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Best chicken stock ever - thanks to Sam Fujisaka and others

I'd been searching for ages for chicken feet cause Sam and others raved about its excellent properties for chicken stock. I finally found some a couple of months ago, not long after Sam died (figured he helped me there), and stuck them in the freezer. Then on a recent stop at Whole Foods I found some fresh chicken backs that they were just putting out. I always make stock in my good-size slow cooker but this wasn't going to work. I probably had 3# of feet and 4 backs. I got out my largest Lodge DO, put them all in and filled with water. I never use any seasoning because I then have a very basic flavor that I can do what I wish with. I preheated my oven to 200, brought the DO to a boil, covered and put in the oven for about ten hours. I'd planned to stop at that point. But I decided (after cooling enough to handle) to break up all the feet and backs and cook some more. I realized at that point that I could have been using my induction cooktop instead of the oven as it has a super low (not even a simmer) setting. I cooked another five hours or so. Refrigerated overnight and had almost no fat to remove. The chilled stock was completely gelatinized/solid. Now that is stock! I reheated it just enough to get it back to its liquid state for packaging and freezing. It's the best tasting stock I've ever had. I find myself raising the bar on certain things. Hit a new high with this one. Thanks, Sam, and everyone else who helped me make such a wonderful thing.

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  1. I first read about making stock this way on Ruhlman's blog. Totally amazing stock that has richness and fullness. This also works with roasted carcasses..... try it with your turkey after Thanksgiving and you will find a new level of nirvana. [I do the oven at 180º.]

    4 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      The turkey or the carcass or the stock?

      1. re: jvanderh

        180 oven temperature when making the stock with the leftover carcass.

        1. re: jvanderh

          The carcass and all bones for making the stock, nirvana when you eat the stock.

          1. re: smtucker

            Very good. But this was off the charts unbelievably fantastic.

      2. Thanks for posting. I've never used chicken feet (I *do* have a market that has them out once in a while), but I was just thinking that I had started taking shortcuts with stock, and felt strongly that the subsequent dishes were suffering.

        I just added chicken feet to my shopping list.

        14 Replies
        1. re: onceadaylily


          Where do you get chicken feet? I am in Glenview and Harrisons Poultry farm didn't have them.

          1. re: cajundave

            I can't imagine I was at Jewel, so I would have to say that I've seen them in the market in Lincolnwood Plaza in Skokie (I think the market is itself called Lincolnwood Market) or Village Market (on Dempster in Evanston). I would call first, before you make the trek.

            Tonight, I'll ask the boyfriend if he remembers for certain which market (every single time he sees a package, he asks me if I need them. I can't wait to say yes!).

            1. re: onceadaylily

              Lincolnwood Produce
              7175 N Lincoln Ave
              (between Fitch Ave & Kostner Ave)
              Lincolnwood, IL 60712
              (847) 329-0600

              Village Marketplace
              4034 Dempster St
              (between Crawford Ave & Karlov Ave)
              Skokie, IL 60076
              (847) 933-0900

              1. re: onceadaylily

                Thanks, I grew up in Evanston. My parents live there and I visit often.

                I thought it would be funny to show up with a huge bag of chicken feet!

                1. re: cajundave

                  I giggled when I put it on my shopping list.

                  1. re: onceadaylily

                    I got a kick out of opening the frezzer (drawer on the bottome) and there they sat - or stood :)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      . . . they stand? Oh, this is going to be fun.

                      1. re: onceadaylily

                        What? You think they play the piano?

                        1. re: c oliver

                          No, but maybe they'll dance.

                          I never thought of them as . . . retaining that ability. I always just picture them bundled up on their sides, not lined up like chorus girls.

              2. re: cajundave

                An alternative to chicken feet are chicken wings, especially wings with the tips.

                1. re: dave_c

                  Wings are good but they are no replacement for feet.

                  1. re: bookhound

                    Wings are so expensive now! I remember getting them for free when I was a kid.

                    Backs, necks, and gizzards could usually be had either super cheap or free, depending on how overloaded the butcher was at the moment. Stewing hens and leftover carcasses is what we usually used to make stock.

              3. re: onceadaylily

                I hear that chicken lips are good too.

