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Chicken Feet for Bone Broth: must skim scum? (and other questions) . . .

mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 06:38 AM

I'm aiming to make a super nutritious bone broth in my new pressure cooker. In the past, I'd use a slow cooker for 12 hours, and include the carcass of a chicken, and throw in a marrow bone for extra nutrition.

Last night, I purchased 2 pounds of chicken feet at the Asian Grocery.

I was horrified how scary they looked (way outside my comfort zone).

I have some questions and concerns:

1. Do I need to wash the feet? (are they any more dirty than a dead raw chicken?)

2. I read somewhere that people clip the toe nails. That sounds crazy and unnecessary since I'm be pouring the whole thing through my strainer so any nails, bones, etc. won't make its way into the broth.

3. I read that you are first supposed to bring the carcass and bones to a boil and skim off the scum because it contains impurities and 'off-taste' (whatever that means). I've never done that before, but of course I've never used chicken feet before. It seems like a hassle and an extra step. If that done primarily for the fancy cooks who want perfectly clear broth? I don't care because I'm throwing in a beef marrow bone and I'm using it in stews. Are the impurities harmful? Might they rise to the top and get trapped when I cool and remove the layer of fat on top?

4. I purchased 2 pounds of chicken feet (they are much smaller than I envisioned. I have an 8 quart pressure cooker and will be first be cooking 3 pounds of chicken parts (breasts and drum sticks), removing the meat, tossing the rest back in the pressure cooker and adding the chicken feet and a beef bone. HOW MUCH chicken feet should I add? I intend to cook it for 90 minutes on high pressure. I was able to get gel last week (first time with my pressure cooker) for 60 minutes (no feet). It tasted great!

Sorry for the long post but I'm really excited to try out my new fagor duo pressure cooker (arriving later today).

Thanks a bunch if you can answer any of these questions,


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  1. f
    fourunder RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 08:47 AM

    1. I wash....others will tell you it's necessary or unnecessary

    2. For your intent.....you do not need to clip the toe nails.

    3. I skim it's quite easy....others will tell you it is necessary or unnecessary

    4. Add them all in and it will produce a very gelatinous stock

    1. i
      INDIANRIVERFL RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 08:58 AM

      You clip the toenails for presentation, not for making stock.

      Have no clue on how long to cook with a pressure cooker.

      How do you skim with the lid of the pressure cooker in place? By the time you can safely remove it, I would think the scum would break apart and go back in suspension.

      Good luck!

      4 Replies
      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
        mike2401 RE: INDIANRIVERFL Jan 29, 2013 09:03 AM

        If I need to skim, I guess I could bring to a boil without the pressure cooker lid, skim, then put the top on and pressurize for the hour.

        I'd really like to skip the skim step so I'm hoping a number of people will tell me to let it absorb and forget about it.


        1. re: mike2401
          Violatp RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 09:08 AM

          Mike, I'll tell you I make bone broths regularly, I do use chicken feet, and I don't skim. It seems to sink back down and get tangled up with the bones and onions and stuff anyway.

          I always put the whole pot in the fridge overnight before portioning out the broth "jello" the next day. I notice that all the scum and other impurities all sink down to the bottom of the pot leaving the top nicely clear. So, basically I just discard all that the next day and don't monitor the pot while it's cooking.

        2. re: INDIANRIVERFL
          mike2401 RE: INDIANRIVERFL Jan 29, 2013 09:04 AM

          I guess it's a cultural thing, but these chicken feet are soo scary and alien to me, I wouldn't present them to anyone.

          I'm just going to toss them when done making the broth.

          I asked a dog owning friend if maybe the dog might like them be he said chicken bones are dangerous for dogs as they splinter.


          1. re: mike2401
            sparrowgrass RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 09:29 AM

            I pressure cook chicken for stock all the time. I never skim--the stock is clear after I strain it. All the lumpy stuff sticks together.

            I give the bones and cooked veggies to the dogs. After 60 minutes in the cooker, the bones are soft enough to crush between my fingers. The dogs love it--good source of calcium and some protein and fat.

            I have used feet in my stock--my mom said kids in her family ate them, but they are too sticky/gristly for me. They do add a lot of gelatin!

        3. meatn3 RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 11:38 AM

          1. I give them a rinse. But to be honest, the ones I buy are so pristine it looks like the birds received pedicures!

          2. I've read that too. And promptly ignored it. For stock making it makes no sense.

          3. If there is an abundance of scum I will skim. I simmer very slowly so there is seldom much. But I'm not aiming for a clear broth. I also strain the stock at least twice before it is refrigerated.Sometimes I use a crockpot for approx 18 -24 hours for bone broth. Scum has never been an issue.

          4. I don't use the pressure cooker for stock. But foaming can be an issue with clogging the vent in pressure cookers - so perhaps parboiling the feet would help prevent this.

          1. Melanie Wong RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 03:22 PM

            2. I clip off the nails because it is not possible to clean under them thoroughly. Even if they look clean, they really are not. Unless you relish the idea of incorporating whatever poop that chickens step in into your stock.

