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Chicken Skin: You Have Got to Be Chicken Kidding Me?

Chicken Skin: You Have Got to Be Chicken Kidding Me?

The world of food consciousness is as much about the pleasure and refinement of the dining experience as it is about indulgent and frivolous trends. For every one step towards real culinary innovation there are countless stumbles and staggers in the direction of foodie faddism (example: the Krispy Kreme cheese burger). It is a case of the foodie world recycling the old to make it seem unique and effectively eating its own tail to keep things feeling fresh and lively. In this case, it is less about eating its own tail and more about eating its own skin – chicken skin to be exact.

Chicken skin, not to be confused with keratosis pilaris, the topical skin condition resulting in unsightly bumps on the back of your arms, but actual chicken skin, well cooked and crispy, is seemingly the new “it” ingredient. Previously known as a repository for fat and little nutrition (anywhere from 45 – 75% of chicken fat resides in the skin) chicken skin is being celebrated as the new snack, ingredient, and indulgence in many restaurants across this country, so says The New York Times. Historically chicken skin has been consumed, not only in American fried chicken, but also in a number of cultures in the form of gribenes, yakitori kawa or simply cracklings. But in recent nutritional history, chicken skin (largely because of its high fat content) has been shunned as something to avoid if possible. Many chicken recipes caution the fat conscious eater to avoid eating the skin, and focus on the meat of the matter. But largely because of the high fat content chicken skin has become a sought after ingredient, so much so that there has been a shortage of recent. The Times reports, “It can be tricky to find a steady supply because the skins left over from chicken processing, like that from the boneless, skinless breasts that dominate the market, usually go into products like chicken sausages and nuggets, or are rendered for animal feed.”

But the shortage is hardly serious, and plenty of chefs exploit the skin for as much as it is worth. Jesse Schenker, the chef and owner of Recette in the West Village, serves deep-fried, chicken-skin-wrapped gravy, a crunchy parcel with a molten interior. The dish, served with roast foie gras and a black pepper biscuit, is one of the richest in New York and is the only item on Recette’s menu that routinely elicits loud, happy cursing. Some refer to the crispy fatty qualities of chicken skin as being akin to bacon (another “it” ingredient of years past), and others just find the guilty pleasure aspect of it alluring enough.

For me, I could understand the appeal, but absolutely do not share the enthusiasm. For many of you, eating the flesh of the animal is bad enough; the skin (especially on a chicken) would seem downright inedible (not to mention unhealthy). What could possibly be next? Rendering bacon fat and using it as a nacho topping? Deep fried cheese rinds? Feel free to weigh in on the chicken skin trend or offer up your own timely culinary trend?

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, Nature & Wildlife, , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

146 comments

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8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Intriguing. In small amounts chicken skin is quite tasty, especially roasted.

Quite tired of lectures to by vegans believing that their truth is the Only Truth and others are heretics. If Nature had been vegan then she would have created us to live solely on inorganic matter such as rocks instead of feeding on the death of other living organisms be it meat, veggies or fruits.

I like chicken and will continue to eat it along with eggs, honey, asparagus--sorry I cut the plant up and dipped in in killed lemon and butter instead of letting it grow wild but at least left the roots for next year's crop.

Have eaten seeds which will never reproduce - sacrificing the lives of that upcoming generation of plants. And then those spiders are nasty and cruel for feeding on living insects.

Even if one is vegan, the land fill is full of unused lettuce, carrots, other veggies that were not eaten in time leaving greenhouse gases for more global warming. GMOs grab up much of the veggie and fruit farming industry - there are chemicals and other detrimental side effects left on the land.

GMO seeds replace heritage seeds leaving many tasteless beans and pears. Unless one is able to get organic farmed veggies and fruits with no chemicals--not every person can afford this.

I try and balance my diet, some days with no chicken, fish/meat. Quinoa is lovely - there are many foods around.
If Mother Nature comes up with a plan where I can eat rock and stone pate, maybe I will g

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Comment from below continued since Care2 has no twitter thingee showing us how many words we have left as we type away.

I try and balance my diet, some days with no chicken, fish/meat. Quinoa is lovely - there are many foods around.
If Mother Nature comes up with a plan where I can eat rock and stone pate, maybe I will give up chicken. Until then, eat your kale and tofu and try to learn to live with the fact people different and can make up their own choices without insults-used often in comments.

This insulting invective often reminds me of cult members who spew their anger on non believers for daring to have ideas of their own.

3:01PM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

In years past, people rendered the fat from all meats, and used it for cooking ... Now, we've replaced this healthy fat with Trans Fats, and we have all sorts of health issues; high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, etc.

Why is it, that past generations did NOT have these issues, yet ate eggs, whole milk, cream, bacon, marbled meat, etc.? AND, we didn't have an "Obesity Epidemic"? Nor did we have "Diet Drinks, Low Fat "alternatives", egg and cheese "substitutes", etc.

My mother is 90 years old. Her doctors were constantly cautioning her about her "diet", which consisted of all the whole foods, complete with "saturated, animal fats" ... She's outlived all three of her "health conscious" low fat doctors! Along with her friends who also warned her of the dire consequences of her food choices!

Now I get it too -- and I laugh! The artificial fillers, inedible substitutes, etc., are more dangerous than some chicken fat, Natural (non-sodium nitrite) bacon, whole RAW milk, etc. Keep it REAL!

1:21AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

thanks

1:21AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

thanks

2:11PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

thanks for sharing

1:07PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

As I was raised in a Chinese household, chicken skin was always considered a treat (and it definitely was delicious). Seriously, guys... don't knock it 'til you try it!

And if you end up deciding it's disgusting, well then, more for me. :)

8:09PM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

thx

1:43PM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

You have got to be kidding. Unreal

1:55AM PST on Feb 9, 2012

I'm so pleased I don't eat this!

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