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Using chicken feet for stock making

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I had a conversation last weekend with a guy who raises and sells free range chickens. I asked him about getting some parts for stockmaking from him, and he told me that adding chicken feet produces a stock of superior flavor.

While I find this quite believable, I've not heard much about it. I'm certainly willing to give it a try.

eGullet, naturally, would be the perfect place to find people who've tried it, or who even do it regularly. Do the feet add significant flavor to the stock, to the point where I need to be concerned about ratios of feet to other ingredients? What differences should I expect?

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lots of collagen from the feet will produce a gelatinous stock. asian markets sell chciken feet very inexpensively. i find it a bit disconcerting to wlak past the simmering stock and see a foot or two bobbing up..but, then, i have chickens as pets!

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I have used the feet of both chickens feet and pigs trotters in stock. I can not say that the flavor is outstandingly better (though the trotters did seem to make the stock richer) the gelatine of the two is well worth the addition especially if the stock is to be used for a sauce. The addition of the chicken feet or pig trotters will allow you to create a sauce consistency with less reduction thus a higher yield and lower cost for your sauce.

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I don't use chicken feet - simply because I can't get them. But my grandmother always used chicken feet in her stock (I imagine just two per batch :wink:), and she knew best!

Use them if you can get them - but I wouldn't do a batch of all feet stock.

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Use wings in place of feet if stock is to be used for clear soups.

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Perhaps it's peverse but I enjoy duck feet in Chinese restaurants. They soften the menu entry for queasy occidental readers (or is it a direct translation?) calling them "Duck Webs." But then I'll eat and enjoy all sorts of odd things in Chinese restaurants -- a friend and I tried various dishes in a new restaurant, to us, in New York City's Chinatown. The staff looked quizzical, but after we both ate everything with relish, they warmly invited us to return!

And yes, I use chicken feet in my stock -- just however much I have on hand, along with lots of other chicken bones, gizzards, etc. The gelatinous quality has a lovely mouth-feel.

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1. Skin contains more collagen than any part of the bird

2 Collagen is what provides body to stock.

3. Stocks made with a greater proportion of skin will have a greater viscosity/body than those made with less skin.

4. Chicken feet have more skin per lb. than any other part of the bird (second is wings).

All fact.

Now opinion. Some people are big fans of bones. I'm definitely not one of them. There are those that believe that adding meat is the only way to add flavor to stock. Harold McGee is in this camp. I believe that chicken skin not only adds a tremendous amount of body, but it provides a substantial amount of flavor as well, especially when roasted. Yes, I'm a bit non-traditional when it comes to roasting chickens for stock.

If you want body, skin is your ally. That's inarguable. For flavor, there's your controversy. I agree with Harold McGee, to an extent (meat) but feel that skin has something to offer as well. I've seen some stock recipes where the skin is discarded. That makes me cringe.

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I have used the feet of both chickens feet and pigs trotters in stock.  I can not say that the flavor is outstandingly better (though the trotters did seem to make the stock richer) the gelatine of the two is well worth the addition especially if the stock is to be used for a sauce.  The addition of the chicken feet or pig trotters will allow you to create a sauce consistency with less reduction thus a higher yield and lower cost for your sauce.

I second this. I'd use chicken feet if they were easy to get, but trotters are easier for me to get (and cheap). I split and freeze them. I blanche a trotter half or two then rinse then add to the chicken bones and get a very rich stock. There is no discernable pork flavor---only the richness from the collagen.

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Definitely add at least a couple of chicken feet to a stock pot. You do need at least some meatier portions, too. Mix 'n match, never worry!

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In the Chinese soups I've seen, chicken is usually pair with another meat in the soup. I often find that there's either meaty pork bones (leg bones with marrow is my preference) or chicken.

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Use wings in place of feet if stock is to be used for clear soups.

I disagree with this - I use chicken feet for soupmaking all of the time (collagen = lush soup), and always make my soup clear. The important thing about clear versus cloudy soup is to never let the soup pot come to an actual boil - boiling heat will cause the release of chemicals in the bones that make soup cloudy.