            3. I don't skim, but I do a parboiling to remove impurities which have been discussed many times over on this site and wash them down the drain. It's not about clarity for me but the clean and direct flavors I want. Even if the gunk sinks to the bottom, it still affects the flavor and aroma of the stock after boiling it all together for so long. The difference is huge to me.

            16 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong
              ipsedixit RE: Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2013 03:25 PM

              2. I clip off the nails because it is not possible to clean under them thoroughly. Even if they look clean, they really are not. Unless you relish the idea of incorporating whatever poop that chickens step in into your stock.

              Plus, the nail clippings make for a great addition when mixed into Panko for things like breaded chicken or pork cutlets.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                chloebell RE: ipsedixit Jan 29, 2013 03:32 PM

                Blech, lmao!!!!!!

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  mike2401 RE: ipsedixit Jan 29, 2013 03:48 PM

                  Thank you for totally grossing me out, just minutes before I am about to unpack the chicken feet for my first time.

                  I'm already squeamish enough. The poop under nail thing might totally send me over the edge.


                  1. re: mike2401
                    ipsedixit RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 06:58 PM

                    In all seriousness, a quick blanch of the chicken will get rid of any detritus hidden underneath them nails.

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      mike2401 RE: ipsedixit Jan 29, 2013 07:22 PM

                      since I'm a total cooking novice, I looked up what blancing meant:


                      Did you mean to toss in hot water, THEN cold? This is for a bone broth and will be cooked to death.

                      Is a 60 minute pressure cooking at 250 degrees enough to get rid of the stuff?

                      BTW, this thread has mostly made me lose my appetite:



                      1. re: mike2401
                        ipsedixit RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 07:27 PM

                        Actually, I should have said parboil, basically bring the chicken to a boil, then drain and dump the water and start your stock that way.

                        Sorry, no idea about pressure cookers. Never used them.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          Melanie Wong RE: ipsedixit Jan 29, 2013 08:25 PM

                          Your more detailed instructions:

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            ipsedixit RE: Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2013 08:31 PM

                            Gosh, whoever wrote that really knew what they were talking about ...

                        2. re: mike2401
                          greygarious RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 10:18 PM

                          You should watch the stockmaking episode of Martha Stewart's Cooking School, currently running on PBS. She makes chicken stock in a pressure cooker. Before putting the lid on, she brings the ingredients to a simmer and skims.
                          Only then does she put the lid on. I can't recall how long she processes it but she mentions that pressure cooker stock is more intensely flavored than ordinary stockpot stock, although it retains its lighter color. It is an informative show, though I can't imagine why she says to throw away the fat that is skimmed from the top of the stocks. Surely she knows better, and was raised by a mother who'd have used the schmaltz and beef fat for potatoes and other frying.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong
                    Violatp RE: Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2013 03:40 PM

                    You've definitely given me some food for thought! I make bone broth for health reasons, not "foodie" reasons, so to speak. The recipes I've researched are more geared to getting max nutrition out of the bones so I think I'll incorporate your tips next time I make it.

                    1. re: Violatp
                      Melanie Wong RE: Violatp Jan 29, 2013 08:19 PM

                      Well, I find it's faster to use a pair of shears to snip off the toenails than the time it would take for me to inspect them obsessively and scrub underneath.

                      Here's my old post on parboiling to raise the scum and then washing.

                      I'm often asked what is it that makes pho bo or pho ga stock taste so clean and refreshing. Certainly the pedigree of the beef or chicken is important, as well as the aromatics (charred ginger and onion), but really, the careful parboiling and scrubbing off the impurities, blood and proteins is the secret to the transparent flavor of the light but meaty tasting stock.


                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        meatn3 RE: Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2013 11:32 PM

                        You are the first who made the nail sniping make sense. Many articles didn't explain well. Based on how amazingly clean the feet I buy look I assumed the directions were older tradition based not based on current sanitation/processing norms.

                        I guess I'll be moving to the pedicure camp.


                        1. re: meatn3
                          Melanie Wong RE: meatn3 Jan 30, 2013 09:32 AM

                          Mostly the feet are very clean looking. But some batches are better than others. Snipping off the nails is also the time to inspect the feet more closely for the occasional scab, bits of scaly papery skin, calluses and feathers that need to be removed. Sounding more like a pedicure . . .

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            meatn3 RE: Melanie Wong Jan 30, 2013 10:35 AM

                            Perhaps I need to invite Madge over and soak the bird in Palmolive...

                            1. re: meatn3
                              INDIANRIVERFL RE: meatn3 Jan 30, 2013 11:13 AM

                              Thank you Melanie. My greatest decadent pleasure is eating 4 or 5 pounds of glazed and fried feet over a weekend in the lee of an island and feeding the sharks and snapper the bones. And now I will start clipping the toe nails.

                              Thanks meatn3 for aiding another unitasker to the drawer. A cuticle brush.

