Extreme Cuisine – Crab

By / Food / January 20th, 2010 / 2

A few days ago while doing my grocery shopping, I found myself standing in front of the frozen fish section eyeing the crab. “Today,” I thought, “is the day for crab.” I picked up a can of frozen crab meat. The sweet meat turned out to be the perfect addition to the arancini I ended up making. Arancini begin with a basic risotto recipe to which you add whatever ingredients you’d like. Once the risotto is ready, let it cool, form it into orange-size balls. Roll the balls in egg, flour and bread crumbs. Fry the arancini until crisp and golden. Serve and enjoy!

Preparing crab can be done in any simple or elaborate way you prefer. Eating crab, however, can be daunting, especially if you’re facing those pincers for the first time. I would argue that the best part about eating crab is sitting back, relaxing and totally enjoying the slow process of extracting bits of sweet, flavourful meat from those spindly claws.

One of the most popular types of crab available to most people is dungeness found off the coast of British Columbia and the northern United States. Reddish-brown in colour, they can weigh anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds. Another is the blue crab found on the east coast. Recognized by its pretty blue colour, it ranges in size from 3 to 6 inches. But, there are well over 2000 edible crabs worldwide.

Most fish markets will sell cooked crab. But if you’re feeling a little adventurous, search out a fish market that sells live crabs and clean and cook them yourself. Here are some tips and recipes to help you do just that.


Cooking Crabs

1. Keep live crabs loosely covered with wet newspaper (remember, they need to breathe) in the refrigerator up to 12 hours. Grasp crabs carefully from the rear end, between the legs, and put them into a pan to make sure they fit. There should be about 4 inches of clearance below the pan’s rim. Remove the crabs and fill the pan with enough water to cover the crabs by about 3 inches. Cover the pan and bring water to a boil over high heat.

2. One at a time, grasp crabs from the rear and plunge them headfirst into the boiling water; if there’s too much water, ladle out the excess. Cover the pan, let water return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Start timing. Cook 1 to 2-1/2 lb crabs for about 15 minutes, 3 lb crabs should cook for about 20 minutes.

3. Drain crabs, rinse under cool water until they’re easy to handle.

Cleaning, Cracking & Shelling Crabs

1. Pull off and discard triangular flap from the underside.

2. Turn the crab belly side down; pulling from the back end, lift off the back shell. Drain and discard the liquid from the hell. Scoop out the soft, golden crab butter and white crab fat from the shell and place in a small bowl to eat with the crab or to stir into a dipping sauce. Break the bony section (the mouth) of the back shell from the front end of the shell and discard. Rinse the shell well and use as garnish.

3. On the body section, pull off and discard the reddish membrane that covers the centre. If you don’t see it, it’s because it came off with the back shell. Scoop out any remaining golden butter and add to bowl. Pull off and discard the long, spongy gills from the sides of the body. Rinse well with cool water.

4. Twist the legs and claws off the body. Using a nutcracker or wooden mallet, crack the shell of each leg and claw section. With a knife, cut the body into quarters.

5. Break apart the legs and claws, using your fingers, a small fork, a pick, or a crab let tip to remove meat. Pull the body sections apart and dig out the pockets of meat. Discard shells.



Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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