How to Make Chicken Feet Broth

How to Make Chicken Feet BrothPart of the reason I homestead is that while meat is the most important part of my healthy diet, grocery store meat is often...well, not ideal. When I raise my own meat, I know not only what those animals have eaten, but I also know they've had a contented life, and then a quick, humane death that's as stress-free as possible.

But when you start raising meat, one of the things you'll likely find yourself wanting to do is use every possible part of the animal. To me, doing otherwise seems wasteful and unthankful. That doesn't mean I always have to eat nose to tail (although I'm always experimenting with ways to do that). Sometimes, it just means feeding the dogs or chickens the bits I don't want, or taking all the remains out into the woods for the wildlife to eat - or even simply burying the remains to help feed the soil. 

That said, when I recently butchered some of our roosters, I decided it was time to use chicken feet (sometimes called "chicken paws") for making broth or stock. I've known about this practice for a long time, but since we rarely butcher chickens (we prefer rabbit meat to chicken meat), I never got around to trying it. If you don't butcher your own chickens, you can simply buy chicken feet at a butcher shop or grocery store. (However, like grocery store chicken meat, they get washed in bleach...yuck!)

As it turns out, chicken feet are eaten all over the world, and in some cases, are considered a delicacy. They are rich in collagen, calcium, magnesium, glucosamine, chondroitin, and minerals. They are well worth using, and stock or broth is probably the most accessible way for newbies to use them up.

Preparing Your Own Chicken Feet

This article will take you step-by-step through the process of using chicken feet to make broth, but first I want to discuss the difference between store bought chicken feet and the feet you get from your own chickens: Cleanliness. If you raise chickens, you know how nasty their feet can get, so if you butcher your own birds, you'll need to get their feet clean before you bring them into your kitchen.

If you're plucking your chickens, you'll scald them first. One option for getting the feet clean is to use that same water you use to scald the bird to also skin the feet. The trick here is to get the feet just hot enough to make them super easy to peel, but not so hot that they start cooking and the skin clings to the bone and cartilage. (More on skinning chicken feet, below.) If you choose this method, I suggest saving all the feet for last, so you don't get poop and debris in the water you're using to scald your birds before plucking.

A bucket of chicken feet, on butchering day.

Instead, I chose to remove the feet from each bird as I was butchering, and toss them in a nearby bucket of water. This removed most of the filth. When all the butchering was done, I put the feet in a bowl and add fresh salted water. A splash of vinegar to help remove grime is fine, too. Soak the feet in the fridge overnight, or at least for a few hours. Then rinse the feet and store them in a Ziplock-style bag in the fridge until you're ready to use them.

Peeling and De-Nailing

It's a good idea to remove the nails from each foot before you begin cooking. They aren't edible. And you really don't want to go fishing into your finished broth to find every toenail that has fallen off. (Ick!) 

Nails removed!

To remove the nails, I used garden pruners, but good poultry shears should work, too. I chose to remove the nails before soaking the feet in a bowl of water, but it's fine to do it after soaking and rinsing, too.

Traditionally, chicken feet aren't always peeled, but most experts recommend peeling them because it reduces the risk of food poisoning. Plus, they do make the feet look more like food!
To peel chicken feet, bring some water ALMOST to a boil and drop in the legs. After 30 seconds, use tongs to remove them, then plunge them into ice water. Begin peeling where the leg was removed from the body. If the skin doesn't pull off very easily, pop the foot back in the water for 10-30 seconds. Remove and try again. Repeat as necessary until the skin comes off easily.
You never know where homesteading will take you!

Now the feet are ready to turn into broth!

Making Chicken Feet Broth

There are many tools you can use to make broth. The most common is simply a large pot on a stove. I chose to use an electric turkey roaster. Other options include using a crock pot or pressure cooker. Then follow these steps:
1. Stick the feet in the pot. If you have chicken necks or bones, add those, too. If desired, you may add onion skins, carrots, green carrot tops, celery, and/or a few herbs. (Don't overdo the herbs, however, or the broth may turn bitter.) Cover with water. I also like to add a dash of vinegar to help leach nutrients out of the bones, as well as a little sea salt.
The makings of a fine broth.


2. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. When the broth is dark and rich-tasting, it's done. This typically takes at least 4 hours, but best results are usually found by simmering overnight.

The resulting, rich, beautiful broth.

3. Turn off the heat and strain out the solids. Once the pot is cool, you may wish to remove the fat. (This is only absolutely necessary if you're going to can the broth.) To do that, place the pot in the fridge, covered, overnight. In the morning, peel off any fat that has risen to the top and hardened.
After sitting overnight, there is very little fat in this broth. This amount is safe for canning.

Now you can freeze the broth, freeze dry it, or can it. For more details - including information on how to can broth - see this post. To learn how to make beef stock, click here. For information on making vegetable and fish stock, click here.
Finished broth. The little particles are bits of the food used to make the broth. If you prefer, you can strain those out before canning or otherwise using.
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