Chicken Jell-o, yum
July 13, 2011 3:02 PM   Subscribe

What has happened to my cooked chicken? Strange transformation inside

My dog is sick, and the vet has directed me to feed her nothing but boiled chicken and rice for the time being. I was a vegetarian from ages 14 to 36, so I don't know anything about chicken, but this seemed to be within my abilities.

The first few batches went fine. I cooked Trader Joe frozen boneless chicken thighs with water in the pressure cooker you suggested, and at the end I got: cooked chicken, in water, with a little layer of yellow fat on top. Fine. The dog was willing to eat it.

Yesterday, however, I got fresh, boneless, "chicken meat" at the Korean grocery, cooked it with water as before, and got: cooked chicken, in Jell-o, with half-an-inch of yellow fat on top. Clear, colorless, solid, wiggling Jell-o. No water. What. And the dog lost her mind over it. The dog thought it was delicious.

As long as the chicken is not pink, I know it is cooked and one can eat it -- but what happened? Perhaps the TJ chicken was leaner than the fresh chicken, which explains the difference in yellow fat, but where did the Jell-o come from? What *is* it? It is disgusting, and I don't want to eat it, but *could* I? How can I make sure that it (a) always happens, when I am cooking for the dog, and (b) NEVER happened, if I were to cook chicken for human consumption?
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
it's not disgusting. What do you think Jell-O is? It's the natural gelatin from the collagen that exists in meat/skins/bones/cartalige/etc. Was it chicken on the bone, or with skin? Dark meat? Any of those things will result in more collagen and a more jelled texture to the cooking liquid.

It's a little weird if it was solid jello while it was hot. Actually, that would be pretty disturbing. But most good chicken stocks will gel as they cool, as will drippings from roast chicken and any number of other perfectly normal results of cooking meat. Don't freak out.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:10 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

It must be fat, and as your dog showed: the fatter, the better. Was it skinless meat you bought? If you want more of this: add skin and bones. Want less? don't
posted by ouke at 3:12 PM on July 13, 2011

Best answer: Sounds like the second batch had some cartilage, skin and possibly ground bone mixed in. If it was ground up and mixed into raw chicken parts, you might not notice it until you had the jello surprise at the end of an extended amount of cooking.
posted by jamaro at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's what chicken stock is in concentrated form, tasty as hell. ;)
posted by amileighs at 3:14 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this is normal. You see this gel at the bottom of any fresh roast chicken container you buy at a grocery store. As peachfuzz suggests, look up where jello comes from.

Hint: it's mostly pig knees.
posted by GuyZero at 3:17 PM on July 13, 2011

Best answer: You made chicken in aspic! Congratulations!
posted by KathrynT at 3:57 PM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

That came out sounding snarky, but was meant as anything but. Seriously. Next time I will preview TWICE before I comment. Sorry about that.
posted by KathrynT at 4:08 PM on July 13, 2011

Response by poster: it's not disgusting.

Oh yes it is. I would bleach the pot from orbit if I could.

BUT you all agree with my dog that it is food, created by collagen from skin, cartilage, and whatever else was included with the fresh chicken meat, and is a normal component of a quality chicken experience. (It also seems to have broken my pressure cooker.)

Thanks all for helping me become less of a chicken noob.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:10 PM on July 13, 2011

Response by poster: Searches google for chicken in aspic...
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:12 PM on July 13, 2011 [16 favorites]

We get this all the time when we make chicken and have enough for leftovers the next day. The next day we have chicken and chicken jelly. It seems icky but is perfectly fine for humans and dogs to eat.

I've never seen it on a dish served at its peak, but then I'm not really adventurous when it comes to food.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:13 PM on July 13, 2011

Aspic can do amazing things. Delicious things. Xiaolongbao - Chinese soup dumplings.
posted by Craig at 4:18 PM on July 13, 2011

Also, this is what properly thickens gravy instead of flour or cornstarch. Also, head cheese.
posted by GuyZero at 4:20 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is really good stuff for your dog's coat, bones and joints. It's also the main ingredient for Jello/gelatine and various remedies for older folks with arthritis and joint pain.
posted by snsranch at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2011

We save the chicken jelly from our roast chickens (pour off all the juices in the pan, refrigerate, scrape off fat) and use it in soups and sauces. Super yum.

I don't know if I'd feed my dog a lot of chicken fat, though, you may want to pour/scrape some of that off.
posted by Specklet at 5:00 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: SNSranch, you are so right -- we were just marveling today over how beautiful and silky the dog's fur has become, when it was like a hairbrush -- and she was pooping blood and too weak to get out of the car -- less than a week ago. Here she is.

