Finding useful information on cooking and cleaning Dungeness crab isn’t easy. I personally always forget the instructions, even though I have done it countless times. I figured a photo-post would make the most sense to share my knowledge, which is essentially self-taught from various You Tube videos and trial and error. Next year when I try to remember how to cook and clean them, I can look at my own notes cemented inside of this blog post.
Here is a quick and useful breakdown on how to cook and clean fresh Dungeness crab.
Prepare Your Tools
The right tools make all the difference. A lot of liquid comes out and off of the crabs so use trays to capture the juices. Lots of kitchen rags are also handy. Crackers, hammers, small forks and knives will help you extract the meat. Hands are still one of the best tools for the job.
Boiling the Live Crab
Bring a very large pot of water to a boil, add about 2-3 tablespoons of salt (Bolinas Seafood Salt) per gallon of water. Add the live crabs and cook for about 15 minutes for crabs weighing about 1 ½ – 2 ½ pounds, 20 minutes for 3-pound crabs. Rinse well and refrigerate or leave on ice until usage.
Remove the Apron
On the bottom of each crab, on the bottom side, is either a small (males) or large (female) triangle shaped piece of shell. It’s called the apron. Grab hold of it and pull it off.
Remove the Carapace
Removing the apron will create a small hole in-between the body and the top of the shell. Use your finger to gently pry the carapace off. This is the top shell. Hold the body with one hand and the shell with the other and pull, using the hole as leverage.
Reserve the Crab Butter
Once you pull off the top shell, you will expose some yellow-ish gooey liquid, this is called the crab butter. You can either reserve it for stocks and sauces or discard it.
Remove the Gills and Mandibles
The crab’s insides are now visible and exposed. Remove and discard the gills and mandibles. The inedible gills line each side of the crab and look spongy. The mandibles are the mouthparts of the crab on the front side of the crab.
Rinse & Clean
Rinse the crabs well under running water to remove all the inner particles and gooey liquids out.
All of the parts left (beside the shell) are edible and ready to be cracked and removed for eating and cooking.
Break the Crabs in Half
Break the crabs in half leaving legs on both sides, this helps expose the crab meat and makes it easier to extract. Typically this is how crab is served when eating cooked and cleaned crab that you crack.
Break off Crab Legs
Twist of the claws and legs pulling them off one by one.
Extract Leg & body Meat
Use crackers and hammers to crack shells. Little spoons and forks help but fingers are still the best for extracting the meat from most of the parts.
Refrigerate crabmeat until use. It should last 3-4 days once its removed form the shell.
Make Stock with Leftover Shells
Use the shells to make a rich stock. Add water, onions, herbs and salt and cook for about 1 hour. Strain and freeze or refrigerate until use.