How to Boil Crab

Four Methods:Cleaning the CrabBoiling the CrabPrepping the CrabsServing the Crab

While crab meat is available in most supermarkets, the taste can diminish once it is chilled. No worries, however, as live or freshly dead crabs can be easily cooked in your own kitchen with a few simple supplies. You will need a stock pot, a scrub brush with a handle, tongs, nutcrackers, mallets and/or seafood crackers. Follow these instructions to cook sweet and succulent homemade crab for you and your guests.

Method 1
Cleaning the Crab

  1. Image titled Boil Crab Step 1
    Thaw your crab. While we do not recommend buying frozen crab - the taste won't be as strong - if you chose a frozen crab it needs to thaw. You can thaw it by placing it whole in a sink of cool water. You don't want to leave your crab in the water too long - 15 to 20 minutes should be sufficient.[1]
  2. Image titled Boil Crab Step 2
    Clean the front of your crab. The first thing you want to do with crab is give it a good scrub down. Crabs are not known to be hygienic animals, and the waters where they are caught are usually not very clean. It's recommended you use a scrubbing brush with a handle, as this tool is easy to maneuver and can be used with a fair amount of force.
    • Wear a pair of dish gloves, especially if your crab is live. It will likely try to fight back by pinching and flailing and the gloves can protect your hands.
    • Dump the crab in the sink. If you have more than one crab, clean them one at a time. If your crab is live, try to make sure it's back is turned to you so it does not attack. You can do this by distracting the crab or, if you're brave enough, simply turning it around by force.
    • Turn on the water with one hand and pin the crab with the other. Crabs are fairly strong. If your crab is live, do not hesitate to use the full force of your body to restrain it.
    • Scrub the top part of your crab with your scrub brush. Use a lot of force here to make sure you get all the dirt and grime off the crab.
  3. Image titled Boil Crab Step 3
    Clean the bottom of your crab. Now that your crab's topside is good and clean, it's time to clean the other half. Flip the crab over. This task can be intimidating, but remember - your crab is likely disoriented from the washing process. It is less likely to resist. Give the underside and legs a good scrub, once again using a good deal of pressure. You might want to hold onto some of its legs as you work, just as precaution in case the crab tries to pinch.[2]

Method 2
Boiling the Crab

  1. Image titled Boil Crab Step 4
    Freeze the crabs before boiling. With live crabs, you should place them in a freezer for approximately 15 minutes prior to cooking. This numbs the crab, which is more humane, and also slows their movements so they will not resist as much when being placed in boiling water.[3]
  2. Image titled Boil Crab Step 5
    Fill a stock pot with water. A stock pot is a large, steel pot, typically 12 to 14 ounces. It's suggested you use your largest stock pot for boiling crabs.
  3. Image titled Boil Crab Step 6
    Salt and flavor the water. Make sure to salt the water heavily. This helps in the cooking process, and gives crabs their oceanic flavor. Add your choice of spices to the water. Many people use bay leaves, beer, white wine, black peppercorn, and paprika.
  4. Image titled Boil Crab Step 7
    Place the crabs in the boiling water. Using tongs to avoid getting pinched, lower the crabs into the boiling water with their legs facing down. It is best to only boil one crab at a time, as they might fight or pinch with one another. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer when the water resumes boiling.[4]
  5. Image titled Boil Crab Step 8
    Prepare an ice bath. While the crabs are boiling, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water.
  6. Image titled Boil Crab Step 9
    Remove the crabs. Depending on the crab's size, they should take 10-15 minutes to float to the top of the water. Once they are floating, wait an additional 2-3 minutes before removing them with your tongs.[5]
  7. Image titled Boil Crab Step 10
    Cool the crabs. Place the freshly cooked crabs into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. In about one minute, they should be cool to the touch and ready to be handled. Many parts of the crab need to be removed before serving, and you are now ready to begin that process.[6]

Method 3
Prepping the Crabs

  1. Image titled Boil Crab Step 11
    Remove the abdomen, or apron. The flap of shell on the underside of a crab, called the abdomen or apron, must be removed. You can simply use your fingers to do this. It should come off easily, especially after cleaning and boiling.[7]
  2. Image titled Boil Crab Step 12
    Remove the outer shell. Stick your thumb in the hole just to left of where you removed the abdomen. Lift up firmly. The outer shell should come off with some guts attached.
  3. Image titled Boil Crab Step 13
    Remove the gills. You will see a pair of leaf-like, spongy gills on either side of the crab. These should be removed and discarded.
  4. Image titled Boil Crab Step 14
    Rinse out the guts. Some greenish-brown guts will be attached to the crab's body. Rinse them out in your sink, making sure all of the guts are thoroughly removed as they are not suitable for consumption.[8]
  5. Image titled Boil Crab Step 15
    Remove the mandibles. The mandibles are the mouth parts attached to the front of the crab. Simply break them off and then discard.
  6. Image titled Boil Crab Step 16
    Crack the crab along its center.
    • Turn the crab upside down and grip it on either side. Place your thumbs under the mid-line of the back, where the shell used to be.
    • Push up with your thumbs and down with your hands. The crab should crack in half easily.[9]
  7. Image titled Boil Crab Step 17
    Rinse the crab well with cool water. Just to make sure any lingering guts and shell bits are removed, give the crab a good final rinse in the sink.

Method 4
Serving the Crab

  1. Image titled Boil Crab Step 18
    Remove the meat. If you want to remove the crab meat yourself to serve to guests or to package for later use, do the following:
    • Twist the legs and claws off the crab's body.
    • Using a mallet or nutcracker, crack the shell of each leg and claw.
    • Cut the body into quarts with a knife.
    • Break apart the legs and claws and, using your finger or a knife, remove the meat. Pull the body sections apart and dig out pockets of meat. One whole, cooked crab should yield 7.5 to 8 ounces of meat.[10]
  2. Image titled Boil Crab Step 19
    Serve whole. If you prefer to serve the crab in its shell, simply provide seafood crackers or mallets alongside the remaining crab. Many people enjoy crab with melted butter, aioli, or cucumber mignonette for dipping.[11]
  3. Image titled Boil Crab Step 20
    Store leftovers safely. If you don't finish all your crab in one night, be sure to place it in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours of cooking for optimal safety.
    • To refrigerate your crab, store it in covered airtight containers. Crab generally keeps for 3 to 5 days when refrigerated.
    • If you decide to freeze your crab to extend its shelf life, place it in a plastic airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bags. It should keep for about 3 months.[12]

Article Info

Categories: Basic Cooking Skills