Hence - the saying that "a watched pot never boils" means you should keep watching it so it doesn't boil and turn the stock cloudy (I've been told that this saying is actually Chinese in origin).

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In the Chinese soups I've seen, chicken is usually pair with another meat in the soup. I often find that there's either meaty pork bones (leg bones with marrow is my preference) or chicken.

That's true. Smoked ham is often used. One can use prosciutto ends or other ham ends to save money.

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Use wings in place of feet if stock is to be used for clear soups.

I disagree with this - I use chicken feet for soupmaking all of the time (collagen = lush soup), and always make my soup clear. The important thing about clear versus cloudy soup is to never let the soup pot come to an actual boil - boiling heat will cause the release of chemicals in the bones that make soup cloudy.

Hence - the saying that "a watched pot never boils" means you should keep watching it so it doesn't boil and turn the stock cloudy (I've been told that this saying is actually Chinese in origin).

I agree that you should still be able to get a clear soup using feet. But wings are good too. I think the clear soup comes from the skimming. As soon as those impurities that rise to the top have a chance to boil back into the soup, clarity is gone. If you've skimmed all the impurities out, a boil shouldn't harm it.

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I've read many times that chicken feet are great in the stock pot. I've seen bags of frozen feet at the Asian market. But what do I do with them?

Do I need to clean them in any particular way? (I mean, chicken once walked around on these things. :laugh: )

How many feet should I add to a pot of chicken stock?

How do I prepare the feet? Should I cut them up into smaller pieces? Are feet easy to cut up?

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Singe them over a gas flame first and scrape the tougher scales off, I believe they are nice roasted too.

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The chicken feet at my local Asian market are very clean, so I just toss them into the stock (usually frozen). Anywhere from one to three feet, depending on how much stock I am making -- when I use my 12 quart stock pot, I'll toss in three or four. And, I don't bother to cut them up -- after the long simmer, they just fall apart.

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What Susan said. I haven't ever had to burn off anything, but I do give 'em a quick wash. I think that they've been blanched and the outer rough skin has been peeled; occasionally I'll find some dark yellow, scaly skin sticking to one of them. I don't cut them up either.

Just to state the obvious: the feet lend little to no chicken flavor, but they have astonishing amounts of collagen, which give your stock body. Since I don't always have feet available, I tend to have a larger ratio of feet to other chicken (usually thighs, legs, backs, and wings) than Susan suggests, probably in the 4:1 range by weight.

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The feet I get are very clean, so I just give 'em a quick rinse and toss into the pot. I usually use one whole chicken, 2 lbs backs and at least 1 lb of feet.

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As I remember my Grandmother blanched them. I thought it was fun to peel the horny hide off them when I was a kid. These were from the chickens that she raised so of course they were dirty.

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Grandma used two feet in each batch of soup -- because that's how many the chicken had. Her chicken soup was the best.

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As others have mentioned, I just put the chicken feet straight into the stockpot. I buy them fresh at my Asian market. I usually put about 5 or 6 chicken feet into the stockpot for a standard recipe. In other words, take the basic recipe and add 6 chicken feet. I also add one fresh pigs foot, cut in half. The pigs foot also comes from my Asian market. The pigs trotter adds even more rich, sticky collagen to your chicken stock.

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I'm with the others: I don't process them in any way, I just toss 'em in. I'm sure my butcher does all the hard work before they ever make their way into my hands. They certainly look clean!

The last time I made duck stock (using 3 duck carcasses), I added about 6 chicken feet, and the stock came out with a beautiful gel. I'm sure one or two more or less wouldn't hurt.

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As I've said repeatedly, using chicken feet for body is an obsolete method. You can get high grade, powdered gelatine for much cheaper than chicken feet and it gives you much more control and versatility.

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As I've said repeatedly, using chicken feet for body is an obsolete method. You can get high grade, powdered gelatine for much cheaper than chicken feet and it gives you much more control and versatility.

What concentration would you use for a basic stock?

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