How to Crack a Crab

Claw your way to a delicious summer feast

Now that you know how to build the perfect lobster roll and shuck an oyster, it's on to the next sea creature: the crab. 

First things first—which crustacean tastes best? Traditional blue crabs are delicious and sweet (just ask anyone from Maryland), but West Coast Dungeness crabs tend to be larger and yield more meat than their East Coast counterparts. The choice is yours.

Once you've got your hands on some crabs, it's on to the steaming. Go the traditional route with straight-up beer or jazz it up with vinegar (apple cider is our favorite), seasonings (think classic Old Bay or a more daring madras curry), and aromatic vegetables (lemongrass, herbs, citrus rinds). Fill a pot fitted with a steamer rack with about three inches of liquid, bring it to a boil, then add the crabs (belly down) into the pot. Sprinkle each crab with a tablespoon of your seasoning of choice, then cook covered for 10 minutes.

Remove the crabs from the pot and allow to cool for just a couple of minutes, until you can handle them. Cover your table with newspaper and pile the crabs right on top.

Now get ready to get your hands dirty—it's time to break apart the crab (see the slideshow).

  • ① Remove the claws and set aside to be cracked later.

  • ② Flip over the crab, then remove and discard the "apron," the soft abdominal shell that's easily pulled back.

  • ③ A small hole remains where the apron was removed. Place your thumbs in the hole and pull in opposite directions to separate the top shell from the body. Discard the top shell. Remove the gills and, if you're so inclined, the yellow innards. (Marylanders call this part the "mustard," and it's a delicious option for the more adventurous eaters.)

  • ④ Break the body in half, then split each side as well. Split open the remaining quarters to expose the meat inside.

  • ⑤ Gently crack the claws with a wooden mallet. Take care not to hit too hard and shatter the shell into the claw meat—it's a pain to pick out.

  • ⑥ Peel back the shell and remove the meat from the claw.

  • ⑦ After you've picked all your meat, season with a touch of Old Bay, lemon, vinegar, or hot sauce. Or skip the fuss and dig right in.

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