For many people, eating chicken feet sounds like a very unusual thing to do! But in some countries, chicken feet are considered to be a delicacy, and can be prepared and cooked in a number of different ways.
If you’re used to your chicken arriving with the feet removed, you may be wondering if there is any point in trying this normally discarded part of the bird.
But what do chicken feet taste like? When cooked, chicken feet taste like a mild version of chicken, very similar to the darker leg meat. They take on flavors of spices well and are popular in umami-style sauces in Asian cooking. Deep-fried chicken feet taste very similar to crispy roast chicken skin.
Are you feeling intrigued? Ready to give chicken feet a try? We’ve got everything you need to know about eating chicken feet right here, including how they are prepared, how to eat them, and whether they taste like chicken.
What Are Chicken Feet?
In many cultures, both whole chicken and chicken legs are sold with feet removed. So, unless you’ve seen a live chicken, you may have never seen what their feet look like!
Chicken feet intended for human consumption come from the bottom part of the leg of a chicken, and consist of a foot to which are attached several claws.
At the end of each claw is a nail, and at the back of the foot is a fleshy pad. The foot and claws themselves are thin and covered in scaly skin.
We must admit, that description doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, but fans of this delicacy swear that it is one of the most delicious things they have ever eaten!
The reason for this is the way that they are prepared, which brings out the intense flavor that is loved in many countries around the world.
Chicken feet are only eaten in certain countries and regions, so you may only see them on the menu of restaurants specializing in cuisines such as Chinese, Mexican, Portuguese, and South African.
It could also be that you live in a country where chicken feet are widely available, but you’ve never quite dared to try them. Let’s learn why you should consider it!
How Are Chicken Feet Cooked?
So, if the secret is in the cooking, let’s find out just how chicken feet are cooked!
Inside the foot and claws of the chicken foot are some small bones, joined together by tough cartilage.
The aim when cooking chicken feet is to soften the cartilage to make it tender enough to eat and also enable the bones to be removed easily.
Softening cartilage normally involves a long, slow cooking process, to turn tough collagen into soft gelatin.
Anyone who has slow-cooked a tough joint of beef has done exactly this, turning chewy muscle into succulent, tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat!
Unusually, chicken feet are normally first fried in spices, then slow-cooked. This infuses the meat with flavor first and then tenderizes it through the use of low heat over a long period!
There are several classic recipes involving chicken feet.
The main one that you may have seen is called “Phoenix Claws” — this is a form of Chinese dim sum.
The chicken feet are first fried and then slowly cooked in an umami-rich sauce, giving them a sweet, sticky, rich flavor.
You will find plenty of other Asian-inspired chicken feet recipes along the same theme, where the feet are first fried or roasted, and then slow-cooked.
The benefit of this method is that the meat is so soft that it can be pulled apart with chopsticks.
In other cultures, you may come across chicken feet that have been prepared using alternative methods.
They can be boiled as part of a broth, soup, or stew, and the gelatin within the foot adds a delectably smooth thickness to these liquid dishes.
Deep-fried chicken feet are also popular, either with or without batter. When cooked in this way it can be harder to nibble the meat from the bone, but what you do get is a deliciously crispy texture!
What Do Chicken Feet Taste Like?
Chicken feet themselves are not famed for their intense flavor — their big advantage is the way that they take on other flavors when cooked.
The taste of your chicken feet will alter considerably depending on the recipe you’re using.
By themselves, the meat on chicken feet tastes like a mild version of chicken. Some say that it is slightly gamey, but this depends on the variety of chicken it came from.
It is essential that you only cook and eat spotlessly clean chicken feet, otherwise you may well detect a dirty tang to the flavor!
Deep-fried chicken feet are normally highly seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce, and other spices such as cinnamon or star anise. This gives them a warm, aromatic flavor, like a spicy version of crispy roast chicken skin.
What Is The Texture Of Chicken Feet Like?
The texture of chicken feet will depend very much on how they have been cooked.
The meat on chicken feet contains a large amount of cartilage, which can be very chewy and tough. Inside this cartilage are many small bones that are not normally eaten.
If the chicken feet are fried or roasted, the meat and cartilage will turn crispy. Fried chicken feet are normally eaten by picking up the whole foot and nibbling or picking off the edible parts with your teeth or fingers.
The texture of chicken feet that have been braised in liquid is completely different. This cooking technique turns the tough collagen in cartilage into soft gelatin, which easily falls off the bone.
When cooked in this way, chicken feet really do melt in the mouth, with a soft, silky, simply delicious texture.
Slow-braised chicken feet can be eaten with chopsticks, or a knife and fork if you prefer. The soft cartilage will easily pull away from the bone, with no need to pick away at it with your fingers or teeth.
Do Chicken Feet Taste Like Chicken?
Chicken feet do taste like chicken, but the flavor is slightly milder than the fleshier parts of the bird.
The flavor is most comparable to the leg meat of chicken, with a dark, almost gamey flavor.
Because chicken feet are normally fried, they take on a crisp, sweet flavor that is very reminiscent of the crispy chicken skin we all crave on a roast chicken.
It is this sweet, salty flavor that makes fried chicken feet a popular snack, despite the rather messy eating experience!
Now we’ve got the flavor of chicken feet all figured out, let’s take a look at some other common questions surrounding this unusual culinary experience.
How do you prepare chicken feet?
Preparing chicken feet can be a daunting task if you’ve never done it before, but it is relatively simple.
The most important thing is cleanliness — these feet need to be spotless before we eat them. Soak the chicken feet in clean cold water for 15 minutes, then scrub away any dirt with a soft nylon brush.
If your chicken feet have not already been skinned, you will need to remove the skin.
This process can be made much easier by blanching them in hot water for 30 seconds. The skin should then peel away easily with the help of a sharp knife, and the claws cut off at the same time.
Finally, give the chicken feet a sniff — do they smell grimy? If so, soak them in a mild brine of salt and vinegar for around 15 minutes, then rinse.
Your chicken feet should now be spotlessly white and ready to cook!
Are chicken feet good for you?
There are some health benefits to eating chicken feet, but some downsides as well. This is one of those foods that is best enjoyed in moderation as an occasional treat.
The main benefit to chicken feet is the high levels of collagen, which helps to improve skin elasticity — this reduces the appearance of wrinkles and gives skin a more youthful appearance.
Collagen can also help to reduce joint pain and inflammation, helping to improve mobility.
However, chicken feet are very calorific, and are high in saturated fats and cholesterol. They tend to be cooked with large amounts of sugar and salt as well, making them a less-than-healthy option.
Can you make stock from chicken feet?
Chicken feet make great stock, as the high levels of gelatin make the stock super smooth and silky. The flavor of chicken feet also transfers well to stock, so this is a great way to make use of this normally discarded piece of the bird.
When making stock from chicken feet, it is vital to make sure that they are spotlessly clean first. Soak them in water for around 15 minutes, then scrub them carefully to remove any dirt.