How to Cook Live Crabs

Cooking live crab can be very daunting, but we are here to hopefully take some of the mystery out of it for you!

Like most foods, there are multiple ways to cook crab, but we are going to narrow it down and explain how to steam live crab. Steaming is a classic way to cook blue crab. Some people prefer to clean their crab at the beginning of the cooking process, but we are going to show you how to clean them after they have been cooked. It is much easier to clean crabs after cooking when the meat has loosened from the shell.

The most important thing about cooking blue crab to note is that you cannot cook crabs that are dead; as soon as they die they start to rot and become toxic.

If you are cooking fresh crabs, they must be alive. We also want to cook our live crabs in the most humane way possible. Before cooking your live crabs, immerse them with tongs (preferably really long BBQ tongs) in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. This will stun the crabs a bit so that they are less aware of what is going on. You could also poke a butter knife or icepick into the head area of the crab after pulling it out of the ice bath to kill it instantly.

And now we are ready to cook our delicious Cameron’s live Maryland blue crab!

Ingredients Required to make Steamed Blue Crabs

1 large steamer pot

live crabs

1½ cups water

1½ cups of apple cider or white vinegar (or you can also use beer)

¼ cup salt

3 tbsp of Old Bay seasoning

Steamed Blue Crab Cooking Directions

Bring the water, vinegar (or beer), and salt to a boil in your large pot and add in 2 tbsp of the Old Bay seasoning.

Place the steamer section into the pot, making sure the steamer is not touching the liquid.

Carefully take your live crabs out of the ice water with tongs and place them into the steamer pot one by one. Put one layer of crabs down and sprinkle them with Old Bay seasoning. If you have more crabs you can do up to two more layers right on top of the first layer, sprinkling each layer with Old Bay. If you still have more live crabs, wait until this batch is done to cook them.

Live blue crabs take the longest to cook out of any of the crab varieties; they will take about 20-30 minutes to cook. It is best to cook them for less time than instructed and check on them frequently versus overcooking them; you can’t go back once you have over-cooked rubbery meat!

Once fully cooked, the crabs should be bright red with no trace of blue or green on them. Let the crabs cool before cleaning them.

Cleaning the Cooked Crab

Star by flipping the cooked crab onto its back.

Take a knife and gently pry up the triangular piece of shell called the apron and remove it altogether. There will be a hole remaining at the head area where you have taken off the apron and you can pry off the whole top shell, called the carapace.

Flip the crab onto its belly and remove the gills, they are not very tender or delicious. Next, wash out the intestines and all the other innards.

Flip the crab onto its back again and put your thumbs firmly on the crab’s belly and break the crab in half. A half crab on a plate makes for a very nice presentation.

If you want all of the meat out of the shell, continue twisting the legs off the crab. If they are easy to twist and break open you can do that, or use a wooden crab mallet to crack them open. Pull the meat out with your fingers or using small seafood forks. Use your hands to break each claw apart at the joint and then tap the sections of claw with the seafood mallet. Don’t hit them too hard, or you will get little shards of shell in your crab meat.

You can pull the pincer off by wiggling it and pulling it away from the claw. Carefully use your fingers or a small seafood fork to pull the meat out of the claws.

Crab meat is succulent and sweet and is great on its own or paired with a clarified butter for dipping. Serve with a salad or fries or whatever you love eating with seafood!

Buy Maryland Blue Crab Online

You can order your live Maryland blue crabs from our online seafood store. Hopefully this article helped you better understand how to cook live crab!

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By: Melanie Craighead


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