Whether you are dealing with hard or soft-shelled crabs, the meat can be delicious but hard to handle. Learn how to get to the tasty crab meat without making a mess.
Step 1: Boil or steam hard-shelled crabs Boil or steam hard-shelled crabs. Cook until the crab's shell turns pink.
Step 2: Remove the front and back legs Remove the front and back legs by snapping them away from the crab's body with your hands.
TIP: Place a layer of newspaper or Kraft paper over your table before opening the crabs to catch bits of shell and juice.
Step 3: Remove the apron on the underside Use your fingers to open the heart-shaped apron on the underside of a hard or soft-shelled crab's body. Pull the sides of the apron back and snap it off.
TIP: Ask your seafood dealer to clean soft-shelled crabs for you. They will remove the head, the apron, and the inedible meats.
Step 4: Twist the top shell off and remove inedible parts Twist the top shell off of the hard-shelled crab using a knife or your hands. Use a knife to clean out the yellowish parts inside the hard or soft-shelled crab that are inedible.
Step 5: Break the crab in half to expose meat Hold the hard-shelled crab with both hands and break the body in half down the center to expose a lump of crab meat.
Step 6: Crack open the legs and remove meat] Use a small wooden mallet to crack open each of the legs. Remove the meat with your fingers or a cocktail fork.
TIP: You will get only a small amount of meat from each hard-shelled crab. The weight of the edible meat is only about 15 percent of the weight of the crab in its shell.
Step 7: Cook meat Cook the meat. Bread and fry the whole soft-shelled crab, or use boiled meat from a hard-shelled crab in a salad or crab cake.
FACT: The record for the world's largest crab cake was set in 2008 by a Baltimore company. It weighed 235 pounds and took nine hours to cook.