How to Boil Fresh Crab

How-To, Learn

The much-anticipated Dungeness crab season is upon us! There’s nothing like freshly cooked crab that yields sweet white meat after only briefly boiling them. Here’s a simple, delicious way to prepare them; if you’re not using the crab meat in a recipe, add fresh herbs to melted butter for an easy dipping sauce. 


Boiled Fresh Crab


This method also works for cooking lobsters: Cover the lobsters by 2 inches of cool water and add 1 1/2 tsp. salt per quart of water. Let small ones steep for 10 minutes; larger ones, 15.


8 qt. cool water

1/4 cup kosher salt

2 live Dungeness crabs, about 2 pounds each (or 12 hard-shelled blue crabs)


Boil the crabs
Fill a stockpot with the water and stir in the salt. Pick up the crabs from behind to avoid their claws and add them to the pot, making sure they are well covered with water. Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring just to a boil. When the water reaches a full boil, turn off the heat, leaving the lid on the pot. 





Let the crabs steep
Let blue crabs steep in the hot water for about 10 minutes. Larger Dungeness crabs need about 15 minutes. Using long tongs, lift the crabs from the water, turning them this way and that over the pot to drain away any water, and then transfer to a cutting board.



Remove the apron
For a Dungeness crab, place it shell side down and lift off and discard the triangular tail flap, or apron. Watch out for the spines on the bottom side of the crab, which are sharp. 







Remove the top shell
Turn over the crab and, holding it by the legs, lift off and discard the hard top shell. If desired, scoop out and reserve the pale yellow crab fat in the shell. (This fat has a savory, slightly briny flavor and can be used to flavor butter or sauces.) Blue crabs, while smaller, have the same basic structure as Dungeness crabs and can be cleaned in the same way. 




Remove the gills and intestines
Next, pull off and discard the grayish, feathery gills along both sides of the body, the jaw section at the front, and the intestines in the middle. 








Twist off the claws and legs
Rinse the body well. Using your hands, twist the claws and legs from the body. Using a large chef’s knife or your hands, cut or break the body into halves lengthwise along its center and then into quarters. 



Extract the meat
Using your fingers or a lobster pick, tiny fork or paring knife, remove the meat from all the body cavities. Switch to a nutcracker, lobster cracker or mallet and gently crack the claws and any large legs in several places. Break away the shell pieces and remove the meat.

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