                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                meatn3 RE: INDIANRIVERFL Jan 30, 2013 12:21 PM

                                Always happy to enable another thrift store junkie! Victorian tortoise shell cuticle brushes will soon hit record e-bay selling prices...

                  3. chefj RE: mike2401 Jan 29, 2013 03:34 PM

                    I do not skim when using the pressure cooker.
                    3-4# of Chicken bits and bobs for 2qt water.
                    I rinse all my bones and meats before cooking.
                    90 min. is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to long!
                    I bring up to pressure and hold there for 20min then turn off heat and let sit till pressure returns to normal.
                    This much cooking almost dissolves the smaller bones and leaves the larger ones soft.
                    The stock is rich and crystal clear.

                    1. lyndak RE: mike2401 Jan 30, 2013 12:08 PM

                      Congrats on the new pressure cooker!

                      We use the Modernist Cuisine chicken stock recipe. They recommend bringing everything to boil and then replacing the water. I find that works quite well for us. I hate skimming scum off food... what a turn off.

                      We replace the chicken wings with chicken feet (much less expensive!) with great success.

                      I encourage you to try this recipe. It tastes like roasted chicken when you're done and no salt!!!


                      PS - we make the light and dark chicken broth depending on what we're going to use it for. The dark one we brown the ground chicken as well as noted in the recipe. For the light one we just follow the recipe as written without browning. have fun!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: lyndak
                        mike2401 RE: lyndak Jan 30, 2013 12:20 PM

                        Thanks for the link and suggestion. Maybe it is worth dirtying another pot and doing a quick boil & toss for the feet.

                        However, I never did that for the whole cut-up chicken, (whether in slow-cooker or pressure cooker), and it turned out fine.

                        Of course, perhaps I simply don't know how much better it would have been if I did a boil/water toss.


                        1. re: mike2401
                          mike2401 RE: mike2401 Jan 30, 2013 04:33 PM

                          Thanks everyone, I'm making my bone broth now.

                          I used 14 cups of water, about a pound of chicken feet, and a pound of beef marrow bones.

                          I put the lid on the pressure cooker with the intent of now skimming scum.

                          However, after about 30 minutes, it came to pressure and I de-pressurized it and looked inside. It had a nasty scary green, brown scum stuff floating on time. I took a strainer and tried to fish for it and scoop it out. I got most of it.

                          Then, realizing I forgot to add the carrots & unions, I chopped them up and added them, brought back to pressure and set the timer for 75 minutes.

                          Based on my experience tonight, I think I'd probably remove the scum but I'm not fussing with the toe-nails.

                          I'll let everyone know tomorrow after it's chilled and I toss the fat layer.

                          Thanks again to everyone for their patience and support!


                          1. re: mike2401
                            C. Hamster RE: mike2401 Jan 30, 2013 04:41 PM

                            Skim the scum before you put the pressure cookers lid on.

                            And yes, the scum is nasty looking and some of it ends up suspended in your product no matter what. Skimming won't give you a clear product but it will eliminate some of those impurities.

                        2. re: lyndak
                          twyst RE: lyndak Jan 30, 2013 04:49 PM

                          "We use the Modernist Cuisine chicken stock recipe."

                          I havent made chicken stock any other way at home since I tried this recipe. It really is outstanding. A bit pricey to make, but it is just about the best stock you could possibly make.

                          The MC veg stock is also pretty ludicrous. Id be happy with a glass of that veg stock and a straw,

                        3. s
                          StrandedYankee RE: mike2401 Jan 30, 2013 04:52 PM

                          We cut off the claws, and then we blanch the feet to remove the skin. It makes a huge difference to the unctuousness of the broth.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: StrandedYankee
                            StrandedYankee RE: StrandedYankee Jan 31, 2013 01:47 AM

                            By the way, blanching the feet and removing the skin makes for a lot less scum in the broth, just so you know.

                            1. re: StrandedYankee
                              mike2401 RE: StrandedYankee Jan 31, 2013 09:28 AM

                              Please take a look at the chicken feet pictured in this article:


                              Vs. what I purchased.

                              Since what I purchased don't look yellow, does that mean someone else did all the hard work of peeling?

                              Sorry if I sound like a chicken feet novice :-



                              1. re: mike2401
                                meatn3 RE: mike2401 Jan 31, 2013 10:20 AM

                                The ones from my market look like the ones you purchased.
                                That's why I assumed they were pre-cleaned.

                                1. re: meatn3
                                  mike2401 RE: meatn3 Jan 31, 2013 10:36 AM

                                  I simply can't imagine how they get the skin off. It seems like such a labor intensive process, I'd expect to pay $10/pound!

                                2. re: mike2401
                                  StrandedYankee RE: mike2401 Jan 31, 2013 05:59 PM

                                  The skin is still on. Blanching isn't that hard...chop off the nails, put feet in bowl, pour over boiling water, wait 60 seconds, drain feet, put feet into ice water, start peeling off skin. After you get the hang of it, they'll take less than a minute a piece after you blanch them.

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