                1. re: souschef

                  Suitable dinner music, I would think. :0

              4. Just to add to the OP that, yup, chicken feet make for excellent gelatinized stock. I'm fortunate to have a Latino market close by, and they stock all sort of parts that you don't normally find in the usual large market chains.

                6 Replies
                1. re: monavano

                  I'm soooo jealous. But when we're in SF a times a years, I try to stock up. I was prepared for the stock to be really good. I was blown away by how good. And now I have over a gallon of it in my freezer. Yay! Next batch maybe I'll make dim sum.

                  1. re: monavano

                    What is it about the feet that elevates the stock so? I buy backs at the store, chop them up and stockpile in the freezer until I have enough for a batch of stock. I don't cook as long and my stock is always completely solid when refrigerated.

                    1. re: DMW

                      The main reason is the collagen. But I wouldn't have cared if it had completely gelantinized. It's the flavor that knocked my socks off. I just kept eating spoonful after spoonful :) And two packs of feet and four backs made over a gallon of stock.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Exactly. My favorite Chinese restaurant makes incredible soup. I inquired on the parts, and was told the wings. So I did the same and yes it was good but still not like theres. I then talked to a friend who is an excellect Chinese cook and author of medicinal soups. She mentioned that the flavorful stock was made from feet and backs. I did go out and get the feet, amazing difference. I was finally able to get that flavor I was trying to achieve before. Its so full of flavor, and filling. Liquid gold.

                      2. re: DMW

                        Yup, it's the collagen. It's always nice to get a gelatinized end product, but it's not necessary. Whatever you use, it's about extracting flavor.

                      3. re: monavano

                        I have never used chicken feet and my stock was always gelatinized, almost like jello. I made mine in the pressure cooker.

                      4. You said you don't season your stock but did you mean no aromatic vegetables either?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: greygarious

                          Not a single solitary thing :) I think I started doing that some years ago perhaps from a Cooks Illustrated article. All it tastes like is chicken - no salt either. So I can go a vegetable route, an Asian, whatever.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I can see pros and cons to that. On the one hand, you have a very flexible stock. On the other, you now have to add quality aromatics to anything you cook if you want those flavors. Still, I can see why it makes sense!

                            1. re: tzakiel

                              I have on occasion been out of celery or carrot (never onion) when I had leftover meat and bones meriting stockmaking, and always noted on the container label what was missing before freezing it, so I could compensate when using the stock later. Never tried it without aromatics, and can't imagine any use where I wouldn't want these three. but it's good to know that they are not a prerequisite for a good-tasting stock

                              1. re: greygarious

                                I am anxious to try the recipe but what is a "DO?"

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Great. I just happened to get one for my BD last month. I am still learning how to use it properly.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  I never added anything to stock either. If celery or other ingredients were wanted they were added to the recipe the stock was being used for.

                          2. Did you cook the feet or remove the skin before making the stock? Am thinking about attempting this in a slow cooker.

                            12 Replies
                              1. re: c oliver

                                Interesting. So you've done this more than once and it worked? I've read elsewhere to boil them first and then take off the nails and outer skin, but I'd rather skip that step if possible!

                                1. re: Lina

                                  I've only made stock with feet and back once (so far). But I've been making stock with a whole chicken in the slow cooker for years and treated it the same way. I can't imagine the effort involved in removing the nails :) And I certainly wouldn't want to remove the skin. That seems counterintuitive to me.

                                  1. re: Lina

                                    I don't remove the skin. But I do snip off the nails using poultry shears (only takes a few seconds), much easier than trying to get them completely clean of gunk underneath. I always blanch bones and everything before boiling, if not already cooked ("out with the water" technique) for a clearer, cleaner stock without skimming.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Thanks! I will give this a try. I just got a slow cooker and don't have an oven so am delighted to find a new way to make stock.

                                      1. re: Lina

                                        I imagine that if you scored the skin with the point of a sharp knife, the collagen and other good stuff in the chicken feet might break down faster. Your stock's done when the foot bones break apart and the cartilage in the joints have melted.

                                        Happy Thanksgiving, Lina. I remember the year your dad carried a can of pumpkin puree overseas for your pie.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Thanks, Melanie. That was one of my better recent Thanksgivings that you remember! I'm in Cambodia now and celebrated the day by getting myself a slow cooker and am now plotting chicken stock. I am not sure if I have anything heavy duty enough to remove the nails but I will give it a try later this week.

                                          1. re: Lina

                                            I use a large knife cutting the toenails off right above the area where they start. You can use good scissors, but a knife works fine.

                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              Knifed them and they came right off. Still cooking now. Early results look very promising.

                                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                                        love the tip about snipping the nails with shears. thanks Melanie!

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          I can definitely see doing that if going for clear but I'm lazy. I don't even skim :( It's cloudy but white. I drain through two layers of cheesecloth.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            A second on the "I'm lazy". I usually feel so righteous when I make stock that having it become food of the gods is an unexpected bonus. I'll search out chicken feet on my next shopping foray; Black Friday be damned. Important things first! This is a timely posting and I'm glad that it was revived.

                                  2. Wow. I just saw chicken feet at the grovery store last week. I must make this soon. I am all out of the stock I made from my lat roasted chicken.

                                    1. chicken feet give a lot of collagen to the the stock. Great for mouth feel. But without much meat did it taste rich and chickeny? I throw some thight and legs in.

                                      Also I've not found a good source of backs in the washington area (I can find backs but sometime they are as much as other cuts of the chicken) If anyone knows of a good source, please let us know.

                                      Congrats on stock. A great stock really can elevate a dish. Did pot roast last night with really good home made chicken stock and the kids and the wife were just sopping the gravy with the bread.

                                      1. I have got to try this! Sounds like stock from heaven. Thanks for the great information.

                                        1. For extra taste and collagen, throw in any skin left over and saved from your cured hams too. This seems to add in a nice punch to complement chicken soups and stocks.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: vil

                                            Chicken feet are available in just about any Chinatown in N. America. Duck feet, too--also lovely in stock.

                                            1. re: zamorski

                                              ...and in any Latino grocery. if they're not out, just ask, many times they are batch-frozen.

                                          2. I am very interested in making a stock. Would someone please post a basic stock recipe. I made a broth with the turkey and was satisfied so that I could make a soup.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: cpatricia

                                              Not trying to be snarky but that's what I did in the OP.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Maybe they meant without feet? I'm not likely to be getting chicken feet so i'd be interested.

                                                1. re: DougWeller

                                                  Before I found chicken feet, I used a whole chicken in the slowcooker. When the breast meat was done, I'd remove that meat and then continue to cook all day. alanbarnes also removes the thigh and leg meat but since I don't particularly like dark meat I gave it to "the cause." Alot of CHs add 'aromatics' to their stock but I don't. That way I can flavor it any way I want when cooking.

                                                  1. re: DougWeller

                                                    I love the idea of keeping the aromatics out and might try it to keep on hand.

                                                    I rarely cook with a whole bird so I pick up wings and or legs (it's better if you can break them up), then use what I have on hand which is usually onion halved, garlic (smashed peel left intact), pepper corns, carrot, celery, sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Add water, bring to a boil then let simmer for a few hours (while I do housework or whatever). I do not salt because I like to salt while I cook. I let it cool enough to handle then remove bones before I use a sieve and extract as much liquid from the veggies as possible. Pop it in the fridge to separate the fat, then reheat so I can divide it for freezer storage. I love this stock and it makes killer gravy. Think today I'll make a batch c oliver's way.

                                              2. Been making chicken stock for a long time, going way back to Adelle Davis' healthy eating guides. Sooo much better than canned stock or godforbid, boullion cubes (only in an emergency!). I use all bones with whatever meat is clinging to them, saved in the freezer from roasts, curries, whatever, until I have a half a potful. I usually break the large bones and back to let the marrow out quicker, which gives a lot of flavor. No skins for me, thanks (too fatty). Adelle suggests acififying the water with a few Tbs of vinegar to get more calcium out of the bones and it also gives a little tang. I throw in a limp carrot, maybe some cilantro roots or parsley, soft celery - don't overdo it. Onion won't hurt in moderation. Usually I simmer for an hour uncovered, or more, to condense the liquid. Then I strain and let cool. The fat rises while cooling and then after you refrigerate the bowl or container you can just lift off the hardened fat before you use the gelatinous stock. Usually I end up with enough to freeze some -- it keeps well for months in the freezer in pint containers.

