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Jan 29, 2013 06:38 AM

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

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

    2. For your 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. 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

        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

          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

          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

            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. 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. 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

              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

                  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

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

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      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

                        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: Melanie Wong

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

                        1. re: mike2401

                          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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

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

                            1. re: meatn3

                              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

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

                  3. 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.