Let’s say it out loud. Chicken feet? They sound as bad as they look. Still, they’re the most underrated part of the chicken — they’re basically free and have lots of flavor!
The thing is, no one will get near chicken feet without knowing what they’re doing, and we’re here to help.
This is the ultimate guide from sourcing, cleaning and cooking chicken feet. We’re also sharing with you an authentic recipe for sticky chicken feet.
The Asian-inspired treat is a fantastic appetizer, beer snack, starter and midnight crave quencher.
Have you ever cooked chicken feet? Why not? Here are all your questions answered.
After reading this, you’ll rush to the supermarket for some feet. That’s guaranteed.
In South Africa, they call them walkies. In China, they call them Fèng zhuǎ, meaning phoenix claws. How’s that for ancient marketing?
The truth is, since the beginning of time, people have gotten creative to market the less-than-appealing part of the chicken. After all, this is chicken feet we’re talking about, right?
Well. It turns out chicken feet are a popular snack enjoyed worldwide, including in Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, China, South Africa, Thailand, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. Now, you can cook them at home wherever you are.
Although pork is the most consumed meat globally, chicken takes second place with 33% of the total meat production. In the US alone, we eat one hundred pounds of chicken every year per person.
It comes without saying, no part of the chicken goes to waste, and yes, there are less appealing parts of chicken than their feet.
To understand chicken feet’s origin, we must talk briefly about where chicken comes from. In a nutshell, the bird was domesticated 4,000 years ago in Southeast Asia, and with the first chicken, people ate the first chicken feet, as easy as that.
And now that we’ve established that chicken has an immense significance in the world’s diet, including the bird’s feet. Let’s talk about how to clean them. After all, these are feet, and chickens walk on them.
To cook with chicken feet, you must clean them first. And it’s easier than you think. The first step is rinsing the feet in water. In this step, we’re just washing off any dirt stuck in the feet.
The feet are often sold pretty clean, but you can’t take enough precautions. This is also a fantastic opportunity to inspect the feet. They’re not pretty, we know, but they should be clean of lumps, cuts or bruises. Let’s just say you want them to look healthy.
Make your job easier by using fresh chicken feet straight from a butcher.
Now we’ll clean the chicken feet by peeling the scaly outer skin layer. Optionally, some people like to trim the toenails for a cleaner look, although there’s nothing wrong with leaving them on. What you definitively do not want to miss is a good salt rub.
By rubbing the feet, you eliminate all the impurities and leftover scales, effectively smoothening out their skin. Give those feet a good rub — it’s just like exfoliating the feet. Wash away the salt after the Spa treatment.
Here’s the thing with chicken feet, they’re as healthy as any part of the chicken. Yes, there’s some saturated fat in the skin, but not nearly enough to cause you problems. After all, when you eat feet, you nibble very little tender and flavorful skin, never large amounts.
Do chicken feet have any particular health benefits? Well, chicken feet are high in collagen and contain some vitamins and minerals, particularly folate or vitamin B9.
Collagen is good for your skin and joints, but don’t expect to feel any different after enjoying a few chicken feet. Although there are some health claims behind chicken feet, mostly of Chinese origin, you should eat chicken feet because they’re delicious and inexpensive, not because they’re good for you.
On the other hand, chicken feet are not dangerous to eat, and there are no significant risks in consuming them as long as they’re cooked to the right temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C).
At this temperature, all harmful bacteria that might live in the chicken feet are obliterated. The same goes for all chicken meat.
Chicken feet are mostly skin and tendons; there’s no meat in these beauties. They’re pretty fatty as well, which makes them an immensely flavorful snack.
There are two main ways of enjoying chicken feet. You can cook them, whether in a frying pan or grill, or you can add them to a hearty chicken broth, where they’ll boil to tender perfection while blessing the broth with the butteriest texture and flavor. We’ll talk about cooking chicken feet later on.
Chicken feet have an amazing, remarkably familiar chicken flavor. The problem often comes with the feet’ texture. After all, you must nibble the feet to enjoy all that deliciousness, and that’s odd for some — because they’re feet.
The texture can also come through as gelatinous, but when cooked right, all the collagen is rendered, giving the feet the nicest, smooth texture. Chicken feet taste like chicken, there. The texture is not that dissimilar to chicken wings.
So, if you’re picky, just close your eyes and enjoy!
Today you’ll find chicken feet almost everywhere. And although you might not find them in some commercial supermarkets, they’re always available in Asian markets.
Most of the feet obtained in American chicken farms are shipped to China, but they’ll leave some in the country for the rest of us to enjoy.
Try not to go for frozen chicken feet. There’s nothing wrong with them, but nothing beats fresh chicken feet butchered the same day. For these, you want to visit your butcher. Ask for the feet — butcheries will sell them cheaply and others will give them away for free.
Keep in mind the whole-animal movement is growing, as butchers and chefs are avoiding waste, not only as a sign of respect for the animal but also as a way of making food more sustainable. You should also try to eat lesser-known parts of chicken, beef and pork.
More often than not, less-popular cuts of meat are less expensive and as tasty as more popular cuts.
Let’s head into the kitchen and talk about cooking chicken feet. We’ve already talked about how to clean them, including the salt rub and everything. Let’s talk about the next steps.
If you’re adding the chicken feet into a stew, chicken soup or broth, and you totally should. Just go for it. Throw them into the pot and let them render all their flavor. You can then discard the chicken feet or eat them. It’s no biggie.
If you want to enjoy the chicken feet on their own. Most experts agree you should blanche the feet in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then cool them down in an ice batch.
The blanching technique is often used in veggies, and it tenderizes them. Well, the same goes for chicken feet. No matter how you cook them later, if blanched first, they’ll be more tender.
Finally, stir-fry the chicken feet with your favorite veggies and sauces, toss them in a sticky Asian-inspired sauce, or pickle them with vinegar. The sky’s the limit, and there’s plenty of recipes out there, from barbecue chicken feet to grilled feet.
Choose your favorite cooking method. We’ve added our own famous chicken feet recipe below in case you need some inspiration.
This one is tricky since all chicken feet recipes look different. Serving chicken feet depends on how you cook them. Needless to say, chicken feet are rarely the main course, but a snack or appetizer, so serve them before a heartier dish.
The best way to serve chicken wings depends on your preferred cooking method. If deep-fried, serve chicken feet with a creamy ranch dip. If sautéed, coat them with an Asian sweet-and-sour sticky sauce. If added to the broth, serve them as-is.
Having said that, chicken feet are compatible with spice sauces, condiments, dry rubs, BBQ sauce, teriyaki and many other flavors.
If the chicken feet are fresh, cleaned appropriately, and cooked to the right temperature, it’s hard to get them wrong. They’re always crowd-pleasing delicious, and more versatile than you think.
Clean the chicken feet. Mince the garlic, mince the onion, peel and mince the ginger. Set aside.
After rinsing and peeling, rub the chicken feet with salt thoroughly and rinse in freshwater.
Bring a few cups of water to a boil in a pot.
Blanche the chicken feet for 1-2 minutes. Cool down in an ice-water bath immediately. Pat dry.
In a skillet, add two tablespoons of cooking oil and sauté the garlic, onion and ginger until fragrant.
Incorporate the chicken feet and stir-fry while tossing until golden and crispy but still moist (8-10 minutes.)
Add the soy sauce and teriyaki sauce and reduce the flame to low. Stir until thoroughly coated and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated.
Serve and drizzle with toasted sesame oil.
Garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallions.