How to Pick a Crab

Since I posted the basics of steaming crabs, I realize that unfortunately many people have not had the proper crab pickin’ training.  I learned these techniques from my mom and dad and hopefully this tutorial will help you maximize your crab meat potential!  Before we start I must put out a disclaimer: Crab pickin’ is not for the faint of heart.  My husband absolutely REFUSES to pick crabs or lobster because he doesn’t like the “guts”. He’s more of a claw guy. To each their own, but I see it as you have two choices: 1) You can miss out on the fun of crab pickin’ and get made fun of by my family for being too picky, or 2) You can pick out your beer, put your big girl or boy pants on, and dig in!

Steps to Pickin’ a Crab

First, pick out your beer or beverage choice to enhance your crab pickin’ experience.  For this occasion I chose Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC.

Second, pick out your crab. This guy looks nice.

Next, pull the claws and legs off.  I like to make  a pile of claws for the claw-eatin’ people out there.  The other legs on a typical Blue Crab don’t have much meat, so they aren’t worth it.  Sometimes when you pull out the legs though there is some meat on the end. Score!

After all of the legs have been removed, turn the crab over so it’s belly is facing you.  Find the vertical flap down the middle as demonstrated below.  This is what my mom likes to call “Nature’s Pop-Top”.

Lift up the “Pop-Top” as show below.

Then keep lifting and you will eventually pull the crab’s red shell off, leaving the inner shell.

Pull off the whole outer shell and it should look like the picture below.  Disgusting? Yes, but keep your eye on the prize!  Clean off the inner shell removing the gills and what we call “The Mustard”.  It’s a yellowish substance.  I’m sure it won’t kill you if you eat it, but it’s best to get it out of there!

Once you’ve taken off the outer shell and cleaned it up a bit you should be left with this:

Take the inner shell and break it in half down the middle like below.  There should be a somewhat natural divide.  Sometimes this might take some effort, but do not break it too hard or you with smash all of the delicious crab meat!

Then, there it is some big lumps of crab meat!  This is what you’ve waited for!  This is the lump meat from the back fin that everyone uses to make crab cakes.

Dip the delicious meat into your dip of choice (vinegar is shown here) and enjoy!

Now on to the Claws…

You’re going to need a claw cracker or mallet.  If you don’t have either and can’t make it to the store I guess you could use a hammer if you’re desperate…(I’m joking). The crab claw consists of the claw, a joint, and another meaty area before the next joint that connects it to the crab’s body.  Use your crab cracker and gently apply pressure in the middle.  Do not mash it down too hard or again you will smash the meat.

Pull off the cracked shell and you should be left with this! Dip it or eat it plain.  For those of you that have never eaten a crab claw before (I can’t imagine there are any out there!) it’s not a solid piece of meat.  There is cartilage or something in the middle so don’t just chomp down on it!

Next, do the same technique with your claw crackers on the next segment of the crab arm.  Congratulations, you can now add Professional Crab Picker to your resume! Thanks to my mom, Jane Floyd, for being the crab pickin’ hand model!

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3 responses

  1. I’ll have to save these instructions for the next time we have crabs! I fall under the category of people that you mentioned above who have never picked their own crabs 🙂 Nice post!

  2. Great job of describing how to pick a crab.
    Saw lots of happy crabbers over at River Rd catching crabs.
    Lots of crabs in water near shore. I might try to catch a few while looking for shark teeth.
    We would go crabbing at Ocean View Beach on the Cheasapeak Bay long before I would eat a crab.
    Us kids would eat waffles for dinner while the adults ate crabs.

  3. Kirk can’t wait to get personal lessons on how to pick crabs. I’m with Matt – no crab pickin’ for me – I’ll bring crab dip and crackers to the lesson!

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