Chicken feet may sound bizarre to some, but they are a delicacy in many cultures.
The feet are rich in protein and collagen, and when cooked, can add a gelatinous texture to a dish—particularly to chicken stock or broth, which they are commonly used in.
However, cleaning chicken feet can be intimidating—and many people may not know where to start.
In this guide, we’ll go over step-by-step how to clean chicken feet so that you can prepare them easily for the perfect meal.
Some Quick, Fun Facts About Chicken Feet
China is one of the biggest consumers of chicken feet. They use chicken feet in many dishes, including soups, stews, and stir-fries.
In fact, it is estimated that 85% of imports of poultry from the US to China are just chicken feet!
In many Chinese restaurants, you can find chicken feet as an appetizer on the menu.
Chicken feet are rich in collagen, a protein that is essential for healthy skin, nails, and hair. Collagen is also great for joint health and can help reduce joint pain.
Boiling chicken feet is an easy way to extract collagen, and you can use the resulting broth as a base for soups and stews.
Contrary to popular belief, chicken feet are not meant to be eaten as a snack. They have no meat in them, only skin, bone, and cartilage.
However, they are a great source of flavor and add a unique texture to dishes—namely chicken broth.
Chicken stock and broth are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.
Chicken stock is made by simmering bones (with some scraps of meat) in water with herbs and vegetables for several hours.
On the other hand, chicken broth is made by adding chicken feet to the ingredients used in making chicken stock. The feet give the broth its thicker texture and richer flavor.
Chicken feet are rich in calcium, magnesium, and other essential minerals that are good for bone development. They also contain glucosamine and chondroitin, which are great for joint health.
So, if you’re looking for a natural way to support your bone and joint health, adding chicken feet to your diet could be a good idea.
Keeping Your Chickens’ Feet Healthy Before Butchering
When it comes to raising chickens, it’s important to take care of every aspect of your birds’ health.
This includes their feet, which are often overlooked but are just as important as any other body part—and if you want to use the feet for your stock later on, you need to keep them in tip-top shape.
Take the time to inspect your birds’ feet on a regular basis. This will help you catch any potential issues early on before they become bigger problems.
Look for signs of cuts, scrapes, or other injuries, as well as any swelling or redness. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, take action immediately to prevent infection and promote healing.
Remember that one of the best things you can do for your chickens’ feet is to provide a clean and dry living environment.
Make sure your coop is cleaned regularly, and consider adding a layer of clean, dry bedding to help keep your birds’ feet healthy.
If you do notice a foot issue, consider using natural remedies to promote healing.
For example, Epsom salt baths can help reduce swelling and inflammation, while aloe vera can soothe and heal cuts and scrapes.
Consult with a veterinarian or experienced chicken owner before administering any treatments, and make sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Finally, remember that overgrown nails and spurs can cause discomfort and even injury to your birds’ feet.
Regularly trim these body parts to help keep your chickens’ feet healthy and pain-free.
How to Clean Chicken Feet After Butchering
Ready to get started with cleaning some chicken feet? Here are some tips.
1. Pre-Wash the Feet
Before you start cleaning the chicken feet, you need to pre-wash them.
If possible, allow the chicken to spend some time on clean straw or fresh grass to cut back on the amount of manure that will be stuck to their feet.
Once you have slaughtered the chicken, you can remove feathers in the usual manner. Use poultry shears to cut off the toenails at the joint or use a sharp knife.
Make sure to discard the toenails as they are not safe for consumption.
The next step is to wash the feet. No detergent is necessary, just wash them in plain water. If the feet are really fresh, let them soak to remove all of the dirt first.
2. Heat Up Water
The next step is 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.
You can add some salt to the water for additional cleaning benefits.
3. Dip the Feet
Now, it’s time to dip the feet into the simmering water for approximately 30 seconds. You can do more than one at a time but don’t overcrowd the pan.
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.
How to Peel Chicken Feet
Now that your chicken feet are nice and clean, it’s time to peel them!
If you are using frozen chicken feet, let them thaw before you get started. Make sure the feet are clean and free of any dirt.
Fill a large pot with water and place a colander inside the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and bring the water to a boil.
Once the water is boiling, add the chicken feet to the pot and set the timer for 30 seconds.
After 30 seconds, remove one leg from the pot and try to peel back the skin from the top.
If the skin peels back easily, then the chicken feet are done. If not, give them another 15 seconds and try again.
