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How to Clean Chicken Feet Before Cooking

Updated on June 14, 2014

Chicken Feet are Sometimes Referred to as Chicken Paws

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4 stars from 4 ratings of Chicken Feet!

Facts About Chicken Feet

  • In some countries chicken feet are referred to as chicken paws.
  • The United States exports the majority of the feet grown in our factory farms to China.
  • Chicken feet have no meat in them, they are bone and cartilage.
  • Chicken stock is made without the feet, broth is made with the feet. Broth is thicker than stock because of the collagen and thickening that comes from the feet.

Head to tail processing and cooking of animals has become a top priority to a lot of cooks, chefs and a lot of people who are wanting to eat in a way that is better for the environment. The chicken is a great example of how this can be accomplished. Every part of the chicken, including the feathers and the feet, can be used once the animal has been processed.

Chicken feet can be used in a number of recipes. They are the main ingredient in a lot of oriental based dishes and some people like to simply sauté them with butter, garlic and onion. They are an excellent addition to homemade chicken broth. When you add chicken feet to your broth it will become a beautiful, thick creation that is a great base for soups and sauces.

Cleaning chicken feet does not take very long. You can have a dozen ready to go in less than 30 minutes. They also freeze well and can be kept in the freezer for at least six months as long as they are properly wrapped to protect them from freezer burn.

Chicken feet are a great addition to broth and are the main ingredient in many interesting recipes.
Chicken feet are a great addition to broth and are the main ingredient in many interesting recipes. | Source

Where Can I Find and Buy Chicken Feet?

We grow our own meat birds but that's not for everyone and finding chicken feet can be a bit of a challenge. Many processors ship their chicken feet overseas because they sell better in other countries. You will have to look around because where you find them will depend on what's around you. Here are a few suggestions of places that you can look to find chicken feet.

  • Local farmers that grow meat birds may be willing to sell you just the feet.
  • Farmer's markets.
  • Ethnic grocery stores.
  • You can also ask your local grocery store if they will order the feet for you from their meat supplier.

What You Need...

  • 12 washed and clean chicken feet
  • a pan of water

How Long Does it Take?

  • Prep time: 20 min
  • Cook time: 1 min
  • Ready in: 21 min
  • Yields: 12 ready to cook chicken feet

Have you ever used chicken feet in a recipe?

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How to Clean Chicken Feet to Get Them Ready for Cooking

  1. The first thing you will want to do is thoroughly wash the feet. No detergent is necessary, you'll simply want to wash them in plain water.
  2. If the feet are REALLY fresh like ours are, you'll want to let them soak to remove all of the dirt first.
  3. Next you'll want to put a pot of water on the stove. You don't want it to boil but you do want it at a nice simmer. Almost on the brink of boiling.
  4. Drop the feet into the water for approximately 30 seconds. You can do more than one at a time but don't overcrowd the pan.
  5. Use your tongs to remove the feet from the water and set them aside to cool. You can either start peeling while you are still dipping them in water or you can wait until they are all dipped.
  6. Once the feet have cooled off, it is time to peel. You want to remove the top layer of scaly skin and the top layer of nails from the feet. Some people find it easier to peel the nails first and work their way up to the knee joint.
  7. The skin and outer nail are virtually unusable so you'll want to pitch that into the trash.
  8. Once the feet are clean and peeled, you'll want to go ahead and cut the nails off at the first joint.
  9. Your chicken feet are now cleaned and ready to be used in recipes and for making broth.

How to Clean Chicken Feet in Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fresh chicken feet ready for cleaning.There are approximately 24 feet to soak and clean.Soak the feet and remove any dirt that may be on the feet.Once they are soaked, they are ready to be peeled and the outer nail removed.Bring a pot of water to a strong simmer.  You do not want the water to boil because you don't want to cook the feet, just scald them.Drop the feet into the water.  You can do one at a time or as many as will fit in the pan without overcrowding it.  The feet should stay in the water for approximately 30 seconds.Some people find them easier to peel by removing the outer nail first.Once they have cooled off, you can easily peel the outside layer of scaly skin off of the feet.  The underneath will feel a bit sticky and smooth.The feet are almost ready for cooking.The last step to getting the feet ready is to cut the nails off at the first joint.  If you are using the feet for broth, this step will allow another outlet for collagen to escape.  For other recipes, the nails aren't good to eat at all.
Fresh chicken feet ready for cleaning.
Fresh chicken feet ready for cleaning. | Source
There are approximately 24 feet to soak and clean.
There are approximately 24 feet to soak and clean. | Source
Soak the feet and remove any dirt that may be on the feet.
Soak the feet and remove any dirt that may be on the feet. | Source
Once they are soaked, they are ready to be peeled and the outer nail removed.
Once they are soaked, they are ready to be peeled and the outer nail removed. | Source
Bring a pot of water to a strong simmer.  You do not want the water to boil because you don't want to cook the feet, just scald them.
Bring a pot of water to a strong simmer. You do not want the water to boil because you don't want to cook the feet, just scald them. | Source
Drop the feet into the water.  You can do one at a time or as many as will fit in the pan without overcrowding it.  The feet should stay in the water for approximately 30 seconds.
Drop the feet into the water. You can do one at a time or as many as will fit in the pan without overcrowding it. The feet should stay in the water for approximately 30 seconds. | Source
Some people find them easier to peel by removing the outer nail first.
Some people find them easier to peel by removing the outer nail first. | Source
Once they have cooled off, you can easily peel the outside layer of scaly skin off of the feet.  The underneath will feel a bit sticky and smooth.
Once they have cooled off, you can easily peel the outside layer of scaly skin off of the feet. The underneath will feel a bit sticky and smooth. | Source
The feet are almost ready for cooking.
The feet are almost ready for cooking. | Source
The last step to getting the feet ready is to cut the nails off at the first joint.  If you are using the feet for broth, this step will allow another outlet for collagen to escape.  For other recipes, the nails aren't good to eat at all.
The last step to getting the feet ready is to cut the nails off at the first joint. If you are using the feet for broth, this step will allow another outlet for collagen to escape. For other recipes, the nails aren't good to eat at all. | Source

