Trust your nose to pick quality marrow bones.

Bone marrow is so nutritious


Are marrow bones supposed to smell?

Raw Bone Marrow will smell fresh and slightly sweet. When cooked, its aroma deepens considerably to that of roasted fatty beef.

Do bones with marrow go bad?

Yup, they can. You’re better off to keep them in the freezer. But, I don’t think they’d do much harm unless he’s got some digestive issues or isn’t used to bones, so I’d try one and see.

Are beef marrow bones safe?

You can offer bone marrow dog bones every few days or less. Because beef marrow bones are safe and healthy, it’s okay for your pup to enjoy them often. In between chew sessions, you can freeze them, so they stay fresh for next time.

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