                                                1. The 180 deg oven trick is brilliant...wonder if any one has tried it when making beef stock. I imagine it would be wonderful also.

                                                  1. Last week I made chicken feet stock (no other parts) for the first time. I had 4# of them, and did not declaw them. I really didn't want to look at them, much less handle them (not usually this squeamish). Use a big pasta pot with strainer insert, submerged them, brought to simmer, then covered and into 200-ish oven (the lowest number on the dial) and I wasn'tt sure the thermostat is reliable below that. After about 8 hrs I added a halved onion, celery, and a halved carrot. It was in the oven overnight too, so a total of about 20 hrs. I did not break up the feet like Coliver did. Once I lifted the strainer and let it drain, I reduced the stock to save freezer space, ending up with 5 cups. Once it chilled, there was not enough fat to merit skimming. This surprised me - I thought there would be more. The dogs made short work of the drained feet, which I felt were soft enough to be safe.
                                                    Yesterday I used some of the stock, diluting it with water, to make chicken vegetable soup. While it tasted good, I really would not have identified it as chicken. More like chicken plus beef. Perhaps because of the Maillard reaction on the vegetables - the water level left them exposed for part of their night in the oven.
                                                    I am wondering if it would have turned out with more chicken flavor if I had added backs or wings, and/or omitted the vegetables. Previously I have always used carcasses and dark parts, plus mirepoix, in a stockpot on top of the stove, which gave me a distinctly chickeny stock that was lighter in color than this one, equally gelatinous, but with a thicker fat cap.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                      Mine isn't INTENSELY chickeny flavored. Not like Better Than Boullion. Maybe the backs helped mine some. Maybe some meatier parts next time. I didn't dilute but then I didn't reduce so probably the same. You know far more about cooking than I do so I don't have anything to add :) I too was really surprised by the lack of fat. The color of mine was very, very pale but again probably cause I don't use vegetables. I'm sure Sam would agree that everything is a work in process.

                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                        I tried the oven braising method twice and my stock was not intensely chickenly flavored although still yummy. This week I went back to stove top simmering - about seven hours on a slow simmer, cooled overnight, fat skimmed and reheated for straining -- and found the stock deeply, deeply chicken flavored. I'm also getting a "skin" forming over the top of the broth which is new. Not sure what that's about, don't like it much, but the flavor is still wonderful. I use equal pounds of back and feet and I do believe the meat from the backs makes a difference. I would think just feet would be a little flat tasting. BTW - I LOVE seeing the chicken feet sticking up out of the pot. Makes me laugh hysterically.

                                                        1. re: hvf100

                                                          I always get the "skin" on stovetop stock and got some in the oven-braised too.

                                                          1. re: hvf100

                                                            I've gotten that skin a couple of times, too - and I have NO idea what it is either.

                                                            I'm going to have to find some chicken feet - I know I've seen them, but just not sure I remember where.

                                                            I generally use bones and skin from boning breasts and thighs and throw a pound or so of drumsticks in for good measure. Then I simmer the stock on the stovetop for the better part of the day, strain it into 6L square containers, cover it, and stick it out on the deck overnight to cool - we refer to the snow-covered deck as our "back up refrigeration system." Next morning, I skim the fat off, heat it back up, and finish it.

                                                          2. re: greygarious

                                                            Most authorities (e.g., Harold McGee, Jacques Pepin) say that the body of a stock comes from the feet and bones, but the flavor comes from the meat. I love chicken feet in my stock, but would never use feet alone. Most Asian markets, where I buy the feet, sell backs and/or carcasses and I never buy one without the other. Stock with nothing but feet is good enough to cook with but it's not how I'd want to make the basis of a really flavorful soup.

                                                            Whether or not I use a mirepoix also depends on what I'll be using it for. If it's for soup, definitely. If it's just to fulfill the "add a half cup of stock" requirement (as in many Asian dishes), I won't bother.

                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                              Joan, I always appreciate your knowledgeable input. Oh, wait, should I say "+1." :)

                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                I think I will get some meaty parts, make stock with that, and combine it with the chixfeet stock to make chicken soup. Since it tastes rather beefy, I'll use the chixfeet stock as is for French onion soup, because for that I have always used a combination of beef base and homemade turkey stock.