How to Eat Blue Crab

Eating crab the right way greatly improves your seafood dining experience. To master the technique of “picking,” or removing blue crab meat from its shell, follow along with our video and steps to pick blue crab below. We also go through the boiling technique to cook blue crabs, buying suggestions, and tips for storing crabs.

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How to Pick and Eat Blue Crab

  1. Below we go through a step-by-step method to pick blue crab.
  2. Remove the claws and legs by twisting them off at the base. Set them aside.
  3. Peel back the apron found on the underside of the shell using a knife.
  4. Detach the top shell from the bottom portion.
  5. Remove the gills by peeling them away from either side of the body.
  6. Use a crab mallet or claw cracker to crack open the claws and access the meat.
  7. Enjoy!

How to Cook Blue Crab

Two crabs on table with slice of lime

The most popular methods of cooking crab are boiling and steaming. Below we show you the simple way to boil blue crabs.

Ingredients to Cook Blue Crab

  • A dozen blue crabs
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning

Cooking Blue Crab

  1. Fill a six-quart pot 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add salt and Old Bay to water.
  3. One by one, add in crabs with claws attached and cover. Keep in water for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through. Fully cooked blue crab is bright red-orange in color and has opaque meat.
  4. Drain crabs with a colander.
  5. Let cool and transport to serving receptacle.

Try further seasoning your blue crab with a spice blend or garlic butter after cooking to enhance its natural flavor and add extra kick. Also, offering lemon or lime wedges gives each guest the opportunity to alter the taste to individual preference. To round out the meal, try providing a simple salad with light dressing and citrus flavors.

Types of Crabs

There is a large selection of different types of crabs to choose from. Some options may be more accessible than others based on their location and the time of year. Summer is not crab season everywhere, so keep this in mind if you want to serve fresh crab. Below we go through 5 different types of crabs, where they are found, and what time of year they are available.

  • Blue crab is found on the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico from June to October.
  • Dungeness crab can be found from central California up to Alaska from November to July.
  • King crab is found in Alaska and British Columbia from October to January.
  • Snow crab is found in the northern Pacific and Atlantic states from October to May.
  • Stone crab can be found in Florida and parts of North and South Carolina from October to January.

Tips for Buying Crabs

Below we take you through several tips so you can choose the most sanitary, meaty, and high-quality crabs.

  • Buy fresh and healthy crabs. Once dead, crabs quickly become toxic because bacteria from their digestive organs enters the meat. Coastal locations have markets or wharves that are excellent for buying live crabs. While there, look for suppliers with clean tanks that are free of algae and murky water. Similarly, seek out tanks with aerators that maintain oxygen levels and keep the crabs lively. Sluggish crabs could be sick or close to death, so it is best to avoid selecting them.
  • Hand holding frozen blue crab with tub of crab in background
  • Choose whole crabs. Be sure to find crabs with all of their limbs. A missing leg would be an unpleasant surprise for your customer who wants to pick a whole crab.
  • Select crabs with sufficient meat. If you can, hold the crabs and squeeze their shells. Meaty crabs have firm shells and heavy bodies. A lighter crab with a brittle shell could be immature and contain less meat. Generally, the meat of a crab makes up ¼ of its total weight, so remember to choose crabs that are large enough for your intended portion size.
  • Understand local regulations. While female crabs are meatier than males, some parts of the country put bans or limitations on the amount of females that crabbers can catch. This encourages reproduction and prevents supply depletion. As a result, you may be limited in the amount of female crabs that are available to you. Find out what the restrictions are in your area so you know whether to ask for male or female crabs when you are at the market.

How to Store Crab

Once you’ve selected your live crabs, chill them as soon as possible until you are ready to cook them. Putting them in an open container of salt water in your refrigerator lets oxygen in and keeps these sea creatures alive.

When buying crab in non-coastal areas, it’s best to find an online vendor with high turnover and rapid shipping. That way, your crabs come to you before they become unsafe to eat. Because shipped crabs are often no longer alive, it is very important to keep them chilled before cooking.

Now that you’ve learned how to buy, prepare, and eat whole crab, you can bring crab picking to your restaurant. Providing your customers with whole crabs gives them a hands-on experience that other dishes can’t achieve. While this meal choice could fall flat if a patron doesn’t know how to access his or her crab meat, educating your servers and hosts can help prevent this. For this reason, serving whole crab is a great way to keep your guests and staff engaged.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|Seasonal|By Christine Potts
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