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For lunch today, a coworker and I went to a neighborhood southern-style BBQ joint. I usually wind up with fried catfish and he fried chicken, but today we both sprung for the smoked goods, and I found myself ordering a barbecue chicken leg sandwich.

After ordering, I thought "I wonder how that works... legs on a sandwich?" I figured that meant is was leg meat. When Mabel brought it ought I was a bit surprised (and slightly disappointed) to find that this was whole chicken legs on top of two slices of white bread. Oh well, I'll just pull out the bones.

Then the strange part happened. I picked up a leg to start pulling on the bone, and it collapsed under its own weight. Well that was the exposed part of the bone... it must have just disintegrated. So I started picking the meat apart to get to the bone, and when I found it in the middle and squeezed it to give it a yank, it collapsed under the pressure of my fingers.

As I worked my way through all the bones in the legs, I found this pattern continued: all of the bones were not just brittle, but downright soft! It was a bit hard to pick it all out, and I think some even got left behind in the meat--and even still it was barely even noticeable when chomping down.

What would cause bones to become so utterly soft?

I assumed Mabel must cook these things for a week, but when I asked, she said it was an hour or two in the smoker. Does smoke really do this, or is there some other treatment.

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Tremmors and Rincewind42 are both right, but it does sound strange that an hour or two in a smoker would make the bones that soft. Maybe Mabel pre-cooks them, possibly using a pressure cooker? –  Henrik Söderlund Jul 14 '11 at 15:11
    
@Henrik Söderlund, can you make this an answer rather than a comment? –  Ray Jul 15 '11 at 11:47
    
Done. My comment is now an answer. –  Henrik Söderlund Jul 15 '11 at 14:53
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Tremmors and Rincewind42 are both right, but it does sound strange that an hour or two in a smoker would make the bones that soft. Maybe Mabel pre-cooks them, possibly using a pressure cooker?

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Boiling chicken bones for an extended period of time (4+ hours) will cause bones to go squishy. I'm assuming any long duration slow cook method will do the same.

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A pressure cooker for a long time will make chicken bones go mushy. My father-in-law likes his chicken done that way. Goes well with the false teeth. Also I know a German lady how makes her chicken stock / broth that way.

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