Here’s Why You Should Add Chicken Feet to Your Soup

Chicken Soup with Chicken Feet

This is a guest blog post by Chef Rob Endelman.

It’s been cold and I’ve been making a big pot of chicken soup almost weekly.

The preparation is straightforward: I put chicken pieces (usually two whole legs, a neck or two and a handful of hearts) into a pot and add chopped onion and/or leeks, minced garlic, cubes of root vegetables (i.e. carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga), cubed potatoes, chopped kale or parsley, unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper, dried dill (from my garden) and filtered cold water (almost to the top of the pot).

There’s also an ingredient I just started adding this winter, which I buy from Keith Gibson of Grazin’ Angus Acres farm: chicken feet. Yes, eating chicken feet is gross within the confines of the American food mentality, but they are indispensable throughout the world for their nutrient content and flavor.

For those with arthritis and joint pain who are taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin supplements, instead of possibly wasting money on compounds that may not get absorbed by our bodies, why not throw a couple chicken feet into a chicken soup and get these nutrients (found in healthy cartilage) in their true form, delivered in a way that our bodies can process? (Calcium and collagen are other benefits of chicken feet and other bones.)

Also, traditional cultures add vinegar to their bone soups, which helps draw out calcium from the bones. A tablespoon or two for a big pot should suffice.

Back to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, return it to a simmer and let it cook for about two hours, which will help it develop flavor. Taste and reseason with more salt and pepper; you’ll probably need more salt than you think. Store the soup in the refrigerator; its flavor will markedly improve over the course of several days, so consider not eating it for a day or two, if possible.

Rob Endelman is a chef who, in addition to teaching cooking technique, empowers people with the knowledge to make better choices when it comes to buying and preparing food.  He believes that a lack of awareness about our industrial food supply has contributed to the increase in modern diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer.  Through The Delicious Truth and Cook with Class, Chef Rob helps people understand, identify and avoid hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and synthetic additives.

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  • Brian

    I never expected a traditional food story to come from this site. Well done! It should be added that by making broths from scratch like described above are much, much better for you and much, much tastier. The store bought broths are usually made with factory farmed chicken, and many nutrients are lost in packaging and canning.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Thanks Brian, let us know if you have some traditional food stories you’d like to share.

    • http://www.facebook.com/DianeNienhuis Diane Nienhuis

      I make bone broth every single week! I also cook all of my meals from scratch (three times a day!). I’ve cut out sugar, all grains, and lactose and my health has really improved. (I’m following GAPS). I drink bone broth with every meal, for it’s healing properties. This article really reminds me of all the stuff I read (and believe!) from the Weston A Price Foundation. Well done!

  • Margaret

    Why boil and animal? You don’t need it. In fact, you’re better off without it. Do your research don’t rely on an FB page to tell you. You can get flucosamine and chondroiton from other sources than chicken (via supplement, which is better than killing an animal to get it) and you can get way more calcium from some greens than you’ll ever get from an animals body. I’m very disappointed in the simplistic, in evolved thinking shown here – that animals exist so you can eat them. Humans do NOT need to consume animals in order to be healthy and survive – in fact, just the opposite is true.

    • Brian

      It’s not a fact that humans thrive without animal products. Every society before modern culture used some source of animal products in addition to vegetation and insects. We have to manufacture foods and supplements in order to keep healthy if we don’t consume animal products. The way we do it as a rule right now is completely wrong, though. There is no respect for the circle of life, as big business and big ag rule the day. It will one day destroy us if we do not change our methods.

      Boiling an animals bones is actually a great way of making sure we do not waste any part of the animal, and that is much more sustainable way to live than what the average American does right now.

      If you really think about it, something has to die in order for you to live. The kale in your garden doesn’t have a face, but it probably doesn’t want you to pull it out, and eat it either. My guess is that it would prefer to keep growing, and create new kale. So I would ask: Why kill a vegetable?

      • Tyler

        I am a vegan and I feel compelled to answer your question: Why kill a vegetable?

        (a) I don’t think there are many cultures on Earth that rely *solely* on animal food. You do eat vegetables/fruits with your meat. The cultures that rely, do so out of necessity (Eskimos, for example). So, a 100% animal-based diet is very rare and is not without health issues.