Once the chicken feet are ready, remove them from the pot and place them in a large bowl or sink filled with cold water. This will cool down the feet and make them easier to handle.
Starting from the top of the leg, carefully peel off the skin. You should be able to easily remove the skin from the legs, top, and bottom of the foot.
Sometimes, the toenails will slip off with the skin, leaving you with soft, pink flesh.
If you find it difficult to clean the tips of the chicken’s toes, you can snip them off with a pair of scissors.
Now that your chicken feet have been peeled, you can use them to make soups, broths, or any other recipe that calls for them.
How to Clean Chicken Feet With Baking Soda
If you don’t want to follow the above steps (washing chicken feet can be time-consuming!) or if you need to clean some super dirty feet, you may want to turn to baking soda.
To do this, you’ll mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 liter of water. You can adjust this ratio depending on the amount of chicken feet you are cleaning.
Make sure to mix the solution well so that the baking soda is evenly distributed.
Place the boiled chicken feet in the baking soda solution and let them soak for 10-15 minutes. This helps to remove any remaining impurities and odors.
You can also use a toothbrush to gently scrub the chicken feet to remove any dirt or debris.
Once soaked, rinse the chicken feet under running water to remove any baking soda residue.
You can also soak the chicken feet in cold water for a few minutes to ensure that any remaining impurities are removed.
Then, you can continue with your normal peeling routine to finish the job!
How to Make Bone Broth from Chicken Feet
Bone broth is becoming more and more popular these days and for a good reason!
It’s an incredibly nutritious food that is great for your gut health and immune system. And now that you have some chicken feet lying around, it’s quite easy to make.
Here’s how to do it:
First, put eight to ten chicken feet in a large stock pot. It’s important to use a stock pot that is large enough, so the pot is filled about 2/3 with water.
Add water, then bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer.
This slow cooking process can take anywhere from 12-18 hours or until the tendons disintegrate and the feet fall apart. You can also use a crockpot, set it on high, and let it simmer for the same amount of time.
Once the broth is ready, let it cool for a while until you can handle it without burning yourself.
Then, using a colander or a cotton cloth, strain the chicken feet out of the broth.
It’s important to do this as the bones in the feet are quite small and can be a choking hazard.
Once you’ve strained the broth, remove all the toe and leg bones that have fallen out. You want to keep only the broth—this is where all the good stuff is found!
You can use your chicken foot broth in a variety of ways! Also, you can drink it on its own or add it to your favorite soup recipe.
You can also freeze it for later or pressure can it to store it in your pantry for up to a year.
Do You Have to Peel Chicken Feet for Bone Broth?
A common question you’ll hear is whether you truly have to peel chicken feet for bone broth—or if you can use them as is.
First off, let’s talk about why you might want to peel your chicken feet. The main reason is hygiene.
Chicken feet are not clean, no matter how well you clean them. There are dozens of crevices and cracks in the skin where bacteria and dirt can hide.
If you don’t peel them, you run the risk of getting chicken poop or other contaminants in your broth.
This can lead to food poisoning or other health problems. So, if you’re concerned about hygiene, it’s best to peel your chicken feet.
But, what if you don’t want to take the time to peel them? Is there another option?
According to some experts, yes, there is. If you’re not going to peel your chicken feet, then you need to clean them thoroughly.
The best way to do this is to rinse them under running water to remove any visible dirt or debris. Then, you can soak them in a mixture of water and vinegar for 10-15 minutes.
This will help to break down any remaining dirt or bacteria. After soaking, rinse the feet again and you can add them to your stockpot. You may need to do quite a bit of scrubbing.
Despite this advice, it’s still recommended that you take the time to peel the feet.
While cleaning them can help reduce the risk of contamination, there’s still a chance that some bacteria or dirt will remain.
Peeling them ensures that you’re using the cleanest part of the chicken feet in your broth. Plus, it’s not really that difficult or time-consuming—and it removes a lot of that “ick” factor, too.
How to Clean Chicken Feet: Final Thoughts
Cleaning chicken feet may seem daunting at first, but with a little practice and these tips, you can do it like a pro.
Whether you are preparing a dish from your culture or looking for a nutritious ingredient to add to your diet, chicken feet are worth the extra effort.
Remember that cooking with chicken feet is a versatile ingredient that adds flavor and nutritional benefits to your meals. Give it a try!