With crab being one of the most difficult foods to eat on this planet, you may feel worried about ordering it at a restaurant. Sitting there, looking sheepish in a bib, with no idea where to start picking. You might give up before you get started.
So why not try enjoying the lip-smacking delights of crab meat in your own home? That way you can slurp, crack, and suck all you want without anyone judging you.
But you may wonder how to cook fresh crab, is it as messy and complicated as eating? Actually preparing and cooking crab is easier than you think. The most troublesome part is definitely in the eating.
Follow these steps and you’ll be ready to cook crab before you know it. Let’s get cookin’.
The 411 on Buying Crabs
Before you start cooking crabmeat, you need to buy crabs. It’s not as easy as buying other seafood. So how do you do it?
Wanted Dead or Alive
You can choose whether to buy a crab that’s still alive or not. If it’s alive, make sure it smells fresh and feels heavy. Always choose one that looks active (not one that already looks half-dead).
If it’s dead, it should be already cooked. Never buy a dead uncooked crab as you don’t know they killed it, which means it may not be safe to eat anymore. You can also buy crab meat in cans, but that’s cheating, right?
Crabs taste better when they’re cooked immediately after killing. So if they are alive (and you don’t have the heart to do it yourself) ask the fishmonger to kill it. Then take it home and cook it ASAP.
One of the best places to buy crab is Crab Dynasty. You can trust they have the freshest crab around. They’ll even deliver them live to your doorstep.
Types of Crab for the Taking
In most American grocery stores, you can get a hold of two main types of crab—Snow crab and King crab.
Snow crab’s legs are generally sold in clusters, as they’re smaller and cheaper. King crab legs are larger, more expensive, and sold by individual legs.
Another popular choice is Blue crab. They are sweet and turn bright purple when cooked. But they are more expensive than Snow and King crabs.
Preparing Crab for Cooking
Before cooking crab, you need to clean it. If you’ve bought a live crab, first you need to kill it.
A common way is by immersing the crab in boiling hot water for 1 minute and then in ice water to cool. If you want to kill it more humanely, stun the crab by putting it in the freezer or ice water for 20 minutes.
Once the crab is cool enough to handle, use your kitchen scissors to remove unwanted parts, such as the eyes and mouth. Cut a straight line across the front of the crab to remove the face.
If you prefer, twist and remove the legs to cook them separately. Or leave the legs on and cook the entire crab as a whole.
After, using the palm of your hand, push down on the crab’s body. Stick your fingers between the small gap where the body meets the shell and separate the body from the shell. This “tail flap” should come off in one piece, although you may have to pull hard.
With your fingers, pull away and discard the feathery gills around the main body and inside the shell. Then remove the guts by rinsing the whole thing under a running tap. Make sure only white meat is leftover, not anything greenish-brown.
Cut the main body in half so there are two equal pieces. Now you’re ready for cooking.
How to Cook Fresh Crab at Home
Just like any other seafood or meat, there are a variety of ways to cook it. Follow these mini step by step guides to know how to boil it, steam it, BBQ it or roast it.
Boiling crab is the simplest way to cook crab meat. Follow these next 6 steps for an easy way to cook crab:
- Bring several liters of salty water to boil. At least 1 liter per crab.
- Drop the crab into the boiling water slowly.
- Bring the water to the boil again, then turn the heat down low and simmer.
- Simmer for 12 minutes (per kilogram). When it’s fully cooked, it should turn a bright orange color unless it’s a Blue crab.
- To prevent the meat from overcooking, take the crab out and shock it in an ice-water bath for 20 seconds. Some say this dulls the taste. As an alternative, transfer it to a tray and put it in the fridge until it cools completely.
- After it’s cooled, serve immediately or remove the crabmeat for a recipe.
If serving immediately, pair with melted garlic butter for dipping and french fries on the side.
How to cook crab meat by steaming? Follow these 5 steps:
- Bring to boil a large pot of water mixed with 1 cup of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt.
- While the water is boiling, clean and prepare the crabs.
- Add the crabs onto a steaming rack above the boiling water. Cover with a lid and set the burner to a medium-high setting. Check regularly to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated and if it has, pour in more hot water.
- Steam the crab for 10-20 minutes. The crab should be orange when it’s cooked.
- Remove the orange crabs and allow them to cool (either in ice-cold water or the fridge).
While it takes a little bit of extra effort than boiling, many prefer steaming as it keeps the flavor intact.
Instead of traditional hot dogs and beef burgers for your BBQ, get exotic with crabs. After cleaning, follow these steps to barbeque your crab to perfection:
- Before grilling, boil or steam the crab first. This will ensure it’s cooked throughout.
- Prepare a BBQ marinade. For example, melted butter, garlic, lemon, and crab seasoning. Or try olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper for a spicy treat.
- Coat the entire crab with your chosen seasoning. Try to get into all the nooks and crannies.
- Place the crab directly on a BBQ grill and cover with foil. Keep it on a low/medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
- Flip the crab and coat again with extra marinade. Cook the other side for another 4-5 minutes.
- Once the crab is bright orange, they’re ready.
Nobody will forget your summer BBQ if you have crab meat on the grill.
Roasting crab meat is another tasty way to enjoy this luscious seafood. It’s simpler than barbequing. All you have to do is season it, and stick it in the oven.
Here’s how to do it:
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Similar to BBQ crabs, you should steam or boil the crab before roasting.
- Toss the boiled crabs in oil or melted butter. Sprinkle some aromatic spices and herbs. You can even add minced garlic, ginger, and onions to the mix.
- Set the crabs on a roasting pan in a single layer.
- Roast for about 10 minutes, or until the crabs are brown and sizzling.
Serve this mouth-watering treat with a green salad and plenty of crusty sourdough bread.
How to Remove the Crabmeat
Some may choose to pick, pull, and crack the crab while they’re eating. It’s all part of the experience, right? But if you want to use the crabmeat in a recipe or you’re hosting a dignified dinner party, pick the meat out beforehand.
Whether you boil it, BBQ it, roast it or steam it, how do you remove the meat? Follow these steps:
- To get the crabmeat lay the crab on its back. Twist and break off the claws and the legs, if you’ve not already done so. Then set them aside.
- Start picking the meat from the body with your fingers or a teaspoon.
- Crack the claws and legs using your weapon of choice (a kitchen hammer, mallet, or rolling pin). Try placing a tea towel over the legs before you whack them, as this may reduce the mess.
- Then, with your skewer or a teaspoon, remove the meat from the legs. And discard the cartilage.
- To finish off the legs, use a nutcracker to break open the hard-shelled claws and knuckles. Some say the knuckle meat is the best-tasting part of a crab!
Sounds a bit finicky. But once the crabs cooked, the meat comes out easily.
Are You Ready for a Crab-ulous Treat?
As you can see, cooking crab meat isn’t as hard as you think. But now you know how to cook fresh crab at home, it’s time for the messiest part—the eating. It’s not going to be a dignified ordeal, but at least you know it’ll taste crab-ulous!
For more lip-smacking tips on food, check out the “Cooking” section of this blog.