Chicken feet. A topic not typically discussed, but one we can’t overlook here on the hill as we utilize a sustainable, no waste “head to tail” approach to our food. Cooks and chefs alike are learning to prepare and use chicken feet to their fullest potential, and for good reason.
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I know. It’s easy to become disgusted with the thought of utilizing chicken feet, aka chicken paws. After all, especially here in America, we have become a bit disconnected with our food. Sadly, it’s not unusual to sit down to a dinner that was created in a lab & highly processed, but will become grossed out with the thought of food in its most natural state.
I’ve heard it all in regard to the use of chicken feet. Ewwww is always a popular one 🙂 They may seem a bit disgusting, repulsive, & nauseating, but in reality they are useful, delicious, & filled with lots of vitamins, minerals, collagen and calcium. Everything our bodies need to maintain health.
BENEFITS OF USING CHICKEN FEET
So what benefits can you derive from utilizing the feet of chickens? Health. In a nutshell.
Our favorite way to utilize our prepared chicken feet is in the making of a highly nutritious bone broth. Making bone broth with the addition of a few prepared feet, will result in a wonderful, gelatinous broth.
Bone broth has become popular once again in both the professional kitchen and the homestead. And for good reason. Rich in protein, minerals, vitamins & amino acids, as well as magnesium, bone broth is healthy for you and your overall bodies health.
Homemade bone broth not only is a wonderful cup of morning sustenance, but makes for an amazing addition to recipes. Our Old Fashioned Chicken Soup recipe is always the recipient of our homemade broth.
And did we mention, chicken feet are extremely high in collagen, hyaluronic acid, & condroitin? Hello. Fountain of youth anyone? It seems Grandma did know best afterall 😉
SOURCING CHICKEN FEET
Unless you are blessed and can raise & process your own organic chickens, sourcing quality, safe chicken feet may take a little investigative work on your part. As with all my food sourcing recommendations here on the hill, organic is best.
That being said, chicken feet are not typically found on your meat grocer’s counter. That is unless you ask. Special ordering may be an option.
Talk with your local farmer/grower. See if you can reserve or pre-order the next time they will be dispatching.
Ethnic markets may be an option. Check yours for availability.
DO YOU PEEL CHICKEN FEET FOR STOCK OR BROTH
Yes, yes, & yes. But why go through the extra step to peel your chicken feet? In my humble opinion, simply for cleanliness. Think about what the chickens were walking in. Or better yet, simply look at the feet which have not been properly cleaned & processed.
There is, however, some discussion on whether it’s worth the added step to peel. Many don’t. Instead they simply scrub “clean” or even soak in a vinegar/water bath for 10+ minutes to clean.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. However, in my experience, no matter how involved the cleaning process, there is always a bit of unwanted elements left in the crevices and under the nails. Peeling the feet & removing the nails ensure a cleaner & ultimately safer end product in my opinion.
When sourcing your chicken feet, how do you determine if they have been peeled & prepared? The skin on a chicken foots skin is naturally yellow. If peeled the “meat” or muscle which is located under the skin is white. If they have been prepared already they may have the nails removed as well.
Or you can simply ask 😉
HOW TO PREPARE OR PEEL CHICKEN FEET
Should you decide you prefer watching how to peel the chicken feet once they have been blanched for 20 seconds, but no longer than 30 seconds, take a look at the short video I prepared below. Alternatively, you can follow the simple written instructions of preparing the chicken feet.
Note that this is a process. Often it can be a bit tedious especially when your processing 20-30 feet or more at a time. If you are butchering, I highly recommend you simply clean the feet, place in a container with a cover or a bag as shown below and refrigerate to process the following day.
Optionally, they can be frozen. To prepare & use, unthaw completely and follow the steps below.
STEP 1: SCALDING OR BLANCHING
Determining the length of time to scald or blanch the feet can be a tricky one. Too short a time, they don’t peel. Too long, yup, they don’t peel. Finding the “just right” timing is key to an easier removal process.
Fortunately, I have done that research & experimentation for you! I have found that working in small batches, meaning no more than 3-4 feet at a time, works best. Do too many at a time and the peeling becomes difficult if they sit too long after scalding.
In a pan with water at a rolling boil or a strong simmer, place 3-4 washed feet and scald for 20 seconds and absolutely no more than 30 seconds! Remove immediately with a spider or tongs and submerge in cold water briefly to stop the “cooking” process. The peeling process will be easier if the feet are left a bit warm to the touch.
STEP 2: PEEL
To begin the peeling process, I like to begin with the underside of the foot near the first joint and begin peeling toward the pad of the foot. The topside of the foot will be more “scaley” and sometimes more difficult to peel. I simply use my fingernail and remove all as I go taking, the time to reveal the pure white muscle (meat for lack of a better description) underneath.
STEP 3: REMOVE THE NAILS OR DECLAW
Once you have all the skin peeled away, you have several options for the nails or claws. You can either leave them as is (again, I don’t recommend this as unwanted feces & bacteria can remain) or remove them. It is also said that by having the chicken foot declawed leaves an opening for the collagen to release itself.
If you are strong enough, once the skin is peeled all the way to the toes and nail bed, you can simply pull the nail off. Or you can be like me and clip the end of the toe off with a pair of kitchen shears.
STEP 4: FREEZE PREPARED CHICKEN FEET
Once you have completed the removal of both the skin and the claws from the feet, place them all in a freezer bag together and freeze. I find this the easiest method for preserving them as I can easily remove the desired number from the bag to unthaw as needed.
USES FOR CHICKEN FEET
Should you not be looking to preserve your prepared chicken feet for futher use, there are many recipes, especially Asian recipes which use the feet, or you can make broths, and stocks which can then be added to most recipes calling for stock.
Our favorite use though? Chicken stock or broth.
CHICKEN FOOT STOCK
Making stock from chicken feet is easy to do. Know that this “stock” is definitely not like the chicken stock you purchase on the grocers shelves. This stock will be thick and gelatinous. Once created, this stock can be refrigerated (up to 2 weeks), frozen into useable sized portions, or even pressure canned for long term storage.
Roughly 1# of chicken feet will result in 1-2 quart of highly gelantinous stock. To make it’s simply a matter of adding your prepared feet to a stockpot, adding a large carrot, medium onion cut into wedges, 2 stalks of celery, a few springs each of thyme & rosemary, and 5-8 whole black peppercorns. Cover the feet & additions with water. Bring this to a boil. Cover & reduce to a simmer. Simmer the stock for 12-24 hours, strain, and store in your chosen method.
It can be used the same as you would any chicken broth or stock. Just remember seasoning further will most likely be needed.
Alternatively, simply heat, season, and drink. A hot cup of broth in the morning is just what the doctor ordered 😉
Preparing & using chicken feet is not difficult. The time & effort needed to peel & prepare them results in an amazingly flavorful & healthy end product.
Have I missed any tips & hints in preparing and using chicken feet?
Love, Light, & Laughter ~