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How to Clean Chicken Feet Before Cooking

Helena Ricketts loves cooking from scratch and sharing her recipes with anyone who wants to try something new in the world of food.

Chicken Feet are Sometimes Referred to as Chicken Paws

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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, the 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.

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
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How Long Does it Take?

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

1 min

21 min

12 ready to cook chicken feet

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.

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can chicken feet go into a pressure cooker and then deep fried?

Answer: Yes, you can do that. I've never done it, but I've seen recipes where others have.

© 2014 Helena Ricketts

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