I don't know if I'd feed my dog a lot of chicken fat, though, you may want to pour/scrape some of that off.
Really? Why not?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:09 PM on July 13, 2011

Yea, she's a beauty alright and I'm glad she's getting better. The only thing I'd worry about regarding fat or any people food is keeping it balanced so she doesn't gain weight. Dogs do well with some occasional real protein and fat as you've seen for yourself.
posted by snsranch at 5:57 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

As far as making sure it always happens, for dog purposes, try using chicken wings. They're cheap and loaded with gelatin-making collagen. (Pull the bones out after cooking, of course.)

(ps - Your dog is gorgeous. But you knew that.)
posted by neroli at 6:13 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if I'd feed my dog a lot of chicken fat, though, you may want to pour/scrape some of that off.
Really? Why not?

A higher proportion of fat in the diet, particularly cooked fat, is linked to pancreatitus in dogs. The good news is that fat and gelatin from cartilage tend to separate out either in cooking or refrigeration; toss the fat. So glad your dog is enjoying your homecooking.

Any cooking you do with bones in, look into using the pressure cooker to cook the bones to the point they're digestible -- I know this is possible in commercial cookers, and I belive it is in home pressure cookers though I don't have personal experience. Cooking less and picking bones out runs a fair risk of missing a bone.
posted by vers at 6:29 PM on July 13, 2011

Not about the chicken transformation, but if your dog is sick and supposed to be eating a bland diet (which is what it sounds like), the LAST thing you want is fat. You want lean, unseasoned and cooked, and three parts rice to one part meat. Boiling is fine, but then get rid of the fat.
posted by biscotti at 7:00 PM on July 13, 2011

Yeah, just wanted to check why the vet recommended this for your dog. If it is supposed to be a bland diet - because she was pooping blood and too weak to get out of the car - then maybe a fat-rich diet is not what was recommended.

In similar circumstances we used to give our dog boiled ground turkey meat, which you can buy in stores - go for the leanest/lowest fat mix. Simmered that in a skillet with just water for a few minutes until it was cooked (easy to tell, because it was ground), and then mixed it up with a ton of rice from the rice cooker. We'd mix up a few meals at once. She was a lab so she wolfed it down anyway.
posted by carter at 7:11 PM on July 13, 2011

Sorry my answer was so specific, but two more details if you're feeding a bland diet. If you go with ground turkey, make sure it is just that -- no spices or "natural flavoring" added. Rinse any boiled ground meat to get the fat off. The rice should be white rice and seriously overcooked to the point of mush to ease digestion.
posted by vers at 7:21 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Agreeing further: the gel is fine for consumption, but check with your vet for use in this case. (You will get a similar gel with other animal proteins as well.) It's better to make the call and ask, because your vet will know better if your dog can process the collagen at this time. My dog used to take it all the time, but she had hip and joint problems rather than digestive.

A further note on dogs and fat: fat requirements can differ by breed. My friend actually has to add fat to her borzoi's diets because their needs are so much higher than most dogs eating their commercial brand of food. I'm not familiar with the needs of your particular (ADORABLE!) pet, but check with your vet. It's possible that they want your dog to have a little fat. My cat with IBD was on a bland diet not for elimination of fat, but rather to minimize the number of ingredients to which he was exposed. I know that the boiled lamb he had to eat for a while had a lot more fat than his previous food. Many animals are highly sensitive to one or more proteins, and grains are an even bigger likely allergens, so that may what your vet's actually trying to reduce.

I think a check-in call to your vet's office to check on the collagen gel/ amount of acceptable fat would be appropriate. It's fantastic that your dog is doing so well, so you're obviously on the right track!
posted by theplotchickens at 4:32 AM on July 14, 2011

Response by poster: GuyZero, you're cute, but I know there are other disgusting things in the world -- and they have never been in my kitchen.

Yes, point taken about the chicken fat -- I will ask my vet. He had simply told me to feed the dog only chicken and rice, without more details, but I am sure that as you say a bland diet was the aim.

Joy licks you for your kind words, and your help.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 11:15 AM on July 14, 2011

I make chicken stock from the chicken bones, skin, and leftover bits of roast chicken. I get a lovely brown liquid that gels up. It makes the best risotto. I would not give the dog the fat. I would give the dog at least half the rice cooked in that stock, because I love the dog.
posted by theora55 at 3:27 PM on July 14, 2011

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