        (b) While a tree/plant is highly evolved in terms of plumbing water and generating chemical energy from sunlight, it lacks the type of brain and nervous system that higher organisms possess. Lower the organism, lesser it’s capacity to feel pain, or show emotion. About your example of the kale, I don’t think there’s a way of knowing if it “has a mind of its own”. But most likely, it does not as it does not have the nervous systems and high level abstraction that humans or other animals have.
        (c) A tree/plant throws away its food once it ripens. Once an apple ripens, there are chemical changes that actually sever off the apple from its branch. It’s an evolution thing – by doing so, the tree/plant ensures its species is propagated. And it grows a new apple. The fruit/vegetable has a pit because that pit, when thrown away on the ground, creates a new tree. So, humans/animals act as vectors. If a flower has pollen, then the bees become their vector. From an evolutionary perspective, this was the perfect symbiotic relationship. An animal doesn’t “throw away” it’s hind leg. It does not regrow its body parts (unless we are talking about a lizard’s tail here). Yes, I do understand about root vegetables, and a few Eastern religions prohibit consumption of root vegetables because it “kills” a plant. So, taking away the fruit/vegetable/leaves of a plant, I’d think, is not the same as taking away something from or killing an animal.
        Finally, I must say I respect the food choices of all the people, but I must defend my choice of eating plant-based foods. I don’t mind what you eat, as long as you don’t drag me to a butcher’s shop or cook meat in my kitchen.

        • Brian

          I didn’t mean to attack plant based diets as much as I meant to defend omnivorous diets, so I apologize if my post came across as an attack. I never meant to imply that we should solely rely on animal food, so your point it well taken in (a)… not sure that came across clearly. The eskimos do lead very healthy lives, (until they start to eat western diets). And it may be true that we do not *need* animal foods, but we do thrive on animal foods. (your mileage may vary, of course.)

          I guess my point about “why kill a kale” isn’t so much in the vein of killing something that thinks for it self, but from a more philosophical point of view. Few people think about life as a circle, and that everything is interdependent on everything. In the end, I think that we should consume what suits us best, be that animals or plants. The argument that humans aren’t meant to consume animals or that they aren’t healthy consuming animals just doesn’t hold water, which was my point in my original post. (Again, we need to raise our food more sustainably in order for it to be a healthy practice…)

          Also, what about this idea? In order for trees and vegetables to grow, an animal’s waste is needed to help it along… be that in the form of manure or bone dust, (these seem to be the main organic fertilizers at nurseries) it needs to be fertilized with something, and the best fertilization is animal remains. If you don’t get it from animal remains, then you need to get it from an oil product in the form of nitrogen. So plants depend on an animal in some degree to exist.

          And to echo some other thoughts on this thread, I do respect everyone’s own decision on what works best for them, and what they are comfortable with. This is truly a fascinating subject for me, so I enjoy the debate.

        • JMI

          What you describe is more like giving birth, than shedding a leg.

          And omnivores are not “dragging” any vegan or vegetarian into a butcher shop, not intent on cooking meat in your kitchen. We are simply tired of being vilified for recognizing the evolutionary and dietary needs of our species.

    • JMI

      Where do you think supplements come from? Either processed, from animals, or synthetically created in a lab. Synthetics are NEVER as healthy, and can be down right deadly. You seem to live in the same bubble most Americans do, that something bought in a package is kinder and healthier, and that animals purchased in this process form, makes them not animals. In both cases, you are mistaken, and sadly, underinformed.

      And humans, despite all the mental hand-wringing and bullying, are in fact omnivores. That is scientific fact. Even the veggies you proclaim replace meat (they are equally important, but one does not replace the other) have a need to be eaten with animal fat; their vitamins are fat-soluble. If you do not put butter on them, your body will NOT absorb all the nutrients those beautiful greens have to offer.

  • Margaret

    Pardon my cell phone typos in previous msg. I’ll rely on your intelligence to decipher.

  • Kerry

    Wonderful recipe & article. I think the choice to eat animals is a personal one and if we choose responsible farmers/ ranchers then the ecological impact is reduced. In this world of processed food and carb overload it is refreshing to see recipes that contain all whole/ REAL food. To the person who responded below… if you read the article the author does mention that supplements may not even be absorbed by the body. Personally I would rather eat something raised on a farm (being mindful of the blessing I received) then something concocted in a lab.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Well said Kerry!

  • Wendy

    Would wine work as well as vinegar. I love to add a little bit of wine to my soups!

  • James Cooper

    I don’t think it has been established that glucosamine or chondrotin have any actual effect no matter what the source. But the recipe is surely very flavorful and delicious.

  • http://twitter.com/ChefMikedotca Chef Mike Benninger

    Nice job Rob!!..and to Hemi for posting it. When we were living in Australia before I became a chef, we learned to enjoy Phoenix Claws, (chilli chicken feet) for Sunday Dim Sum. I always felt better after eating them, even though i know the science behind their “healing powers” is dicey at best.

    But simply from a chef’s perspective, not only are you getting a better yield from the bird and wasting less, but the flavour they impart is fantastic, the the gelatin from the feet adds a richness and a depth of flavour that is almost magical.

  • Sheila

    When I was a kid, my mother always put chicken feet in the soup and they were considered to be a prize. I hadn’t seen them for sale in years, but just yesterday lucked out and bought some in the local supermarket. I want home and immediately cooked up a pot of the best chicken soup I have made in years.

  • Tim

    Shouldn’t the chicken nails be removed? Or cut before they start

  • maria

    cut the nails… we do cut it before making this soup…