How to Cook Dungeness Crab

Why settle for soggy, pre-cooked and pre-picked Dungeness crab when you can prepare it fresh? Here are the steps required to host your own crab feed, or make a perfect crab dinner for yourself.


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    Get a fresh crab.
    • Go crabbing. Get your fishing license and set out some crab traps!
    • Buy a fresh crab. Your local farmers' market might have a fresh crab stand. Seafood shops, yuppie grocers, and Asian grocery stores may also carry fresh crab.
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    Cook. Steam or boil your crab at 7-8 minutes/pound, lid on but tilted to allow venting. Steam the crab because steam decreases the amount of water retained in the body cavity. Boiling will get the job done quite well, though, and more people are likely to have a big pot than a big steamer.
    • Start your timer when the water starts to boil. Base your number of minutes on the average crab weight, not the sum total of the crab you will be cooking.
    • Round times down whenever necessary; undercooked crabs can always be cooked further, while overcooked rubbery crab is inedible.
    • Add some seasonings to your water when using the boiling method. Add salt, a bay leaf, some celery chunks, a carrot, some pepper corns, and any other whole spices you've got on hand. Pre-mixed crab boil seasonings are available, but not necessary.
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    Rinse and cool. Remove your crab from the pot, and rinse under cool water in the sink. This will cool down the shell enough for you to handle. Flip the crab over a couple of times to get both sides with the water.
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    Remove the apron. Flip up the apron and use your thumb to break it off at the back of the shell.
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    Remove carapace. Stick your thumb into the hole left from the apron, and lift up gently but firmly. The carapace will detach from the body, trailing lots of attached guts.
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    Remove gills.
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    Remove mandibles (the mouth parts at the front of the crab). Crack them off.
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    Rinse clean. Get rid of all of the goo from crab's body; the only things left should be the shell and the meat.
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    Break the crab into half. Turn the crab upside down and place your thumbs near the mid-line on the back. Push up with your thumbs and pull down with your hands.
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    Serve. Keep a tool (i.e., a cracker, large knife, slab of wood, smashing rock) for easy access into the claws. Pull chunks of meat out of the body, then break open the legs and claws. You can pick the meat out with a tool, or slurp it out directly.


  • Pick the crab up with tongs, making sure to grab at the back of the shell.
  • Placing the crab(s) in the freezer just before use will slow down their metabolism making them easier to handle.
  • Use kitchen shears to slice through the sides of the legs. You'll get easy access to the leg meat with less effort and mess.
  • Use the crab's foot to pick meat out of the legs and body. It works just as well as those special forks and picks they sell.
  • If you caught your crab, clean the outside prior to the cooking process.


  • The crab can reach far back under his body to pinch.
  • You're only allowed to eat the males. To know the difference, look at the apron of the crab. A female's apron is wider and more oval in shape. Females must be returned to keep the population up.

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Categories: Fish and Seafood | Steaming Food