A Recipe for Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce

Tips for Cleaning, Cooking and Eating Chicken Feet

Chicken feet are so different from anything else that you will probably cook with in your lifetime. If you use them in a broth, they will become mushy and a lot of the feet will literally melt or dissolve into the broth.

Here are a few tips for helping you along when cleaning chicken feet and finally, cooking them.

  • If the skin doesn't peel off easily, give the foot another dip in the simmering water for 10 seconds and try again.
  • The skin in the pad of the foot will be the most difficult part to remove. I've found that if you hold the foot like it would be when the chicken is standing on the ground (toes stretched outward) it makes it a lot easier to remove the skin from that area of the foot.
  • You want to cut the nails off at the first joint because they are not pleasant to eat when the feet are used in a dish and it will also give another outlet for the collagen to escape if the feet are used in broth making.
  • Always make sure to thoroughly dry chicken feet before you fry them in oil. Chicken feet naturally hold water and it can create a dangerous, splattering mess if you fail to dry them thoroughly.
  • When you are eating the feet in a cooked dish, try to not eat the bones. They are not very pleasant on the pallet. You want to work the gelatinous cartilage off of the bones in your mouth and spit the bones out.
  • Many chicken feet dish recipes are shown being done in a pressure cooker. You do not have to use a pressure cooker for these dishes, you will just need to extend the cooking time until the feet are tender.

Nutritional Value of Chicken Feet

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 ounce
Calories 60
Calories from Fat36
% Daily Value *
Fat 4 g6%
Saturated fat 1 g5%
Carbohydrates 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 5 g10%
Cholesterol 24 mg8%
Sodium 19 mg1%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

© 2014 Helena Ricketts

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    • profile image

      Sage 5 weeks ago

      Thanks...I just got 13 roosters from a neighbor who had turned them into pets (!) but realized they couldn't keep them. They didn't have the heart to butcher them, and I guess, couldn't afford to have it done. Meat will be tough as old boots, so we're going to put it in a grinder and make burger, and call it good.

      Chicken feet make the most excellent, richest broth, but I don't eat them. Not a fan of skin and cartilage. I was trying to find the easiest way to clean them, as the last time was a pain. Thanks.

    • Helena Ricketts profile image
      Author

      Helena Ricketts 6 months ago from Indiana

      @sarah louise lecouffe axtell You are very welcome and thank you for such a kind note! I'm glad it was able to help you.

      @Carla Cochran Yes, you can peel and then freeze them, I do it with every batch but I make sure to use the feet within a couple of months.

    • profile image

      Carla Cochran 6 months ago

      Hi, Can I peel the chicken feet, then freeze them for later use?

    • profile image

      sarah louise lecouffe axtell 7 months ago

      I was looking for a step by step visual on how to clean chicken feet and I found it here - thank you so much. We just did up 3 roosters and I was wondering how to get the skin layer off, your detailed tips have been very useful. Since I enjoy eating animals but dont love to keep them or kill them... im thinking that I will look into purchasing bulk bird feet for making my broths. thanks again!,

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 20 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Helena, Boy, does this bring back memories. I remember my little grandmother ( we called her nona, grandmother in Italian) always ate chicken feet. We used to cringe as children. I don't even know how she cooked them but I still can see her suck on them. I never even thought about them until I came across your hub. Thanks for the memory,,,,, and for sharing.

      Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 22 months ago from Germany

      Congrats on the HOTD! I know that some of my countrymen are eating chicken foot but I don´t. Not so appetizing to me.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Helena, congrats on HOTD! I never had a chicken foot and I believe I never will.

    • Helena Ricketts profile image
      Author

      Helena Ricketts 3 years ago from Indiana

      I haven't tried any of the recipes except for using them for broth and they are fantastic for that. My dogs love the feet too. :)

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

      I have seen many recipes for chicken feet from places such as the Philippines and wondered how to prepare them.

      My chickens are still a bit young at the moment so I will bookmark this for later use.

      The chickens sold here, in Brazil, are sold with feet and head (minus the beak) so I will have to start stock piling them. Previously I have given them to the dogs.

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