They’re easy to make and season however you like. What’re you waiting for?
Who doesn’t love crispy chicken skin? But sometimes the chicken is best cooked without the skin on it. There are a lot fewer calories in skinless chicken, and it’s hard to keep the skins intact when you pound chicken breasts flat, for example. It’s also hard to make them crispy if you marinate the chicken as in my Buxom Chicken Breasts or Cornell Chicken.
Poultry skins are packed with flavor and it’s a doggone shame to chuck them out, especially since they are so easy to make into a crispy and delicious snack or garnish. I make cracklins from them and sprinkle them back on the dish as a garnish. If you make them properly, they are crispy and crunchy like potato chips, and they’re just as good as bacon bits on a salad, on a chicken breast sandwich, on pulled chicken, on pasta…use your imagination.
Or try chicken skin bacon
At Lillie’s Q in Chicago, one of my favorite BBQ restaurants in the country, Chef Charlie McKenna uses his imagination a lot. For example, he smokes chicken, removes the seasoned skin, breads the chicken meat, and fries it.
Like me, he didn’t like discarding the skins, especially since they had all that rub and smoke flavor. So he came up with a clever idea. He took the skins, placed them between two baking pans, put the pans in the oven, and roasted them until crispy. McKenna calls the crunchy skins “chicken bacon” and serves it on a BLT.
You don’t have to use smoked chicken, any skins will do. Just be careful, they burn easily. I recommend cooking them at 325°F, and yes, you can use your grill as an oven, just cook them with indirect heat. The pic shows what a piece of chicken bacon looks like, and no that’s not Chef McKenna.
Schmaltz & Gribenes
No, this is not the name of a law firm out to get your money. Schmaltz is the Yiddish term for rendered chicken fat and it was commonly used as a cooking fat in Eastern Europe. Render the skins and subcutaneous fat with some heat, drain off the schmaltz (the fat), take the chicken skin cracklins that are left behind, add in some onions and fry them together with a little schmaltz, and you have gribenes, a peasant delicacy for the hearty farm worker.
- 1 whole skin-on chicken, turkey, or duck
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Morton coarse kosher salt
These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page
- Prep. Remove the skins from your chicken, turkey, or duck. Turkey skins are thin with little fat underneath, chickens have a bit more subcutaneous fat, and duck has a lot of fat. Cut the skins into squares or strips about 1" long and 1/2" wide.
- Cook. Roasting method. Preheat your smoker or set up your grill for 2-zone indirect cooking and get the air temp in the indirect zone to about 325°F. Spread the skins onto a flat pan like a cookie sheet, sprinkle them with salt, not too much, and place them in the indirect heat until they are crispy. Turkey will take about 30 minutes, chicken 45 minutes, duck an hour or more. Your time will vary depending on the amount of fat on the bird. If you wish to add wood and flavor them with smoke, go for it. You can even do this in your indoor oven.
- Frying pan method. Cover the bottom of a frying pan with about 1/4" of water and add the skins. Heat until it simmers gently but does not boil. Add the skins. It is important that you do not simmer too vigorously or they bill spatter all over the place and then burn. Wear a shirt you don't care about. Stand by the pan and stir the skins every three minutes or so until the water evaporates. Pour off the fat and save it. Continue cooking over low heat until the skins are golden and crispy. Scoop them out and place them on a double layer of paper towels to drain. While they're hot, sprinkle on some salt.
- Serve. Try not to eat them all immediately, OK?